A MIRACLE PARABLE
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
March 15, 2020
1 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. 5 One 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.
10 So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” 11 But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’” 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. 14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. 16 And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”
18 This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
— John 5:1-18, ESV
John’s Gospel contains no parables, but it does record seven significant miracles. Every miracle is a parable. In this one, the third of seven, sickness and disability represents sin and depravity, while the healing is a sign of salvation.
This is not to say that every case of sickness is caused by a sick person’s sin. But it is true that we are all sinners. As surely as sick people long to be healed, all people should long to be saved from the penalty, power, and ultimately the presence of sin.
Jesus performed miracles of healing to point people to the greatest miracle of all, salvation. The miracles were given by the grace of God, promoting faith in God, pointing people to the truth that Jesus is the Son of God and the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
We should all long to hear Jesus say to us, spiritually and eternally, “See, you are well!”
He is simply called “the sick man” among “a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed.” He was at least one and perhaps all three. His condition had persisted for 38 years, most if not all of his life. He was sick and tired of being sick and tired, as noted by his pessimistic tone. He had no idea that this would be the day of his salvation, physically speaking and perhaps more, from his problems.
I’ve stood beside this very pool in Jerusalem. It is called St. Anne’s Pool today. It is normally dry, revealing a deep hole from which an underground spring occasionally pours in warm, salty water. In Jesus’ day there was a superstition that this water was brought by an angel. Verse 4 is omitted from most translations, but not verse 7.
The man sought healing through superstition, but superstition did not save him. It is not true, of course, but some thought the angel’s water would heal the first one in the pool. Superstitions can provoke powerful psychological responses. Cripples have cast away crutches at so-called healing services, due to adrenaline from the pentecostal preacher’s fevered pitch, eventually to find their condition worse than it was before. Many a soul has been allegedly saved during a so-called altar call, only to plunge even deeper into a life of sin after the singing stops. Superstitions can created a temporary balm, but they are not a sure source of genuine healing.
The man sought healing through science, but science did not save him. Take superstition out of the equation and consider the benefits of hot, spring water (as our own town of Hot Springs can attest, as well as Warm Springs in my native Georgia). Such water can ease one’s pain, but it cannot cure the cause of pain and suffering, especially in this man’s case. There was no medicine, no surgical procedure, no scientific discovery available in his day to cure his sickness, so science could not save him. Science is wonderful, but it is not needed to prove the existence of God and should never be allowed to take the place of God.
The man sought healing through religion, but religion did not save him. Religion reeks through this entire episode. He was a Jewish man, in the capital of the Jewish people, at one of the three main festivals of the Jewish year, on the most holy day of the Jewish week. In spite of his invalid condition, he found a way to keep the Jewish religion and all its pertaining rituals, yet no religious prayer or person had been able to save him for 38 years. Religion is the road many people take to try to get to Heaven, but it always ends on a dead end street.
As to this man’s physical condition, which is parabolic of his spiritual condition, this man was doomed to be a cripple for all of his life and there was nothing that superstition nor science nor religion could do about it. Then, he met Jesus.
Note that the sick man’s deliverance from sickness did not come about because he was searching for Jesus. He couldn’t even walk. He was not healed because he sowed a seed of a hundred dollars or more into Jesus’ television ministry, as there was no religious television back then (and how we wish there were none now). His miracle was not the result of anything he had said, done, or accomplished for God. He was saved, physically, only because of what God did for him.
God gave the sick man grace. Grace is undeserved favor; therefore, no one deserves the grace of God. Yet God gives grace, to some, not all. Grace is not a guarantee for all, but a gift for some. Jesus chose to come to this sick man, passing by a multitude of others in the same condition. Why God chooses to give grace to some and pass by others is a mystery known only to God. And the truth still stands, “Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (ref. Joel 2:32; Romans 10:13). But it is also the God “has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills” (ref. Romans 9:18). This sick man found grace in the eyes of Jesus, which led him to faith.
God gave the sick man His word, which inspired faith and repentance. Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” Faith is taking God at His word and acting in complete trust and obedience. Repentance is turning away from sin and giving God control of your life. The sick man obeyed Jesus and got up and walked. On the same day Christ commanded him, “Sin no more,” and we are left to hope the man’s repentance was as sincere as his faith. So the sick man was saved, so to speak, by faith, and saving faith is the product, not the prompter, of saving grace.
