The Pool of Bethesda

Scripture: John 5:1-15, Acts 9:32
Date: 06/04/2011 
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

I believe the Lord is very close to His people when we pray and I thought I’d just mention that when the pastors and the staff gets together each week, we do really read and pray over your prayer requests. I heard about a televangelist that was telling all the – his viewers – to send in their prayer requests with their offerings and someone got video footage of him opening the envelopes, taking the offerings out and throwing the prayer requests away. And I don’t know if some of you heard that report – we do gather your prayer requests, we stack them, we pass them around among the pastors, we pray over them. You may have a request and you want to do it anonymously and you want to write that down – we’ll be happy to pray. And, you know, we’re also excited about when we get – not just prayer requests – some write down a note and say, ‘Thank you for praying. God answered my prayer.’ So it’s not just asking, it’s wonderful when we hear about the way the Lord answers prayers and He does answer them. I believe the Lord is also very close to His people when we open His word because Jesus is the word – the way He speaks to us is through the Bible.

There is no book like the Bible. My favorite thing to do is to read and to study the word of God because there’s transforming power in the stories and the lessons of the Bible. We’re going to do that today – I don’t know how long it will take – I might surprise you – I might quit early. But I want to study a story – it’s in the gospel of John. It’s the story of the ‘Pool of Bethesda’. The pool of Bethesda. The word ‘Bethesda’ means ‘house of mercy’ or ‘house of compassion’. You only find this story in the gospel of John chapter 5 – it begins with the first verse. The gospel of John 4 you’ve got the woman at the well – gospel of John 5 you’ve got the pool of Bethesda and the fallout of this miraculous healing. To begin with, I am just going to read the first, oh probably, seven or eight verses here and then we’ll take it point by point and we’ll go through it together. Gospel of John chapter 5 – I’ve got the New King James version, now “After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porches.

In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had. Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?’ The sick man answered Him, ‘Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk.’ And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath.” Which leads into the other half of the chapter and what unfolds there. Now let’s look at this point by point and I might go a little bit beyond the verse where I stopped there to finish it out, but I just wanted to give you a picture of this story of this healing. Oh, you know I – maybe this would be a good time to – there’s another story, very similar, that the apostles were involved in. Before we get into chapter 5, just jump for a second to Acts chapter 10 – or you can just listen and put your finger in John 5.

In Acts 10, verse 30 – I’m sorry, Acts 9, verse 32 – Acts 9, verse 32 it talks about Peter healing Aeneas at Lydda. “Now it came to pass, as Peter went through all parts of the country, that he also came down to the saints who dwelt in Lydda. There he found a certain man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden eight years’ – as opposed to 38 - and was paralyzed. And Peter said to him, ‘Aeneas, Jesus the Christ heals you. Arise and make your bed.’ Then he arose immediately. So all who dwelt at Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.” God certainly has the power. Jesus said, ‘these miracles that I do greater things than these will you do.’ And the apostles did do many of the same miracles that Jesus performed. Now back to John 5 – I just wanted to mention that because it was a similar miracle. It tells us that ‘After this’ – meaning after the woman of the well story – He’s making His way through Samaria on His way to the feast in Jerusalem when this experience happens. ‘There was a feast of the Jews and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.’ Now there were three feasts where Jewish men were required to attend physically. You had the Passover, you had Pentecost, which was 50 days after Passover – that’s where you get the word Pentagon – five sides – Pentecost was 50 days after the Passover, and then you had the feast of Tabernacles.

There’s been some discussion about which feast this was, but there’s a good chance it was Pentecost. And it says that Jesus, He’s on His way to the feast, but for some reason he doesn’t go to the temple right away, he takes a little detour and goes by this place of great suffering. Jesus kept the Jewish feasts – during the feasts a lot of people came looking for pity because the religious people would come to Jerusalem and they were often the generous people – good place for beggars to beg and Jerusalem was really filled with people that had all kinds of different needs during the times of the feast. Part of being a good – well, not only Jew – Muslim – many religions, was giving your offerings to the poor and the needy. So they thought when people came during the devotions at the feasts, they had better chances. Now it tells us that there was a pool there – verse 2 – “Now there is in Jerusalem” – I’m going to stop right there. Scholars get very excited about those words, you know why? They want to know ‘when did John write his letter?’ If he wrote his letter after Jerusalem was destroyed, he wouldn’t say, ‘Now there is in Jerusalem’ because Jerusalem was absolutely flattened by the Romans in 70 AD, so they speculate John may have written his gospel before the destruction of Jerusalem – he states it as though it was still there at that time.

“Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches.” I’ve actually got a map – it’s a picture of old Jerusalem and in that map of old Jerusalem – it’s really the north side – you can see roughly where the pool is if you look at that little map. You’ll see there’s the temple, you’ve got the Golden Gate, which is the gate that Jesus rode through on a donkey, then above that, just north and east, you’ve got the blue. For years scholars made fun of this story – they said, ‘it’s only in John, there’s no evidence of this pool of Bethesda.’ In 18 – I think it was ’88, actually, they did some excavating and they found the pool of Bethesda. Just as it said, there were five different level porches around it. Matter of fact, one of the five actually dissected the pool so all these sick people laying around the pool really were able to jump in – they weren’t too far away – and it was by what they call the Sheep Gate. Now in the temple they had sacrifices – they had the nearest place to bring the sheep into Jerusalem to bring them to the temple for the sacrifices was by this pool of Bethesda, so it is there.

You can go look at it today except it’s not outside anymore, they built a big church called St. Anne’s Church over the remains of the pool of Bethesda. And I’m not sure there’s any water in there now. Something else is – this is not a spring where they would get water for drinking, it was a pool and the word ‘pool’ there is actually like for ‘diving into’ or ‘bathing in’ - the word that is used there. So people were not filling their canteens there – it would have been pretty scary – they were washing there. It was a place of baptism. Just something to think about. “Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches.” By the way, you read in Nehemiah chapter 3, verse 1 that the priests were responsible for building that gate. It had a lot of spiritual significance with it. “Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests and built the Sheep Gate;” so different people that came back from the Babylonian captivity built different parts of the wall. The high priest and his family built this gate and so it had great significance. It was a gate that Jesus went through and a lot of the poor people there were believing they could be healed from something that was happening. Jesus is going to Jerusalem, ostensibly to worship – it’s a feast. But he doesn’t go to the temple right away or He stops at this place on the way to the temple. Now, no priest would normally do that because you read here there was ‘a great multitude of sick people there’. And what does the Bible say about the sick people in the temple? Leviticus 21:17, ‘Speak to Aaron saying, ‘No man of your seed in their generations shall draw near to offer bread to his God if there’s any blemish in him.

For no man in whom there’s a blemish shall draw near: a blind man, a lame man, a disfigured or deformed, a man with a broken foot or broken handed’’ – and then it goes on and specifies some other things as well. They were considered cast off by God – unclean – and so this was a virtual – this was like, you know, a very serious emergency room. It says, ‘There was a great multitude of people in need.’ Great multitude in need. Hundreds – you’ll read in the book ‘Desire of Ages’ – were gathered there. All of them sick. All of them desperately looking for this strange occurrence that would take place in the water because there had been a belief that rose up that people that got in that water could be healed. Now, it’s interesting, this story of the healing of the man of Bethesda – Jesus just gets done talking to a Gentile woman, he reveals He’s the Christ to her, and he talks about living water. She was interested in this regular water and He said, ‘Oh, I’ve got water to offer you that’s like no water.’ Now He goes to Jerusalem and, again, you’ve got people that are looking at the wrong water. They’re staring at this pool hoping to find healing when Jesus is right there in town. I wonder if that ever happens again. There were multitudes in need. John chapter 5, verse 3, in these porches – why five porches? Do you think numbers mean something in the Bible? I’m not sure the jury’s in on this, but I’ve had some thoughts. Five, in the Bible, seems to indicate a number that deals with the grace of God’s word. You’ve got Jesus with five loaves, he feeds five thousand. David took five stones – it’s a symbol for the word of God to knock over Goliath and his brothers. Benjamin got five times more than – and He had just come away from the woman of Samaria who had five husbands. It’s a number that appears. Remember when the rich man is in Hades, he says, ‘I’ve got five brothers in my father’s house.’ Well, that’s the word of God.

They used to think of the Pentateuch. Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy – the Pentateuch - the five books of Moses. Five, for the Jews, represented something about the word of God. So here you’ve got those people all gathered by the hundreds – and it was a pitiful scene – because, evidently, what happened is that pool was built over – I don’t think it was necessarily some volcanic activity but, you know, there are gases in the earth and there was some methane or some build up – you know at Yellowstone they are able to set their watches by Old Faithful and the geothermic activity – ever sixty minutes they say it blows off. I’ve never been there – I really ought to go – it’s not very American not to have been there. But I’ve read about it. And they’ve got geysers over here in Geyserville – I’ve been to Geyserville, does that count? And something above that pool and there was a build up every now and then and it wasn’t as faithful as ‘Old Faithful’ but they kind of knew when it might happen and, especially during the feasts they thought that there was a good possibility that they would be healed and some tradition had developed and these bubbles would come up and there would be a great eruption – the pool would kind of belch and these bubbles would foam up and people thought whoever got in the water after this troubling of the water – they said an angel was doing it – some carbonated angel – I don’t know what they were thinking. And, keep in mind, John is not saying that this was an angel – it could have been – what he’s saying is, ‘This is what the belief was that gathered the people.’

