7 Questions God Has For You: Do You Want to Get Well? - Rev. Virginia Reynolds

7 Questions God Has For You: Do You Want to Get Well?
John 5:1-15
Rev. Virginia Reynolds

July 31, 2016

John 5:1-15: 5 After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew[a] Beth-zatha,[b] which has five porticoes. 3 In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed.[c] 5 One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” 7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.Now that day was a sabbath. 10 So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, “It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” 11 But he answered them, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’” 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take it up and walk’?” 13 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in[d] the crowd that was there. 14 Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. 

Several times a year, I have the privilege of serving as a Chaplain at Cone Hospital. I count it a privilege, because it allows me to engage with people in what can sometimes be some of the hardest or most terrifying moments of their lives and share with them a compassionate word, a redeeming word, a word of hope, and a word of prayer. I was there this past Monday night and had been reading through these verses and somehow I saw some parallels. As I walked through the ER waiting room, I wondered if that was how it felt for Jesus walking through the porticos around that pool near the Sheep Gate? So many people all wanting to be made well. So many people waiting for their names to be called out like those waiting for the waters to “stir.”

My pager signaled that an ambulance had arrived, and I was needed in the Trauma Bay. As I walked through the long hallways, beginning to pray for the patient, their family, the medical staff and all who surrounded this time, it occurred to me that that ER Trauma room was one of the most “equalizing” places in our city. The nurses did not care what race or ethnicity the patient was; they cared about his blood type and how much blood had been lost. The Doctors did not care about the patient’s educational degrees, title or position; they wanted to know their vital signs and symptoms and how they could make the patient well. And I did not know–or need to know–the patient’s religion. I was there to be God’s presence to everyone in that space. 

That space–that’s where our reading begins today… At the Pools of Bethesda. This public bathing place was unearthed in the northern part of Jerusalem about 1888. Besides the two separate indentions (one for the men and one for the women), there was a mural of an angel “stirring the water.” The foundations of the five porticos–or covered walk ways–were still evident, with one on each side and one down the middle of the pools. Evidence points to the pools being fed by natural hot springs from below the ground. A public bathing place was part of the society at the time, no indoor plumbing or tubs in most of the Jerusalem homes, so this was the only place to be fully “clean.” 

To better understand the context of our passage, there are two important things to note about this pool. One was the local folklore and mystical belief that the waters had healing powers. {That’s not too hard to believe since many people, even a previous President, speak of the healing and medicinal value of the Hot Springs in Arkansas.} Every once in a while, the waters would bubble and the local belief was that an “angel was stirring the water” and the first one in the water would be healed – thus the mural on the wall. That is why so many people gathered and waited for healing. The second, and for me the more important aspect about these pools, they were at the Sheep Gate. The sheep and lambs were known to pasture north of the city and would be brought in through that gate on the way to the Temple as sacrifices. So here, at the Sheep Gate, is Jesus, The Lamb who takes away the sins of the world, as he is entering Jerusalem – a foreshadowing of his sacrifice which would be paid for the healing for all people. At the pool Jesus, the very presence of God, sees those in need of his immediate help and his eternal healing. What about us? How well do we see? There are people who have been ill for many years right at our feet, on our city corners, and even next door. There are people who are physically ill, but also those who are spiritually dying too. Do we truly SEE the people to whom we are called to bring healing? What will it take for us to take our blinders of prejudice, position, or fear off and see as Jesus does with love and compassion? What are we personally, and as a church, doing to speak on behalf of these people. 

Now as I read this story of Jesus’ encounter with the man, I wondered “why this one?” Was it because Jesus knew that he had been ill for 38 long years? Was it because he was all alone, and Jesus felt pity? Was it because Jesus knew that the man had lost all hope of being healed here and therefore was ready for a different kind of miracle? Vs 6, tells us, “Jesus saw him lying there and KNEW…” Jesus’ insight into the man’s condition reminds me of the same understanding Jesus had about Nathaniel in the first chapter of John, as well as his understanding of the Samaritan Woman in the previous chapter, and now of this man beside the pools. The knowledge is not exclusive to their physical, emotional or relational challenges, but more so about their spiritual health and readiness to be transformed and for Christ’s identity to be revealed. 

Then Jesus asks the question… our question for the week: “Do you want to be made well?” Such a simply phrased question with so much meaning: 

  • First of all, “do you want” implies a barometer of desire. This was not something going to be forced upon him. The man had the free choice to choose to be healed or not; and this is the same for us in our desire to accept Christ’s salvation. {“I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in”} We have to make the decision.
  • The second part of the question speaks to the source of the healing – “do you want to be made.” The verb pattern here clearly points to the idea that Jesus was going to do the heavy-lifting of the work. This was not something the man could do for himself, but rather it was a gift. Christ, our lamb, laid down his life, conquered death and arose victorious giving us hope and assurance of life everlasting. This Salvation is a gift, and God has done the work and the promise has already begun for us – without our work toward redemption…. But faith in Christ Jesus and our acceptance of this gift is required.
  • Lastly, the word “well” – from the Greek word “hu-giese” meaning to make “whole.” This was a question in which Jesus is offering not only to heal his physical infirmity, but to make him truly “whole” in body, mind and Spirit!

