Impotence and Omnipotence
“And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked.”— John v. 6— 9.
THIS man had been lying, with many others, round the pool, hoping that it would be stirred by the angel, and that he might be put into the water first, and so might be healed. There he waited long, and waited in vain. Why did he wait? Because Jesus was not there. Where Jesus is not, you must wait. If it is only an angel and a pool, you must wait; and one may get a blessing, and many may get no blessing. But when Jesus came, there was no waiting. He walked in among the crowd of sick folk, spied out this man, bade him take up his mattress and walk home, and he was healed at once.
Now, I commend this man for waiting; I admire him for his patience and his perseverance; but I beg you not to make his case your own. He waited, for Jesus was not there. You may not wait, you must not wait; for Jesus is here. There was necessity for him to wait. As I have told you, there was an angel and a pool, and nothing more; but where Christ is, there should be no waiting. Any soul that believes in Christ to-night will be saved to-night. Any soul that looks to Christ to-night shall be saved, even though he looks from the ends of the earth. Thou mayest look now; nay, thou art commanded so to do. “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” “Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.” There, in that pew, or in yonder aisles, if you turn your eye by faith to Jesus, the Living One on the throne of the Highest, you shall obtain immediate cure. Waiting is all very well at the pool of Bethesda; but waiting at the pool of ordinances, as I have heard some say, is not according to the Scriptures. I read nothing about waiting there; but I do read this, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”
However, for the help of some who have waited till they are weary, who have persevered in the use of the means till they are becoming desponding and disappointed, let us look at this case of the impotent man at Bethesda.
I. We notice about it, first, that THE SAVIOUR KNEW THE CASE.
I only mention that, in order to say that the Saviour knows your case. Jesus saw him lie there. There were a great many objects for the Saviour’s eye to rest upon; but he fixed his gaze upon this man, long bed-ridden, thirty-eight years impotent. Even so, Jesus knows all about your case. He sees you lie just where you are to-night, impotent, without hope, without light, without faith. He sees you; I want you to feel this to be true. He singles you out amidst this throng, wherever you sit, and his eye is scanning you from head to foot; nay, he looks within as well as without, and reads all that is in your heart.
Concerning the man at the pool, Jesus knew that he had been a long time in that case. He knows the years that you have been waiting. You remember being carried to the house of God by your mother. You recollect, as a boy, listening to sermons that seemed to startle you; and you went home to your little bedroom, and cried to God for mercy; but you forgot your impressions. They were like the morning mist, that vanishes in the rising sun. You came to London; you grew up to be a man; you became careless about divine things; you shook off all your early impressions. Still, you went to hear the Word preached, and oftentimes you half hoped that you might get a blessing. You heard the Word; but faith was not mixed with what you heard, so you missed the blessing. Yet still, you always had a wish that it should come to you. You never could despise godly people, or the things of Christ. You could not get them for yourself; at least, you thought you could not; but you always had some lingering wish that you were numbered with the people of God. Now, the Lord Jesus knows all about that, and the many years in which you have been waiting as a hearer; but a hearer only, and not a doer of the Word; impressed at times, but doing violence to your better feelings, and going back to a careless life. My Lord knows all about you. I cannot pick you out in this congregation; but remember, while I am preaching to-night, miracles will be wrought; processes which will change the very nature of men are going on within this house; for Christ is being preached, and his gospel is being set forth, and this is not done, with prayerful earnestness, in vain. God will bless it; he is going to bless somebody to-night. Who that somebody may be, or how many hundred somebodies there will be, I cannot guess; but he will bless his own Word, and why should he not bless you? He sees just who you are, and where you are, and what you are.