Because you have to ask yourself this question – here you’ve got this pool and you’ve got hundreds of people that are sick and dying – that are poor – and they’re all gazing desperately at this placid pool. There’s no wind, it’s surrounded by stone porticos – and, by the way, when they excavated they also found that there was columns and coverings so there was some place for these people to shield themselves – and they’re staring with glazed eyes at this pool. It doesn’t say how often it happened. It may have happened, you know, once every few months or something – hoping to capture the moment because you’re only going to get healed – they believe – if you get in right after it erupts and troubles and bubbles. And when they saw that stirring of the water there was a gasp and a yelp and a clamor and a scream and all these sick people began to rush or crawl or claw over each other – you read in the book ‘Desire of Ages’ sometimes people were killed in the crush. Hundreds of people – a great multitude it says. Some people kill themselves just trying to get into a rock concert in a crowd. Can you imagine how desperate people are when they know – you’re not going to win a lottery, they’re going to be healed of their disease and they’ve really got to think pretty selfishly – ‘I’ve got to be first if I want to get better.’ And can you imagine God sending an angel down to some form of cosmic humor to stir some water so everybody fights and claws to get in – to see who could be there first? That’s hard to comprehend.

In the book ‘Desire of Ages’ it just says there was some supernatural troubling of the water – supernatural means it was unnatural. And it may have even been diabolical – the Bible’s not clear about what caused that. That has nothing to do with the story – the real emphasis of the story is this is what the people believed and so they had this tradition. And it must have been a very sad sight. Water bubbles or percolates and all the people start clawing – and I guess some people were healed. Now that shouldn’t surprise you because whenever Jesus healed anybody did He ever claim the credit? What did he say when somebody was healed? ‘Your faith has made you whole.’ Are there places in the world where people take sick and they think that if they can wash in the waters of Lyons or some of these different shrines that they’ll be healed? People sometimes travel over halfway around the globe because they think there’s some magical waters. When we were in Jericho, people go to the Dead Sea because they believe there are healing properties in the waters – and there may be. People will go a long way to find healing if there’s someplace they can wash or something they can take or something they can do. You know, I read that health supplements – last year – these are not the ones you buy, necessarily, in a drug store – talking about the supplements – they sold 5.2 billion dollars in America on health supplements. Many of these are concoctions that do absolutely nothing. Some, probably, have some real herbal value, but people spend an awful lot of money trying to get better. If you’re sick and you think that somebody’s got the answer in a bottle or in a puddle or a pond or a pool – people will do anything to get in the water.

So that’s what was going on here. Now Jesus had a problem, he recognized there was somebody there that needed help, but this was during a feast – there was thousands of people in Jerusalem – He’s already got a bulls-eye painted on Him by the religious leaders. Can you imagine the pandemonium that would have broken out if Christ had willy-nilly gone down to that pool and started healing everybody? There were some towns where people lined up and crowded the house and He healed them all, the Bible says, but He couldn’t do that – it would have cut His work short. But He knows there’s someone there that is a special case – suffering for a long time. Now the nature of the sickness – it’s not clear. Matter of fact, some of the ancient manuscripts say he had some form of paralysis. And this man may have been the oldest person that Jesus ever healed. You know, there’s a time, it seems, when you’re almost embarrassed to pray for healing.

I mean, if you’re 90 and you’re saying, ‘Lord, please do something about my wrinkles.’ Are you really going to pray that? I mean, is that appropriate? Would you call the pastor and ask the elders to get together and heal your wrinkles – do an anointing service? Or do you just figure that at 90 you’re going to have wrinkles and just thank the Lord that you’re alive? Right? And I remember one dear saint – you’ve probably heard me share this – you’ve probably heard me say everything at least twice already if you’ve been coming for a while – and she called me up and she said, ‘Brother Doug, I want to know if you can get the elders together and we can do an anointing for my hearing.’ And I thought about it and I said, ‘Well, sister’ – I said - ‘You know, we can do that’ - I said – ‘but first I want you to ask the question, ‘Do you think there’s a connection between your being 90 years old and your hearing problems?’ And she paused for a minute and then she laughed – she says, ‘Are you telling me I’m getting old? That this is not just some strange infirmity that’s overtaken me?’ But it’s part of the process. Now the reason I say all that is because most of the people that Jesus healed – He healed a lot of children, a lot of other people – it doesn’t really tell us that He ever healed anyone of old age, so to speak.

This man may have had some sort of stroke and the fact that he had suffered with it for 38 years – I mean, if he was 20 when it happened that makes him, what? 58 - and he may have been older than that, but he really restored and – by the way, in the time of Christ when the average life expectancy was 35 or 40 – to take a man who might be 58 or 60 and give him perfect health was really something. So he had desired healing for so long – he had just been staring. Now here you’ve got these five porches that are absolutely saturated with sick people. What does sickness represent in the Bible? Sin – I heard – I heard that kind of drift over the congregation. Isaiah 1, verse 4, “Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord,” – it goes on, it says, “Ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.” And he goes on – he makes a direct correlation between sickness and sin. Would there be any sickness in the world today if it wasn’t for sin? Now that does not mean that all sickness is connected with sin.

