There is a story in the Gospel of John 5:1-15 that proved problematic for Liberals who don’t believe in the Bible. They maintained the Pool of Bethesda did not exist, discrediting St. John’s writings. However, in the 19th Century, archeologists discovered this controversial structure exactly where John said it was. The discovery actually silenced the liberal critics.
Now that discovery doesn’t prove the miracle associated with the place actually happened but it proves the historical credibility of John’s account. It makes this passage worth our attention. So tonight I want to highlight four truths I learned myself. [Image Credit: Yale Center for British Art, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons]
1. Jesus has chosen me from among Many
Read John 5:1-4
The Synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John record 34 Miracles that Jesus said to have performed during his earthly ministry. According to John, however, Jesus performed many other miracles that are not even recorded in the Bible, (John 21:25). It seems the disciples recorded only the miracles with a message.
So what is the message John intended to convey to us when he wrote this miracle down? It seems John actually wanted us to know that Jesus chose one man among many. Here’s why?
A. As far as physical healing goes the sick occupying the pool did not want Jesus’ help. There was already a miraculous means in place at the pool for people to be healed. Certainly, Jesus wouldn’t even go there if not for this one man.
B. Jesus healed multitudes everywhere he went. In this case, however, He wasn’t interested in the masses. He healed only one man that was desperate for a miracle.
C. This man had been in that condition for 38 years. Even before Jesus was born. According to Luke 3:23, Jesus was 33 years old when he launched his public ministry. Surely God wanted this man to meet Jesus. (You will learn why at the end of this message).
All of these facts affirm Jesus did not go to the pool of Bethesda to conduct a mass healing meeting. He had chosen to heal but one man among many.
There’s a beautiful song on YouTube titled ‘Thank You Lord for choosing me’. In it the singer thanks Jesus for handpicking her from among everyone else in the world.
While preparing this message the Holy Spirit lead me to check the current world population. It was upon seeing the numbers I realized what a privilege is it to know Jesus? According to “Worldometers” at the time of this writing, the current world population is 7,681,281,600. Narrow it down further by the region and Asia has a population of 4,584,807,072. Narrow it down by the country and in Sri Lanka where I was born there are 21,018,859 people. Narrow it down by the district and Nuwara Eliya my hometown has a population of 731,415 people. What does this say?
Out of all 7,681,281,600 people in this world Jesus chose to reveal himself unto me. Do you believe he has chosen you to receive healing? That he has chosen you to receive a new life? I do because the Bible says so in Jeremiah 1:5 and Ephesians 1:4.
2. I cannot fit God into my own little Box
Read John 5:6-9
I do not know why Jesus even bothered to ask this man whether he wants to get well. After all who wants to be paralyzed and lay on a mat for 38 years! Anyone will jump at the first opportunity to receive healing. I feel it’s not Jesus’ question we need to worry about but the man’s answer.
The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up. While I am trying to get into the water, someone else goes down there before me.”
In the Gospels, we meet several people who lacked faith, (Matthew 8:26; 14:31; 16:8; Mark 9:19). This man, however, had faith. The problem is his faith was conditional. According to his faith, he will not be healed unless two conditions were met.
A. The pool must be stirred supposedly by an angel of the Lord.
B. He must step into the pool the moment the water is stirred.
He was actually expecting Jesus to lower him to the pool the next time the water is stirred. But Jesus’ modus operandi was different. His response was to tell the man to get up, pick up the mat and walk. The rest is history!
In his biography Pastor, Colton Wickramaratne mentions a girl by the name of Nithiya Edwards. She was paralyzed from below the waist. He prayed for healing but there was no miracle. He visited and prayed for her three times and still, there was no miracle. When he visited her the fourth time she was paralyzed neck down let alone being healed! She was frustrated and complained she was going to die. Pastor Colton was beginning to feel uneasy but then the Lord impressed a date and a time in Pastor Colton’s heart. 3:30 pm on February 11th, 1981. On the said date Pastor Colton with a few other friends gathered in Nithiya’s room and began praying. Here’s what happened next in his words.
Suddenly, while everybody was crying and praying, Nithya’s body began to shake and she was thrown out of the bed. She immediately knelt on the floor. The moment she knelt on the floor, I looked at my watch. It was at 3:30 pm.
In this story Nithiya expected God to heal her in her own time. But God’s timing was different and he had a much glorious purpose in mind.
Just like the Paralytic in this story we often expect God to move according to our own predetermined course. In other words, we attempt to fit God into our own little box. When He doesn’t we get discouraged. The Old Testament also has a man that attempted to fit God into his box. His name was Naaman. Naaman was furious when the Prophet Elisha ordered him to wash seven times in the river of Jordan because he expected the prophet to call on the name of the Lord and wave his hand over the spot and cure him of leprosy, (2 Kings 5:9-11).
But we also meet people who did not limit God to their own puny imagination. The woman with an issue with blood is one such person. Her faith was so creative she didn’t wait for Jesus to touch her! Rather she touched Jesus and was healed immediately, (Mark 5:25-34).
God is a creative and innovative being. His ways are different from our ways. The healing of a man born blind in John 9:1-41. Jesus applied mud to the blind man’s eyes and told him to wash in the pool of Siloam. Why Jesus applied mud is another sermon. But we see he used a different method.
Our puny minds cannot understand His methods. Faith is to believe in God to do the impossible. Not to assume how He will do it. When we pray we must permit God to move the way he wants not the way we want him to because He always has a higher purpose and a plan in everything that comes our way in life.
3. The natural mind can’t fathom the Supernatural
Read John 5:10-13
John tells us the day on which Jesus performed this miracle was the Sabbath. According to the Pharisees (the Teachers of the Law in Jesus’ day) carrying one’s bed during the Sabbath was violating the law of the Sabbath. In their eyes, this man had committed an offense by carrying his bed back home. When they confronted the man he explained that the one who healed him said to carry his bed home.
