The third Sign that reveals Jesus as the Messiah is in John 5. Here Jesus "violates" the Sabbath and heals a man that has been an invalid for 38 years! What an amazing story of deliverance as Jesus does for this man what he cannot do for himself. Just as He does for us all as our Saviour - doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
Sign 3--The In-valid
We have looked at the first two signs, water into wine, and the nobleman’s son healed at a distance. Now we come to the third sign which demonstrates that Jesus is divine.
John 5:1(NIV) Sometime later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews.
The Spring feasts are: Passover, Unleavened Bread, First fruits and Pentecost. The Autumn feasts were Trumpets, Atonement and Tabernacles or Booths. The winter feast is Hanukkah or Dedication which is followed by Purim. Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles are the three mandatory feasts Jewish men were required to attend.
There is a past, present and future fulfilment to these feasts. Passover, for instance, firstly celebrated the Exodus from Egypt. Jesus then transformed it into the communion service to celebrate our exodus from the kingdom of this world. Finally, this fellowship meal become symbolic of the great supper in heaven with Jesus to celebrate our redemption from sin.
These feasts remind us that while we have a personal Saviour, we do not have a private Saviour. Together we constitute the body of Christ. We are formed and informed by each other in body of Christ. Salvation is not a solo climb but a corporate journey to heaven.
“Do I need to go to church to be saved?” Do you need a mother to be born? The implication of the question is one of minimality. You don’t need to get out of bed in the morning to be alive. You can spend the day in bed. You can spend every day in bed. Elizabeth Barrett did until Richard Browning came along and then she suddenly had reason to get up and dance.
Jesus had reason to go the feasts and to the synagogue each week. He had something to share. There was a vitality, an inspiration, a desire to contribute to life in every possible way. There are members of every congregation who seldom come to church. We are poorer because they have not shared with us there experience. We need each other.
“Ian, I don’t get anything out of church!” So? Why should you get anything out of church? Church is about celebrating the Way along the way. In the Way we give what we can to anyone who will receive it! In life we experience rejection and ridicule, but when we congregate, we encourage each other to press on because that is what our Master did for the joy that was set before him. He shared himself to the point of death on a cross.
2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades.
Bethesda means house of mercy. One colonnade on each side of the twin pools and one between the pools equals five colonnades. Identified today with the twin pools at Saint Anne’s Church.
3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralysed.
Those of us who have lived in poorer countries can understand this situation. One of the great evidences of the power of Christianity is the compassion with which the aged and the invalids are treated.
4 [“And they waited for the moving of the waters. From time to time an angel of the Lord would come down and stir up the waters. The first one into the pool after each such disturbance would be cured of whatever disease he had.”]
This verse appears as a footnote is some translations. We think it was added after the 4th century by a copyist to explain why the man was there. It is not in the earlier manuscripts. We will always have Bethesda of long ago, and Lourdes in France, and St Joseph’s Basilica in Quebec. Places where the challenged come hoping for healing. We love the miraculous even though many don’t really believe it possible. It has a certain appeal, like winning the lottery. Jesus is about to do the work of his Father!
5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.
There were many unfortunates there that day. This is the signal that this one man is about to be part of the drama. We suspect from this verse that there is going to be happening, hopefully a healing here. This sentence is the prelude to the action of the heart of Jesus. It is the music of anticipation used in the movies. It is signalling the coming action. By the way, invalid means just that “in valid.” We often see handicapped people this way. Jesus is about to validate this man.
6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to get well?"
Jesus takes the initiative. He does so with all his Sabbath miracles and most of his other miracles. This question needs to be asked before Jesus speaks because his word leaves no choice. The question raises hope for the invalid.
It is the Sabbath day and Jesus was meant to worshipping in the temple or a synagogue, not out healing people. Furthermore, this is not an emergency but a long-term disability. This man is conditioned to his fate. He will have given up hope after almost 4 decades and is resigned to carrying on like this forever.
There are dysfunctions in my life that I have had for a long time. Ways of thinking and feeling and speaking. Think for a minute about relationships that are blighted by stereotyped ways of interacting. Imagine if Arab and Jew could think about each other as brothers. Imagine always thinking of others as brothers and sisters. In the past Christians called each other “brother” or “sister” partially for this reason.