In addition to this, our Lord knew all this poor man’s disappointments. Many times, when he had striven to get first to the water’s edge, and did think that he should be able to take the happy plunge, in went some one else before him, and his hopes were gone. Another came up out of the water healed; and then, with a heavy sigh, he fell back upon his couch, and felt that it might be a long time before the angel stirred the water again, and even then he might be disappointed again, he recollected the many times when he had lost all hope; and there he lay almost in despair. Now I think I hear some one here to-night saying, “My brother found the Lord. My friend, who came with me hero, found the Lord. I have lived to see my mother die in sure and certain hope of glory. I have friends who have come to Christ, but I am still living without him. When there were special services, I hoped that I might have been specially blessed. I have been to prayer-meetings, I have read my Bible in secret, and I have sometimes hoped— it was but a little hope, but still I hoped— ‘May be, one of these days, I may be healed.’” Yes, dear friend, and my Lord knows all about that, and he sympathizes in all the grief you feel to-night, and he hears those unspoken wishes of yours, and he knows your longing that you may be healed.
II. Now, secondly, THE SAVIOUR AROUSED THE MAN’S DESIRES. He said to him, “Wilt thou be made whole?” There he lay. I am not going to explain that lying at the pool, but just to apply it to you who are here in a similar condition.
Beware of forgetting why you are here. Beware of coming to the house of God, and not knowing why you come. I have said that, years ago, you went to places of worship in the hope of finding salvation. Well, you have kept on coming, and you have not found it; but do you now look for it? Have you not fallen into the habit of sitting and listening to sermons, and prayers, and so on, without feeling that you came for anything special for yourself? You come and you go, merely that you may attend a place of worship; that is all. The Saviour would not let the impotent man lie there satisfied because he was by the pool. No, no. He said to him, “Why are you here? Have you not some desire? Do you not want to be made whole?” My dear hearer, I wish that you were able to say “Yes” to this question. Have you come here to-night that your sin may be forgiven, that your soul may be renewed by divine grace, that you may meet with Christ? If so, I want to keep you to that point, and not to let you come, and take a sitting here, and come, and come, and come, and come, and be just like the door on its hinges out there, which turns in and turns out again, and is not a bit the better for it. Oh, do not get into mere religious habits! Ritualistic habits they will be to you, simple as the ritual will be. You come, and you go, and you are satisfied. This will never do. Christ arouses your desire as he says, “Wilt thou be made whole?”
Also, avoid a despairing indifference. I remember two brothers and a sister, who heard me preach for a considerable time, and they were in great distress of soul; but, at the same time, they had a notion that they could not believe in Christ, and that they must wait, I hardly know what for; and they did wait till they grew quite old. I did not know better people morally, or better hearers so far as interest in what they heard was concerned; but they never seemed to get any farther. At last they got into this state; they seemed to feel as though, if it was to be, it would be; and if it was not to be, it would not be; and that all that they could do was just to sit still, and be quiet and patient. Patient under the apprehension of being lost for ever? Why, I do not expect the man in the condemned cell to be happy and patient when he hears them putting up his gallows! He must be concerned; he must be uneasy. I did my best to make these friends uneasy; but I confess that I fear my efforts were attended with very small results. The Saviour said to this man, “Wilt thou be made whole? You seem to be in such a state of indifference that you do not care whether you are made whole or not.” No worse condition than that can be found; it is so hard to deal with. God save you from a sullen indifference, in which you leave yourselves to drift to destruction at the will of some unknown fate!
I pray you to remember that it is yours to will, for Christ said to this man, “Wilt thou be made whole? Thou canst not make thyself whole, but thou canst will and wish to be made whole.” God’s Holy Spirit has given to many of you to will and to do according to his good pleasure. You will never be saved against your will; God drags nobody to heaven by the ears. There must be in you a willing mind consenting to the work of his sovereign grace; and if it be there, I want you to exercise it to-night, as Christ wished this man to exercise it: “Wilt thou be made whole? Hast thou any wish that way, any desire or longing for healing?” I want to stir this fire, and make it burn; and if there be only a spark of desire, I would breathe upon it, and pray the Holy Spirit to breathe upon it to make it into a great flame. Paul said, “To will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good, I find not.” I believe that there are some here who have the will to be saved; God be thanked for that!
