Encounters: Engaging People the Jesus Way (The Downtrodden) by Pastor Abidan Shah

ENCOUNTERS: ENGAGING PEOPLE THE JESUS WAY – 4 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

encounters4Introduction: For the past 3 weeks we’ve been in our series through the Gospel of John called “Encounters: Engaging People the Jesus Way.” In this 4th and final message we’re about to meet a man who had been sick for 38 years, desperately waiting for someone to help him find healing. By the time Jesus found him he had given up all hope.

John 5   5 Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. 6 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?” 7 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.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” 9 And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath.

Bridge: Do you know someone who’s in a hopeless situation? Humanly speaking there is no way out for them physically, mentally, or emotionally. Maybe its because of some decision or choice they made earlier in their life or maybe its through no fault of their own. It doesn’t matter. When you think of hopelessness, your mind immediately goes towards this person and you say something like – “I feel so sorry for him or her…”

Context: In this message we will meet such an individual – a sick downtrodden person who had been in a debilitating situation for almost 4 decades and had lost all hope in life. You know by now that we have been looking at 4 individuals between the two bracket passages in the gospel of John – John 2:24-25 and John 5:34 & 41. In these passages Jesus describes the sinful and fickle nature of human beings and how He did not need their endorsement. He only came for their salvation. He met each of them right where they were, engaged them with the gospel, and left them transformed. I do need to point out that unlike the previous 3 encounters, this one has an unusual ending.

Question: Do you believe that there’s hope for the hopeless? Do you believe that Jesus has the power to bring life where there’s death? Do you know someone who has lost all hope in life? Are you that someone? Are you saved?

2 questions again. Let the Holy Spirit speak to your life.

I. WHO WAS THIS CRIPPLED MAN?

2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. For years archaeologists struggled with finding the location of a pool named Bethesda in Jerusalem. But recently a pool to the north of the Temple Mount was identified as this pool. It is near the Sheep Gate from which the sheep were brought in for the temple sacrifice. What was the purpose of this pool? Maybe it was there for ritual cleansing for the people before they entered the temple. Some have even suggested that the pool was used to wash the sheep before they were taken into the temple. Either way, whether the sheep went by the pool or went into the pool, you can just imagine how filthy this area would’ve been. Upper class people would’ve avoided this pool but not Jesus.

Application: Sometimes you have to cross your personal boundaries and go into areas that may not be quite clean or up to your standards in order to reach people.

But there’s something special about this pool. 3 In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. What does that mean? 4 “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.” Some translations claim that this was not part of the earliest manuscripts. My research indicates that it should be included in the text. John is giving us a folk belief about the pool from that period. Personally, I think it was some kind of a hot spring or mineral bath that gave it some health benefits. In fact, after Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans, they turned into a healing sanctuary to the god Asclepius.

5 “Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years.”

There’s enough in that statement to create a profile of this person:

  • How old was he? Sometimes people automatically assume that he was born this way and must be 38 years old. 38 years is how long this man had been sick. There’s nothing in the text that indicates that he was born this way. I think that he must’ve been an adult at the time of this permanent injury or sickness. We’re going to see in a moment that he had actually done something bad to cause his infirmity. If I were to guess his age, it would be somewhere in the late 50s to early 60s bracket.
  • What was his infirmity? It must’ve been some kind of a paralysis because he could not get himself into the pool fast enough. You can imagine the pain and the filth he was in.
  • What caused his infirmity? Maybe he got injured at work. Maybe someone hurt him. Based on Jesus’s final words to him, I think it may have been a very different reason. 14 “Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, ‘See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.’” “Worse” indicates that his condition was a result of some sin. Maybe he was doing something wrong and it hurt him. Maybe the authorities or the mob beat him up for his crime. So it was not just the physical pain of the infirmity that he was dealing with. More than likely he was also dealing with a mental pain of the infirmity – lot of regret and shame over his bad past.
  • What was his condition when Jesus found him? “When Jesus saw him lying there…” Sometimes people assume that he was lying at the pool 38 years. There is nothing in the text that supports that. He may have been at the pool for 30 years or 3 years or 3 months. We don’t know for sure. One thing we do know is that he was all by himself. Listen again – “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.” Maybe his parents brought him there. Maybe his siblings brought him there. Maybe his wife and children brought him there. But, for some reason they had all left him to fend for himself. Why? Maybe they were embarrassed of him. May be that they had given up on him. Maybe they got tired of trying to help him. We can only conjecture but I picture him angry, bitter, and frustrated. Maybe like a prison inmate he had become institutionalized.