How much change do you want in the life you are used to? This man had to have had his place, some income or support and routine. Have you ever been faced with great change? It is frightening. I remember my legs shaking standing at the altar getting married. I remember having hepatitis for only three months and the terror of going back to work. Was I still needed? Could I still cope? I talk to the men who are looking forward to getting out of prison who have been there for a decade or more and I hear the anxiety in their voice. Will they be able cope?
7 "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."
He wants to be healed but he is also acutely aware of his failure to do his part. There is no better time than now! Trust Jesus. Do you want to be healed? Do you? Do you want health, or do you prefer your present diet and exercise patterns? Do you want to maximise your relationships or are you content to carry on the way you have for almost 4 decades?
8 Then Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk."
“Pick up the symbol of your feebleness, the mat of your despair and depression that you are accustomed to. The mat has carried you—now you can carry the mat. You can master long term dysfunction in the inspiration Jesus provides. “Walk!” Says Jesus.
THE MAT (John5:8) Jean Lopez
What am I? Bed, Pallet, Mat? Varies each Gospel A thin pad of twisted rushes Unravelled, braided edges
No embroidered design No tassels to adorn Worn, dirty, smelly My look not important Use to comfort, to protect For sleep when the day is done My purpose lowly Yet important to some To bare a burden daily Protecting what is above We lay by this poolThough not even wet Thirty eight years He rested on me We lived a life of waiting A miracle for his crippled frame Disillusioned, disappointment, despondent He nursed his wounds Then one Sabbath day An unknown man approaches. Calling him into action GET UP! PICK UP! WALK! There’s movement above me He’s standing He’s walking He’s rolling me up He’s taking me with him A reminder of how he once lived It’s a new dawn It’s a new day It’s a new life And I’m feeling good!
THANK YOU JESUS !
The Mat ~ Lenore Los
Here I lie - on you, my old faithful You’ve been washed, repaired, replaced for many years - until.... Helpless, hopeless, useless - I lie on you
every day - my only comfort.... And then I see Him - the Man He stands out in a crowd, He has a Face, a Presence, a Godly power And here He is My Mat - “Pick it up” He says: And I just stare in shock and unbelief But then the power surges through my legs Power like this I’ve never felt before I stretch, I yawn, I jump, I stand!My mat - I nearly forgot! Grab it, fold it, run like mad I’m free, I'm strong, no feeling bad
9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
The man responded to the faith that Jesus had in him. Jesus saw the potential in the man. Physical healing is not much compared to the emotional and spiritual healing that Jesus sees possible for each one of us. At the heart of all our healing is forgiveness. Forgiveness means giving up the desire for revenge. Forgiveness,
1. Encourages health since anger breeds disease. 2. Builds strong relationships because we all make relational mistakes. 3. Is a choice, not something that happens with time or through confession by another. 4. Is hard to do because we are proud. 5. Is not amnesia but purpose. 6. Is dealing with personal anger, which is a process. 7. Is for a person not for actions. 8. Is not dependant on the other’s response or reactions.
Anger, the negative response to the way we feel we have been treated or the abuse we have suffered, causes the liver to malfunction and this in turn causes all sorts of disease in the body. The other master glands then begin to malfunction too. Forgiveness is giving up on our anger which brings healing to our heart and body. It is the cause of miracles in your life?
The day on which this took place was a Sabbath,
This is not a surprise at all. This is what the Sabbath is about: healing, health and happiness. The Sabbath is a day filled with joy because we are with God, with family and friends.
Hebrews 4:1-11 NLT God’s promise of entering his rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to experience it. 2 For this good news—that God has prepared this rest—has been announced to us just as it was to them. But it did them no good because they didn’t share the faith of those who listened to God. 3 For only we who believe can enter his rest. As for the others, God said,
“In my anger I took an oath: ‘They will never enter my place of rest,’”
even though this rest has been ready since he made the world. 4 We know it is ready because of the place in the Scriptures where it mentions the seventh day: “On the seventh day God rested from all his work.” 5 But in the other passage God said, “They will never enter my place of rest.”
6 So God’s rest is there for people to enter, but those who first heard this good news failed to enter because they disobeyed God. 7 So God set another time for entering his rest, and that time is today. God announced this through David much later in the words already quoted:
“Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts.”
