Evangelical Community Chapel at Liberal: a Molalla, Oregon Church

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It is not about us

August 23rd, 2009 by Vic

John 5

In the first miracle, Mary sought Jesus; in the second, the Roman father sought Jesus.  In the first, the servants obeyed Jesus; in the second, the father obeyed Jesus.  In the first, Mary waited and expected a miracle; in the second, the father walked and expected a miracle.  In the first, water was changed; in the second, a son was changed.

In both of the miracles we noticed that John was not emphasizing the faith or belief of the water or the son.  Contrary to many popular speakers, my faith does not do miracles in my life.  God does miracles.  Neither the wine nor the son was changed because of their belief.  But John is emphasizing the power of the word of Christ.  John seems to be saying, “The Word of Jesus is the will of God.”  There is power in the Word.  The water was changed because in the presence of Jesus it knew the will of God.  The son was healed because the word of Jesus expressed the will of God and that word was not limited by time, space, label or location.  Thy will be done.

But today’s miracle does not fit the pattern.  This cripple did not seek Jesus.  Jesus sought the man.  No one waited or trusted.  The miracle was instantaneous.  Just when we think we understand how God works a miracle, John reminds us miracles will not fit our neat little boxes.

Maybe this miracle is for some of you.  You are not expecting a miracle.  The circumstances in your life have been hitting you hard.  You are discouraged and resigned to accepting life just the way it is.  To seek Jesus would be a waste of time.  You are too crippled to find help even if you knew where it was.  You may be like this cripple in many ways but this miracle is really not about our hurts and needs.  This miracle is about who Jesus is.

We hear about a man today who has been crippled for 38 years.  But it is really not about him.  He may be the president of the Sheep Pool Cripples Group.  He probably has a leadership position among a large group of sick and handicapped that meet every day at the spring near the Sheep Gate.  He has seen enough people cured to still believe in the healing power of the water.  He has also seen enough people die to realize that his destiny is unchangeable.

Some of us may be as apathetic as this cripple.  We are not expecting a miracle.  We have no desire to change.  We are content to remain an invalid.  We don’t want the responsibility of an active life.  Or we have lost hope that our lives could ever change.  We have friends who are just like us.  We enjoy talking about our troubles with each other around the pool.  We complain and gripe about the injustice of the world, but we ignore the news that Jesus can give us new life.  Our story is not about us.

The question is more than, “Do we really want to change?” but what is the will of God?  The gospel story is not about how I can become rich and famous or live a life of pleasure.  The story is about Jesus.  He owns the cattle on a thousand hills.  In Him is life.  He is the great provider and healer.  He is unchanging.  Let’s try to hear what John is telling us about Jesus.

John 5:1  There are 4 feasts mentioned in John’s gospel.  We do not know which feast this is, but Jesus is alone.  His disciples are not with him.  I think this brief verse reminds us that regular attendance to the temple was not considered a duty by Jesus but a delight.  He enjoyed worshipping in the temple even though He saw the problems.  He did not boycott the temple because the leaders were not doing things right.  He did not quit because He did not like the preacher.  He had said worship does not happen in a place.

John 5:2-3  The Sheep Gate is in the NE part of the Old City.  This pool has fairly recently been excavated and identified.  There are 5 porticos.  This is chapter 5.

This pool story has some lessons for churches.  This group meets daily for healing.  They believe that healing is possible, but they have no expectations that they will benefit personally.  If you asked them why they came so regularly, they would ask, “Is it not the right thing to do?”  Jesus asked, “Do you really want to be healed?”  What is your motive for praying, reading your Bible, and coming to church?  Regular attendance, taking communion, singing, giving your 10%, listening to the Bible message, none of these will heal you.  None of these will change your heart.  Believing in Jesus will not save you.  The Devil believes in Jesus and in God and he continues to live his own life.  Belief must be combined with life style.  What are we doing about what we know?  How do our lives demonstrate the God we say we believe in?

Healing is part of nature.  It is part of God’s long range plan.  When healing happens quickly, we call it a miracle.  But the miracles of life are all around us.

John 5:5  Picture yourself going every day to a group therapy session for 38 years.  Not just a two hour session, but all day.  Someone carries you there.  You take the same sack lunch.  And someone carries you home.  Do you realize how dependent you are on others?  Do you feel how worthless you are in the real world but how important you feel at the spring?

