“Delivered – A Sign of the Glory of God”                                        May 5, 2013

John 5:1-9                                                                                             Stephens City UMC

 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

I.              It may have been a religious festival but it was still first come first served.

A.   John in writing his Gospel doesn’t tell us which religious festival but all Jewish festivals were times to celebrate the miraculous intervention of God into the life of Israel (Willimon, “How to Get Well,” May 5, 2013)

1.    Whenever the Jews held a festival it was to point to God who had intervened to save them.

2.    Unlike some people then and unlike some people today, the Jews of Jesus’ time believed that the Almighty moved toward His people and that He acted to save them.

3.    Theirs was not a stand-by, watching and observing God.

4.    Their God showed up and came through.

B.   And that’s what the man needed whom John tells us about.

1.    The man was lying near a pool of water in Jerusalem by the Sheepgate, called Bethesda.

2.    He was not the only ill man lying there as there were a multitude of invalids, blind, lame and paralyzed people (John 5:3).

3.    The oldest versions of this text from John state that when the waters were stirred that everyone would rush to get in and whoever got there first was healed.

4.    So instead first come, first served, maybe it is more accurate to say first come, first healed.

C.    The man John tells us about is never first to get into the water.

1.    One reason appears to be that he has been lying near the pool for 38 years so he’s been in extremely poor health for a long time.

2.    A biblical generation is about 40 years so John wants us to understand that this man is near the end of his life.

3.    With regards to being healed he is about out of time so he is about out of hope.

D.   That’s when Jesus, who we know is the source of all hope, approaches the man and engages him in conversation.

1.    Notice that Jesus comes to him; he doesn’t come to Jesus.

2.    And as they talk some things about the man are revealed and the truth is that he comes across as a whiner.

3.    I mean, Jesus asks him, “Do you want to be healed?” and the man goes on and on about how no one will help him get in the water and that everyone is out for themselves and runs past him so they can get the blessing of being healed.

4.    He comes across as “Poor me.”

E.    And having said that I could at this point turn this into a self-help sermon.

1.    I could say, “Don’t be like this man. Get yourself into a better frame of mind. Unlike the man run to your goals. All you need is the right attitude. What this guy needed was an attitude adjustment. Where was Dr. Phil when the man needed him?”

F.    But the man, and this is true of you and me, the Messiah and Savior we need is not Dr. Phil, but Jesus Christ.

1.    Notice that the man never helps himself, but Jesus helps him.

2.    And after Jesus helps him, take note that the man never says thank you to Jesus.

3.    Plus the crowd is no help because they criticize Jesus for healing on the Sabbath.

4.    And if you read further in the story when the authorities question the man about breaking the Sabbath the man blames Jesus.

5.    He said to me, “Rise, take up your pallet, and walk.” (John 5:9)

6.    “It’s his fault that I’m well” which is indeed correct.

G.   And that’s the truth of the Gospel.

1.    Jesus shows up at some key moment in our lives and intervenes and delivers us.

2.    Retired Bishop Will Willimon tells the story of an alcoholic he tried to help.

3.    Nothing Will said or did convinced the man to do anything to help himself.

4.    It was like the guy was paralyzed.

5.    The one day it was obvious that the man was healed so Will asked him about it.

6.    “Did you pray? Did you decide to turn over a new leaf in your life?”

7.    The guy answered, “I think God just healed me. I didn’t know enough to ask God to help me. I didn’t know how to ask. But one day I woke up and I just no longer had this need, no longer had this craving. I think I was delivered.” (Willimon, “How to Get Well,” May 5, 2013)

II.            It was back in February that I began working with this year’s confirmation class and today at the 9:45 a.m. service I’ll be confirming and commissioning two of the members of that class.

A.   During that time there was so much that I tried to teach them and move them along in their faith.

1.    It was almost five years ago that I came here as your pastor and during that time there has been so much that I’ve tried to teach you and help you to move along in your faith.

2.    To some degree it doesn’t matter if the members of the confirmation class or you have learned anything from me.

3.    But, if you have had an experience of grace so you can say “You know, I think Jesus delivered me” then that’s more than good enough.

4.    And may that be your experience as at the table of the Lord, Jesus once more offers you who don’t appear to have moved very much, His delivering grace.