November 3, 2018

You and I can be masters of avoiding. We don’t’ want to confront some of the difficult issues in life, especially when it comes to our physical health. We don’t want to confront stepping on the scales. We don’t want to confront our cholesterol, our blood pressure, or our PSA. I mean, come on, who wants to go get a colonoscopy or a mammogram? We don’t want to confront the very basics because we are afraid of what we might find. If you’re ready for a change, here are three things to help you get started. 

First, let’s start by looking at John 5:1-15. Jesus came to Jerusalem to the pool of Bethesda (meaning “house of grace”) at the sheep gate.  There were five porches (porticos) where the sick and disabled would gather around a pool in hopes of being healed. It was believed an angel would come and disturb the water, and when the angel disturbed the water, if you were the first person to get in after that happened, you would be healed. Jesus came to the House of Grace, the pool of Bethesda and there He saw a man who had been there for 38 years and He simply said to him, do you want to be healed; are you ready to make a change?  The man explained to Jesus, look, every time I try to get into the water somebody gets in before me, I don’t have anyone to help me, I can’t make it in.  Now I know that sounds like an excuse and it is, and yet it was also reality.  The man knew he needed help, he needed to be healed.  He was lame and he needed someone to help him get into the pool before someone else got there.  That was reality.  That was being honest:  I’m trying and I can’t do it.  But you know when I read this story this time and I was working on this sermon as I kept reading it over and over trying to get it clear in my mind, suddenly it hit me:  38 years this man kept coming.  Why would you keep coming if you didn’t have hope?  You’d just stay home.  Why would you keep coming if somehow in your mind you still didn’t have hope that somehow in spite of the problems…one day I’m going to make it.  To be honest and to stay hopeful.  

Second, if you and I are ready to make a change we have to get honest and yet at the same time, we must remain hopeful.  Be honest and stay hopeful, it’s essentially “The Stockdale Paradox.” The Stockdale Paradox says we need to confront the most brutal facts of our current reality and have an undying faith that we will be successful.  We have to do both; confront the most brutal facts of the current reality AND have an undying faith that you will be successful.  For 38 years this man came to the pool, the reality was he needed help to get in, but he never gave up hope.  Jesus said do you want to be healed; are you ready to make a change?

Third, it’s interesting that Jesus was not only worried about this man’s physical health; He was also worried about his spiritual health.  The truth of the matter is your spiritual health is probably as important if not more important than your physical health because your spiritual health will determine how you look at life regardless of what your physical health may be.  Some things we can’t change and some things we can’t help but if you have strong spiritual health you’re still able to embrace and live life.  

I love the end of the story when Jesus heals this man after 38 years, take up your bed and walk, and he does. Then, we read that Jesus went to the Temple and ran into the man.  I love this!  The man could have gone out to celebrate and party with all of his friends, but instead he went to the Temple to give thanks and worship God!  That says something about who he is. Jesus sees him and says you’ve been healed, sin no more lest something worse befall you.  Now, let me interpret that because it sounds so harsh.  At first glance, it almost sounds like Jesus is saying if you go out and do something wrong, God’s going to punish you worse than before.  That’s not what Jesus is saying at all.  I think what Jesus is basically saying was when you were beside the pool you were a person of faith, you kept coming for 38 years, you kept up the hope, you believed you could be healed and now you’re healed.  Just remember:  life is about loving God and loving your neighbor and living fully, blessing life.  If you don’t do those things, if you sin, you can make a mess of your life worse than what it was when you were lame.  Being lame isn’t the worst thing; it’s not having spiritual health.  Now you’ve been healed, just make sure you use your gift well. 

Do you want to be healed?  Are you ready to make a change?  We have to get honest and stay hopeful.  We don’t have to be afraid because we come to Bethesda, the House of Grace.