We do not know how he was crippled.  It may have been because of some sin he had done.  Maybe he had been injured in a donkey accident because he was speeding or driving while under the influence.  But here he is crippled by the pool.

I do not know where you are in your spiritual journey.  Jesus can find you right where you are.  You may not be seeking Him.  You are really not expecting a miracle.  But Jesus knows where you are.  He can put a desire in your heart today to be changed.  Despite knowing your circumstances He asks, “Do you want to change?”

Jesus does not come with a lecture about your superstitious beliefs.  Jesus knew that the underground spring caused the intermittent bubbling.  Jesus knew their thinking was not accurate, but instead of criticizing, He met the cripple’s need right where he was.  Jesus did not give him a lecture about his misunderstanding of angels.  Jesus did not criticize his ignorance of Jesus’ popularity and reputation of miracles.  Jesus was concerned about his heart not his head.  Jesus does not heal everyone by the pool.

John 5:6  When Jesus was on this earth in the flesh, He was limited by time and space.  But when He ascended to heaven, He sent us His Spirit to be with us in every place at all time.  In the gospel, Jesus finds one man who needed healing.  Now He can find everyone.  He is with you right where you are.

John does not tell us why Jesus picked this man.  It was not because of his faith.  It was not because he was wise.  In fact he used very poor judgment when talking to the religious leaders.  It was not because the man was seeking Jesus.  He did not know who Jesus was.  It was not because Jesus wanted him to be an evangelist to all the others at the spring.  He did not go back to the spring. It was not because he was young and had great potential.  Maybe Jesus had met him as a child.  This man had been here longer than Jesus had been alive.  Every time Jesus had visited Jerusalem, it would have been possible to see this man at the spring.  Maybe Jesus had been sitting near the spring for a while and something this man said made Jesus ask him, “Do you wish to get well?”  If you are cured, you will have to accept some responsibility.  You will have to make a living.  You will have to change your life style.  You will have to get rid of your negative attitude.  You will have to give up your membership in this society of the sick.  You will leave your support group behind.  You will have to change your attitude.

Some people are following Jesus because of the miracles, but when confronted with the word of Jesus, they decide the cost is too great.  Do we really want to be made perfectly whole?  Do we really want to have our hearts and motives purified?  Does Jesus really have all of me?

Notice this man’s answer.  John 5:7  He just complains how bad things are.

He had no friends to get him in the water.  But he had been with these people 38 years.  So he knew when the water bubbles, it was each man for himself.  He must have looked at Jesus and saw a friend.  He thought to himself, is it possible that Jesus would wait with him and get him in the water when it was troubled?  For years he had been on the edge of a miracle, but never experienced it.  For years he had seen others enjoy abundant life, but he only had sat on the edge and looked.  For years he had had so-called friends who had gotten into the water before him, but never returned to help him in.

Here is a man who was unable to help himself.  He was close to abundant life, but was powerless to heal himself.

John 5:8  Jesus said, “Arise, take up you pallet, and walk.”  Three commands.  In a crowd of deformed and diseased, Jesus speaks to you.  And just like this cripple, you will find power to obey His commands when you obey His word.  In the act of obedience the healing is displayed.  (John 5:9)  The man is able to act because Jesus healed him.

This man is healed.  This would be a time of joy, thanksgiving and rejoicing.  He was so happy, he forgot about Jesus.  He was so happy he did not realize that he was the only one carrying something.  He was attracting attention.  When an orthodox Jew saw him, he was reminded that he was breaking the law.  He was mowing his lawn on Sunday!  He was praising God in church with beggar’s clothes on.  He brought his sleeping bag and shopping cart into the church parking lot.  He flipped his cigarette butt on the sidewalk. The healed man does not accept responsibility for breaking the Sabbath.

You may have known people like the cripple.  We all know people like the Jewish leaders.  When good things happen to others, they always see the negative.  They always have seven lemons in their mouth.  They have no joy.

Jesus takes the initiative and finds the man in the Temple (14).   Sin no more.  Sin is more damaging than physical illness.

Now John tells us in the rest of this chapter, the effect this miracle had on the Jews and how Jesus used this miracle to reveal who He was.  John is writing this letter to the Christian community who used to be part of the Jewish community.

5:16 Opposition begins with this miracle.  The Greek word translated ‘persecuting’ also has the meaning of ‘prosecuting’.

