5After this there was a festival of the Jews, and
Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
2Now in Jerusalem
by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five
porticoes. 3In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. 5One
man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6When Jesus
saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to
him, “Do you want to be made well?” 7The sick man answered him,
“Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and
while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” 8Jesus
said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” 9At once the man
was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. Now that day was a Sabbath.
10So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, “It is the Sabbath;
it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” 11But he answered them,
“The man who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’” 12They
asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take it up and walk’?” 13Now
the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared
in the crowd that was there. 14Later Jesus found him in the temple
and said to him, “See, you have been made well!
If you’ve been with us during this series on the 12
steps, or if you’re familiar with the 12 steps at all, then you may have begun
to notice that the 12 steps are more like a lifelong journey rather than just a
short walk. The ideas and actions in each step aren’t something you can just
wake up one morning and decide to embrace all at once- each step takes time to
grasp, and sometimes they overlap and intersect.
So to review- Step 1: Admitted we were powerless over (whatever
your addiction) and that our lives were unmanageable.... And, at least in
this room, we all related to Step 1 in some way- we agreed that all of us, are
addicted to or struggle with something- and that we are all powerless to
overcome it on our own strength.We
likened it to the power of sin- as Apostle Paul pointed out when he said, “the
very thing I don’t want to do, I do…all fall short, etc.”
Then last month we talked about Step 2: Came to
believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. And
we talked about the struggle to believe- that as much as we want to believe in
something or someone who could make our lives better, we suffer from an
affliction called doubt; while on the one hand we rush to God's side and say
“Yes Lord I believe!” in the next breath
we plead, “Help, Lord, my unbelief…”And we discussed just how scary it is to
put our lives in the hands of anyone else but “me.” (If I can't do it, no one
So today, as we talk about step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our
lives over to the care of God (as I understood God) we need to talk about
how to move from fear to faith. For some of us, that is a pretty big jump. So
let’s look at one man’s example...
In the passage, Jesus and his disciples are
traveling to Jerusalem for a festival- a huge
festival.And like many religious destinations,
there were places where one would go specifically for healing.The Sheep Gate, one of the entrances to the
temple area was such a place.
Now, by the Sheep gate, there was a pool, believed
to have healing powers.The best modern
example I can think of is Lourdes, in France.And by the pool were porches, or levels, where people who needed healing
would wait to get into the water. Among them, many invalids—blind, sick, and
All those people laying there waiting to be healed- like
an emergency waiting room- or a bread line- or a sanctuary… and in walks
Jesus.And one man among them catches
his eye; one who was sick for thirty-eight years. Jesus knew that he had been there a long time,
and he walks over and stands right next to him… and the man looks up at
Now I’m not sure what the sick man may have been
thinking at that moment.Surely after
being there for 38 years; (did you hear that… 38 years… who here is over 38?
Can you imagine being sick for 38 years? Living with something 38 years? Fighting
something for 38 years? Anyone be battling that long… with anything?How about 10 years… 5 years… 1 year? It
doesn’t really matter does it… when you are in need of healing, it doesn’t
matter if its 38 years or 38 minutes, it can seem like forever… ) And surely in
that 38 years of poolside living, he had been approached by numerous people
trying to help him… some possibly giving him food, or a blanket… many I'm sure
with the "cure" or "the answer" or "the way to fix
himself"- there is never a shortage of advice.And while some people wanted to help, there
were surely, in 38 years, also some who took pleasure in tormenting him… poking
fun, or worse, degrading him in some way… As the man looked up he must have
wondered- was Jesus here to help or hurt?
Or was this stranger staring down at him someone
else… maybe someone he got drunk with once and forgotten the face; perhaps he was a dealer offering something to
ease the pain?Or maybe that bill collector he had been
avoiding from the credit card company… the repo man come to get his car… or was
it Jennie Craig in the flesh? Lots of people come to us in our pain. But
whoever this guy was, he was smack dab in the middle of his space, and it was
beginning to make the sick man uncomfortable.
And Jesus breaks the silence, “Do you want to be
"Well what kind of a question is that? Of course I want to be made well, doesn’t
every sick person want to be made well? Doesn’t everyone who is struggling with
something want it to be taken away to stop the cycle of madness? Don’t we all
want to be free from the things that are keeping us from enjoying life more
fully? Don’t we all want the kind of freedom that comes from not being addicted
so we can get on with our dreams and start living life in the land of "if
only." (If only I were healthy, sober, rich, thin, tall, pretty, smart...)
We do, don’t we?I don’t want to be this way anymore.I hate being fat! I could buy the coolest clothes and have such a great
life if I were thin! I dream about it! I have little magazine cutouts on my
fridge of pretty people in bikinis for motivation! That’s why I come and sit
near this healing pool every day!And go
to the grocery store and buy kale & kelp and Styrofoam rice cakes! Of
course I want to be made well!
But the sick man doesn’t say that… he never answers Jesus'
question… instead, he explains why he's been living poolside for 38 years and
has never made it into the water!
“Sir, I have
no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am
making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.”
Wait a minute! I know this song JAnd I know everyone in this room does
too.For every vow we’ve taken to stop
the insanity, we have an excuse to go with it on why we couldn’t make it to the
pool.And most of those excuses blame
everyone else for the problem but me.
And listen, I’m not saying that any of the things on
our laundry lists are not valid.There
are some bad things that may have happened to us in our lives… I know the pain
of an abusive past; I know how much pressure comes from being brought up in the
wrong area, or the wrong household, or from having the wrong ‘friends’…I know
the economy stinks, and jobs are scarce, relationships are strained... and it's
easy to see why we seek out things to serve as an escape from the pain and
pressure- and so we eat sugar, and drink, and do drugs, and shop, and spend,
and watch porn, and play video games.
