Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on April 3, 2016
Open your Bibles to John 5:1-18. Today we return to the book of John and continue the study of this wonderful and amazingly rich Gospel. As always, we have a lot to get through, so lets jump right in.
Beginning with the End
This morning we will begin at the end; which can be a beneficial technique to better see what God is revealing in His Word. The reason for this is that if you can see where He is going; you can better trace His steps. This is very similar to a map, you find your location and your destination and you can better the find the individual roads that get you to where you need to be. Verse 18 it says, “This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.”
Jesus, through the series of events that we are going to examine today, desired for the Jews to come face to face with the Trinity. He wanted to create a platform that he could use to reveal to those who had ears to hear the mystery of Elohiym.
Elohiym was the most common way in Hebrew to refer to God. It is used over 2000 times to refer to God; however the word itself is plural. Therefore the word that God has chosen to predominately describe himself in the scripture has a plural form. Having said that, God made it very clear in passages like Deuteronomy 6:4, ““Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.”
The Jews, ignored the plurality of Elohiym, and embraced singularity of “The Lord is One.” And Jesus wants to have a conversation about that. He wants to put his finger right on that point. And John, the author of this Gospel, has already broached this topic in John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
So that is our destination and we will unpack a lot of it next week, that Jesus is equal to God. Today, however, we will examine the journey of how Jesus gets to that conversation.
A Multitude of Invalids
Now turn your attention to verse 1, “After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.” What does that mean, feast of the Jews? They feast of the Jews were religious celebrations. The Jewish religion had a number of them. However, there were three feasts, or celebrations, that required attendance by male Jews: the Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of the Tabernacles. It is possible that it was one of these three feasts for the feast is the reason why Jesus was in Jerusalem, but no one is for sure.
Now if you recall, the last time Jesus showed up in Jerusalem, things got a little out of hand. Previously in John 2 we read about Jesus going to the Temple and flipping tables and driving out the animals with a whip. Then when asked under what authority he does these things. Jesus then gives them three pillars of his authority. First of all, that the Temple is his dad’s house. Second, that temple is all about him. Third, his future resurrection and conquering of sin and death will be the display of his authority over all things and all man. So the last time Jesus was in Jerusalem, he kind of made a statement.
So what does he do this time? He does not go to the Temple, which would have been a place of celebration and rejoicing, but instead he goes to the Pool of Bethesda, a place of sorrow and brokenness. This pool would have been the complete opposite of a festival. In verse 3 it says that around this pool there lay a multitude of invalids. A multitude. How many we cannot be sure, but make no mistake it is more than most of us have ever seen in our lifetime, let alone at one time. Blind, lame, paralyzed, if you can imagine it, most likely it was there. There is no doubt that it would have been the saddest places you could be in Jerusalem.
Why were the multitude of invalids there? Superstition. You can see this superstition in verse 7, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Now, what is this man talking about? The answer lies in a verse that does not exist. If you notice, in most of your translations verse 4 is not there. It goes from verse 3 to verse 5. If you have the King James or the NASB, you will have verse 4 which says, “for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.” If you have the NLT, NIV, or ESV verse 4 is taken out. Why? Because verse 4 is not in the earliest manuscripts of the Gospel of John.
So what happened? Most likely verse 4 started out as a note in the margin, and as people copied the Gospel of John it worked itself into text. It would be like your ESV study notes being interwoven into the text. What is important for us to understand is that the presence or absence of verse 4 does not change anything. Verse 4 is true, but is just not the inspired Word of God.
Therefore, the reason there was a multitude of brokenness around this body of water is that these people had been deceived into believing a Jewish myth. Therefore, not only does our heart break for their condition, but they have been tricked into believing a false hope.
Unfortunately, this deception is not limited to Jewish feasts 2000 years ago. It is alive and well today. Many people today have been duped into believing a false spirituality. In fact, as Biblical knowledge decreases, spiritual deception increases. These deceptions can come through the idea of “holy water”, traveling healers, rosaries, or burying a figurine of some dead saint in your backyard. All those things are hopeless, and we are warned to beware of those superstitions in Titus 1:14, 1 Timothy 1:4, 2 Timothy 4:4. Our hope does not lie in anything that is made, our hope lies in the one who makes everything.
Which leads us to verse 5, “ One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?”
Picture Jesus, the Son of God, in the midst of a multitude of invalids crowding around this Pool named Bethesda, which by the way means “House of Mercy”. He walks through the crowds and finds one man. One...out of a multitude. Remember, this is Jesus who we are told is full of truth and grace, and he passes up hundreds, maybe thousands of people and goes after this one man. Does this seem odd? If you don't know Jesus this may seem odd, but if you have read the gospel's even once you would not even hesitate at this reality. For Jesus regularly went after just one individual, just after one sheep. Remember what we just discussed in John 4. He had a date with destiny at the well of Jacob, and it was not a date with thousands, it was a date with one alienated, sinful, Samaritan women. The life of Jesus is one of patterns, and one predominate pattern is a personal relationship. Whether it is calling his disciples, a conversation with Nicodemus, the Samaritan Women, healing an officer's son, or an invalid Jesus came for individuals. Our God is not an impersonal God of the masses, he is a God who has set his eternal love on his elect and pursues them wherever they may be found.
