When I was 16 years old I got my driver’s license. I was so proud to have it because I was one of the first kids in my class to get one. But, having a new license left me wanting to drive everywhere, and once a few of my friends got theirs as well we didn’t want to ride together, we all wanted to drive, so we often did. This wasn’t a problem until the day my friend pulled up along side me in his neighborhood and challenged me to a race. And being the wise and discerning 16 year I was, I immediately floored it to get a good lead, and off we went…until we came to a cul-de-sac where a family friend just happened to be out cutting his grass. He saw us coming and marched out in front of us to stop us, give us an ear full, and call our parents as well. From this incident my friend and I became an example of how not to drive to many of our other friends and classmates.

I mention this because we’re currently in a sermon series walking through the gospel of John, and today we see a man become an example for all time of how not to respond to Jesus. So go ahead and open your Bibles to John 5. If you do not have a Bible you can understand we have one for you in the back, if you’ve already picked one of those Bibles up you’ll find John 5 on page 519. Our passage within John 5 for today is 5:1-15. I’ll read it, I’ll pray, and then we’ll get to it. John 5:1-15…let’s pray.

The Setting (v1-5)

We find out in v1 that some time has passed between the events of chapter 4 and the beginning of chapter 5. Jesus is now back in Jerusalem, attending a feast of the Jews. We do not know what this feast was, only that Jesus was there joining in. We see there is a pool with five porches or colonnades in the city near the sheep gate called Bethesda, or literally ‘house of mercy.’ This pool is near the temple, probably next to the gate the sheep are sold for the sacrifices at the temple. At this pool v3 says, lie a multitude of invalids, blind – lame – and paralyzed. We hear no detail that public opinion was shocked that so many needy people congregated at this pool, so this must have been a normal occurrence. And it does not surprise us one bit to find Jesus at this pool among such a crowd “…for where should the Great Physician be found if not in the place where the sick are gathered?”[1] Did He not come to seek and save the lost? Indeed He did, so to see Jesus among such a needy multitude is natural. And more so, seeing Jesus among them gives us hope that Jesus is among us this morning by His Word and Spirit, because if we’re honest the disorders of our hearts resemble the physical disorders of this crowd. We’re in just as much need of the Great Physician as these people are.

But before we get too far along here, did you notice v4 is missing? Don’t be alarmed, the publishers of your Bible didn’t miss something. Most include it in the bottom footnotes. So go ahead and look there, and see v4, which says, these sick people were “…waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and stirred the water; whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was healed of whatever disease he had.” What’s going on here?[2] Well, at the present moment we do not have the original writings of the biblical books. They have either been lost or have yet to be found. What we do possess are hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of manuscript copies that were made of those original documents. Thanks to the massive number of careful and meticulous textual scholars and the work they’ve done in comparing and contrasting all these thousands of copies we can tell almost all the time what the original said. However, there are a few times when we cannot. None of these times effect any doctrinal position in Scripture, they’re all very minor details that vary from one copy to another like the number of people present at a battle, or a city name that’s been updated or left alone as the historical title. v4 of this passage is one of these examples. Most publishers include it in the bottom footnotes because in the best and earliest manuscripts of John’s gospel v4 isn’t there.

That v4 is added in most later manuscripts of John’s gospel means it was likely a statement inserted into by a copyist who wanted to explain this text because v7 begs for an explanation. So if v4 is an explanation of v7 it reveals that this belief about the angel coming down to stir the pool and the first person stepping in to be healed is a reflection of the superstitions of the day rather than the truth of God. Now, I say if because it could’ve truly been that an angel did come down and do this, but because it’s absent in the earliest of manuscripts I think it’s not the case. But remember, how this pool worked isn’t essential to this passage. v4 does help us understand what’s happening here in our passage for sure, but it’s far from the main thing to see here. The main thing to see here is the power of Christ.[3]

The last thing to notice in the setting v1-5 lays out for us is that we’re introduced to a man in v5 who had been at this pool for 38 years seeking to be healed. We’ll speak more of him in a moment, for now just see him present by the pool and present in the heart and mind of Christ. So we have our setting in v1-5, now in v6, the focus turns to Jesus.