Do you know people like this? Something painful has happened in their life. Some kind of a trauma has happened in their life. Maybe they are even responsible for their predicament but now they are bitter, angry, and frustrated with life. They are all alone, cynical, and pessimistic.

Application: How do you treat such people? Do you show mercy to them? Are you compassionate to people around you? You never know what people are going through.

II. HOW DID JESUS ENGAGE HIM?

6 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?” Jesus not only noticed him but also treated him with dignity. Not only that but Jesus saw the hopelessness in his eyes and offered him hope. Just like Jesus Christians should be hope carriers in this world. Listen to Romans 15:13 “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

What was the man’s response? 7 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.” He did not answer the question he was asked. Jesus had not asked him – “So, how does all this work?” Here’s the point: Don’t expect lost people to immediately understand the meaning and the power of the gospel.

What was Jesus’ response? 8 Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” The Bible does not say it but based on Jesus’s previous interactions, the man more than likely believed that Jesus was able to heal him. There’s something very important I need to point out: Can you hear the authority in Jesus’s words? If there’s one thing that is definitely lacking in the church and Christians today is authority. We have plenty of gimmicks and gadgets. We have plenty of books and knowledge. We just don’t have the boldness to say with Peter and John when they said to the lame man sitting by the Beautiful Gate in Jerusalem in Acts 3:6 “…Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”

What was the result? 9 And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked.

Now there’s a twist to the narrative: And that day was the Sabbath. 10 The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.” Instead of rejoicing with this man over his healing, the religious leaders had a problem with the calendar! What was his answer? 11 He answered them, “He who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your bed and walk.’ ” 12 Then they asked him, “Who is the Man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place. May it never be that at Clearview that we would lose sight of what God is doing because of something trivial – some tradition or opinion.

Unlike the other miracle narratives, there’s another twist here14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” This man did not know Jesus but He believed in His miracle giving power. The Bible does not say that he got saved. Did he or did he not get saved? I believe that he did because he did not just run home or back to his old life. He went to the temple and Jesus came looking for him. Jesus being God knew this man’s past and warned him not to return to that life again. 15 The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. 16 For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath.

Jesus had a higher purpose in His encounter with the crippled man. He not only wanted to heal this man physically, emotionally, and spiritually but He also wanted to expose the sinfulness and the hard heartedness of the religious leaders. The punch line of the account is not that the man believed but that the religious leaders didn’t believe. They did not care for the lost and the hurting.

Illustration: Sometime back a little boy was born. Six months before his birth his father died and then 6 years later his mother died. His paternal grandfather raised him for 2 years and then he also died. Now 8 years old, his uncle had custody of him. Between the years of 9 and 12, he travelled with his uncle on many business trips and had the opportunity to see many churches. He even met and talked to a pastor but never truly heard the gospel. Unfortunately, the state of the church at the time was very schismatic and sectarian. Christians were arguing and fussing about everything imaginable. In fact, later this boy got married and began having n ightmares, which he wrote down in a book. In the same book he also wrote about his misguided understanding of Christianity. He thought the Trinity was Father, Son, and Mary, the mother of Jesus. He even talked about how the Christians “vainly dispute.” (Sura 19:34) and how the “people have cut off their affair (of unity) between them, into sects: Each party rejoices in that which is with itself.” (Sura 23:53) Long story short – this boy was Mohammad. The religion he founded was Islam and the book he wrote was the Koran. What would have happened if those Christians and the pastors had focused on the pain of this boy and shared the gospel with him?

Are we bringing hope to the hopeless? Do you need hope through Jesus Christ?

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