Paul tells us in Romans ‘the whole creation groans and travails’ – there’s sin and disease in the world and, you know, one of the great ironies we’ve all observed is sometimes you’ll meet a person and they don’t drink and they don’t smoke and they don’t take unnecessary risks and they try to exercise and they eat right and they seem to live moral lives and in their prime they come down with some terminal disease and you go, ‘What?’ – and you say – ‘Why?’ Well, that’s the exception – I think we all know – but there’s sin in the world. There’s an enemy out there. There is disease and sickness but a lot of time the sickness is connected with the sin and as you read on in this story you’ll find out this was the case here. So this man has been sick a long time, but he’s not only been sick a long time, he’s been guilty a long time. He has felt guilty a long time. And it was a very pitiful scene for the Lord to see because this man – who knows how long this tradition had gone on – he had been probably carried by friends and brought to that pool many, many times and stared at it and stared at it – sometimes he’d hear a great commotion among the people – he’d realize the water bubbled and he wasn’t looking and he missed it and they got in before him. And sometimes he was the first one to see it and he started trying to drag himself over to the water but someone noticed his movement and it’s kind of like playing Uno – you know, someone – you’ve got to be the first one to say it – and he wasn’t quick enough and someone else got in because he was sick and paralyzed – probably dragging himself with one side of his body. And he had been praying and hoping for healing for so long that that’s – it just consumed him – that’s all he could think about.

Looks pretty hopeless. Jesus cannot bear not to do something for this man. So he had been there for 38 years. Now have you ever wondered about numbers in the Bible? What does that mean – 38 years? If you want to find out what a number means, what do you do? Do you just start saying the number over and over and see what picture conjures up in your mind – to find out the spiritual meaning of a Bible number? Do Bible numbers maybe have some meaning? How do you arrive at that? Look at how they’re used in the Bible and see if you see a connection. See if there’s some consistency. Forty, in the Bible, is used a lot. It’s pretty consistently used in connection with a generation and there’s usually some deliverance at the end of that 40. Forty years they wandered – they entered the promised land. The book of Judges there were many 40s and then they found some deliverance. And you’ll find number 12 often represents the church. Number 7 represents perfection or a complete cycle – a perfect cycle of time. The number 10 – commandments of God – it talks about the law of God. Three is often a type of like the trinity. 38? What do you do with 38?

I tried to add up 12 three times and make something out of it, but that was 36. I thought I had it until I worked it out with a calculator. I thought, ‘Oh, that’s not 38, that’s 36!’ Well, you know, then I did what you're supposed to do, I took the number and I punched it into my computer – it appears one other time in the Bible. Deuteronomy 2, verse 14, it was the time that they wandered in the wilderness before they reached the promised land – from the time they were cursed. You remember the – when they first left Egypt they did not go right to the promised land, they went to Mount Sinai. They spent that first two years, roughly, building – getting the ten commandments – they built the sanctuary, they developed what the priesthood was, they got to the Jordan river and when they finally lost faith at the Jordan God said, ‘You’re going to wander for the remainder of time until that whole generation dies off. Deuteronomy 2:14, “And the space in which we came from Kadeshbarnea, until we were come over the brook Zered, was thirty and eight years; until all the generation of the men of war were wasted out from among the host, as the Lord sware unto them.”

It was a time of judgment – a time of wasting away. What had that man been doing for 38 years? He’d been there by that pool wasting away. Matter of fact, when I read that again this morning in ‘Desire of Ages’, he had just completed his last attempt at the water when Jesus showed up and he failed. And he crawled back to his place ready to die. He didn’t think he’d make it one more trip. He’d gone back to die. Can you imagine the commotion – getting trampled and stomped on and people walking over you? And it was awful. And to be surrounded by all those sick people, probably wasn’t a very sanitary place either. And Jesus couldn’t pass him by. No priest would go to the Bethesda – it was so pitiful and so many sick people – it was unclean. But Jesus wasn’t afraid to be connected with those people. Something else interesting about this story – almost every time in the Bible when somebody is healed by Christ, they go to Jesus and they say, ‘Will You heal me?’ or ‘Would You heal someone else for me?’ And sometimes they said, ‘My daughter’s at home’ – they had two or three cases of that. Or my servant, like the centurion, is at home. This man didn’t even ask. This person was not brought to Jesus like the paralytic. Jesus went to him because the Holy Spirit spoke to Him and said, ‘There is one case there. This man has been suffering a long time and he has adequate faith but he’s never going to make it to You. You need to go to him.’ And Jesus made a special detour – what good is it if you say, ‘I love God. I worship God.