Before you apply the truth of this miracle in your life, it helps to understand the reason that John included this miracle.  Jesus is Lord of Life.  You need to know His word and obey.  In the routines of living, Jesus can give you abundant life.  Jesus cares about the crisis in your life.  If your wine is low, if your son is beyond medical help, or if your attitude has become very negative, Jesus wants you to know He cares.  So why did John tell us about this miracle?

For you that have no desire to expect a miracle, this miracle is for you.  Jesus will come to you.  Just as you are, Jesus will speak to your heart, and give you strength to obey.  The one who gives you strength, and life, is worthy of your obedience.  It is common for Jesus to enter our comfort zones and ask, “Do you want to be healed?”  Do you want life with meaning?  Not necessarily the visible good life that the world promises, but the abundant life in relationship with the Creator.

But this story is not about me.  John wants us to see Jesus.  In Him is life.  John did not write this so we could feel good.

5:17 Jesus defends Himself by telling the truth.  God cannot stop working on your Sabbath or the world would fall apart.  No healing would take place.

5:18 The Jews said He was making Himself equal with God.

5:19-20  But He is not claiming to be another god.  He has a relationship with the Father.  He is the Son of God.  He only does what the Father does.  What He says in 3rd person here, He states in 1st person in 5:30.  All that the Son is and does flows from the Father.  In a relationship of love there are no secrets.  Jesus’ description of His relationship with the Father in 19-30 is described with the terms life and judgment, now and hereafter.

5:21-22  Just as the Father gives life, the Son gives life.  But the Father has ceased all judging activity.  All authority to judge has been given to the Son.

5:23 The Jews claim to honor the Father, but that is impossible if you are plotting to kill the Son.  You are judging the Judge.

5:24-25 Jesus replaces “the Son” with the 1st person singular pronoun.  Eternal life is not just a promise for the future.  It starts now.  Life can now be received through belief in the revelation of God in the Son.  God is the source of life in all time.  Jesus is the source of life in the human story.

5:26-27 The Father has life in Himself and He granted the Son to have life in himself.  He also gave the Son authority to judge.

5:28-29  In the future (not now) the physically dead will hear the voice of the Son and come forth from the tombs into either the resurrection of life or the resurrection of judgment.  The difference will be the deeds of their lives before death.

We will still experience human life and death.  Those who hear the word of Jesus and believe in the one who sent him have eternal life, but they still die.

5:30 Jesus is totally dependent on the Father.  His work on the Sabbath has neither replaced God nor done away with Sabbath observance.

5:31-35 Jesus admits that His self defense does not meet the Scriptural requirement of 2 witnesses.  But John the Baptist witnessed that He was the Lamb of God (33).

5:36 The perfect works of Jesus should confirm His words.  John was heard.  The works are seen.

5:37 But they have neither heard nor seen the witness of the Father in the Scriptures and in the present day.  Jesus is the voice and form of the Father.

5:38-40  The Jews mistakenly believe that they can find life in their tradition and their study of the Scriptures.  Jesus accuses them of not believing their Scripture.

5:41-44 The glory from men is different from the glory of God.  You seek the esteem and praise from human achievement.  So you cannot love God because you judge by external appearances.  Locked in a world they control and understand they are unable to see the glory that comes from God.

5:45-47 God’s first great gift came through Moses.  Now God’s gift has been perfected in the living Word.

There are many big truths in this chapter.

1. Even though the man lost sight of Jesus, Jesus never lost sight of the man. (5:14)

2. Jesus works as God works.  He does not stop doing good because of man’s law. (5:17)

3. The words of Jesus have power because of His relationship to the Father not because of man’s faith (5:19).  The prayer of a righteous man…  In the relationship is the changing power.

4. Everyone who hears the word of Jesus is judged by the decision he makes.  Obedience is life.  Disobedience is death. (5:24)

5. You cannot believe if you are seeking the glory of man. (5:44)

Maybe like the first miracle you are living in one of the happy wedding times of your life, but you see the happiness starting to fade just like the wine.

Maybe like the 2nd miracle you are going through some real struggles in your life right now and you really need the presence of Jesus to help a loved one.

Or maybe like the cripple we saw today, you have quit thinking about life.  You are content with the routine.  You are satisfied with your society of the sick.  But today Jesus has passed by.

Jesus has found you today.  He is speaking to your heart and wants to change your life.  He asks, “Do you want to be healed?”  Do you want to be changed?  You have a decision to make.

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