Text: John 5:1-9 After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. 3 In these lay a multitude of invalids- blind, lame, and paralyzed. 4 5One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” 7 The 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 going another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” 9 And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath.
In many arcades there is a common game that is one of the most frustrating of them all: The Claw Crane. You would control this robotic crane with a claw at the end to grab a toy of your choice. You would first have to strategically place the claw above the toy. Push a button. Then the claw automatically comes down, claws will close, and then come up. If you were successful, when the claw comes up, your toy will have been caught. Every time I tried, it just barely missed the toy. Sometimes it missed completely, other times the claw would touch it, other times the claw would grab it but the toy would then fall off. Just barely. I got so close every time. But I always ended up empty handed. I quickly learned my lesson and just never played the game again.
Why couldn’t someone just give me the toy?
This man described in this passage also found himself barely missing what he wanted. There was this superstitious belief that in the pool called Bethesda, when the water stirred, if you were the first to enter the water, you would be healed. This man, who had some type of crippling ailment, believed in this superstition, and as he waited for the water to stir, there was no one to take him to the water, as he couldn’t go on his own. By the time he gets there on his own, ever so slowly, someone will beat him to it.
Jesus saw him, and probably recognized his frustration. Jesus asked him if he wanted to be healed. The man didn’t say “yes”, but instead answered with an explanation of why he can’t be healed yet wants to. Jesus then said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” Suddenly he was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.
In other words, someone just gave him the toy.
We sometimes create our own superstitions, or rather, our own rules or guidelines, of what it would take to receive salvation from the Lord; what it would take to go to heaven; what it would take to be right with God. For example, you might believe that if you could serve in the church committee every year, you will be saved. Or, if you can go without drinking alcohol your entire life, you will go to heaven. Or, if I could just mind my own business, live at peace with everyone, and just live a good life, I will be right with God. While these things are good and noble, and even your intentions worthy, you will never achieve your goal. You will be like a boy trying to get the toy using the Claw Crane, or the crippled man trying to get into the pool. You might feel like you were so close, but it’ll never be good enough.
Jesus came, suffered, died and rose from the dead, so that he can say to you, “You are saved. You will go to heaven. You are right with God.” You didn’t have to do anything. He did all the work on the cross for you. Believe in Jesus, and this goal that you have been striving for becomes yours freely.
Questions for Study and Meditation
- Has there been anything in your life that you desired so much that was freely given to you? You didn’t have to work for it at all. It was simply given. If so, what kind of emotions did you experience upon receiving it?Have you had these emotions with Jesus when you realized his free gift of salvation to you?
- What are the rules or guidelines in your life that you believe you must follow to be right with God? Are these rules found in the Bible?
- Having received Jesus’ free gift of salvation, do you still feel like you need to earn it?
- After the man was healed by Jesus, Jesus would return to him. What does Jesus say for him to do? (verse 14)
- After we are saved by Jesus, we are still asked to live a life worthy of it (Ephesians 4:1). Our lives are expected to bear fruit (Galatians 5:22-25). We are expected to practice what we preach (or hear or read) from Scripture (James 1:22).Are you able to do these things? Whether or not you are able, do you have the desire to do it?
Spiritually we are like the man waiting by Bethesda. We are spiritually crippled by sin, and sin keeps us from achieving God’s salvation, and it is impossible for us to ever do enough to please God. But Jesus has come to us to say, “you are healed.” “You are forgiven.” “You are saved.” He has done all the work. And now that you are spiritually healed, live a life worthy of that healing you have received.
If you fall, if you stumble, and sin, don’t be discouraged. If it pains you that you sinned, confess it to the Lord and ask forgiveness. Our Lord is faithful to forgive, and will pick you up again. Rise up, take up your bed, and walk. Do not sin.
We live our lives as Christians trusting in Jesus’ amazing grace shown to us on the cross. And as we have this desire to live without sin, we can be encouraged to know that when we do, we will not be abandoned. But the Spirit of God will convict us, draw us to repentance, and will continue to work in our hearts to transform us to the way God desires us to be.
In week 3 of this Lenten season, let us meditate on this free gift that was given to us, and what we must do after receiving it, as we live for the Lord.
Rev. Alex Kolath
Vicar. Immanuel Mar Thoma Church, VA