An Unlawful Healing

An Unlawful Healing

Home Church Service 6/25/2022

Life & Light Community Church began in the early months of 2020. What began as an opportunity for me, my wife and step-kids to continue to worship together, has now evolved into a ministry that has expanded to include close friends, family and those who are simply hungry for the word of God. You can find us on Facebook, so please, feel free to reach out and join us.

When our small group meets for worship, we like to discuss what we are learning, in the moment. Sometimes that happens right after the message and at other times we will address something during the message. These messages are designed to be interactive, discussing what we are learning right after I have addressed each point of the message. You will find the questions at the end of each section. In most formats they will appear in bold. Use these questions as a guide to meditate on the points being discussed. Allow the Holy Spirit to search your heart and above all, be honest with yourself and the Holy Spirit. After all, He knows any way!

“After these things 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 porticoes. In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, waiting for the moving of the waters; for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted. A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, “Do you wish to get 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, “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.” Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk. Now it was the Sabbath on that day.

So the Jews were saying to the man who was cured, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet.” But he answered them, “He who made me well was the one who said to me, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk.’” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk’?” But the man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away while there was a crowd in that place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you.” The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. But He answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.” For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.”  

                                                                                    John 5:1–18 (NASB95)

Being a diabetic, I am always aware of new research and findings in how to deal with or manage diabetes. For many years it was the “company line” that diabetes was not reversable once a diabetic, you were thought to be a diabetic for life. Those diagnosed as diabetic were immediately put on drugs to “control” the symptoms and keep the glucose, or blood sugar, in the body at manageable numbers. In addition, patients were told to avoid carbs and lose weight. As research began to come out, many would jump to the latest and greatest diet or “wonder pill” to cure their diabetes and allow them to return to a normal life. As you might have guessed, most of those “wonder pills” simply did not work.

Finally, research is available that proves diabetes can be reversed. This is not good news for the big pharmacy companies, and in many cases, the doctors that prescribe the drugs to control diabetes. The simple fact is the American diet has caused this dreaded disease to spread throughout our country and a reversal of our bad choices when eating will help reverse this disease. Like the Pharisees in our passage today, the big pharmacy companies will find this to be An Unlawful Healing, taking away the power of big pharma and ruin their reputations and make their position of power tenuous at best.

Jesus attends a feast of the Jews in Jerusalem, while there He walks among the afflicted at the pool of Bethesda. Here, He meets a man who has been ill for thirty-eight years. When asked if he wants to get well, the man offers a complaint as an excuse. Jesus performs An Unlawful Healing, commanding the man to get up, pick up his pallet, and walk. When questioned the man points to Jesus who claims to be working just as His Father is working, causing the Jews to seek to kill Him for breaking the Sabbath and making Himself equal to God.

As Christ followers, we too may find ourselves among the afflicted and find ourselves facing the question, “Do you want to get well?” We may deflect the question or find ourselves making an excuse not to move or seek healing, thinking ourselves unworthy of such a healing. At times our pride will get in the way of the healing touch of Yeshua, fearing that we cause Him to perform An Unlawful Healing, yet Yeshua wants to work in us just as the Father is working in us.

In this message we seek to answer the question, “What is the impact of An Unlawful Healing on the faith of the Christ follower?”

An Unlawful Healing shows the care and concern of Yeshua for those who call Him Lord.

1). An Unlawful Healing will refute any excuse the Christ follower might be able to make.

We must be willing to move beyond our own preconceived ideas about healing and the power of Yeshua to perform healings.

We find Yeshua walking among the afflicted at the pool near the sheep gate called Bethesda. Until recently it was thought this pool did not exist or that the gospel account of John might have been completely inaccurate. Now, however, both pools mentioned in John’s account have been discovered, making John’s account reliable and confirming the accuracy of the biblical writers. There is also evidence to prove that this pool was situated within the walls of Jerusalem and found not far from the Temple and the Temple cleansing pools used by the priests during their time of priestly duty. Further evidence points to this pool being associated with the Greco-Roman god Asclepius – the god of well-being and health.

The daughters of this god were Hygeia and Panacea, you can hear in their Greek names our modern words hygiene and panacea, key concepts associated with modern medicine. Snakes were also a key characteristic of Asclepius and his healing pools. Even today, modern medicine uses the snake wrapped around a pole as its symbol. Yes, this symbol dates back to the time of Jesus! The pool at Bethesda was likely part of the Greek culture being brought into Jerusalem, along with other Roman projects such as the Roman theater and the bathhouse. This would mean that the pool of Bethesda was not a Jewish site, but a Greek site associated with Asclepius.

The name Bethesda means “house of mercy” in Hebrew. This pool was thought to be fed by a natural spring but the discovery of the pool, and its location, makes it more likely the pool was fed by pipes. Priests associated with the pool would open the upper pipes and allow water to enter the pool through the lower pipes, thus stirring the waters of the pool. In the NASB the last part of verse three and all of verse four are in parentheses, indicating that this portion of Scripture is not found in the earliest and best manuscripts of the Scriptures. It is likely that a scribe unfamiliar with Asclepius but very familiar with the Jewish preoccupation with angels has added this portion of Scripture to add clarity for the reader.

Jesus finds a man at the pool who has been ill for thirty-eight years, hoping to find a way into the pool when the waters are stirred up. As Jesus approaches him and finally addresses him with a question, “Do you wish to get well?” the man can only make an excuse for not being healed. For someone who has come with the hope of being healed, this man’s answer is anything but hopeful. We find a man who has been in the context of a deeply religious environment – a Greek religion – he is a man with a deep personal need, in a place filled with human suffering, without any hope. The man deflects the question without ever truly answering the question put before him, “Do you wish to get well?”

I want to make this perfectly clear, what I am about to share comes from my personal experience during my time in ministry. I am aware that this may not be the experience of others and not everyone will feel or believe what I am about to share. I have found that most people who call themselves Christians have a limited or narrow understanding of healing. The belief that I have found to be common among these people is healing means to be cured, to be living, active, and fully recovered from what ailed them. Anything less is a reflection on the person’s life, beliefs, or a general lack of faith in that person. If healing does not come as they understand healing, then their prayers and time spent praying have been for nothing, or Jesus is unable to heal this person for some unknown reason – a part of God’s plan we do not need to know.

The man at the pool made the excuse that he had no one to help him into the pool, we make excuses that the person did not have enough faith, or it is part of God’s plan and we don’t need to know that plan. Others think that Jesus could not heal that person, or perhaps His power was limited in some way because of the disease. Again, these are things I have experienced during my time in ministry. It is sad to think the people of God have such a limited knowledge and experience of God’s power in their lives that they truly believe Yeshua, the King of the Universe, cannot heal someone or His power is somehow limited.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

How are you experiencing the power of Jesus in your life?

What excuses have you made when Jesus tries to work in your life?

Do you find yourself doubting the power of Jesus? If so, how?

2). An Unlawful Healing is meant to draw us into a deeper faith and away from fear and doubt.

We must remember when God works in us, He leaves us with a warning so that nothing worse will happen to us, moving us away from fear, doubt, and superstition.

Despite the man’s excuse, Yeshua heals the man with a simple command, “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.” That seem pretty clear to me, but then again, I thought the question was straight forward, “Do you wish to get well?” how much clearer could that be? I mentioned earlier that there are two pools mentioned in John’s account. This pool at Bethesda and the pool at Siloam. This healing is different from the healing of the blind man at Siloam. Here, Jesus does not command the man to go and wash in the pool, He simply commands the man to get up. In the healing of the blind man, He commands the man to go to the pool of Siloam and wash himself. The difference? The pool of Bethesda is a pagan place while the pool of Siloam is associated with the Jerusalem Temple.

There is something else happening here that we need to be aware of. Remember I told you how important the Old Testament is to John and his gospel account, especially the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. What we see here is yet another echo of Genesis. John begins his gospel account with the familiar words, “In the beginning.” When we read those words in Genesis, we are told that God began to create and He created through His spoken word, the Word, of course, being Yeshua, Jesus. Through the spoken words of Jesus order is brought out of chaos and the heavens and the earth are created. Jesus is walking in a place of human suffering, there is sickness – the symbol of human chaos – and through the spoken word of Jesus order is brought out of chaos and the man is healed. Why is this important? Because the Royal Son of Israel’s God has come into a pagan place and healed a Judean man without any magic spells or formulas, He did it by simply telling the man to get up and walk. Jesus healed this man just like Israel’s God created the universe, through His spoken word.  

Jesus finds the man in the Temple and tells the man to see that he does not sin anymore that nothing worse will happen to him. We can say we have no idea what this sin might be, but if we keep within our context, it appears Jesus is warning this man, a Jew, not to give in to adulterous involvement in Greek religious worship. It appears these words have something to do with where Jesus found him. The next action taken by this man is to run to the Jewish religious authorities and report that it was Jesus who had healed him and told him to carry his pallet. Could it be this man is upset at the rebuke of Yeshua about his Greek worship habits, which truly amount to idol worship?