This leads us to the question, why this man? Why not someone else? What is so special about him? The only thing we are told about this specific invalid is that he was an invalid for 38 years. This is my life span, for I will be 38 in September. My guess is that if I was bedridden for 38 years my life would be drastically different. For this man it would have been 38 years of no walking, no running, no playing, no working. Thirty-eight years of being at the mercy of whomever may have pity on him to help him out, which according to him was no one. 38 years of laying down and watching the world pass you by.
What is interesting about this encounter with Jesus is that this man has no clue who he is. He doesn't cry out behold the Lamb of God, or Son of David have mercy on me. This guy is totally oblivious to who he is speaking to. In fact, for a short time, this is even true after he is healed. Look at verse 12, “They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place.”
This story causes some of you to have a problem with your theology. For you believe that the blessings of God are dependent on faith. You think faith comes before the work of God and not after. This story totally blows the door off of that way of thinking, because this man had zero faith in Jesus, yet Jesus chose him out of the masses to receive mercy. This man's faith would have flowed from God's Grace.
So what does this tell us? It tells us that Jesus is sovereign in his dispensation of mercy. There is no outward influence or force dictating whom he loves, when he loves, or how he loves. The gift that Jesus bestows upon this man are not dependent on this man, or any other man. The gift of the grace of God is dependent only upon God. Jesus is completely free. This event is a display of what God told Moses in Exodus 33:19 and is repeated in Romans 9:15, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
This is the only way to explain this event in John 5. Why did this man receive the mercy of Christ? Because Christ will have mercy on whom he has mercy. There is no more to it then that.
And for this man, he would not want it any other way. For if the mercy of Christ was dependent upon him, his righteousness, his faith, then he would have no hope. For he failed miserably. No, the only way this man could overcome the depravity of his physical condition is by the Sovereign mercy of Jesus.
And we likewise would not want it any other way, for if the mercy of God is dependent upon man, then we likewise have no hope. For we are spiritual invalids totally unable to lift ourselves off the mat of our sin to receive the mercy of God.
Ephesians 2:5 says that we are “dead in our trespasses” Dead people can't save themselves. Romans 3:11 says “no one seeks God.” Romans 8:7 says we are hostile to God and we are unable to submit to him. 1 Corinthians 2:14 tell us that in our flesh, or natural ability, have no power to understand the spiritual things of God. We are just like the invalid wasting our days hanging out by the pool, clueless to who Jesus is, until he comes and finds us and pours out his mercy upon us. Then everything changes.
In fact, in John 5, Jesus is living out what we read about in John 3:8, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” To the invalid, he did not see Jesus coming, nor did he see him leave, but there was no doubt that he had an encounter with him. How do we know? He could walk! He was living out the miracle of an encounter with Jesus, the Son of God.
Sin No More
But this was not the end of the story, far from it in fact. This is just the beginning. Verse 14, “Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” For Jesus the end goal was not for this man to just walk, but to walk with the Lord. Jesus did not come to the earth to primarily heal people, or primarily to show mercy, or primarily perform miracles. Did you do those things? Absolutely. However, he came to primarily deal with sin.
Jesus commanded this man to pick up his mat and walk, and now he was commanding him to lift up his eyes and walk with the Lord. And this is what is amazing, by the same power that caused this man to walk, will cause this man to walk with the Lord. The power of Christ.
This man was healed, not only on the outside, but also on the inside. Christ first loved him, and now he had the power to love Christ. He was not only changed by grace, but he will stand in grace. And this is the story of all of us who have been made well by the mercy of Christ. When the grace of Christ has been poured out upon you, you now, for the first time have the ability to live a life according to God's will. Perhaps the verses that best sum this up is Ephesians 2:8-10, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
If you have been made alive through the power of Christ, then you are a new creation. You are called to walk in the ways of God, not sit by the cesspool of your past sin. If you claim to have met Christ, and you continue in your sinful ways, then you have not met Christ, you have not been created in Christ Jesus. And if you have not received the grace of Christ, then being an invalid for 38 years does not compare to the what is in store for you. For your future is not languishing by the pool of Bethsada, but swimming in the lake of fire.
So how should we wrap up today's message? In this world, there is only one hope, it is not found in myths or bandwagon spirituality, it is only found in Jesus Christ. For some of you, perhaps today is the day he has chosen to meet with you in the midst of your despair. If it is, obey the Word of Christ and pick up your mat and follow him. For all of you who have already done this, do not boast in the workmanship of Christ, for it is by grace you have been saved. Instead of boasting, go and sin no more, for we have work to do, prepared for us before the foundation of the World.