I’m going to go to the temple. I’m going to praise the Lord.’ But you know there’s someone in need on your way and you don’t take that little detour to reach that person. Now I’m not saying you all need to make a pit stop on your way to church and heal somebody, I’m just saying the priority for Christ was the needs of people. You know the story about the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 15? Rich man feasts in his house – poor beggar lays at the gate. I don’t think it’s an accident that this man was found at the Sheep Gate and Jesus, our shepherd saw a lot of sick sheep at that gate that way. And there are a lot of sick sheep still that are gathered by the temple that need to hear the word of God – that need to hear the voice of Jesus. Some of us are sick sheep, aren’t we? Sick with sin. You know, I want to read this to you and this is from the book ‘Miracles of Christ’ by E.G. White, “One man had been afflicted by an incurable disease for 38 years and he had repeatedly visited the pool. Those who pitied his helplessness would bear him to and fro at the time when the waters were supposed to be troubled, but those stronger than he would rush in before him and seize the opportunity that he coveted. Thus, that poor palsied sufferer” – he had some kind of paralysis – “waited by the pool day and night hoping that the favored moment would at length come when he could plunge into the water and be healed. His persistent efforts towards this object and the doubt and anxiety of his mind were fast wearing away the poor remnant of his strength.

Jesus visited this retreat of misery. His eyes rested upon this helpless invalid. The poor creature was weak and despairing. But as the looked-for moment arrived, he gathered his feeble energies in a last effort to reach the water but, just as he almost gained his object, another stepped in before him. He crept back to his pallet to die.” Can you imagine the disappointment? You’re almost there. You’re going to live if you can get in – you believe that anyway – and someone gets in before you. I wish we had that kind of rush for our baptistery, but not for – only one could make it. Isn’t that sad? That, when you think about it, the baptistery is a pool, and we’ll fill it up and we’ll even heat it – sometimes even too much – so that people can be washed from their sins, and you tell the world, ‘We’ve got a place where people can come and be washed from their sins and you can’t get anybody that wants to get in. No, I shouldn’t say – I know you’ve all wanted but I’m talking about the lost of the world. And there is healing – there is cleansing that it represents. I’m glad you’ve made that decision, but I long for the day when folks are gathered as they were by the pool of Bethesda just waiting for an opportunity for the gates to open so they can be cleansed from sin. Everybody wants to be cleansed from their sickness so they can sin a little better a little longer. But do we want to be cleansed from our unrighteousness so we can live new lives? And that man – those people – they sat by that pool. You ever stare in one direction for a long time?

When we’re here at Central Church – I’ll make a confession – it’s difficult for me to sit on the right or the left near the front because the seats are not ergonomically aimed directly at the podium and you have to sit with your head cocked a little bit, right? Isn’t that right? Or your body twisted – you all know what I’m talking about? It’s not so – further back you get geometrically it starts getting better, but those that are over here I really need to almost be standing here for you not to have a crick in your neck – and that’s just one or two hours in church. Can you imagine all day long fixing your gaze on the water – waiting for it to bubble – and someone try and talk to you and you go, ‘Shhh! Don’t say now – I want to listen. The angel might come and trouble the waters and I could miss it!’ That must have been an intense place and yet some people are groaning and they’re crying and they’re dying. ‘Stare. Stare. Stare at the water.’ Should we have our gaze fixed on something? Christ said, ‘If I be lifted up I will draw all men unto me.’ As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness that whoever looked and believed was cleansed from their sin. It’s not looking down at the waters that are bubbling. There’s a lot of people in the world that go to bars everyday – they stare down at the bubbles trying to find some comfort. Jesus said, ‘It’s not staring down at some commotion in the water’ – he said it’s looking at Him – that’s where the healing takes place. Amen? 38 years he had been there and, finally, Jesus – he saw him lying there – I’m in verse 6 – and he knew that he’d been there now a long time in this case. He walked over and he said to him, “Would you be made whole?” Now does that sound like an absurd question?

I mean, it was pretty obvious why everybody was there at the pool of Bethesda. There was hardly any room for anybody but the sick to gather at this virtual lazar-house emergency room. It must have looked like the emergency room in Mumbai, India. It’s surrounded with lepers and sick people, and crippled and wounded, crying and aching. You think of any sickness you can think of they are probably people there. It says hundreds were there – in the book ‘Desire of Ages’. A great multitude. “Would you be made well?” You ever ask – have someone ask you a silly question? Would you ask a starving person, ‘Are you hungry?’ Person all dried up with thirst, ‘Are you thirsty?’ Sounds like an absurd question. Why did Jesus ask him? Because the Lord wants us to identify our need. God wants to answer our prayer. Do you realize that we don’t pray so that we can inform God? Does the Lord already know what we need? God knows what things you have need of before you ask, but he wants us to ask. That’s very important. You know another reason he asked that question, I think? This man said, ‘I have nobody to help me in the water.