God gave the sick man His Son, in more ways that one. It was Jesus, God incarnate, who came to the sick man, gave the sick man grace, and enabled the sick man to have faith and repentance. It was not superstition nor science nor religion that saved him. Jesus saved him.
In doing so, as the end of the miracle parable tells us, Jesus laid down His life. His power to perform miracles was a direct claim to the Father’s work, to equality with God. Doing them on the Sabbath violated the extra-biblical and extortionist rules of the Pharisees. “This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.”
Jesus knew what He was doing, He knew when He was doing it, and He knew why He did it. It was to ignite and acquiesce to the very conspiracy that would cast Him upon the cross, where He willingly gave His life to all would be saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is above superstition. Buying a Roman Catholic indulgence nor walking the aisle of a Baptist church cannot save someone’s soul. The gospel of Jesus Christ is greater than science, which can make a person live longer, but not forever. The gospel of Jesus Christ is infinitely more satisfying than religion. It is relationship that matters, being rightly related through the covenant of grace to the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who alone can save.
Jesus saves when God’s grace is shed on thee, granting faith and repentance. When Jesus saves, a spiritually dibbled person will rise up, walk with God, and follow the Lord. This is a miracle, as understood though this parable. It is a miracle parable of salvation, by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
WINE, A MAN, AND A WORD FROM GOD
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
March 1, 2020
43 After the two days he departed for Galilee. 44 (For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.) 45 So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. For they too had gone to the feast.
46 So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. 48 So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” 49 The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. 51 As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. 52 So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” 53 The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household. 54 This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.
— John 4:43-54, ESV
The first time Christ came to Cana in Galilee it was all about wine, women, and song. He turned plain water into fine wine. A woman, His mother, Mary, asked Him to do it. When He did, the headwaiter sang its praises as the wedding celebration continued. In John’s Gospel, this is the first of seven specific “signs” pointing to the truth that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Cana posts the second “sign,” too. It seems the legend of the wine provoked a request from a man this time, a father from Capernaum. He has walked over twenty miles and climbed a high mountain to reach the Lord. He has lost his song because he is losing his son to some terrible sickness. Jesus does not make more wine, nor offer him a song, but gives him something infinitely more valuable. Jesus Christ gives him His word, and His word is the word of God.
The word of God comes to those who honor the Lord Jesus Christ
The citizens of Cana welcomed Jesus but they did not honor Him. Jesus had the same problem in His hometown of Nazareth, almost adjacent to Cana, where they would also welcomed Him before trying to throw Him down a cliff. Chaucer famously wrote, “Familiarity breeds contempt,” and this was true even of the Messiah, especially where He grew from childhood to manhood.
Jesus eventually set up His earthly ministry headquarters twenty-two miles away from His home town in the fishing village of Capernaum. Here we may have a clue as to why. John’s second “sign,” and one of the earliest miracles Jesus performed, was for a son of Capernaum, whose father gave Jesus the honor He is due.
The unnamed man was an “official,” a word which stands for a king or a member of the king’s court. He would have been a member of the ruling class of mostly Gentiles, who lorded themselves over the Jews in Palestine. He was a man of means and power, way above the Jewish peasants of Galilee. He was honored wherever he went, but now he bows before a Jewish carpenter’s son, and in his own way honors Jesus as God, because he asks Jesus to do something only God could do.
Until a man humbles himself before the Lord, he will never get a word from the Lord. This man from Capernaum did, and did.
The word of God comes to those who ask the Lord Jesus Christ
Jesus said, also at a point early in His ministry, “Ask, and it will be given to you …” (ref. Matthew 7:7ff). His half-brother, James, would later write, “You do not have, because you do not ask” (ref. James 4:2). This man asked, and it was a big ask. He asked God to do something only God could do, namely heal his sick and dying son.
God’s grace saves, granting eternal life to those who were dead in their sins. How can a dead man ask for favor from God? It is he first impulse of faith, “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (ref. Romans 10:13; Joel 2:32)! God is sovereign, yet salvation is for those who ask.