The Healing (v6-9a)

v6 begins with Jesus (when He did not have to) choosing to go to this pool and approach this sick man. Lesson? “Jesus moves toward need, not comfort, toward sinners, not the self righteous.”[4] Knowing how long he’d been there, He walks up to Him and says, “Do you want to be healed?” This is for sure an interesting way to begin speaking to this man. Some even think Jesus to be a bit rude here because He asks a question that shouldn’t be asked. Of course this man wants to be healed, he’s been by this pool for 38 years waiting for healing! Imagine waiting for something for 38 years, from 1979 to now, waiting to be made well. That’s five years longer than I’ve been alive…this is a long time. So why would Jesus ask this man if he wants to be healed? Because only in a fallen world will the sick sometimes prefer sickness over health. Having learned to depend on others for all his needs Jesus is pointing out that if he is healed, everything about his life will change. No more handouts, no more help, but in its place will be work and labor to earn what he needs for the first time in almost four decades.

In v7 the man doesn’t respond with a simple ‘Yes’ but explains his situation. “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.” He knew his sickness, his limitations, and his weakness full well, he did not argue about this. He was not like many modern day churchgoers, who are lost and either don’t know it or aren’t willing to confess it.[5] No, he felt it, and owned it. And yet here he was alongside a multitude of those like him, gazing into the heavens thinking an angel will come to stir the waters and provide them a chance to be healed, when Jesus Christ, the One who could truly heal them is there, and yet isn’t being sought by anyone of them! May this sad scene not be repeated among us here this morning. May you have eyes to see not only how sad a condition our sin leaves us in but eyes to see Christ as well, the great and only Savior of sinners! Into this sad scene, full of sad people, living sad lives, unwilling to seek healing from the Savior of the world, comes the voice of the One who spoke the world into existence. v8, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” What the superstitious legend surrounding this pool could not provide this man, Jesus provides in a single word.

There is no exercise of faith in view here. No crowd yelling “Son of David have mercy on me!” No bleeding woman struggling through a crowd just to touch Jesus’ robe. Just the full knowledge, warm compassion, and endless power of Christ on display here. There was no need for physical therapy, or a progressive timeline where strength increased in this man. None of that. v9, “And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.” Isaiah 35 spoke of these realities that would one day come with the coming of the Messiah saying, weak hands will be strengthened, weak knees will be made firm, “…the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy… (Isaiah 35:4-6). Such is the power of Christ shown to us here in this passage. And such is the power of the message of Christ crucified for sinners.

The Questioning (v9b-13)

We’ve seen the setting in v1-5, the healing in v6-9a, now the trouble begins with the questioning in v9b-13.

Here we are imagining this man to be leaping for joy at being healed, and then we learn the crucial detail that this day was a Sabbath, and we think ‘Uh-oh.’ This mattered a great deal to the Jewish leaders because they had created rules that no one was allowed to carry a bed or anything else on the Sabbath. You may be wondering, ‘Where is that in the Bible?’ And you’re right to wonder this because it’s not in the Bible. In their effort to keep the Sabbath requirements in Scripture, these Jewish leaders made extra laws outside of Scripture and enforced them with the same weight as Scripture. Because of these extra laws, when they saw this man who was lame for 38 years walking with his rolled up bed and realized it was a Sabbath, they said, “It is the Sabbath, it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” Instead of praising God and rejoicing with this man, they get all critical and bent out of shape that he was breaking their own traditions. See here the corruption common to all men. More often than we’d like to admit, we reject the Word of God for the commandments of men and think ourselves to be incredibly spiritual people when in reality we’re doing nothing but adding sin to sin by going beyond what the Scripture calls for. Ironically, doesn’t it always seem to be those who arrogantly believe they see the clearest, that are blindest to the truth of God?

The now healed man responds in v11 “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’” In other words, ‘It wasn’t my idea to pick up my bed and walk on the Sabbath, it was the guy who healed me. If you’re going to blame anyone for this, blame Him.’ This is surely not the response you’d expect from him having just been healed. Earlier in John 4 the Samaritan woman leaves Jesus at the well and spreads the news about Jesus throughout her whole city, and later in chapter 4 the nobleman trusts the word of Christ over what his eyes can see. But here, we see a man healed, and when asked about it he immediately throws Jesus under the bus. This is not a good response. Naturally, these Jewish leaders want to know who this man is who healed him in v12 asking, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk?’” But, as v13 shows us, the healed man didn’t know because after Jesus healed him He left the pool because it was crowded. Why did He leave? He most likely didn’t want to cause a pandemonium outbreak of people seeking to be healed. So off He went.

But Jesus isn’t willing to heal him and not deal with his soul, so we find a warning in v14-15.

The Warning (v14-15)

Sometime after, Jesus returns to the nearby temple seeking to find the man He healed. Upon finding him He says something we don’t expect. v14, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” This hits our modern sensibilities right in the gut. You mean to tell me that bad things like physical ailments and disabilities happen because people sin? Many places in the Bible tell us this is not the case, but nowhere in the Bible do we read that this is never the case.[6] In some cases we do see that sickness, disease, and even death are a direct result of sin. So what is Jesus saying here to this man? He’s saying, “I healed your body to awaken the attention of your soul. I healed you that you would stop doing evil and be holy.”[7]

You know, I’m aware that everyone comes in here with baggage. Their own mess, their own struggles, their own twists and turns throughout life, and that what people need the most is gospel grace. We truly see that here in that Jesus sought this man out and healed him. He didn’t cry out for healing, or exercise any faith in Christ. No, on His own sovereign prerogative, Jesus chose to give healing grace to this man. But we see more here as well. Sometimes what we need isn’t a kind hand extended to us in our mess, sometimes what we need is a firm hand to remind us that the reason we’re in the mess to begin with is our own foolish choices. We see this in Jesus’ warning in v14. “Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” This is a wake up call, that if you keep heading in the direction you’re going, you’ll meet a fury filled end when you gain an intimacy with the wrath of God for all eternity.

I don’t think this healed man got the message, see what he did in v15? “The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him.” Sad case indeed. We see his body healed, never to be lame again, but we see the deadness of his heart as he goes back to tattle on Christ. A tattle that begins turmoil with these Jewish leaders, that will ultimately end in Jesus’ death.

Conclusion:

There are many things to takeaway throughout these 15 verses, I’m sure you’ve already gleaned much of them, but let me give you two here as I end.

First, be encouraged with gospel grace.

Just as Jesus sought out this man with the precise purpose of healing him, the Bible says He does the same with us. We once enjoyed a perfect fellowship with God, but we fell from this original position in Genesis 3, and now all men stand under the wrath of God. But, see the glory and beauty in that the Son of God became man so that men could become sons of God. Born like us, lived for us, died the death we deserve, rose for us, and ascended to rule and reign over us. In His finished work He now He pursues us in our sin and calls us to new life in the gospel. The deepest healing we need is redemption and rescue from our sin. So we too need to hear the question this man heard in v6, “Do you want to be healed?” If we do we’ll find Jesus not only willing but able to save us from our sins, and awaken our dead hearts to new life. No matter who you are this morning, whether you’ve been avoiding this for 38 years or never thought of this, Jesus can save you today. Be encouraged with gospel grace.

Second, be challenged with gospel grace.

“Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you” is a piercing reminder that when you become a Christian, you enter into a new relationship with Christ, and when you enter into a new relationship with Christ, you also enter into a new relationship with sin. The sin you once gladly welcomed you now must vigorously forsake for a life of obedience to Christ. So be challenged, God will not be mocked, you cannot fool Him. If you claim to have been saved and continue in a life of sin you’re making it plain as day that you understand Jesus Christ and His gospel as little as this healed man did.

May you not be another example of how not to respond to Jesus. Rather, may you hear and heed the call of Christ, finding His saving work on our behalf not only sufficient but satisfying as well.

 

 

Citations:

[1] Charles Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 13, 1867, page 194.

[2] R.C. Sproul offers this clear explanation in his John, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary, page 77.

[3] John Piper, Healed for the Sake of Holiness, desiringgod.org sermon from 8/23/09, accessed on 6/21/17.

[4] Ibid., accessed 6/22/17.

[5] Charles Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 13, 1867, page 195.

[6] R.C. Sproul, John, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary, page 80.

[7] John Piper, Healed for the Sake of Holiness, desiringgod.org sermon from 8/23/09, accessed on 6/23/17.

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