Someone gets in before me.’ So what did poor people who had been sick for 38 years do to survive? They begged. Now, if your principle means of income is begging, you might think twice about being healed because if you’re healed it’s going to make it a little harder for you to beg – no one’s going to feel sorry for you anymore. Now this man knew that his sickness was connected with his sin – it gets to that a little later – and he’d been looking in the wrong place for healing. He’d been – what did Jesus say to him? ‘I’d love to do it but there’s no man to put me in and when the water’s stirred while I’m coming, another steps down before me.’ What did this man think was the problem? What did he see as the obstacle to his healing? He thought the answer to his healing was the water. He was looking in the wrong place altogether – the answer to his healing was right there by him and he’s looking over here. And the other thing you notice about this man’s problem – he said, ‘The people – it’s the people.’ He’s blaming the people – he says, ‘The people – there’s too many of them. They get in and I have no people to put me in. It’s – it’s all their fault.’ Isn’t that really at the heart of what he’s saying? ‘There’s too big a crowd. I can’t get in. They’re too selfish and I can’t find anybody to carry me over there. It’s all their fault.’ And Jesus said, ‘Would you be made whole?’ You know what the Lord is telling us in this story? We can all go directly to Jesus. You can’t blame the crowd around you for your problems.

We all have equal access to Christ and be careful you’re not looking for the wrong solution. I heard doing the Vietnam war one young man was especially terrified of being drafted and, I don’t know how he did it, but he somehow persuaded a dentist or someone acting like a dentist to pull all his teeth so he would fail the medical and would not have to go. Young man had all his teeth extracted, showed up for the medical as he was being drafted and they said, ‘We can’t take you, you’ve got flat feet.’ I guess you’ve got to go try and put all your teeth back after that. But I say that to illustrate that maybe we sometimes spend our lives looking in the wrong direction for the answer. This man was staring at the pool, fighting with the people, thinking ‘If I just pray for someone to carry me into the water.’ And Jesus said, ‘Would you be made well?’ And he was doing the blame game. Person smokes three packs a day and then gets lung cancer and sues the tobacco companies. A neighbor drinks too much, hits a telephone pole on his way home and he blames the bartender – ‘He shouldn’t have served me so much.’ Kids eat too many hamburgers and French fries and they want to sue the fast food restaurants. We’re living in a culture, today, where everybody wants to blame somebody and the reality is that we’re all free moral agents.

We can choose to come to Jesus. And maybe people have mistreated you. Maybe there are things you didn’t have control over, but whatever has happened in your life, wherever you are right now, you can look to Christ and say, ‘Lord,’ – a helping hand is usually at the end of your sleeve – did you know that? It’s yours. You can reach out to Him wherever you are. And don’t be looking – God said to Adam, ‘What did you do?’ He said, ‘It’s the woman you made, Lord. It’s her fault and it’s your fault for making her.’ And he says to the woman – she says, ‘You made the serpent – it’s your fault – it’s the serpent’s fault.’ It’s just blame comes so naturally. A man is the biggest failure when he blames others for his failures. But this man – he did have faith. Jesus recognized that and Jesus spoke to him in verses 8 and 9 – he said, “‘Rise, take up your bed and walk.’ And immediately the man was made whole. He took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath.”

Now, he could have argued with Jesus and said, ‘What do you mean get up and take my bed and walk? You’ve got to carry me to the water.’ But Jesus said, ‘Do it now. Don’t question. Don’t hesitate. Believe it’s possible to do the impossible when I tell you to do it and it’ll happen.’ And he does something – he chooses somewhere inside his brain, he decides to see if he can act upon that. He tried to crawl to the water many times. Now Jesus is telling him ‘Don’t get up and crawl to the water, I want you to get up and walk.’ Matter of fact, he said, ‘Take up your bed’ – and I’ll get to that in a moment – ‘and go home. Don’t go back to the – the bubbling waters. Don’t worry about the crowd that’s there.’ Something inside him said – instead of arguing he said, ‘I’m going to try it.’ And as he made the first effort to do what Jesus asked him to do, he felt response and health and vitality going through his body and limbs that he hadn’t felt before – sensations that he hadn’t felt before. Where there was paralysis, now there was feeling and he got up without hesitation. He jumps up and he is so thrilled about what has happened – now Christ’s statement said, ‘Arise, take up your bed’ – and he’s still following through – he says, ‘I don’t want to leave out anything he told me to do because I’m moving.’ And he reaches down to pick up his bed and he gets up to thank Jesus – Christ has disappeared in the crowd. Last thing he needs is the riot that can follow if this man says, ‘He healed me.’

