The water heater in our home is starting to get old. It was installed years before we bought our home, and we've been in our home for over ten years now. A while back, I noticed that it was tripping an internal breaker with regularity. Typically, I'd discover that when I tried to take showers in the morning and the water would be ice cold.
I took a look at it, figured out what I needed to do to fix it, bought the parts and a uniquely shaped socket wrench, then removed the heating element that was causing problems. Since I replaced it with a new element, we've enjoyed consistently hot water, and everyone seems happy about it. I was certainly happy that in the end, the whole process cost me less than $20.
It doesn't surprise us when older household appliances break. We usually expect it and then do our best to fix whatever is broken. But appliances aren't the only things that break. People break too. In fact, there's more than one way to be broken. Humanity experiences spiritual, relational, emotional, financial, and physical brokenness every day.
But Jesus delights to heal broken people. He finds us in the condition we were in, then offers to do something about it. As we continue our brief look at His ministry as our Savior this week, please take a quick look with me at John 5 where Jesus demonstrates His desire to heal the broken.
I. There is no shortage of broken people in this world
During the era of Christ's earthly ministry, there were three annual feasts celebrated by the Jewish people that required Jewish men in particular to travel to Jerusalem; Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Booths. People have tried to guess which feast was being referenced in this passage, but no one is completely sure. It may be that John mentioned it simply to indicate why Jesus was in Jerusalem at that time, and to show that He kept the Law.
We're also told that in Jerusalem, by the Sheep Gate, there was a pool that was called Bethesda, and that multitudes of people would lay near that pool, hoping to be miraculously healed. The text of the ESV doesn't include John 5:4 because it's believed to be a scribal clarification on what was going on, not an inspired verse. But in that scribal note, we're told that the people believed that on occasion, an angel would come and stir the waters of the pool, and the first person to get in the water after it was stirred would be miraculously healed of their diseases or afflictions.
In desperation, I think we can all understand why those with physical infirmities might be tempted to believe this superstition and gather around the pool. What other options did they have? I'm sure many of them had already attempted the medical options that were available during their era, but to no avail. So this seemed like a reasonable "Plan B" to them. At best, they might be healed. At worst, they could spend some time congregating with those who might be sympathetic to their conditions because they were also dealing with problems.
I don't know what you think about crowds, but I'm not always a huge fan of them. Being jammed close together with people I don't know, feeling claustrophobic, sweaty, and unable to freely move, isn't my idea of a fun experience. But the Scripture tells us that there was a multitude of hurting people gathered around this pool. How many is a multitude? That's a word that basically indicates that you're talking about a number that couldn't easily be counted.
And as optimistic as we might tend to be, if we're honest, we need to admit that there is no shortage of hurting people in this world. In every corner of the globe there are multitudes of lives, spirits, and bodies that are broken. For various reasons, people are hurting, but the biggest reason hurt remains in the inner person is because we don't yet understand what can make us well, or better said, we don't understand who can make us well.
This world may be filled with broken people, but Jesus is the Great Physician who offers ultimate healing. Still, the irony of the situation is that many persist in their brokenness because not everyone actually wants to be healed.
II. Not everyone wants to be healed
Among the multitude of people that were lying down near the pool, one particular man was singled out by Jesus. We're told that the man had been an invalid for thirty-eight years, and for a long time he had been lying near the pool. For nearly four decades, this man had been unable to walk and he was dependent on the care others were willing to offer him. He was even dependent on the kindness of others to help him get into the pool when the water was stirred, but at this point, it doesn't appear that there was a friend or family member who had remained with him to help him. I actually wonder if at this point in the man's life, those who used to care for him had either passed away or abandoned him. Either way, he was alone.
Jesus asked this man a question that, on the surface, might sound like a silly question to ask. He asked him, "Do you want to be healed?" Is that a reasonable question to ask, or does that question seem so obvious to you that it might seem ridiculous to pose it to a man who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years?
I think it's a great question. Apart from Christ, there's a huge void in our souls that we're desperate to fill. People attempt to fill that void with all sorts of things, hoping that something will eventually work. During the course of my adult life, one of the things that has stood out to me as being one of the most tragic truths of human observance is the fact that not everyone who has an infirmity wants to be healed. In fact, many people begin to adopt their infirmity as their identity, and without their infirmity, they struggle to grasp who they actually are. Their sense of self, their means of receiving attention, and their solution to attempt to fill the void in their soul, all comes back to their infirmity. As strange as it may seem, some people nurture and love their infirmities for this very reason.
