May 1, 2016 – Completely Healed!
In a Peanuts comic strip, Charlie Brown is hanging his head low, looking sad and dejected. He groans to Lucy, “I think if I would disappear tomorrow, no one would miss me!” Lucy puts her hand on his shoulder and says: “No, Charlie Brown, that’s not true!” His spirits began to rise, then she crushed him completely: “Charlie Brown, if you were to disappear today, no one would miss you!”
The lame man in the gospel lesson today could be Charlie Brown. He seems to have no friends or family who miss him. And yet Jesus meets this man’s need the same way He meets all of our needs as well, He does so completely.
Surely in his 38 years this man had some relationships. But now he was apparently alone, indicated by his statement that he had no one to help him. No family, no friends, no one left to care for him.
This text raises a few other points to consider. Why did Jesus choose to help this man and not the others? Also, what was it about his trying to get in the water and failing for 38 years that had kept this man there? The man wasn’t cured until Jesus spoke the word of healing to him. It says in the lesson, 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? When it says, ‘Jesus learned that he had been in this condition a long time’, that indicates Jesus had a conversation about the man’s condition with him or someone else. So Jesus understands this man’s long-suffering, with no one; not a friend, not a relative – to help him.
In response to Jesus’ question, all the man did was explain his condition of not being able to get in the water fast enough – that the blessing of healing was given to others before him… for 38 years! What had his life been like before he was invalid? Where did he sleep at night for those 38 years? Who fed him? Where did he go when Jesus told him to pick up his mat and walk? What do you suppose the man’s life was like after Jesus healed him?
We’re told none of those details. We’re not given any insight into this man except that He had suffered long; very, very long. Then this rabbi, Jesus, comes and after learning of his condition asks one question, ‘do you want to be healed’? Jesus, the first person in 38 years to do so, makes an offer of help. But not help as the man had hoped for those 38 long years. It was an offer of help to a man who was in a desperate situation. I can imagine that Jesus came to him and offered him complete healing because he was the least of these around the pool who where hoping for a healing – that never came.
How many before this man had gotten into the water and yet remained unhealed? This man, along with everyone else has no prospect of being healed without help. And in this man’s situation we see our own situation. His plight is our plight, with one difference. This man knew his situation was one of helplessness and hopelessness.
So often we don’t recognize that, confronted with sin, sickness, sorrow or disease, we are without help. We think that our friends, family, insurance or the government will be there to meet our needs. We think we live in Disneyland where nothing can ever really hurt us. But this man’s hopeless situation points out to us that when we recognize that death and sin keep us ‘out of the pool’ then we too are in our own hopeless situation. Unless, some comes to us and helps us completely, the way this man was helped when Jesus asked, do you want to be healed?
Take note that Jesus is the one who comes to the man, Jesus initiates this man’s recovery. No one comes to intercede on behalf of the man to Jesus. The man doesn’t even seem know who Jesus is, which is, in itself, a revelation. This man lives in Jerusalem and it would seem from other readings that many if not most of Jerusalem knew of Jesus and His miracle working power. Yet not this man.
This man had no help, no knowledge of Jesus – who could in fact help him. And he was in a situation that held no prospect for change, improvement or relief. There was no hope or help for this man… until Jesus came to this man.
We too, as the people of this planet, had no hope until Jesus came to us; until He initiated our help. We too are in a desperate situation, a deadly sinful situation with no prospect for change, improvement or relief. Without Jesus, we only imagine that we can do something for ourselves.
I’ve said it for a long time now; that the automobile, our cars, are among the greatest obstacles to the preaching of the gospel. Our cars give us a false sense of independence and autonomy. We think we can go any direction we want, any speed we can reasonably get away with, any time we want, for as long as we want. Our cars give us the illusion that we’re in complete control of our lives. When folks get older, giving up their driver’s licenses is among the most difficult things to do because of the sense of power we invest in those licenses. And yet for all that cars do for us they cannot give us the relief, the help, the deliverance that we truly need. And that’s what the man in the gospel lesson today reminds us of, that we are in desperate need of help.
This man knew and understood his condition and simply explained to Jesus what it was. He had nothing to offer and nothing to bargain with… And yet Jesus comes to him. Jesus brings complete healing to this man and this man is no longer the same after this encounter. So too with us.
We are no longer the same when Jesus comes to us. We have capacities and abilities given to us in Christ that we did not have before. Jesus was born into this world and in so doing, He comes to us. And then He died and rose again for our healing. Jesus comes and by His coming, by His life-giving word and in the waters of baptism we are now different than before.
Remember two weeks ago I gave you 6 things to do that would help get the word of God into us? Remember we said that as we read, mark and inwardly digest the word of God that Christ is revealed to us? So the question today again is how did that go for you? Which of the six things was most helpful to you? Was it reading the psalms to music? Or picking a favorite verse and memorizing it each day? How about reading about a biblical characters life?
In all of these things from God’s word, we are granted want we need. In Christ and His work, water and word, we now have the complete restoration and healing of our relationship with God that by our sin had crippled us in fear.
Now here’s another thing about his man that he can teach us about ourselves and the world around us. He was right to hope in something other than himself for healing. But, unfortunately, he was looking to the wrong waters for healing. He was looking for the water of this world to restore him, to heal him and make him whole again. The true healing water of the Living Water, Jesus Christ, come down from heaven, was standing before this man and He makes the offer to cure him.
This makes me think of old-time meetings that used to take place down by creeks and riverbanks where people would gather to be baptized in the flowing water there. But in all Christian baptism the same thing happens whether in creek, river, baptistery or font. The same life-giving, restoring water of Jesus’ righteousness is poured out in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit on all who receive the complete healing that Jesus has come to give.
By his own admission, the man wanted to be healed but also by his own admission he needed help to be healed. The problem was he didn’t know who Jesus was otherwise he would have asked Him for help as so many others had done.
Finally for us this man is a good illustration of the world around us today. We all presume everyone has heard of Jesus and what Jesus has done for them in the cross and His resurrection. But, those around us are like this man – hurt, crippled and looking for help. The world simply doesn’t see Jesus for who He really and truly is. Just as this man, though in the world of Jerusalem, didn’t seem to know what most of Jerusalem knew, that Jesus was a healer, sent from God.
Today some people say Jesus was a healer, or that He was a good man, a good teacher, some even acknowledge He was a prophet of the living God of heaven. But all of those things count as nothing when we learn, through God’s word, that Jesus is, the living water of heaven come to bring healing, wholeness and total restoration with God.
Yes a friend or families love on this earth is a wonderful thing. But greater by far is the love of Jesus, come down for heaven for each person in this world who sees their own hurt and fear or their anger and crippled-ness. For these – for you and me – Jesus comes and asks, do you want to be healed? And Jesus then delivers completely that healing by His word of wholeness that tells us that in Him we can take up our mats and walk. In Jesus’ name that heals us, amen.
Sermon #825 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO
First Reading Acts 16:9-15
9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
11 From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. 12 From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.
13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.
Epistle Revelation 21:9-14, 21-27
9 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. 13 There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. 14 The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb…
21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass.
22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Holy Gospel John 5:1-9
5 Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. 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. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.  5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 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?”
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.”
8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
The day on which this took place was a Sabbath,