John 4:46-54; 5:1-18
(sermon note: 02-06 sermon note)
Then he came again to Cana in Galilee where he had changed the water into wine. Now there was a royal official whose son lay ill in Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Then Jesus said to him, ‘Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.’ The official said to him, ‘Sir, come down before my little boy dies.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your son will live.’ The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started on his way. As he was going down, his slaves met him and told him that his child was alive. So he asked them the hour when he began to recover, and they said to him, ‘Yesterday at one in the afternoon the fever left him.’ The father realized that this was the hour when Jesus had said to him, ‘Your son will live.’ So he himself believed, along with his whole household. Now this was the second sign that Jesus did after coming from Judea to Galilee.
After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?’ The sick man answered him, ‘Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Stand up, take your mat and walk.’ At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.
Now that day was a sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, ‘It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.’ But he answered them, ‘The man who made me well said to me, “Take up your mat and walk.” ’ They asked him, ‘Who is the man who said to you, “Take it up and walk”?’ Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in the crowd that was there. Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, ‘See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you.’ The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus, because he was doing such things on the sabbath. But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is still working, and I also am working.’ For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God.
This morning’s reading reminds me of the one about a guy in a wheelchair who entered a restaurant one afternoon and asked the waitress for a cup of coffee. The guy looked across the
restaurant and asked, “Is that Jesus sitting over there?” The waitress nodded “yes,” so the guy requested that she give Jesus a cup of coffee on him. The next customer to come in was a man with a hunched back. He shuffled over to a booth, painfully sat down, and asked the waitress for a cup of hot tea. He also glanced across the restaurant and asked, “Is that Jesus over there?” The waitress nodded, so the man asked her to give Jesus a cup of hot tea, “My treat.” The third customer to come into the restaurant was a guy on crutches. He hobbled over to a booth, sat down and hollered, “Hey there, honey! How’s about gettin’ me a cold glass of Miller Light!” He, too, looked across the restaurant and asked, “Is that God’s boy over there?” The waitress once more nodded, so the man directed her to give Jesus a cold glass of beer. “On my bill,” he said. As Jesus got up to leave, he passed by the man in a wheelchair, touched him and said, “For your kindness, you are healed.” The man felt the strength come back into his legs, got up, and danced a jig out the door. Jesus also passed by the hunched man, touched him, and said, “For your kindness, you are healed.” The man felt his back straightening up, and he raised his hands, praised the Lord and did a series of back flips out the door. Then Jesus walked towards the third man on crutches. The man quickly jumped up, and yelled, “Don’t touch me! I’m collecting disability!!!”
In our reading for today, we had back to back healing stories, the first one ironically taking place in the very city where Jesus performed his first miracle of turning water into wine: Cana of Galilee. Kind of a leap from a party trick to a medical miracle but it goes to show how Jesus has range in his miracles! No doubt the royal official had heard of Jesus’ wedding miracle from his earlier visit, what harm could it be to simply ask Jesus to heal his gravely ill son? A drastically different type of miracle but who knows!? The official was at the point of desperation for any help he could get. And simply by virtue of the official asking, Jesus showed his son mercy and healed him from afar. We might ask, “well, if that’s all it takes to get Jesus to heal our loved ones, why doesn’t he answer our requests when we make them?” Many of us have asked Jesus to heal our loved ones only to be seemingly ignored. Our loved ones stay sick, or worse, die. Why didn’t Jesus answer our pleas? Perhaps because Jesus isn’t a miracle worker on demand. We can’t just expect our pleas for miracles to always be answered. Jesus isn’t simply a miracle worker! He said it himself, he performed miracles only to instill and/or encourage faith, not necessarily to show off his awesome power. He isn’t a showman. He’s a teacher and a healer and an inspirer and a redeemer.
Jesus showed mercy to the royal official and his son as well as the invalid man down by the healing pool in Jerusalem. The man had gathered by that pool, day in and day out, and never received any restorative healing. Jesus could tell he was a persistent man albeit overlooked man. No one would help him down to the pool so that he might receive healing from its miraculous waters. Again, Jesus approached the man and performed a miracle of healing for him simply by virtue of his being overlooked time and time again. He didn’t even answer Jesus’ question, “do you want to be made well?”!!!! Heck, what he did respond with sounds awfully like an excuse why he hadn’t been healed already! “Bbbbut, nobody will help me get healed!” Riiiight, but do you want to be healed, sir?! What a powerful question to ask of anyone who’s sick, especially those afflicted with long-term sickness! One might think it’s a stupid question…of course the man wanted to be healed! He’d been an invalid for thirty-eight years! Wouldn’t you want to be healed after thirty-eight years of being an invalid?! Well, as stupid of a question it might appear to be, it actually is a pretty profound question. In fact, there are many sick people who don’t want to be healed, especially those afflicted with long-term sickness. Why? Because they’ve become resigned to their sickness. They’ve either forgotten what wellness was like or have given up all hope of ever being well again. Why hope for something that the odds of receiving are slim to none? Some people have not only given up hope but have fallen into a deep depression over their sickness. They’ve made themselves believe they’re unworthy to be well again. And sickness is an insidious state of being. Sickness invariably begets sickness meaning one type of sickness will likely lead to another type of sickness. Bodily sickness invariably leads to mental or spiritual sickness or vice versa…mental or spiritual sickness invariably leads to bodily sickness. Just look at our friend on crutches in the opening joke! “Don’t touch me! I’m collecting disability!” Clearly his mind and spirit had sickened from his bodily ailment!
It’s a profound and important question that Jesus raised for all of us. Thanks to the “gift” of sin, we are all deeply sick in mind, body, and spirit. Not only deeply but chronically! We’ve been sick since the day we were born and we will be sick until the day we die! Now then, does that mean we are to give up hope of ever being well? Are we to become deeply depressed over our situation? No, for two important reasons: none of us inherently knows what it is to be well and we’ve been blessed to know the source of all wellness, Jesus Christ himself. To know the wellness of Jesus is something that is lived into over time. None of us inherently know the wellness of Jesus. And once you know it, you knoooooow it! The sinfulness isn’t erased but it sure is minimized and trivialized. It has no harmful power over your life when Jesus is in your life. The wellness of Jesus only bears fruit and goodness.
Yes, we’ve been given the gift of absolute wellness through Jesus and God. Recall the sure words of the prophet, Jeremiah, “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved; for you are my praise.” (17:14) Such assurance, such certainty! God does heal us! God does save us! All of scripture reveals this to us…we are sick but are redeemed and made well again through Jesus Christ! David sang in his 147th psalm, “He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.” (vs. 3) God heals not only the body but also the mind and spirit. God heals our entire being. Someone in our Bible study earlier this week made the profound observation that maybe God’s miraculous healing comes in the form of bodily death. Our bodies may get so sick that rather than letting that sickness bleed over into our minds or spirits, God frees our minds and spirits from our bodies. His miraculous healing is revealed in bodily death because He is equally concerned about our minds and spirits.
James, the brother of Jesus, wrote, “the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven.” (5:15) Friends, beneath all wellness is the power of faith. Faith is what drives wellness. Jesus witnessed the faith of the two men in today’s reading and they (or those they loved) were made well because of it. Remember, Jesus performed miracles simply to instill or encourage faith. Faith is the key to all wellness. Let us nurture and grow the faith that God gives each of us. Perhaps more importantly, let us give thanks for the faith within us that keeps us well. Thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.