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Golden Nursing Center in Mannington, NJ –Evening Service on 3/15/2012
(edited October 2019)
Verses 1-7: “ After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.”
This pool by the sheep market, to me, epitomizes the plight of the old world. Prior to the New Covenant, which is established and defined in what my King James Bible calls “The New Testament of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” access to God’s grace was sporadic and limited. That was a world in which Satan was “unbound” and still had full access to Heaven. A wild, wild place for sure. And yet our world today can be as chaotic if and when we ignore “God’s New Way.” Let’s read on:
Verses 8-9: “Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath.”
ALL spiritual authority is now in Christ’s hands. Can you see it? The man had no hope in the world of the Old Covenant. But when he met Christ he received hope, healing, and victory. And this is exactly where we can find our victory today. Hoping in Jesus for physical, emotional, and spiritual healing. There was a real shortage of doctors and medical care, especially for the poor, in those days. In our world many are physically healed by many means, only within God’s will, of course. But, my point is that today in the “age of anxiety” as our times have often been called, the greatest and most notable miracle Christ imparts to many of us is the lifting of the crushing burden of anxiety. The “miracles” of the old world didn’t work for everyone. That is what this pool at Bethesda shows us. But Christ will bless ALL who come to Him sincerely today. I know, because He did that for me.
When I had only been a Christian for two years, I impulsively attempted to enroll in a major seminary to prepare for service in the clergy. The final step for admission was a personal interview. Near the end of that interview with the University President I was feeling confused and defeated. He seemed to doubt my calling and he turned out to be correct about that, by the way. But what really hurt was that, near the end of the interview, he began to question my very Salvation. He finally said, “John, what assurance do you have that you are a Christian?” By this time I was feeling about two inches tall but suddenly, as I began to reply, the Spirit of God welled up within me powerfully and I looked him directly in the eyes, smiled broadly, and said, “Sir, when I accepted Jesus into my heart He took a tremendous burden off of me!” All of a sudden, the atmosphere changed in the room and before I left his office that day he welcomed me to come there and study for the ministry. I never did go back and I don’t think it was the Lord’s will for me to attend there. But I never forgot that interview and the power of just recounting Christ’s acts of healing.
But some, back then and even now, are more comfortable in the more exclusive spirituality of the Old Covenant:
Verses 10-18: “The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed. He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk. Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk? And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place. Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee. The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole. And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day. But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.”
Jesus wasn’t just being kind to a crippled man. He was revolutionizing all of religion! At least He was seeking to do that in the face of great suspicion and resistance. (I resisted Him for the first 24 years of my life, and even now, come up lacking in faith very often).
The first man to fully comprehend God’s New Way was Christ, Himself:
Verses 19-32: “ Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel. For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will. For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true. There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true.”
Amazingly, there was another man early on in Christ’s day who was beginning to understand the Truth. Some have called him the very last Old Testament prophet. We know him as the cousin of Jesus and call him John, the Baptist:
Verses 33-36: “ Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth. But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved. He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light. But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.”
John was meant to be an inspiration to all believers today. He is to me (I was named after him!). According to Matthew chapter 11, John had one foot in the old world and one foot in the new. One thing I admire about him is his humility before his infinitely superior Cousin. I need more of that kind of humility in my life and ministry today.
The problem with religion, then and now, I believe, is that there is too much of mankind in it and not enough of God and His Word:
Verses 37-47: “ And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape. And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not. Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. I receive not honour from men. But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?”
Jesus reminds the doubting Jews in this passage that the seeds of the New Truth were right before them all along in the Old Covenant, in the account of Moses.
The ultimate superiority of God’s New Way and the inseparable relationship between the whole Bible and the Savior is reflected in a special nickname that John, the writer of this Gospel, gives to Jesus back in the Gospel of John chapter 1! Let’s close with a little sample of that from John 1:14-17:
“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. John [the Baptist] bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”