GRACE AND PEACE TO YOU FROM GOD OUR FATHER AND THE LORD JESUS CHRIST.
(2 Corinthians 1: 2)
WELCOME TO OUR SUNDAY WEB-WORSHIP!
OLD TESTAMENT READING: – PSALM 107: 1
GIVE THANKS TO THE LORD, FOR HE IS GOOD; HIS LOVE ENDURES FOR EVER.
NEW TESTAMENT READING: – JOHN 5: 1 – 15
… WHEN JESUS SAW HIM LYING THERE (AN INVALID FOR THIRTY-EIGHT YEARS, AT THE POOL OF BETHESDA TO BE HEALED) AND LEARNED THAT HE HAD BEEN IN THIS CONDITION FOR A LONG TIME, HE ASKED HIM, -“DO YOU WANT TO GET WELL?” – “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.” THEN JESUS SAID TO HIM, – “GET UP! PICK UP YOUR MAT AND WALK.” AT ONCE THE MAN WAS CURED; HE PICKED UP HIS MAT AND WALKED. … LATER JESUS FOUND HIM AT THE TEMPLE AND SAID TO HIM, – “SEE, YOU ARE WELL AGAIN. STOP SINNING OR SOMETHING WORSE MAY HAPPEN TO YOU.” (John 5 : 6-9,14)
Jesus arrived in Jerusalem for the Passover festival. He was alone; there is no mention of any of His disciples. He found His way to a famous pool, Bethesda, which means House of Mercy. Beneath the pool there was an underground stream which from time to time bubbled up and disturbed the waters. The belief was that the disturbance was caused by an angel, and that the first person to get into the pool after the stirring of the water would be healed from any illness from which he or she suffered. A superstition, we would say, but do not forget that even today many people believe in all kinds of spirits and demons. Jesus encounters this man who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years, and asks him a very strange question: – Do you want to get well? Honestly, if you see a man visibly starving would you ask him if he needs some food? No, I would never do that. But Jesus always had a reason for whatever He said or did, and here lies the message of this story across centuries, to you and me, today.
WANTING A CHANGE, WE MUST DECIDE IF WE WANT TO BE CHANGED.
Sometimes change happens unexpectedly, at just the right time and with great benefits. Sometimes, as it was with the man in our text, it is both a physical and a spiritual change. This man had been a beggar for thirty-eight years, living from the donations of others. Becoming healed, he would lose these benefits, as well as the pity of others. He would have to be responsible for himself, he would have to find work. It would be a whole new world for him. Is being healed worth this change? Look around. So many souls are sick. Their lives are dysfunctional, but they have never considered that God might have something new for them. They do not know that there is something more to life. They have become accepting of how they are. They might hear the Gospel, even getting excited about it. But there comes a time when they realize they do not really want to be changed. Jesus’ question is much wider than we think. If you need healing in ANY AREA OF YOUR LIFE, do you want to get well? If you have an addiction, do you really want to overcome it? If you DO, then just stop complaining about it. Turn to me – says Jesus – and let me have you CHANGED. If people are content to stay as they are, there can be no change from the Lord.
IF WE WANT TO BE CHANGED, WE MUST DECIDE TO STOP MAKING EXCUSES.
There is a saying of Albert Einstein: – The most insane aim is to wait for a change, and still do the same thing over and over again. The man at the pool does not say whether or not he wants to be well. He just complains, telling how unfortunate he is. In today’s language he would say that he is a victim. A victim of society, a victim of his upbringing, convinced that everything that happens to him is somebody else’s fault. It has to be their wife’s fault or their husband’s fault or their parent’s fault or society’s fault. Anybody but himself. Sir, I have no one to help me, – he keeps on saying. In other words, I cannot do anything for myself and God is not doing anything for me either. If we want to be changed, we must decide that we will stop making excuses. You just have to say, yes Lord, I am ready to put these things behind me. Try to imagine what a difference the healing made to this man’s life. The truth is that miracles happen when our will and God’s power co-operate to make them possible.
WE MUST DECIDE WHETHER OR NOT WE ARE READY TO TAKE ACTION.