God’s providence provides for us in so many ways, for as Jesus said, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (ref. Matthew 6:8). But as soon as Jesus said this, He turned right around and taught us to pray, to ask God for things, with the right words and the right spirit.
This official from Capernaum asked. Had he not, God’s sovereignty notwithstanding, he would not have gotten a word from God and his son would have never been healed. Until a man asks something from God, he will never receive anything from God. So, honor God, by asking God, and then will come the hardest part. You have to trust God.
The word of God comes to those who trust the Lord Jesus Christ
The man asked Jesus to “come,” but Jesus told the man to “Go.”
My youngest daughter, Courtney Grace, was only 11 when she came home from space camp with a what seemed to be a cold, maybe the flu. We took her to our family physician, Dr. Bennett, who ordered a chest x-ray, then a helicopter flight to the nearest major medical center. At first I thought it was a bit much for a cold or flu, but I trusted the word of our doctor. By the time we arrived, one of her lungs had collapsed and the other was in danger of collapsing. She spent ten days in the hospital with a tube in her chest. I trusted the good doctor. I trusted the Great Physician. She lived.
Jesus did not go to Capernaum with the man. Jesus did not send a helicopter to fetch his son. Jesus simply gave the man His word, “Your son will live.” What did the man do? “The man believed the word that Jesus spoke.”
There is that word again in John’s Gospel, “believe.” Once again it is a verb, once again in the active tense. It means to trust and obey, constantly, as if your life, or your child’s life, depends upon it.
This was not an easy thing for this man to do. Trusting and obeying God seldom is easy. This man could not make the eight or nine hour trip back home that day. He had to wait until the next day to see if his son was alive. He had trusted Jesus to heal him. Jesus gave him His word He would. And of course, He did.
Faith is trusting God to do what only God can do, and trusting God to do it, whatever it is, according to His will (ref. 1 John 5:14). God’s ultimate will is to save His people and bring them home to Heaven. He is going to do whatever He must do to accomplish His will. This temporary healing of the Capernaum official’s son (the young man would get sick again, eventually become an old man, and die), furthered Christ’s cause of salvation.
Sometimes we have prayed and asked God to heal, and God’s will was to take our loved one’s life into the life to come. We honor God when we ask God, we ask God to do His will, not our own, and trust that God will work out all things for ultimate good (ref. Romans 8:28ff). What matters is that we honor God, we ask God, and we trust God to do the right thing. And He will, according to His word.
The word of God saves those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ
Please understand that the best part of this story is the end, not the beginning or middle. John’s second sign points not healing from sickness, but salvation from sin. This man believed twice, and was saved once, and once is all it takes.
At the end of the next to last verse, “And he himself believed.” He trusted, he surrendered, he committed, not merely his son to the Great Physician, but mainly his soul to the great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. The healing helped, for it was a “sign” to point him to the Messiah. It is a “sign” for you and me, too, and for all who read the Gospel of John.
The question is, do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? Do you believe He was, is, and always will be God? Do you believe He is the Son of God and the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world? Do you trust Him to save you and give you eternal life? Will you give Him your life, from now to eternity, and trust and obey Him with every person, place, and thing in your life? Only when Jesus is your Lord can Jesus be your Savior.
And, the soul you save may not just be your own.
The word of God spreads through those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ
“And he himself believed, and all his household.”
Remember “E Unum Pluribus,” the Samaritan woman at the well we met in the previous text? Out of one who came to faith, many came to faith in Jesus Christ. Here she is, or he is, again. Out of his faith in Jesus, his whole household came to faith in Jesus. Salvation, especially when it spreads, is a wonderful thing.
Jesus had not even physically come to their house, yet. The Lord would take up headquarters in Capernaum. Simon Peter’s house was there. The Zebedee’s, James and his brother, John, our Gospel writer, had their fishing business there. And this royal official’s house was there, the man Christ first met in Cana of Galilee, where this second “sign” occurred.
Can you imagine the joy in that house when Jesus walked in, when their faith became sight? Can you imagine the joy in your heart when you walk into Heaven, into Jesus’ home, your home, forever?
Heaven is for those who trust and obey the gospel of Jesus Christ. Honor the Lord, ask the Lord, and trust the Lord. This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org