Sermon Series: Lord, I want to be better

John 5:1-9

1 Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. 5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” 7 “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.” 8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath,

The human mind is perhaps one of the most intricate and amazing things that God ever created. It is in the mind that men, women, boys and girls are able to give birth to an idea, expand upon that very same idea, and then turn that idea into a reality. In some cases, we often do not recognize the creative power that resides within our minds until someone offers a suggestion, have you thought about…? The truth is that because we often overlook or are unaware of our own potential and capabilities our minds need to be jump started by the prodding of others. To be honest, there are a number of things that I probably would not have accomplished had not been for someone to come along and suggest that I give it a try. In fact that is how I entered the teaching profession. I was asked to sub for a few classes and shortly after that, I was asked to consider getting some teacher training and pursuing it as a career and the rest is history. The bottom line is that if you and I are open to them, suggestions have the potential to change the course and trajectory of our lives.

One such example is found in the fifth chapter of the gospel of John. In the first nine verses we read of a brother that the Bible describes had been an invalid for thirty-eight years, but his life was forever changed by a suggestion.

There are several interesting features in this text. Jesus’ encounter with the man occurred while Jesus was on his way to church. One of the reasons that I make it a practice to attend church regularly is because things happen. Whether I am in the city or on vacation, I try to find myself in somebody’s church because I never know what Jesus might have for me on that day. There may be a word, a revelation, a breakthrough, or even an act of deliverance that Jesus has for me and I do not want to miss it. While things happen in church, they also happen on the way to church or even on the way back home from church. There have been times when I was wrestling with an issue or struggling to discern God’s will and/or the direction that I should go and the answer did not always come while I was in church but sometimes the answer or the clarity I was seeking came while I was on my way to church or after I had left church. There is no telling or predicting when and where Jesus will show up but if you and I have a heart and a mind to seek Him, Jesus will find us.

Prior to engaging the man Jesus surveyed the environment and made a few observations. Jesus observed that there was a pool and the pool was believed to have healing properties. When the waters were stirred or troubled it was believed that the first person into the pool would be healed. As a result there were a great number of disabled people lying around the pool waiting for their opportunity to enter the water when it was stirred. In the midst of the throngs of people was the brother who had lived with his condition for thirty-eight years. When Jesus examined the situation He noticed that there were a lot of people who were living for may be. May be today will be my day. When you have nothing better, may be will do, but if you can have better than may be, why fight for may be? As Jesus zeroed in on the brother who had lived with his condition for thirty-eight years He saw that the brother was surrounded by sickness. If we spend any significant amount of time in an environment we will eventually assimilate or become a part of that environment. In other words, after awhile we will begin to take on the characteristics and mindset of that environment. Perhaps the most striking thing that Jesus learned that day was the fact that our brother had lived in his condition for such a long time. He had come to accept his condition and the limitations of his environment – he had allowed his condition to determine how he should live.

The realization that our brother had reached the point where he was ok with the way things were prompted Jesus to inquire of him, “Do you want to get well?” Behind Jesus’ question is the more probing question, how bad do you want it? The reality is that for thirty-eight years you have allowed others who were obviously more determined than you to cut and jump in front of you and get what you claim to be seeking, and so, I just want to know how bad do you really want this thing? I can understand it happening a couple of times, but at some point if you really wanted it you would have made friends or found a way to get people to carry you closer and push you into the pool at the appropriate time. Since you have not done any of those things, I just want to know how bad do you want it?

It is interesting that before Jesus the Bible describes the man as being an invalid, but after Jesus locked in on him his illness became a condition. Conditions are subject to change. Under the right circumstances and when the proper variables and constants have been added the potential for a change in conditions increases. When we are dealing with a condition, sometimes one of the ingredients that caused our condition needs to be altered so that a change in our condition can occur. In other words, if every thing stays the same then chances are our condition will also remain the same. If someone wants to recover from an addiction they first need to be separated from their addiction before their condition can change. As long as they are in active addiction their condition will not change. If someone is unhappy with their lifestyle they need to make a lifestyle change before the condition of their life changes. If they do nothing then nothing will change.

Jesus asks the brother do you want a change? Do you want restored to you, what your condition has robbed from you? Jesus asked the brother a yes or no question and the brother proceeded to explain why his change has not yet occurred. Jesus raises the specter in the mind of this man that change is possible, but you have to want it. Jesus is challenging the brother to examine himself and decide if a change is really what he wants, or is it something he only wants others to think he wants? We cannot presume that everyone who is sick or in a condition wants things to change. Some are quite content to live in their condition or to live with their illness and will not even consider the possibility for change.

Jesus appears to have isolated our brother’s real problem. It seems that while the condition affected his body, the real problem was in his mind. To help him overcome this problem Jesus said, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” Before the brother could be healed in his body he needed to be transformed in his mind. He needed to hear something different and his mind needed to conceive of something different than just being sick. Literally, Jesus had to reprogram his mind by introducing a new thought process, a new idea, and a new goal. This time last year, I was recovering from shoulder surgery. As I tried to get back into the routine of daily living I consciously favoring my other side and this led to two herniated discs in my neck. The doctor told me that the best I could hope for was pain management that is code for there is nothing else they can do. In my mind I thought I would have to live with pain for the rest of my life. Then I met a man who said that he could help me. I was desperate for relief. The bottom line is this man suggested to me that through a series of regular adjustments I did not have to live in pain and I could get better. The Bible says that after Jesus spoke to the brother he was cured at once. After Jesus reprogrammed his mind the brother’s body responded by picking up his mat and he walked.

Without a doubt one of the central points of this text is to reveal to readers and all who would hear this text the Jesus possesses divine supernatural healing power, and that when Jesus speaks, He speaks with authority conferred upon Him by God the Father. To put it another way, Jesus’ words have the power to create an immediate impact on all who receive them. However, there are also a couple of lessons that we can pick up in this text to aid us in our daily living.

1. The road to wellness, wholeness, and completeness begins in the mind – it is said, “what the mind can conceive the body can achieve.” Before we can become or accomplish anything we first must conceive that it can be done and that has to happen in our mind

2. If we want our condition to change, then our context needs to change – when Jesus surveyed the situation He observed that the brother was surrounded by sick people and after Jesus asked him point blank, “Do you want to get well?” The brother seemed ambivalent about it. Therefore, Jesus had to take him to a different place. Jesus had to take him to a place where he could see it, believe it, and want it for himself.

3. Before we can realize our change, we need to receive the idea and concept of change – Jesus spoke change, he spoke healing and deliverance into that man’s life and it was only after the brother received it that he was able to realize it and live in his new found wholeness and completeness

In this narrative Jesus did not physically touch this man he only spoke to him and his condition changed. Jesus demonstrated that wellness, wholeness, and completeness could be obtained through the power of suggestion. A suggestion challenges us to look at things we perhaps have not considered, forgotten, or honestly do not want to think about for whatever reason. A suggestion helps us to reprogram our minds and then synchronize our body with our mind to accomplish and achieve. One of the goals of physical therapy is to restore what a condition has taken from us. Physical therapists in my experience use the power of suggestion to push and challenge their patients to go to places they do not think they can go and to do things their bodies tell them are not possible. Through the power of suggestion Jesus challenged this brother’s mind to believe something his body had declared was not possible. What Jesus did for him, he can also do for you and I if we are willing to receive Jesus’ suggestions.

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