Now, you and I know this is An Unlawful Healing because Yeshua healed the man on the Sabbath, something that is strictly forbidden by the religious elite in Jerusalem. But the Greek word that is used for “breaking” the Sabbath can be translated a different way; it can also be translated as “setting the Sabbath free.” But there is something more here than simply breaking the Sabbath. In the ancient mind, to worship a divinity and honoring a divinity were NOT the same thing. Jesus has gone into the Greek temple and performed a healing where the god Asclepius was worshiped, or at least honored, by many in Judah who went there for healing. What has happened is that Yeshua has declared His redeeming and healing Kingship over Israel by physically healing one of the lost sheep of Israel, demonstrating His full authority over sickness, and putting to shame the false claims of pagan worshipers and those among God’s people who had joined their beliefs in silence that condones the behavior.

This man was steeped in idol worship and superstition. He turned from the God he claimed to love and served. He missed the visitation of the One who holds the universe in the palm of His hand, the King of the Universe, the One who holds all things together. The very presence of Jesus, His teachings, and His signs were spelling trouble for the Jerusalem Temple elite. They simply are not ready for this type of Messiah among them or the people they hold within their power. So, the make-up false accusations against Him, claim He is a blasphemer, and ignore the sins of the people, all to quiet the words of the Son of God.

We face these same things in our world today. People turn from the God they claim to love and serve only to run to have their palms read, or get a card reading, or turn to astrology and horoscopes. People deny the claim that Yeshua has on their lives, especially those in the church. Far too many are rejecting the commands of Jesus, they remove the hard sayings of Jesus but readily accept the “soft touch” gospel that waters down those things they do not fully accept. When this happens, we limit the power of Yeshua, we limit Him to His humanity, making Him like us so we do not have to obey those things we disagree with. Our doubts, our fears, and even our superstitions drive us away from the One we are to be drawn closer to, to grow deeper in faith, love, and service.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

How are you limiting Jesus in your life today? If not, how are you keeping yourself from limiting Him?

How is the enemy planting doubt and fear in you today?

Where do you need a “healing” today?

An Unlawful Healing shows the care and concern of Yeshua for those who call Him Lord.

With this healing, the Judean Jews authority, their popularity, and their community influence are threatened to the core by this unprecedented challenge issued by Jesus. We find this happens often in life. Any time a pioneer in any field takes a strong lead over others in the field, the challenged and threatened establishment attempts to launch an attack against the challenger’s character. In our faith, this happens almost every day. Somewhere, someone is trying to refute the validity of our faith, the Bible, the existence of God, that Jesus is the only way to heaven, or that Jesus or the Father has power to change people, the world, and remove our sin.

When we doubt, we open the door for the enemy to plant further seeds of doubt. He then begins to twist the Scriptures to water those seeds, so they grow and take root. In some way, we have all experienced the power of Jesus in our lives. It may be a healing, it might be in protection, it might be in the removal of people or things that cause us to drift from Him. Everything that comes our way is meant to test us, to help us grow in faith, trust, and devotion to the God we serve. They serve to remove any excuses we might be able to make, excuses that try to explain away what has happened as a natural occurrence. Granted, in some cases, that may be exactly what it is, a natural occurrence used by God. The point is, we have no more excuses. We have been called and drawn by the Father to His Son. He has brought us into the family of God through His spoken word in our lives.

God works in us to draw us closer to Him, to help develop the hunger that only He can satisfy. He wants us to leave our fears and our doubts behind and depend upon Him fully for all our needs. Continually He is calling order out of chaos in the lives of those who call Him Lord and Savior. Yeshua has the power to refute the false claims of pagan idols and false gods. He has the power to rebuke those who love Him so nothing worse might happen to them. He has the power to work in us just as the Father is working in us. He is the King of the Universe, and He alone holds all things together. There are no more excuses to be had or made. Now is the time to be bold in your witness, bold in your faithfulness, bold in your declaration that evil has no place in your life, bold in the declaration that sin has no hold on you, bold in the claim that you stand in the victory of Jesus over sickness, death, the grave, sin and the enemy.

We do all things for the glory of God through Christ our Lord,

Amen and amen.

Next week: John 5:19-24

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