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19. Good News for the Sick

b) An Invalid Healed at the Pool of Bethesda

Physical illness does cause human beings to suffer bodily pain. In such cases a person who is aware of such a cause and its consequences may find a remedy for the aberration more in turning away from evil and turning to God than taking medicines. Let us consider here the healing of a man who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.

“Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie – the blind, the lame, the paralysed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him laying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’ ‘Sir,’ the invalid replied, ‘I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.’ At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, ‘It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.’ But he replied, ‘The man who made me well said to me, ‘ Pick up your mat and walk’ ’ So they asked him, ‘Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?’ The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, ‘See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.’ The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who made him well. So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. Jesus said to them, ‘My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.’ For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. Jesus gave them this answer: ‘I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father. He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father, who sent him.’ ” (John 5:1-23)

The ruins of the pool of Bethesda (“House of Mercy”) in Jerusalem are still to be seen. It was here that Jesus, a stranger to the invalid, asked the invalid a strange question: “Do you want to be healed?” When Jesus told him to get up, pick up his mat and walk, he did exactly what Jesus ordered.

The man had obeyed Jesus. The cure was instantaneous. Later when Jesus met him again, He told him: “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”

Was Jesus’ comment a suggestion that the man had suffered because of his sinful conduct? It seems so. In any case, it is clear that many chronic and disastrous disorders, in that day and today, are direct consequences of sinful indulgence. Sin has rendered many a life impotent. And, of course, the consequences of such sinful behaviour are more serious than any physical illness.

True, not all sin issues in physical deformities. Yet, in fact, the whole Bible clearly testifies that sin has touched all people since the time of Adam and Eve and that all people, in fact, have imitated the fall of their first parents, Adam and Eve. Nor are you and I exceptions. We, too, have fallen into sin. And that is why Holy Scriptures call all people to repent. Indeed all the prophets have called people to repent. In the Holy Bible Jesus’ first words of His ministry are a call to repentance.

What then does repentance mean? It means:

1. We must recognise the nature of sin, the sinfulness of sin. Sin arises from the sinfulness of our inner being, the corruption of our hearts. As the prophet Jeremiah declared: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

All of us have needed to learn moral instruction. But did anyone have to teach us how to be immoral or how to do evil?

2. We must recognise that God, not we, defines what sin is. God measures sin with reference to His Ten Commandments. These can be summarized as follows:

a. You shall love the Lord with all your heart and with all your mind.
b. You shall love your neighbour as yourself.

Have you loved God in the way that He commands you to love Him? Have you loved your neighbour – not just your relatives, friends or countrymen but even your enemies – as God wants you to love them?

3. We must recognise that our sin is first and foremost sin against God. God is holy. Therefore sin is rebellion against God. It makes us unclean and, like a wall, separates us from God. It breaks communication between God and us. In this sense every sin against God is the sin of idolatry. Said the great king and prophet David, “Against you (God), you only, have I sinned … .” (Psalm 51:4)

4. When we truly understand God’s holiness and the seriousness of our sin, we will begin to understand that only God can break down the wall of sin which we have constructed. Indeed, only He, by His grace, not we ourselves and our works, can save us from our sin and guilt. For this reason God has sent Jesus into our world to save us.

To understand these four points and to act upon this knowledge by resolving to turn away from the devil and turn to God for forgiveness of sin and a clean heart: this is what repentance is all about.

Could this be your invitation to repent?

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