“Wilt thou be made whole?” I think that the Saviour put this question for another reason, which I will turn into an exhortation. Forego all prescribing as to how you are to be saved. The question is not, “Wilt thou be put into that pool?” but, “Wilt thou be made whole?” The question is not, “Wilt thou take this medicine? Wilt thou that I should do this or that to thee?” but, “Wilt thou be made whole?” Have you come to this, that you are willing to be saved in God’s way, in Christ’s way? One says, “I want to have a dream.” Dear soul, do not want any dreams; they are only dreams. Another says, “I want to see a vision.” My dear friend, there is nothing in the plan of salvation about seeing visions. “I want to hear a voice,” says one. Well, hear my voice, then, and may God the Holy Ghost make you to hear the voice of his Word through me! “But I want”— oh! yes, you want, you know not what you want, like many a silly child that has its fads, and fancies, and whims, and wishes. Oh, that all were willing to be saved by the simple plan of believe and live! If this is God’s way, who art thou that he should make a new way for thee? When I had put the way of salvation before a friend, some time ago, she turned to me, and said, “Oh, sir, do pray for me!” “No,” I said, “I will not pray for you.” “Oh! but,” said she, “how can you say that?” I replied, “I set before you Christ crucified, and I beg you to believe in him. If you will not believe in him, you will be lost; and I shall not pray God to make any different way of salvation for you. You deserve to be lost if you will not believe in Christ.” I put it just so to her, and when she afterwards said, “Oh, I see it now! I do look to Christ, and trust him,” I said, “Now I will pray for you; now we can pray together, and sing together, if need be.” But, dear friends, do not set up your own notion about how you ought to be converted. Can you find any two people who were converted in the same way? God does not make converts as men make steel pens, a gross in a box all alike. Nay, nay; but in each case there is a living man created, and every living man, every living animal, every living plant, is somewhat different from every other of its kind; and you must not look for uniformity in the work of regeneration. “Wilt thou be made whole?” Come, dost thou desire the pardon of sin? Dost thou long for a new heart and a right spirit? If so, leave off disputing as to how thou art to get them, and do what Christ tolls thee to do.
“Wilt thou be made whole?” It is as if the Saviour said, “Be more than ever in earnest now. I know that you will to be made whole; well, now, will it more to-night than you have ever willed it before.” Let the will which you have be exercised; put it forth. You are in earnest to be saved; be more in earnest to-night. You do desire to find Christ; well, desire to find Christ more to-night than ever you did in your life. You have come to an important crisis of your life; you may be at the point of death; who knows? How many have been suddenly struck down of late! If you would be made whole, I would that you might be made whole to-night. I pray that you may feel something pressing you, something that makes you end your long delay, something that makes you feel, “I have no more time to waste; I cannot afford to loiter; I must be saved to-night; I must hear the distinct ticking of God’s great clock, that stands in the hall of grace, and always says, ‘Now; now; now; now; now;’ and never utters any other sound.” Oh, may the Lord make it to be so, by his own free grace!
Thus, you see, the Saviour aroused the desires of the man at the pool. First, he knew his case; and next, he aroused his desires.
III. Now, thirdly, THE SAVIOUR HEARD THE MAN’S PLAINT. This is what he said, “Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.”
Some of these people had kind friends, who took turns at watching day and night, and the moment that the water was stirred, they took up their patient, and plunged him in. This man had lost all his friends; thirty-eight years of illness had worn them all out; and he said, “I have no man to put me into the pool; how can I get into the water?” So there are many in this case; they want help. While I have been at Menton, I have had the joy of leading a number of friends to Christ. When I had to leave them, and come back to London, one and another of them said to me, “What can we do without you, sir: We shall have nobody to lead us in the right way now; no one to instruct us, no one to meet our objections, nobody to solve our doubts, nobody to whom we can tell the anxieties of our hearts.”