Here’s a man who had been paralyzed for 38 years carrying his bed and walking home now. Here’s a living miracle. This was God’s work clearly. But the Pharisees were not happy. They were not interested in the miracle. Their only concern was that the law had been violated. The culprit had to be found and punished. They were so carnal-minded that they could not fathom the supernatural work of God which was happening right before their eyes.
A Pastor once told me about a man who had been paralyzed for seven years. The man’s relatives had brought him to the healing meeting this Pastor conducts. The Pastor prayed for the man and he happened to be healed instantly and stood on his feet. Afterward, the Pastor told the man to run. The man’s response: ‘The Doctor advised me not to be too hard on me!’
We cannot understand spiritual matters with our natural minds because the natural understand only what is natural. It cannot fathom the supernatural work of God, (1 Corinthians 2:14). In the New Testament, we meet many people who attempted to understand the supernatural work of God with their natural minds. People like Zechariah (Luke 1:11-20); Nicodemus (John 3:4) and Simon the Sorcerer (Acts 8:18-19) are examples of people who attempted to understand spiritual matters with the natural mind.
Skeptics often disqualify the miracles recorded in the Bible saying science had proven that miracles don’t happen. The truth is science doesn’t disapprove of miracles. In fact, that would be impossible because science deals with the natural phenomena, (Logics, Aesthetics, Ethics, Mathematics, etc.) But a miracle by definition is not natural phenomena. Miracles are supernatural events lying outside the boundaries of science. It’s logically impossible for science to throw out any hypothesis that lies outside its boundaries.
A popular proverb is ‘seeing is believing’ (you need to see something before you can accept that it really exists or occurs.) In God’s realm, however ‘believing is seeing’ and Bible calls it faith. Let’s consider another well-known miracle Jesus performed to help us understand this.
In Matthew 15:22-28 we meet a Syro-Phoenician woman who begged Jesus to heal her daughter that was possessed by a demonic spirit. Jesus did not grant her request immediately probably because the Jewish culture prohibits Jews from mingling or even interacting with gentiles, especially women. Yet this Gentile woman dared ridicule and possible rejection to receive a miracle. Although Jesus didn’t reply at first, she insisted on a miracle despite the disciples’ urging to send her away. In the end, Jesus granted her request, because her “faith is great.” Jesus didn’t applaud her faith because she begged Him. She was persistent. Persistence is one of the qualities of faith, (Matthew 7:7).
4. Jesus’ Miracles aren’t an end in Themselves
Jesus slipped away from the multitudes right after healing this paralyzed man. Later Jesus found the man healed him elsewhere and warned him to stop sinning to prevent something worse from happening to him. Jesus was implying that man’s healing was about his holiness. He should look to Jesus and turn from sin because Jesus came to pardon all sin.
Jesus’ warning to the man indicates that the sickness factor rests on the sin factor. The miracle of healing the Paralytic at Capernaum affirms this, (Mark 2:1-12). Mark tells Jesus said to the man “son your sins are forgiven”. It’s sad however this man failed to see the bigger picture. He reported Jesus to the religious authorities instead! He did not realize the miracle was not an end in itself.
None of the physical miracles Jesus performed was an end in itself. All of the miracles he performed point to something more about him and the Kingdom of God as well as the spiritual and moral transformation supposed to take place within the beneficiary. But they often missed the spiritual element of the miracle because they were interested in only the material benefits of it. For example, in John 6:26 the multitudes sought after Jesus not because they saw the signs but because they wanted more food miraculously provided by Jesus!
A successful advertiser said, “I am successful because I can convince masses that my clients have products capable of transforming their lifestyle of dreams into reality. So they buy the products I advertise. After a while, however, the excitement fades and they want to buy something else which I advertise. The cycle continues allowing my client to boost his business and letting me make more money in the process.
We often misunderstand miracles are supernatural means to a natural end. It’s not so. They serve a higher purpose. Let’s consider John chapter 6 once again. In a nutshell, Jesus urged the multitudes to stop toiling for food that perishes but for food that endures for everlasting life food that only He could give. He used a similar illustration in his dialogue with the Samaritan Woman in John 4:13. What do these verses mean?
There is a spiritual vacuum in us caused by our separation from God. We attempt to fill this vacuum with everything from adrenaline-rushing activities to relationships to careers but only God can fill that vacuum. Unfortunately, most of us seek God for more material blessings because we think materials can close the spiritual vacuum in us.
You may have received a miracle and I thank God for that. However, you need something more than a miracle tonight and that is a relationship with the living God for he alone could expel the spiritual vacuum in your heart. Unfortunately, we cannot relate to God for he is holy and we have sinned and fallen short of favor, (Romans 3:23). However, the Bible also says that Christ died to reconcile us to God, (Colossians 1:19-20). Then what do you need to do to find God in your life? I want you to do three things.
A. Admit that you are a sinner and ask God’s forgiveness, (Romans 5:8; 10:13)
B. Believe in Jesus and become a child of God by receiving Him, (John 3:16; 14:6)
C. Confess that Jesus is your Lord, (Romans 10:9)
Now please repeat this prayer after me.
“Jesus, I now realize I have sinned against you. Please forgive me for my sin. Please come into my life and change my heart. I want you to be my Savior. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.”
Tonight some of us can identify with that invalid man at the pool of Bethesda. There’s absolutely no reason to feel embarrassed because God doesn’t see you the way man does. He has a plan and a purpose for your life even when you are at the rock bottom of your life. Let the word you heard tonight sink into your hearts and the Holy Spirit transform you from the inside out. The Word of God shall not return empty but accomplish God’s purpose, (Isaiah 55:11).
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