And although we may recognize that we are powerless
over these things, and want to believe in the healing pool of that we’ve parked
ourselves next to for the last 38 years, for some reason, we can rattle off a
list of excuses as to why we can’t make our way to the water-
For some reason, it’s just too scary to get our feet
wet.And I get that… because once I get
healed from this addiction; I’m not going to have my crutches anymore.Once I make a decision to be healed by this
God, the God whom I have confessed has the power to heal me, it means I won’t
be able to live this way anymore, and frankly, it’s become comfortable here by
the pool. And I have a whole system of people around me who, even if they get
angry from time to time, they bring me food and blankets and even feel sorry
for me… and I get to feel sorry for me too.Deciding to trust, and moving toward the water means I will have to do
things and be things and live out things that are bigger than what I can see
right now… and what if I fail… or worse… what if I am successful!
We don’t think of that too often…that it may be scary to be more than we are
right now- thatbeing all God has
designed for us to be, or living out our potential... well, is
intimidating.Marianne Williamson says,
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we
are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most
You see, it’s easy to buy into the lie that we are
less than.It’s easy to believe what
society tells us; that we are not measuring up, and frankly never will… or that
there is something desperately wrong with us that needs fixing (that they can
sell us a remedy for, by the way).It’s
easier to believe that we can do nothing than believe that we are called to
some higher purpose in this world.Who
wants to be Mother Teresa for crying out loud? Or have some major political role
where people depend on you, and you have to lead others? Who really wants to
work toward fighting crime, or feeding the homeless, or fighting injustice? Who wants to commit to every week teaching
Sunday school, or working a soup kitchen, or preaching peace? All of that takes
more than what I’m capable of for sure… so instead, I’ll put on a little suntan
lotion and stay put.
But here’s the amazing part of this story.Jesus doesn’t wait for the man to say 'yes
Lord, I want to be healed,' before he intervenes.Jesus doesn’t wait for us to ask for help
before he steps in with an answer… Did you notice that? Jesus listens to the
list of why not’s that the man has constructed, and he doesn’t condemn him for
them either.Jesus gets it.He understand where the list of excuses comes
from and he knows the fear in the man's heart… he knows everything about him-
every intimate detail- and has suffered with him through every heartbreak...
So instead of calling him out on where he is, or
making him feel bad about it, and
instead of even helping him into the water (as I’m sure others have tried to do
in the past), Jesus cuts to the chase and offers him a future outside of
And kneels down next to the man, looks into his eyes
and says “Stand up.Pick up your mat and
And something happens… maybe it was just time… maybe
it was the tone of Jesus’ voice… maybe it was the healing power in his words…
but whatever it was, at that moment, this sunburned blistered child of God made
a decision to trust the one offering him some aloe… this man who had lived the
better part of his life parched and dry while the waters of healing lay just
feet away, decided that today… he would stand up, not in his own power, but in
the power of the Lord.And he was made
And it would be so cool if our story ended right
there… Wouldn’t it be wonderful to embrace healing and stand up all straightened
out and go on with being everything you are standing up to be? And wouldn’t it
be great if everyone around you, who saw you laying by that pool for so
long would be happy for you?
But here’s the next verse: Now that day was a
sabbath. 10So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, “It is
the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” Really?
Wait a minute, what happened to: “hey, here is this guy who was sick for so
long up and about! He’s had some healing going on, let’s celebrate!” No… most
of the time when we decide to take a step toward God, the world doesn’t give us
a standing ovation.
Most of the time, when we step out in faith, or step
up to be more than we are right now, or decide to trust God with our lives, and
take a stand, so to speak, we get lots of people telling us why we can’t do it,
or that we’re doing it wrong, or that we’re sure to fail; or they pick on something about us that is unrelated
to what we’re trying to do!
And sadly, we aren’t very good at encouraging one
another- even in the church… Someone has a spiritual or emotional breakthrough and we look out of the corner of our eye at the... "oooohhh, good for YOU!"
Why do we do it to each other? I truly believe that goes back to the fact
that we all in some way shape or form, are afraid to admit that we also have a
lounge chair staked out by the side of the pool.
And maybe part of it is, that seeing someone leave the
pool is a powerful witness… it might even make us mindful of our own need to
get out of the sun. And further, maybe we don’t like the thought that our neighbor
won’t be there anymore to pass us an umbrella drink.
In fact, there are those who pass by the pool and
look at you day after day, and guess what? They aren’t eager for you to leave
the pool either.We like having the sick
and the paralyzed in our community. It makes us feel good about ourselves when
we pass by and shake our heads… “at least we aren’t like them!”
But here’s what I know… God hasn’t designed us for
poolside living!That every day we sit
there in the sun, we lose one day of the life we could have… the life that God
offers us… the life that God wants for us.
But here’s the good news to all of us in a lounge
chair… Jesus just walked in… truly, all we have to do is look up…. make eye
contact with the God of healing. That’s step 3! To make a connection and a decision to turn our lives over to that
higher power…And whether we recognize
it or not… this offer comes to us every moment of every day… God asks … do you
want to be made well?And God cuts
through every excuse we’ve got, ever fear we’ve got, every pain we’ve got… and
instead of condemning you for them, Jesus
offers you his hand… Stand up… take up your mat and walk…
Prayer from the AA Big Book- Step 3
God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!