No doubt some of you would talk in the same fashion, and I must admit that the lack of a helper is serious. It is a great deprivation to have no man to help you in these things. Sometimes, if a friend will come up after the sermon, and just say a kindly word, it will do more good than the sermon itself. Many a poor troubled one, who has been a long time in prison, might have been sooner released if only some kind friend had reminded the brother of a divine promise which, like a key, would have opened the prison door. I agree with you that there is a great help in having an earnest Christian friend to lift you over a difficulty; to bear you down to the water’s edge to which you cannot go by yourself, and to put you into the pool. It is a great loss, certainly, if you have no such friend; and I am very sorry for you. You live in a village where there is nobody to speak to you about spiritual matters, or you attend a ministry that does not feed you. You have nobody to comfort you. There are not many, after all, who can really help sinners in coming to Christ. Some who try to do so are a great deal too wise, and others are too hard-hearted. It wants special training in the school of grace if anyone is to learn to sympathize with others so as to be able really to help them. I can suppose that one here is saying, “I have no mother to speak to; I have no Christian friend in the family; I have no one to whom I can go for help; and that is why I stick fast where I am.”
Well, a helper is very valuable; but I want to say that a helper may not he so valuable as you think. I have known some who have had plenty of Christian helpers while they were seeking the Lord; but none of them were able really to help them. If you trust in earthly helpers, and think them essential, God will not bless their efforts, and they will be of no use to you. I am afraid that many a seeker has had to say, even to good and earnest Christians, what Job said to his friends, “Miserable comforters are ye all.” After all, how can a man help you much in your soul’s affairs? No man can give you faith, or give you pardon; no man can give you spiritual life, or even spiritual light. Though you have no man to help you, remember that you can make too much of men, and you can trust too much in Christian helpers. I beg you to recollect that. I am afraid that there are some professors who have been helped a little too much. They heard a sermon, and were really impressed by it, and somebody was foolish enough to say to them, “That is conversion.” It never was conversion at all. The friend further said, “Now, come forward, and make a profession.” So they came forward, and made a profession of what they never had. Then the friend said, “Now, come to such a meeting; come and join the church. Come on;” and thus they were led, and led, and led, never having any real internal life, or spiritual energy given them from on high. They are just like children in go-carts, who are unable to walk alone. God save you from a religion that depends upon other people! There are some who have a kind of lean-to religion, resting on somebody else; when the support is taken away, what becomes of the lean-to? The good old lady who helped you for so many years dies; where is your religion then? The minister used to keep you going; you were like a whipping-top, and he like the whip that kept you spinning; when he is gone, where are you? Do not have a religion of that kind, I entreat you. Though a helper is very useful, remember that, under certain conditions, even a Christian helper may be a hinderer.
Now, my dear hearer, this is the point I have come to; you have to deal with Jesus to-night, and dealing with Jesus, you need “no man You have not to deal with pools and angels; you have to deal with the Lord Jesus himself. Suppose that there is no man to help you, do you want any man when Jesus is here? The man was wanted to put you into the pool; ho is not wanted to introduce you to Christ; you may speak to him yourself; you may sue out mercy for yourself; you may confess your sin yourself. You want no priest; you want a Mediator between your soul and God; but you do not want any mediator between your soul and Jesus. You may come to him where you are, and as you are. Come to him now; tell him your case; plead with him for mercy. He does not want my help; he does not want the help of the Archbishop of Canterbury; he does not want the help of anybody. He alone can meet your case. Just put your case into his hand; and then, if you have no man to be your helper, you need not lie down and fret about it; for he is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him.
Now this is all very plain talk; but we want plain talk nowadays. I feel as if I had not preached on Sunday, unless I had tried to bring men to Christ. There are many high and sublime doctrines that I would like to speak of, and many deep and rapturous experiences that I would like to describe; yet I feel that I must often leave these things, and keep to the much more commonplace, but much more useful matter of persuading men, in Christ’s stead, that they look away from man, and away from ordinances, and away from self, and deal with Jesus himself distinctly and directly; for then there will be no need of man, and certainly there will be no need of delay.