The question is the same for us today. Jesus is asking us, “Do you want to be made whole?”  Is there something in your life that needs healing – a physical ailment? a broken relationship? a bad habit? A separation from God? The same Great Physician that stood by the pools is inquiring of your need for wholeness and offering you this free gift toward forgiveness, salvation, healing and restoration. 

It is clear from the man’s response that he was expecting the miracle to come through the waters of the pool, through his own effort, and he is discouraged. Vs – 7, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” So often, in our lives it is easy to think we understand how things are supposed to work. We depend on science or medicine to explain it or cure it. We keep looking for traditions or time to “heal all our broken hearts and wounds.” Instead, we discover, like the man at the pool of Bethesda, that our miracles come in a different way…they come from and by the God who created us, knows us, and loves us. Are you waiting for a miracle? Have you been expecting healing to come in a specific way? Have you looked up from your pain and fear to see the presence of God offering you the opportunity to be made whole? 

Jesus asks, “Do you want to be made well?” Then, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” Jesus provides the man–and us–a life plan in these three instructions. 

  • Step 1: “Stand up.” If the man had been ill for 38 years and as indicated from his earlier response, he was very weak and slow, it would take FAITH to even try and stand up. The first step to finding healing is to have faith. In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he lays out the inner workings of this step: Chapter 2: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—“ 

Then in chapter 6, Paul also encourages us to:

“Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”

That’s right, just as it was for the man at the pool, it starts with faith in God. Wholeness or Salvation is a gift from God and open to each of us by grace through faith and we don’t have to “Do” anything but receive it by faith. Illness, broken relationships and other schemes of the evil one can be tackled through Faith. The first step is to believe in the healing power of Jesus Christ to transform your life.

  • Step 2: “Take up your mat” – there is action required here. Not action to be saved, but because of our salvation we now take action. From Ephesians 5, “ For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  We have each been created to do, to be part of this new and present Kingdom of God. As members of the Body of Christ, we are to be agents of God’s transforming love in this world. Wondering where you can begin? Think you are too old, too slow, too busy, too used up? Jesus cured a man ill for 38 years and immediately gave him a task to do. We, the redeemed Body of Christ have work to do as well. Have you considered… 
    • Being a regular visit with some of our homebound members
    • Building a Habitat house or working as a volunteer at Hampton Elementary
    • Becoming a Stephen Minister and offering the gift of healing and wholeness to someone in our community through your very presence?

Jesus says, because you have faith, “take up your mat.” Are you looking for God’s Kingdom here on earth? Where do you see God in action? Join in the work God has prepared you to do.

  • Step 3: “Walk”. Whatever challenges are in front of you, walk through them. Live the life in front of you for each day is a gift. We may wish it was easier, clearer, and without obstacles, but Jesus’ instruction to the man was simply “walk.” Note that the man immediately faced challenges and did not have all the answers, but he went to the Temple–to offer praise and thanksgiving. Notice the man could have been discouraged, but instead when he discovered Jesus’ identity, he began to proclaim God’s healing power here on earth. Notice how the man walked away and beyond the place of illness that had held him captive for so long.
    So what has you bound in this life? Is it an illness or emotional pain that has you waiting for a miracle? Do you find yourself down on the mat of discouragement waiting for the waters to be stirred? What keeps you from proclaiming the life-giving love of Jesus? Don’t wait… Jesus calls us to “have faith, take action and “walk”.
    From Ephesians 5, again:  Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children  and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light!

Do you want to be made well this morning? Our passage tells us that: V9: “At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. 

Do you find yourself in a place of brokenness in need of God’s healing? God is inviting each of us to not only enter into a space of Spiritual wholeness, but to take action serving the present Kingdom of God and to walk in faith with the one who is the Risen Lamb and the King who will come in glory and have final victory over sin, sickness and death. 

Brothers and Sisters, the next time you are in a place like a Doctors’ office, at a stop light, visiting a friend - where you see people waiting to be made well – be that Child of light and that presence of God and tell them that God not only loves them, but desires for them to be made whole. 

Do you want to be made well? Stand up with faith, take up your mat, and walk toward the Kingdom of God!

Discussion Starters

  • Share a time that you witnessed powerful healing in your life or the life of someone else. It can be any type of healing (physical, spiritual, emotional, relational, etc).
  • Share your thoughts the connection between faith and healing. Does miraculous healing correlate to strong faith or a lack of healing to a weak faith?
  • Share your thoughts on the various types of healing we can receive from God.
  • Share what you think it takes for us to receive healing of some type from God.