Evangelectionary for Sunday, May 1, 2016

Acts 16:9-16, Psalm 67, Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5, John 14:23-29 or John 5:1-9

Prayers

Opening Prayer:

Heavenly Father, with the hills and skies, the fields and lakes full of the expectation of Spring, may it find us all in the midst of an awakening faith, and a newly renewed freshness of your grace and love.

Offertory Prayer

Our bountiful God, we are blessed beyond measure, but forget about it.  We turn to You this day reminded as we give that it is only because we have received grace upon grace from Your merciful hand.

Message: “The Impossible Dream”

In this passage we do not find people searching for faith, but instead we see Jesus searching for those in need.  People who mattered to no one else mattered to Him, and they were not forgotten or overlooked by Jesus.  So, as our Lord walked through the pool of Bethesda, that place where men and women in all conditions were lying helpless and forlorn, he sought perhaps the most helpless of them all.  John tells us that here was a man who had been ill for 38 years.  This man really had something to complain about.  It would seem that his presence there indicated that he was not without hope…after 38 years.  Before Jesus had even been born on that first Christmas morning this man had already been sick for quite some time.  Yet, there he was, and Jesus went to Him when he could not come to Jesus.

And if we are surprised by the length of his illness, we are even more shocked at what Jesus says to him when he finds him: “Do you want to be healed?”  Jesus had good reason for asking him that question because he wanted to test out the man’s resolve, and determine whether or not the man was really ready for a completely different life.  When you’re ill, people don’t expect much from you, but when you’re well again he had to be ready to be a responsible, contributing member of society again.

I see myself in this man.  In his paralysis, infirmity and need to be made whole I see a genuine reflection of my own spiritual need to be made whole, restored, empowered.  Jesus asks if we are really ready to pay the price of being made whole, or are we really quite comfortable and secure in our condition of incompleteness?  Do we long to be made whole or are we settling for second best in life.  “Do you want to be healed?”

The man responds, “Let me tell you my problem.  I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is troubled, for while I go down someone else gets ahead of me and beats me to it.”  The people believed that occasionally the waters of the pool would bubble up through the action of the Spirit.  The first person into the waters, and only the first one, would be healed.

Notice that the man does not answer Jesus’ question.  He doesn’t say whether or not he wants to be healed but only philosophizes about the injustices of the human race.  It’s society’s fault.

Sound familiar?  “You see, my mother was neurotic, my father was too strict, and I had religion shoved down my throat when I was a kid, and that’s the reason why I’m the way that I am today.”  That’s not an answer, but an excuse.  “Do you want to be healed?”  That is the question.

It is just the thing that it is impossible for the man to do that Jesus commands him to do, “Take up your bed and get out of here, and walk!”  And here was the crisis of faith. Everything hung in the balance.  What would it be like after 38 years of hanging around?  He had grown comfortable there in his role, his life, his sickness.  Now what?  Would he continue to lay there and complain that he could not get down into that slimy pool first, or would he get up and walk by the power of Christ?

When Jesus commands us to do something that command is a wonderful gift.  When He asks us to do something He pledges to give us the power to do it.   Christ never asks us to do something that He doesn’t also give us the grace to do.  Yes, it is impossible with ourselves, but not with God.  With God nothing is impossible.

We may lack faith, but remember that Jesus didn’t wait for this man to show him faith at all. He just challenged him to get up and move again.  In many cases Jesus healed people when their faith proved strong enough, but in this case Jesus heals even though the man doesn’t tell him that he wants to be healed.  He didn’t come to Jesus, Jesus came to him, out of sheer grace.  And when the man’s attitude was tested he really failed the test, but Jesus healed him anyway, out of sheer grace.

It is because we need him that he comes, and it is because we need healing that he heals, even when we ourselves don’t believe.  “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that save a wretch like me.  I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see.”

But Jesus does not heal us for nothing.  He expects greater things from us after we’re healed.  John gives us a vignette in subsequent verses as Jesus runs into this man later in the Temple and he says: “Here you are well, now walking again, whole a new person.  Now, I’m telling you don’t go sinning again, or something worse will befall you.”

Something worse?  Worse than being crippled and paralyzed for 38 years?  What could be worse than that?  Could you possibly conceive of anything worse than that?  Worse than being sick for most of your life?  Something worse than that?  When Jesus said that he was talking about not the paralysis of the body, but the paralysis of the soul.  You can really die from that.  Unless you want to be healed.

Quotes:

Dr. Frank Laubach, a guest at a conference I attended shortly before his death, said that it would be better for us to throw away 99% of our learning and philosophy and just stick with one simple thing for our daily lives, to keep asking God, “Who needs me next, Father?” which Jesus always did, and continues to do through us.

Illustrations:

When one door closes, another opens, they say.  Or, you can open the closed door. That’s how doors work!

How do you view your limitation or disability?  Recently I heard from a friend about someone he knew whose little child of 17 months seemed unable to walk, only crawling.  Then one day the child fell and broke his arm, making it impossible for him to crawl, either.  What a tragedy!  Except that since the child could not use his arm to crawl he decided to get up and walk!

Music

“All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” “There’s A Wideness in God’s Mercy,” “Rise Up, O Saints of God,” “Awake, My Soul, Stretch Every Nerve,” “God Gives His People Strength”

avatar About Bruce Laverman

Bruce is a retired pastor and former Director of Evangelism in the Reformed Church in America now living in Phoenix, Arizona. He is the RCA's representative to Evangelism Connections and serves as Managing Editor of this Web site.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: