Friday, October 2, 2009

“. . .afterward Jesus found [the man] in the Temple and told him, ‘Now your are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you.’”  (John 5:14)

                Recently I did a funeral for the wife of a dear friend.  She had been in a long struggle with cancer and because of their deep love for one another and their profound faith in Christ,  it was a particularly hard time for all.  When I entered the parlor, my friend came up to me and inquired, “Bud, my wife was as good a person as I have ever known and we prayed for healing continuously.  Why didn’t Jesus answer our prayers?”  And this is a question upon the lips of so many I have dealt with as they cope with the pains of separation.  “Why did God take my loved one?”  There is much to learn for modern Christianity which looks to God more for healing than any other purpose.  This morning let’s look at Jesus’ healing of the lame man at the pool of Bethesda for some answers.

                Jesus was in Jerusalem for the second time during His ministry and John tells us that He was at the pool of Bethesda.  John also said there was a crowd of sick people there – blind, lame and paralyzed – each hoping to get healed by the waters of that pool.  One of these men had been laying there for 38 years.  And Jesus spoke to him.  There was a crowd – yet Jesus spoke to only one.  Jesus had the power to heal the entire crowd, yet He chose to heal only one.  If the other people lying around the pool thought like most of the modern Church, I am quite sure they were puzzled about Jesus’ power; angry they were not chosen; and confused about whether or not He was the Messiah if the healing did not take place.  That is the kind of questioning that occurs today, and those times were doubtfully any different.

                The question arises, “What was Jesus doing at the pool anyway?”  If He wasn’t there to heal people, what drew Him to the pool where (according to our thinking) the real display of God’s power could have been in healing?  John doesn’t give us a direct answer in this situation, but he does give us a couple of pretty good clues.  One, John shows us how the incident revealed the hearts of men.   Immediately after the healing a group of Pharisees chimed in, “You can’t work on the Sabbath.  The law doesn’t allow you to carry your mat on the Sabbath.”  There was no rejoicing that the man who had been crippled for 38 years had been healed.  They expressed only anger that their rules were broken.  The rules were more important than having Jesus in their midst, and the rules were more important than having a brother set free from a 38 year bondage.   Again, my encounters with churches over the years demonstrate to me that Phariseeism is still alive and well in the world today.  People are more concerned about how communion is served than they are about the bountiful act of Christ’s presence.  They are more worried about the mode of baptism than they are about the act of grace.  They are more worried about the outward appearance of those attending church than they are the state of their hearts.  And when rules become more important than Christ’s presence among us or loving one another, Jesus reveals our hearts as well.

                The second reason John gives us for Jesus being at the pool came at a different encounter.  Later, Jesus met this healed man and proclaimed to him, “Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse will happen to you.”  You see, Jesus came to earth to deal with sin.  It was sin that crippled the man (either his own sin or the original sin) and it was sin that had to be dealt with.  And we have forgotten all that.  Looking at modern church prayer lists, you would think God exists for only one purpose – to heal our infirmities.  But God is far more concerned about the character of our soul than He is the circumstances of our lives.  That is a reality that some find really harsh today.  But look carefully at Jesus’ last words to the man – “or something even worse will happen to you” – worse than lying by the pool unhealed for 38 years; worse than the deterioration of body and limbs caused by infirmity; worse than the humiliation of living what years we have on earth as a cripple.  He could have lost his soul.  As I listen to the prayers of the modern church, I see little concern about the sin that could destroy an eternity with Christ; about the effects of sin in individuals, in churches, in families, and in the world; about sin which gives the devil a toehold and is so destructive.  We just pray that outward circumstances be agreeable to us.

                I believe if we could see beyond the physical realm and truly see the cancerous work of sin in the world, we would be on our knees from morning to night praying for deliverance from evil.  We would be working harder in our prayers to get Jesus to intervene in the rotting and decaying influence of sin which is destructive – forever.  Paul’s admonition is to “Set your hearts on things above.”  But the heartset of Christians today is far less eternal because we view physical infirmities far more devastating that spiritual decay (a condition of sin).  And because of that the power and influence of the church is rapidly dying away.

                As we pray, we must first put our hearts and minds on the eternal.  As we pray for healing, we must be willing to pray for it in sobering relationship to sin.  If the person we are praying for is healed, will their sin life be improved; will  other lives be impacted because Jesus healed them; will the world be a better place?  For if outward healing takes place and there is no inward cleansing, then our prayers only are prolonging allowing Christ to do His essential work in that person.

                But what about my friend?  He had a godly wife and they were obviously praying according to the word of Christ.  Why was she not healed?  I think the answer lies in another prayer of Jesus.  He prayed, “Father, I pray that those you have given Me will be with Me where I am.”  The answer to the question of my friend is easy.  Jesus hears our prayers and listens intently to our cries for help, but in every human life there comes a time when no prayer for life will be answered.  Because there comes a time when Jesus prays to the Father, “Father, I want [this person] whom you have given Me to be with Me where I am.”  And we can’t out-pray Jesus.

Kingdom Road Ministries
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10 South Main, Suite 201
Victor, ID 83455

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