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said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. 14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well!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.
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