Obviously, the man now had a choice. He could listen and just ignore, he could listen and wish something would happen, or he could listen and obey. TRUST AND OBEY. When Jesus said, – Pick up your mat and walk, – He is telling those who truly want to change that they must cut off any possibility of going back. The man might well have said that the light stretcher-like frame was for thirty-eight years his bed and there was not much sense in trying to carry it. But he made the effort along with Christ, identifying what he wanted, and then… it was done. We must determine what we really want, faithfully convinced that: – I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength. (Philippians 4: 13). What this man received from Jesus can be described in one word; and that word is WHOLENESS. This man’s life was transformed by ONE who arrived unexpectedly and who left unexpectedly. The waters of the pool which, for so long, he believed to be the key to his healing, played no part in what happened. God’s ways are not our ways, His thoughts are not our thoughts …
In John chapter 9 there is a man who was born blind. Jesus healed him but not before His disciples asked Him if this man’s or his parents’ sin was the cause of his blindness. Jesus replied: – Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life (John 9: 3). It is clear that sin was not the cause of our man’s illness. He is a lot like us, or we are like him. He made mistakes. There was sin in his life, no doubt, just as there is in ours. But Jesus did not say that his invalidity was a punishment for his sin, rather that sin in our lives is always worse than the result of any physical illness. This is why, when later he found him at the temple, Jesus said to him: – See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you (verse 14). Jesus came to the Passover through the Sheep Gate to heal the invalid at the Pool of Bethesda. LOOK, THE LAMB OF GOD, WHO TAKES AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD! (John 1: 29).
The story of the healing at the Pool describes what CHRISTIAN–FAITH-IN-ACTION is really about. William Barclay has a wonderful remark on this: – “Here is the road to achievement. There are so many things in this world which defeat us, but when we turn to Him, hopeless though it may seem, the power of Christ gets its opportunity, and with Him we can conquer the things that for a long time have conquered us.” AMEN.
LET US PRAY:
LORD, OUR GOD, Thank You for the spiritual and physical healing You provide for us through Jesus, Your Son. We thank You for His grace and compassion, for His taking the initiative in bringing us to the fullness of Your blessings. Reach out to those who have lost the will to live, all who are broken in body, mind or spirit, seeing no hope, no future, no reason to continue. Lift their despair that they may find in You life that satisfies, now and always. Renewing God, so many find their lives shattered – broken by the loss of a loved one, invalidity through injury, accident or genetical disorders, trapped by addictions, diseases or worry. So many lives are worn to breaking point by Covid-19, broken relationships, unemployment, or advanced age. Reach out to all who feel they cannot carry on, who feel abandoned, neglected or condemned. Reach out into fragmented lives, bringing healing and hope not just to resume their journeys but to embark on it with renewed confidence and anticipation restored by faith in Christ, our Saviour. To all who mourn give the assurance that the close of one chapter is the opening of another, this world being the gateway to all eternity with You, for those who believe in Christ Jesus our Saviour. Gracious Lord of all, in a world where so many cannot fight their own corner; where people are estranged, societies divided, and nations driven to conflict; teach us Your way of love and humility. In Your mercy, heal our wounds, overcome our divisions, and grant us real and lasting peace. We pray for Your Christian Church Universal in all its branches, for people of other faiths or none. We bring before You our Church of Scotland in all its Presbyteries and Congregations. In Your good time enable us to re-open our church without fear of infections and strengthen and support us until we meet again in our fellowship to trust, obey and worship You, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, One Eternal God. AMEN.
THE LORD’S PRAYER: – OUR FATHER, WHO ART IN HEAVEN …
WHEN WE WALK WITH THE LORD in the light of His Word, what a glory He sheds on our way! While we do His good will, He abides with us still, and with all who will trust and obey.
CHORUS: – Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies, but His smile quickly drives it away; not a doubt nor a fear, not a sigh nor a tear, can abide while we trust and obey. + CHORUS
Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share, but our toil He doth richly repay; not a grief nor a loss, not a frown nor a cross, but is blest if we trust and obey. + CHORUS
But we never can prove the delights of His love until all on the altar we lay; for the favour He shows, and the joy He bestows are for them who will trust and obey. + CHORUS
Then in fellowship sweet, we will sit at His feet, or we’ll walk by His side in the way. What He says we will do, where He sends we will go, never fear, only trust and obey. + CHORUS
THE LORD BLESS YOU AND KEEP YOU; THE LORD MAKE HIS FACE SHINE UPON YOU AND BE GRACIOUS TO YOU; THE LORD TURN HIS FACE TOWARDS YOU AND GIVE YOU PEACE. (Numbers 6: 24 – 26)