First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday, November 3rd, 2019)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
Isaiah 40:27-31; John 5:1-9
I believe, by now, you agree with me that the gospel of John has a very different flavor than the other three gospels. Bible Scholars call the first three gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the “Synoptic Gospels” because they have a lot of similarities. John, on the other hand, is not one of the Synoptic Gospels. It is a different gospel. It is a multi-layered gospel. It is a deep theology gospel. For example, when Matthew, Mark, or Luke say, “It is dark”, they mean you cannot see, but when John says the same thing, he means spiritual darkness in addition to the physical inability to see.
Of the many miracles and healings that Jesus did, John selected only seven to include in his gospel. John called those miracles, “Signs” because they point beyond themselves. In other words, those miracles or signs are not an end in themselves. In our Fall Sermon Series, we are digging deeper into those “Signs” and examining their implications on our lives. We are up to the 3rd Sign, the remarkable healing of the paralytic at Bethesda Pool from John 5.
A couple Sundays ago we looked at the setting of this “Third Sign”. It took place at a pool called Bethesda near the Sheep Gate. Bethesda means “The house of mercy.” The Pool of Bethesda was used for ritual purification purposes, where Jerusalem’s pilgrims would gather to get washed for worship. Over time, for a reason or another, the Pool was also believed to be a center for healing and John gives us the reason behind such belief.
It was there that Jesus performed the third miracle John recorded in his gospel. A couple Sundays ago, I said the story of the healing of this man is a story of God’s abundant grace. Why this person got picked by Jesus from all the sick people who were there? We don’t know. Why you and me? I have no clue. It is God’s grace reaching out to us.
We also said that the story raises another great point. It has to do with our hope. Our true hope is found in a person NOT a place. Our healing, our wholeness is in Christ. The invalid in our story put his faith in the so-called healing waters. Yet, this man’s life was transformed by a Person. He didn’t pay for it. He didn’t deserve it. It is a pure act of grace. This morning, I would like to add to that a couple more thoughts as we wrap up our study of this amazing story.
Challenges as Part of Life
Let me first of all remind you that challenges are part of life. The story of this man reminds us that we all have our challenges to face. As children we were either too short, too tall, too fat, or too skinny. Someone else was always smarter, or faster, or more popular. As adults we are either too young or too old, too inexperienced or too overqualified, too busy or too alone.
Sometimes our challenges are more serious. We worry about our families, our health, and our finances. We grieve over a loss of someone close. We agonize over a rebellious child. The reality is, we all get our share of the disappointments and failures of life. Someone said, you either in a storm, headed into a storm, or coming out of a storm.
And as we wrestle with life, we get accustomed to our predictable living that we become unaware there is more to which God is calling us. We get so accustomed to the familiar — day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year — that we fail to realize the difference between LIVING and simply EXISTING. Our status is quo, and thus we fail to recognize the abiding sickness which resides within our own souls. Like the sick man in our story, we could spend 38 years in our suffering before standing up, taking our mat and walk.
Do You Want to Be Made Well?
And here comes the compassionate Jesus and asks us the hard question: “Do you want to be made well?” We might find Jesus’ question surprising. In fact, it seems a very insensitive question. What was Jesus thinking? This poor sick man could have rightfully come back with some sarcastic response like, “Sir, I really enjoy being here completely unable to move!”
But on the other hand, this man’s response makes me cringe. Instead of screaming and shouting, “YES,” he says, “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” John 5:7. There is something about the way Jesus asked the question, that made it not so foolish a question after all. The man’s answer was not as obvious as it must have seemed. Jesus wanted to know. Did the man really want to be made well or not?
He had waited in this condition for 38 years and he lost all hope for healing. Perhaps he had even lost the desire to be healed, because the implications of being made well at this point would be too overwhelming to manage. The man might have been content to remain an invalid. After all, if he was cured, he would have to bear all the responsibilities of making a living for himself. Healing will bring about lots of change. Maybe it wasn’t such a dumb question after all. Being well holds more responsibilities. Being well holds more accountability.
The Question Behind the Question
But there is a question behind Jesus’ question. God’s healing power could not be let loose until the man assumed the responsibility of choosing life and risking the possibility of transformation! What’s true then is still true for us. The deeper question Jesus asks is, “Do you really want to be changed?” If we are content to stay as we are — no matter how miserable that may be — there can be no change, no possibility of healing for us. We must realize that miracles happen when our will cooperates with God’s power to make them possible. Let me tell you this shocking truth. Even God Himself can do little for us if we are comfortable with our place in life.
What Will It Be?
I believe Jesus asks us the same exact question today. Do you want to be made well? The well-being Christ offers to all of us is greater than our physical well-being. It has to do with the sickness of our souls, with our apathy, and timidity. St. Augustine said, “We are all restless until we find our rest in God.” This is what God offers to us in Christ — rest for our souls. But maybe we have something different in mind — something more material.
Healing will come on God’s terms, not ours. In our story, it was not through the healing waters of Bethesda. It was through Jesus. I am sure the invalid was fearful of this new chapter in his life. Can you let go of your own fear of change and allow God to make all things new? A new life, a new way of living, that is the Good News of God in Christ. That is His invitation to you and me this morning: “Get up … walk … put one foot in front of the other … follow me.” Amen.