IV. This is my closing point. THE SAVIOUR MET THE MAN’S CASE ENTIRELY.
This impotent man has no man to help him; Christ can help him without any man. This man cannot move except with great pain. He has to crawl to the water’s edge; but he need not crawl there, he need not move an inch. The power to heal that man was in the Christ who stood there, commissioned of God to save sinners, and to help the helpless. Please to recollect that the power that saves, and all of it, is not in the saved man, but in the Christ who saves. I take leave to contradict those who say that salvation is an evolution. All that ever can be evolved out of the sinful heart of man is sin, and nothing else. Salvation is the free gift of God, by Jesus Christ, and the work of it is supernatural. It is done by the Lord himself, and he has power to do it, however weak, nay, however dead in sin, the sinner may be. As a living child of God, I can say to-night, that,—
“On a life I did not live,
On a death I did not die,
I stake my whole eternity.”
You who would be saved must do the same; you must look right out of self to him whom God has exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour to the sons of men. The Christ met that man’s case, for he was able to do anything for him that he required. He meets your case, my dear hearer, for he can do anything for you that is wanted. Between here and heaven’s gate, there shall never be anything required which he cannot give, or any help needed which he is not prepared to render, for he has all power in heaven and in earth.
Next, the Lord can do more for you than you ask of him. This poor man never asked anything of Christ, except by his looks, and by his lying there at the pool. If you feel to-night as if you could not pray, if you have needs that you cannot describe, if there is something wanted, and you do not know what it is, Christ can give it to you. You shall know what it is that you want when you get it; but perhaps now, in his mercy, he does not let you know all your needs. But here is the point, he “is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.” May he do it in you to-night! Take comfort from the cure of the impotent man, cherish hope, and say, “Why should he not also heal me?”
Now the way in which Christ worked was very singular. He worked by a command. It is not a way that you and I would have selected; nor a way of which some nominal Christians approve. He said to this man, “Rise.” He could not rise. “Take up thy bed.” He could not take up his bed; he had been thirty-eight years unable to get off his bed. “Take up thy bed, and walk.” Walk? He could not walk. I have heard some objectors say, “That preacher says to people, ‘Believe.’ They cannot believe. He bids them ‘Repent.’ They cannot repent.” Ah! well, our Lord is our example; and he said to this man, who could not rise, and could not take up his bed, and could not walk, “Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.” That was his way of exercising his divine power; and that is the way in which Christ saves men to-day. He gives us faith enough to say, “Ye dry bones, hear the Word of the Lord I” They cannot hear. “Thus saith the Lord, Ye dry bones, live!” They cannot live; but they do hear, and they do live; and while we are acting by faith, delivering a command which looks, upon the surface of it, to be absurd and unreasonable, the work of Christ is done by that command. Did he not say of old in the darkness, “Let there be light”? To what spake the Lord that word of power? To darkness, and to nothingness. “And there was light.” Now, he speaks to the sinner, and he says, “Believe, and live.” He believes, and he lives. God wants those of his messengers, who have the faith to give his command, to let the sinner know that he has not the strength to obey, that he is morally lost and ruined, and yet to say, in the name of the eternal God, “Thus saith the Lord, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. Believe, repent, be converted, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” This is the way in which Christ’s power goes forth to the sons of men. He said to the man with the withered hand, “Stretch forth thine hand,” and he did so; and he says to the dead, “Come forth,” and they do come forth. His commandings are attended with enablings; and where his commands are faithfully preached, his power goes with them, and men are saved.
I close with this observation. In obedience, power was given. The man did not stop and wrangle with Christ, and say, “Rise? What dost thou mean? Thou lookest like a friend; but dost thou come here to make sport of me? Rise? Thirty and eight years have I been lying here, and thou sayest, ‘Rise.’ Dost thou think that there has over been a minute in those eight and thirty years in which I would not have gladly risen if I could have done so, and yet thou sayest, ‘Rise,’ and thou sayest, ‘Take up thy bed. Shoulder the rug on which thou liest.’ How can I do so? It is thirty and eight years since I could lift a pound weight, and thou bidst me shoulder this mat on which I lie. Dost thou make me a theme of jest? And walk? Thou sayest, ‘Walk.’ Walk? Hear me, ye sick ones around me, he tells me to walk! I can scarcely lift even a finger, yet he bids me walk!” Thus he might have argued the matter out, and it would have been a very logical piece of argument, and the Saviour would have stood convicted of having spoken empty words.