8 Now if Joshua had succeeded in giving them this rest, God would not have spoken about another day of rest still to come. 9 So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God. 10 For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world. 11 So let us do our best to enter that rest. But if we disobey God, as the people of Israel did, we will fall.
For the paralysed man this Sabbath was the first day of the rest of his life!
10 and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, "It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat."
The Pharisees believed that if all the Jews kept one Sabbath perfectly then Messiah would come. They also did not want to be exiled again and believed Sabbath breaking would lead to another exile. This is a man- made understanding.
Jeremiah 17:19-27 refers self-serving business dealings on the Sabbath, not to doing good on this day. There were over 600 rules in the Judaism of Jesus’ time for “keeping” the Sabbath. These rules made God’s day painful to experience rather than a joy to look forward to. How shall we decide what is lawful on the Sabbath? What about committee meetings? Adventist Funerals? Adventist Weddings? Eating in restaurants? What does the activity do for our focus on God and His children?
11 But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’”
Confrontation with the religious leaders of the day had serious consequences which this man is not willing to take. He refers the responsibility of mat carrying back to whoever had healed him. This man has not real concern or appreciation for the healer’s wellbeing. He is quite happy to get him into trouble. Carrying a mat on the Sabbath would have make this man very visible.
12 So they asked him, "Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?"
They probably knew who it was, but they needed a witness.
13 The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.
This man had faith in the moving of the water, but he had no idea who the ordinary, unobtrusive, everyday man who healed him was. He could have heard about Jesus but did not know this was him.
Can we be healed without knowing anything about Jesus? The widow of Nain’s son was dead! So was Lazarus! Those who are the loaves and fishes did not have to know who he was. How many people have been healed by the apparently shy Saviour? Only eternity will reveal these statistics. So much for those who will have everything done in response to faith. Of course, having faith in God is important and brings salvation. However, this does not mean God cannot work for those who do not have faith. We all start without faith because faith is a gift of God!
Romans 12:3 . . . think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.
There is power in the Word of God. Only the refusal of the man to be healed could have prevented this miracle from happening. Jesus was feeling the man out when he asked him: “Do you want to be healed?” There were places where Jesus could not heal.
Matthew 13:58 NLT And so he did only a few miracles there because of their unbelief.
Then there are people who were not asked like Lazarus! It all came to this man who did not even know who Jesus was. Apparently there will be many will be in the kingdom who never knew who healed them.
Zechariah 13:6 If someone asks him, ‘What are these wounds on your body?’ he will answer, ‘The wounds I was given at the house of my friends.’
14 Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, "See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you."
Unlike the man born blind in chapter nine it seems this man had brought his feebleness upon himself. From Jesus’ comment this sin was ongoing for the man. Like a person who continues to smoke after having a heart bypass or a lung removed. Sin has terrible consequences. Dealing with sin is the most sensible thing to do under all circumstances. Sin separates us from life. Following God’s commandments is in our own best interests at all times and it all places. Believing in Jesus as our Saviour and Redeemer is at the core of a forever friendship with God.
5:15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.
Was this because of the control that the priests had on this man or was it because he thought he felt obligated to tell them or did he want the leaders to honour Jesus too?
5:16 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him.
Who do we persecute for “doing these things” on the Sabbath beside our small children? What is the Sabbath day for but to bring joy to the human hearts around us? Here are the Sabbath miracles of Jesus.
1. Jesus drives out an evil spirit (Mark 1:21-28). 2. Jesus Heals Simon Peter’s Mother-in-Law (Mark 1:29-31). 3. Jesus heals a man with a withered hand (Mark 3:1-6). 4. Jesus heals a crippled woman (Luke 13:10-17). 5. Jesus heals a man with Dropsy (Luke 14:1-6). 6. Jesus heals a lame man by the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-18). 7. Jesus heals a man born blind (John 9:1-16).
These seven healings are done at the initiative of Jesus. The only possible exception is that Jesus was told of Peter’s mother-in-law’s fever. This fever was also the only possible emergency.
For being a Sabbath blessing to the people around him Jesus is persecuted by the religious leaders. It is astonishing. It is normal for insecure sinners.
Ian Hartley July 2023