If you’re surrounded with hundreds of sick people and you’re suddenly identified as a healer, you can get mobbed. And so Jesus slipped away – ‘Arise, take up your bed.’ Here it had taken him 38 years looking in the wrong direction and Jesus said, - you know, we often do things ‘crock pot’ and then Christ says, ‘microwave’. You know what I mean? We’re doing things on slow cook and the Lord says you can come to Him. Now what Jesus did for that man’s sins – for his sickness – can the Lord do that for our sins that quickly? You think, ‘How can I live a Christian life? Is that possible?’ Immediately, when we ask, it’s possible with the Lord – we can do it. Romans 5, verse 6, “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” We believe that He died for us – that He’s giving us forgiveness and that we can live a new kind of life. You know, it’s just as easy for you to live a Christian life as it is for Peter to walk on the water. It’s impossible – but if you keep your eyes on Christ, all things are possible. He believed he had the faith. You know, one time Jesus was on His way to heal the servant of the centurion.

He said, ‘You don’t even need to come to my house. Just speak the word and he’ll be healed.’ And Christ said, ‘Oh, because you believe that, that’s fine. You’re right. I don’t have to come. Be it unto you according to your faith.’ And he was healed. So if faith can do that for a man who has tried on his own through works, through clawing and dragging himself to the water – for 38 years he got no better – but through believing in the word of Christ he was healed – and here, that man was how far from the temple? He’s just feet away from the temple of God and yet he was separated by this malady. But when he believes the word of Christ, all of a sudden now he’s walking. Now, if sickness represents sin, what does walking represent? When the children of Israel were saved by the Passover lamb, how were they supposed to eat that meal? Shoes on their feet. Why do you put shoes on? Because you’re going to start walking. That walk means a new life – a new walk following God – following Christ and the fact that he was given this ability indicates that. And then Jesus told him to take up that death bed that he had been on. What does that represent?

Well, all of us have this carnal side of our nature. This man had been carried around on his bed for years. Now Jesus said, ‘I don’t want you to have the bed carry you, I want you to carry the bed.’ Meaning, when you come to Christ and you are saved from your sins, you’re no longer controlled by the flesh, you’re now controlled by the spirit. But do you still have the flesh? But does it control you? No. What carries us before, we are now carrying and we’re walking in a newness of life. Now the strangest thing happens in this story. This man gets up and he is so thrilled that he runs into some of the Jews and they see him that had been cured – I’m in verse 10 – it’s a Sabbath day and they said, “It is not lawful for thee to carry your bed.”

Now do you all realize what the bed is? He is not walking around with a queen-sized Posturepedic on his back. When it talks about ‘bed’ in the Bible, it’s not even as big as a sleeping bag – they usually just had some kind of mat that would separate them from the cold stone that they laid on. And when we’ve been in countries like Africa and India and you sees thousands of poor people on the ground, some of them – their bed is a tarp – it’s just a piece of cardboard – it’s not very much. And this man’s got this little mat and he rolls up this little mat and he tucks it under his arm and he’s just praising the Lord and they see him carrying his mat and the Jews corner him and they say, ‘Ah! What are you doing? It’s the Sabbath!’ And he says, ‘I was that guy that laid there at the pool of Bethesda for 38 years. I was staring at the water and this man healed me and now I can walk! I’m an old man in perfect health.’ And instead of them going, ‘Wow, that’s wonderful.

Praise the Lord!’ You know what they say? ‘Who did this? We suspect we know.’ Not too many people could do that back then. Now, you’re supposed to rejoice with those that rejoice and if you meet somebody and it’s a religious feast and they say, ‘Praise the Lord! God has healed me.’ Obviously it was a divine miracle – and all you can think about is ‘What’s that bedroll doing under your arm?’ Do we sometimes get focused on the wrong priorities? People are coming to Jesus for the first time and someone will corner them in the foyer and say, ‘You realize you’re not supposed to wear that in church?’ Well, you know, they just came from some crack house here in town and they’ve accepted the Lord – give them a break. You know, I really believe what I preach. I’m not just doing this because it’s expected of me. I really believe that Jesus can forgive sin. I believe He can give you victory over sin. I’ve seen too much evidence that He can perform that miracle and really change people inside. It can change what they love and what they desire and just completely turn them around. But sometimes we’re just looking in the wrong direction and we’re blaming the wrong things and God is not very far from any one of us. He’s asking us if we’d be able – if we would be whole – if we would be healed and walk a new walk and live a new life. Is that your prayer?