Instead of speaking thus, no sooner did Christ say to him, “Rise,” than he willed to rise; and as he willed to rise, he moved to rise, and rise he did, to his own astonishment. He rose, and stooping down, rolled up his mattress, all the while filled with wonder, every part of his body singing as he rolled it up, and put it on his shoulder with alacrity. To his surprise, he found that the joints of his feet and legs could move, and he walked right away with his mattress on his shoulder; and the miracle was complete. Stop, man, stop! Come here! Now, had you the strength to do this of yourself? “No, not I. I lay there eight and thirty years; I had no strength till that word ‘Rise,’ came to me.” “But did you do it?” “Oh! yes, you see that I did it. I rose; I folded up the mattress; and I walked away.” “But you were under some kind of compulsion, that made you move your legs and your hands, were you not?” “Oh! no; I did it freely, cheerfully, gladly. Compel me to do it? My dear sir, I clap my hands for joy to think that I could do it. I do not want to go back to that old mat, and lie there again; not I.” “Then what did you do?” “Well, I scarcely know what I did. I believed him, and I did what he told me; and a strange, mysterious power came over me; that is the whole story.” “Now explain it; tell these people all about it.” “Oh! no,” says the man, “I know that it is so; but I cannot explain it. One thing I know, whereas I was a cripple, now I can walk; whereas I was impotent, now I can carry my bed; whereas I was lying there, now I can stand upright.”
I cannot explain salvation to you to-night, or how it takes place; but I remember when I sat in the pew as despairing a sinner as ever lived. I heard the preacher say, “Look unto Christ, and live.” He seemed to say to me, “Look! Look! Look! Look!” and I did look, and I lived. That moment, the burden of my sin was gone; I was crippled with unbelief no longer; I went home a sinner saved by grace, to live to praise the Lord; and—
“E’er since by faith I saw the stream
His flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die.”
I am impressed that I am going to have ever so many to-night who will just obey the gospel command, “Believe, and live. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” Oh, do it! Do it now; and unto God be glory, and to thyself be peace and happiness for ever! Amen and Amen.
Exposition C. H. Spurgeon.
JOHN V. 1— 23.
Verse 1. After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
For he had respect to the Law. As long as the Law lasted, Christ observed it. Oh, that we were as careful to obey the rules of the Gospel as our Lord was to observe the ritual of the Law! Moreover, he went up to Jerusalem because he had an opportunity of addressing great numbers of people there. While I have been resting at Menton, I have been very glad to be of service to a few friends who were either seeking the Saviour, or needing some guidance in their spiritual life; but I cannot tell you how happy I am to be once more in the Tabernacle, preaching to the great congregation. Fishermen like to cast their nets where there are plenty of fish; and fishers of men delight to be where there are many men who may be enclosed in the gospel net. “After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.”
2. Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.
This pool of Bethesda was rightly called “the house of mercy”; but it might have been just as truly named “the house of misery”; for its “five porches” were the abode of many who were in misery, and who needed mercy.
3. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk,
Invalid persons, diseased, and scarcely able to move.
3. Of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.
What a sight for the Great Physician to look upon! The whole world must have been to him like one huge hospital, full of “impotent folk, blind, halt, withered.” Wherever he went, he was surrounded by the sick, and sad, and suffering, those who were afflicted physically, mentally, and spiritually. But there was a special reason for the gathering together of so many sufferers at the pool of Bethesda.
4. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.
