transformation

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 (Jesus had withdrawn from the crowd.)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

Water Into Wine

People throughout the world are intrigued by illusions, magic tricks, and sleight-of-hand artists. It's not just because they're clever and entertaining but something inside us wants to see something supernatural.

When Jesus did miracles in the Bible, they weren't illusions or magic nor were they for entertainment. His miracles were bonafide supernatural events with a purpose.

They affirmed the supernatural and divine nature of Jesus as God's Son (John 1:114) and as the Savior of the world (John 3:16). Jesus' miracles also confirmed His message and mission.

Legitimate or Illegitimate?

Children need boundaries. We all do. Without clear boundaries of what's okay or not okay, we run amuck and trample on the feelings and rights of others.

Clear boundaries and consistency are essential elements for raising healthy and confident children who will mature into healthy and confident adults.

We've seen this with our own children and hundreds of others my wife and I cared for over the years. Now we see this with our grandchildren and children of our extended family in the Philippines.

Sadly, a lack of healthy consistent discipline has rippled through our nation, beginning with the "me generation" of the seventies to a couple million people incarcerated and well over four million others on probation or parole, producing heartache and despair.

No boundaries and the abandonment of discipline brings conflict and disruption in families and society at large. We all need discipline and boundaries. Without them, we will self-destruct personally and so will our nation if things don't change.

Scripture

You struggle against sin, but your struggles haven’t killed you. You have forgotten the encouraging words that God speaks to you as his children:

“My child, pay attention when the Lord disciplines you. Don’t give up when he corrects you. The Lord disciplines everyone he loves. He severely disciplines everyone he accepts as his child.” [vss 4-6] [reference– Proverbs 3:11-12]

Endure your discipline. God corrects you as a father corrects his children. All children are disciplined by their fathers.

If you aren’t disciplined like the other children, you aren’t part of the family. On earth we have fathers who disciplined us, and we respect them. Shouldn’t we place ourselves under the authority of God, the father of spirits, so that we will live? [vss 7-9]

(Hebrews 12:4-9 GW) [Context– Hebrews 12]

Key phrase—

If you aren’t disciplined like the other children, you aren’t part of the family

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What is said about our struggle with sin? How does this relate to you in a personal way?

  • What are the encouraging words spoken about here? How is this strong exhortation encouraging?

  • How is the idea of God's discipline explained? Does this make sense to you?

  • How is the discipline God gives His children different than what our natural parents do?

Reflection...

No one likes correction, not immediately. Neither do we like to undergo discipline or accept punishment, even when it's deserved. We can be quick to claim, "It's unfair!" But much of the time we need to be disciplined for our own good.

This is one of the more difficult things for believers and nonbelievers to understand. "Why would a loving God discipline, correct, or punish anyone?"

The short answer is—so we don't become spoiled brats! Also, God wants to develop a nature in us like His. He wants us to fit in with His family, that is, He wants us to be His legitimate children, not to be illegitimate, self-willed rebels.

An important element of God's redemptive work is restoring us so we may enjoy a face to face relationship with God. But this requires an internal work in us. A transforming work in our hearts and lives. God uses external situations in our life to shape and transform our inner nature.

Make it personal...

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

  • How did this exhortation speak to the believers who heard this first and how does it fit for us?

  • What kind of discipline did you receive as a child and how has it shaped your life?

  • Do you think your own upbringing might get in the way of understanding God's discipline?

  • How can you better understand and accept God's discipline in your life?

©2017—Word-Strong


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

Better Things

What's your image of God? Do you envision Him as a kindly grandfather, or do you imagine Him being a strict disciplinarian?

Our family of origin and how we were raised can have a positive or negative effect on our relationship with God. I've seen this to be true in people's lives over and over as a pastor and missionary. 

A Son Not a Servant

The Christian faith is not a set of abstract beliefs. A confession of faith is more than words and thoughts written out or spoken.

Genuine Christian faith is anchored in Jesus. Not only what is believed in Him as the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior of the world, but in relationship with Him.

Genuine Christianity is centered on the person of Jesus Christ, not a set of doctrines to be practiced or beliefs to hold. The book of Hebrews makes this very clear.