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A Pitiful Man

The gospel of John is different than the other three gospels. It only has 8 miraculous signs while the others recount many. Each miracle in John is a sign illustrating the Lord’s ministry—why God became human (John 20:30-31). Each one is part of a larger story and context.

As with many stories of Jesus’ interaction with people, some deeper insight is needed to understand all that takes place. The Mosaic Law and religious cultural restrictions are a major part of this story, along with Israel’s history. It revolves around a sick man laying beside the pool of Bethesda who encounters Jesus.

This man was part of a crowd gathered around the pool to receive healing. These people believed the first person to enter the pool when an angel came from heaven and stirred up the waters would be healed. Their hope was in a legend.

Jesus saw this man who’d been sick for 38 years and approached him with a simple question—Would you like to get well? But the man doesn’t answer Jesus directly. Instead, he gives Jesus an excuse for why he can’t be healed. His response is the first indicator of how pitiful this man is, which becomes more clear as you read the whole story.

Scripture

Later, Jesus went to Jerusalem for a Jewish festival. Near Sheep Gate in Jerusalem was a pool called Bethesda in Hebrew. It had five porches. Under these porches a large number of sick people—people who were blind, lame, or paralyzed—used to lie. 

One man, who had been sick for 38 years, was lying there. [vss 1-5]

Jesus saw the man lying there and knew that he had been sick for a long time. So Jesus asked the man, “Would you like to get well?”

The sick man answered Jesus, “Sir, I don’t have anyone to put me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I’m trying to get there, someone else steps into the pool ahead of me.”

Jesus told the man, “Get up, pick up your cot, and walk.” The man immediately became well, picked up his cot, and walked. That happened on a day of worship. [vss 6-9]

So the Jews told the man who had been healed, “This is a day of worship. You’re not allowed to carry your cot today.” The man replied, “The man who made me well told me to pick up my cot and walk.”

The Jews asked him, “Who is the man who told you to pick it up and walk?” But the man who had been healed didn’t know who Jesus was. (Jesus had withdrawn from the crowd.)

Later, Jesus met the man in the temple courtyard and told him, “You’re well now. Stop sinning so that something worse doesn’t happen to you.”

The man went back to the Jews and told them that Jesus was the man who had made him well. [vss 10-15]

(John 5:1-15 GW)

Key phrase—

“Would you like to get well?”

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What stands out to you about the beginning of this story?

  • Who is gathered at this pool? Who does Jesus approach and what does he ask this man?

  • How does the man respond to Jesus’ question and why do you think he says this?

  • What does Jesus say to the man and how does He say it? What takes place immediately?

Reflection...

Over the years, Jewish rabbis reinterpreted the fourth of the ten primary commandments of the Mosaic Law, as they did many other laws. Successive interpretations added restrictions to what a person could and couldn’t do on the Sabbath. These added laws distorted God’s original purpose for the Sabbath.

When Jesus spoke healing to this pitiful man, it came in the form of a command to do three things—get up, pick up his mat, and walk. Not long after his healing, the pitiful man is rebuked for carrying his mat as Jesus directed him to do.

Imagine you’re this man—what would you do? Whose command would you follow? Here we see the pitiful state of this man and his weakness. His response and actions illustrate the weakness and futility of following religious laws.

Religion itself has no power to transform a person compared to God and His power. It comes down to where a person puts their trust. Do we trust in our own efforts to transform ourself through religion? Or…do we trust in God Himself and His transforming power?

Taking it to heart...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • Do you understand all the dilemmas this man faced?

  • Can you see how and why this man is so pitiful?

  • Have you found yourself in paradoxical situations where you don’t know what to do?

  • Do you get caught up with what others expect of you? Do you struggle with trusting God with the dilemmas of your life?

Personalize it...

Meditate On This— Our confidence needs to be in God rather than our own efforts or religious regulations. The Lord calls us into a personal relationship of trust rather than following a rigid set of rules. God intended the Sabbath to be a restful blessing not a restricted religious day.

Prayer Focus— As you consider present or previous dilemmas you’ve faced, ask God to give you insight and direction for how to move beyond these struggles by trusting in Him. Be honest and specific in your prayer and spend time listening and waiting for His guidance.

©2019—Word-Strong

Blessings and Encouragement

The book of Hebrews begins by reminding us of the importance and supremacy of Jesus as God's only Son. He's greater than the prophets, angels, Moses, Joshua, the Old Covenant priesthood, and His grace is greater than the Law.