It was the last remnant of miracle. Such things were common enough in Judea in her better days; but now the times of the prophets had ceased, and the day of miracles was almost over. Here, at Bethesda, were just a few relics and remnants of the good old days. Only one was cured, he that stepped into the pool first after the angel had troubled the water. It was but a scanty power that was left to the troubled water; but it was quite enough, if only one in a thousand was healed, to bring a crowd of people to wait around the pool. If only one person in a year were saved, I should not wonder if you thronged the place to hear the gospel that saved him; but your privilege is much greater. Here all who come, if they will hear and believe, shall find healing. It is not the first only, but even unto the last who shall step into the pool, that shall be healed.
5. And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.
That was a great proportion of the man’s life. If he was a full-grown man when he was attacked with the infirmity, he had now become old and grey. What a long time to be afflicted, thirty and eight years! Have we not with us at this time some who have been afflicted with the soul-sickness of sin more than thirty and eight years?
6. When Jesus saw him lie,
The Great Physician fixed his eye on him, for his was an extraordinary case. Probably he was known and talked of as the man who had been paralyzed eight and thirty years. Note that it does not say, “When the man saw Jesus,” but “when Jesus saw him.” He did not know Jesus; possibly he had not even heard of his healing power and compassionate love. He was not seeking Jesus; but Jesus was seeking him. It was so with many of us; and therefore we sing,—
“Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed his precious blood.”
When Jesus saw the impotent man,—
6. And knew that he had been now a long time in that case,
And a long time in that place, too,—
6. He saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?
That must have seemed a strange question. What was he there for, if not to be made whole? But I will show you, by-and-by, that there was wisdom in the question of Jesus. It was no idle curiosity that moved him to enquire of the man whether he was willing to be made whole.
7. The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming,
Shuffling along, as best I may, to the water’s edge,—
7. Another steppeth down before me.
Then, of course, the curative miracle is wrought, and the curative power of the water is gone until another season, when the angel troubles it again.
8, 9. Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath.
This is our Sabbath. Oh, that we might have the same miracle wrought here to-night, upon many spiritually impotent folk!
10, 11. The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed. He answered them,
And he did answer them, too. It was a crushing answer.
11. He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk.
That was his warrant. None but God could have made him whole. God can set aside any of his laws if he pleases; at any rate, whatever he commands, must be right.
12. Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk?
They asked, “What man” had given this command. Why, if it had been a mere man who had said it, the impotent man could not either have taken up his bed, or have walked!
13. And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place.
He never sought notoriety; but avoided popular demonstrations in his favour. The man who had been healed had exercised faith in Jesus, but he knew very little about him. A certain something in the air and mien of Christ had won his faith; but he did not know his name, or who he was. How small may be your knowledge, and yet you may be saved by true faith!
14. Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, a worse thing come unto thee.
Probably, this man’s illness had been caused by sin. Christ bids him henceforth keep clear of sin, lest a worse calamity should come upon him.
15. The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole.
Full of joy, full of delight, he must tell out the name of him who had cured him, as grateful patients like to sound the praises of their physician when he has been the means of healing them.
16. And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day.
This was a mere pretence, an idle excuse for their enmity. They not only hated Christ; but they must besmear him with their calumnies, and make him out to be an evil-doer although he was goodness itself.
17. But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.
The whole work of nature is continued on Sabbath-days as well as other days. Stars shine through the Sabbath-night, and the sun rises and sets on the Lord’s-day as on all the days of the week. God’s work continues. “My Father worketh,” saith Christ, “and I work.” “My work is my Father’s work, and that goes on whatever the day may be.”
18. Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.
They did not understand him to preach Unitarianism; they understood him to proclaim his own true and proper Godhead, and he never contradicted them, for he was God.
19. Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.
Christ’s work runs parallel with that of the Father. The Father and the Son ever work in perfect harmony with one another.
20— 22. For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel. For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will. For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgrnent unto the Son:
The Son, as well as the Father, is the Quickener of the dead. The Son is also the Judge of all men.
23. That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father, he that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.
As the universal Judge, the Lord Jesus is to be honoured by all men, “even as they honour the Father.” Whatever others may do, or not do, we will honour the Father, we will honour the Son, and we will honour the Holy Spirit, three in one and one in three, the one God of Israel, for ever and ever.