What are some infirmities that we might be tempted to adopt as our identity? What tragedies have we been the victim of that we've started to think of like it's a badge of honor to have been victimized by these events? If someone asks you who you are, do you begin by describing yourself as a victim or survivor of a tragedy or infirmity? After thirty-eight years, do you suppose there was a risk that the man at the pool that Jesus was speaking to might have struggled with this as well? Was it entirely possible that the man might not actually want to get well? I think so. Sadly, I have spoken to and counseled with many people who, in the end, demonstrated that, at least for now, they didn't want to get well.
I don't know if you're familiar with a man named Brian "Head" Welch or the band "Korn" that he used to be part of, but Brian has a very interesting story. He walked away from being part of that band, even in the face of being offered a $23 million dollar recording contract, after he came to know Christ. Brian was dealing with many addictions and other issues, but it took him a while before he was willing to truly get well. In an article I recently read about him, he said...
How about us? Do we want to get well? Do we want to be healed? You may or may not have a physical infirmity or an addiction that you're struggling with, but what does your walk with Christ look like? What do your relationships with others look like? What does the message you're preaching to your heart sound like? The healing Christ offers is more than skin deep. He desires to heal the whole person and only He can fill the nagging void in your soul.
And when Christ heals us, He initiates a relationship of trust. We're called to trust Him to forgive our sin, remain with us in all circumstances, and empower us to live in obedience to Him. But we all need a little encouragement to get moving in that direction. The man Jesus was speaking to in this passage needed a little encouragement to take a step of faith as well. So Jesus told him to get up and walk.
III. Get up and walk
Have you ever experienced a season when you felt depressed or anxious and you couldn't really put your finger on why that was the case? I certainly have. In those moments, I think it's good to ask the Lord to show you if there's an area of unrepented sin in your life, and if He shows you something, give it over to Him and walk in the freedom Christ has purchased for you. I think it's also wise to understand that if you can't identify an area where you're nurturing secret sins, there is still a spiritual battle taking place. I'm convinced that one of Satan's favorite ways to attack the followers of Christ is through their emotions. In seasons like that, I have personally asked the Lord to be my shield from Satan's arrows of depression or anxiety, and I have watched the Lord answer those prayers.
And when we look at this passage, Jesus demonstrates a hopeful remedy for those who have been broken with discouragement and despair. Jesus looks at the man who hasn't walked in decades and tells him to, "Get up, take up your bed, and walk." In that moment, the man was healed and he obeyed Christ's command. He stood up, picked up his gross and smelly mat, and walked. He had watched others walk for years, wishing he could do that too. Now he could. And later in this chapter, in John 5:14, Jesus cautioned this man, "See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you."
In this act and many others, Jesus was fulfilling what the Scriptures had prophesied about the coming Messiah.
I don't know who to ultimately credit with this saying, although I first heard it from Michael Hyatt while listening to his podcast, but it's been said that, "Motion improves emotion." I think that's true, and I think that statement has a spiritual application that's demonstrated in John 5. When Jesus healed this man, He didn't heal him with the expectation that he would continue to spend his days lying on that dirty, sweaty, smelly mat. His expectation for, and His command to this man was to get up and walk. You're healed now. Get up and walk.
Is it too much of a stretch for us to make that kind of application to our lives as well? When Jesus singled you out, identified your deepest need, and healed your broken soul, did He call you to remain in the mess He had just lifted you out of, or did He empower you to get in motion? If you've been discouraged, depressed, and anxious, is it possible that you've been going through a season where your knowledge of Jesus hasn't been looking much like a daily walk with Jesus? Could it be that in a similar way, Jesus is looking at you too and saying, "Get up, take up your bed, and walk."
The broken find true healing in Jesus. Yes there are multitudes of broken people in this world, and no they don't all want to be healed, but those who are willing to trust Him, even when He says impossible sounding things, are invited to walk with Him and experience the transformative power of His presence in their lives. Don't choose to wallow in whatever has been weighing you down. Motion improves emotion. Walk with Christ and give Him the opportunity to transform your mind and heal your heart.
© John Stange, 2018