We're also reminded how Jesus' message and ministry was and is superior to the high priesthood of the Old Covenant—as an eternal High Priest like Melchizedek. Jesus is the mediator of a better covenant—relationship with God—and in His continuing ministry as our High Priest, He is personally involved in our faith and life as believers.

I Have Come

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An age-old question for people is, "What does God want from me?" People have offered sacrifices and kept various rituals throughout human history in attempts to please God, or various gods. Some of these efforts are extreme and others are more philosophical in nature.

Religion—including Christianity—is mostly comprised of efforts to please God or lead a life that pleases God. This might range from trying to appease God's wrath to seeing God as a benign and distant ruler of heaven.

Jesus answered this question once and for all, yet many of us misunderstand it. Christian believers who are well-versed in what the Bible says, understand that Jesus died to abolish the power and penalty of sin once for all.

But many Christians continue to try and live in some form of obedience to God through prescribed efforts at goodness. The obedience God is looking for isn't accomplished through external acts of goodness, it goes deeper than that.

Scripture

For this reason, when Christ came into the world, he said, “‘You did not want sacrifices and offerings, but you prepared a body for me. You did not approve of burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin.’

Then I said, ‘I have come! (It is written about me in the scroll of the book.) I have come to do what you want, my God.’ ” [vss 5-7]

In this passage Christ first said, “You did not want sacrifices, offerings, burnt offerings, and sacrifices for sin. You did not approve of them.” (These are the sacrifices that Moses’ Teachings require people to offer.)

Then Christ says, “I have come to do what you want.” He did away with sacrifices in order to establish the obedience that God wants. [vss 8-9]

(Hebrews 10:5-9 GW) [Context– Hebrews 10]

Key phrase—

I have come to do what you want, my God

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • Why do you think we're told what is said in the Psalms [Ps 40:6-8] was from Christ?

  • What are we told in this text is the purpose for Christ's coming?

  • Where is this illustrated by Jesus in the gospels? [hint– look towards the end]

  • Why did the sacrifices need to be set aside to "establish... obedience..." that God wants?

Reflection...

What type of obedience is God looking for? The answer is shown by His Son Jesus, the Messiah (Christ), the savior of the world. Jesus came to do the Father's will not His own. As it says, "I have come to do what you want, my God."

This is made clear by the Lord's struggle in prayer in the garden of Gethsemane (Matt 26:36-46), where Jesus asks three times if "this cup" of suffering could be set aside. Each time, Jesus submitted His will to the Father.

This is our illustration, our example for the obedience God wants. Not external acts of goodness but the surrender of our lives to Him.

Jesus' once-and-for-all sacrifice on the cross brings a freedom from the impossible burden of perfect obedience required under the Law. God is not requiring acts of obedience we can do for Him but calling us into a relationship of trust (faith).

This relationship of trust is an ongoing internal and spiritual work enabled by God's Spirit dwelling in us as believers. This is what Jesus meant about denying yourself and taking up your cross in order to follow Him (Matt 16:24).

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • Do you have the same heart attitude of Jesus as His in the garden of Gethsemane?

  • Are you willing to lay down your own wants and desires to do what God desires of you?

  • Are you willing to trust in Jesus' once-and-for-all sacrifice to be sufficient for your sin?

  • How are you learning to trust the Lord and surrender your will to Him?

©2017—Word-Strong


Here's a free introduction for the book of Hebrews— Intro to studying Hebrews

Once and For All

Every election cycle voters put great hopes in their candidates, as leaders who will bring change or stability or both. Yet, there's no one person who will garner everyone's support because people have such diverse concerns and issues.

Recorded history reminds us of the ups and downs of civilizations and cultures. History is cyclical. Life, in general, is cyclical, just as the seasons within a year. The greatness of a nation or era of civilization is preceded and followed by periods of mediocrity or worse.

The problem is consistency and succession of leaders and their governing power. Even religious and theological views vary because they're tied to ever-changing generations and leaders within each generation.

Thankfully, there is one leader who is enduring, trustworthy, and compassionate. He was not elected by people, nor is He limited by human fickleness and frailty. He is powerful, yet humble. Superior, yet approachable.

Our Touchpoint

An important part of counseling at any level, for whatever the need may be, is trust. Often, what builds trust is when we know a person identifies with our situation and knows what we're going through.

Peer counseling in self-help groups, even with Christian fellowship, can be reassuring because of shared experiences in life.

In matters of faith, we also need to have similar assurances. This is an important reason for Jesus, God's Son, becoming human to live among us.