Let’s ask Him. Dear Father, we come to you in Jesus’ name again and we’re asking that You perform that miraculous stem-cell surgery that will heal us from our paralysis. That you’ll help us to stand up and feel that new power that we’ve never had before – that new ability to live a new life. Lord, we’ve been maybe looking in the wrong direction – we’ve wasted years staring at the water waiting for bubbles and we really need to look unto thee. I pray that You will be with each person. We know that there are a variety of temptations and trials and struggles that we all grapple with. We’ve all been paralyzed in our own way, but I pray right now we can just hear Your voice speak through the Spirit to our hearts inviting us to rise – to take up our bed – to live a new life. And then we also hear You say that after You’ve cleansed us, that we can go – we can live new lives, but don’t live lives of sin – live lives of holiness and righteousness. Please Lord, give that power to each person now – to be healed and to be whole and to be holy. We thank You for hearing this prayer. We are believing in faith that this change can happen in every life because we ask in Christ’s name, amen.

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Life’s a curious thing. I mean, just when things seem under control – Wham! – You’re hit with something new. Your marriage is good – suddenly it’s on the brink of divorce. That job’s great and then it’s gone – and so’s your life savings. You feel healthy, then your doctor gives the bad news. What’s coming next? You could look to the stars but they don’t have the answers. But this does – the Prophecy Study Bible by Amazing Facts. This Bible’s special – its 27 personal study guides lead you on a life-changing journey through God’s word to discover real answers to life’s questions - from health and relationships to family and the future. The hope’s in here.

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Amazing Facts – changed lives.

You know, we grew up in a neighborhood up in the Midwest that was a pretty bad neighborhood and when I became a teenager I started using drugs. I was on – I started using meth when I was like, I think 15 – 16, something like that. I was having some problems in my life – I really didn’t know how to deal with. The only thing I really knew was violence so this night here I was going to inflict violence on myself. I was really high and really depressed so I took – you know, I had this .40 caliber – so I remember I put one in the chamber and I stuck it to the side of my head like this and that gun had a hair trigger, you know, and I remember I was tapping it because a part of me said, ‘No, I don’t want to do this.’ But there was something very evil present there saying, ‘Do it.’ I just said to myself, I said, “God, if you’re real show yourself to me.’ My mother took me to church when I was a little kid and we used to sing ‘Jesus Loves Me’ and I remembered that song.

It started playing in my mind. I almost had like a vision of me as a little kid, you know. In Sabbath school we used to bang those sticks together and sing ‘Jesus Loves Me’ and I heard that in my mind. So I said, ‘Wow.’ So I just kind of like put the gun down and I kinda fell on my bedside there and I said, ‘Lord’ – I just basically just prayed this crazy prayer. I says, you know, I told Him everything that was wrong with me. And I remember one day I was driving around and I kind of felt lost and I drove by this church and I seen Tom out there. Tom was just out there watering the flowers, you know.

So I caught a vision out of the side of my eye and this big husky guy with tattoos walking up and saying ‘hello’ and I said – so I asked him if I could help him and he told me that he drives by the church on occasion and every time he goes by he’s thinking that he should stop in.

After he showed me around the church, you know, I was like, ‘Okay, man, it was nice meeting you’ – and this and that. So I jumped in my car and I started heading down the driveway and the next thing you know, in like my peripheral vision, I seen him coming around the corner like Jerry Rice running a football – no, not that fast, but you know, he was taking off after me and he says, ‘Hey, hey, hey! Hold on! Hold on!’

I asked him if he would like to have some Bible studies and he said, ‘Yeah.’

He would come by the house and we’d all start – we’d start hiding the beer cans and trying to air out the weed smell and there was a presence that came with Tom that was comforting, you know what I mean? Even though I wasn’t taking the Bible studies as serious as I should have, looking back there was just a presence about him being there in the house that was comforting. I told Tom, I said, ‘Tom, you know you can’t win everybody.’

I looked at him and I knew – I said to him, ‘Reuben, I never get anybody.’ I says, ‘The Holy Spirit will do that.’ And I, kind of, in my heart knew that the Holy Spirit was going to work on Reuben.

So then Tom kind of left the picture for a while and then I think one day at my mother’s house they were watching ‘The Final Events of Bible Prophecy’. So I watched that and I remember the scene where they had the Hellfire and stuff. You know, they were outside the city and it showed the Hellfire coming down and burning people and stuff and I remember saying to myself, ‘That’s where I would be, right there.’ After the Hellfire scene I saw the saints and the city and the New Jerusalem – Jesus recreating the earth and I said, ‘I want that to be my – me and my family.’ There was something about the way Doug preached and things that I felt – that touched me because he’s kind of like myself, you know, he’s – he didn’t grow up like that, you know, he done drugs and things so I kind of found these common grounds that I had with him and I liked how he just kind of kept it real with his preaching. And then Pastor Rodley came to the church and I got to know him very well and we started doing some finishing studies – he wanted to make sure I understand what I was doing and things. He baptized me and my wife and my brother. No matter what you’ve done, where you come from, where you’ve been – no matter how bad of a sinner you think you are, the Lord Jesus loves you no matter what you’ve done.

Friends, it’s because of God’s blessing and your support thousands of others just like Reuben have found Jesus and eternal life.

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