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22nd April 2001

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Scripture Reference

JOHN 5:1-19

Hardly a day goes by without some frustrated person talking to me about their illness. I think of one young man who regularly contacts me about his schizophrenia. He was a normal teenager with quite normal mental health, but smoking marijuana started the on-set of schizophrenia. His mental condition is so bad he is permanently unfit to work. He may never work for the rest of his life. At home on sickness benefits he is full of frustration, blaming society for not preventing the sale of marijuana and for not warning young people of the consequences of smoking it.

Many people turn to the church in such frustration seeking healing. They have a greater belief in the power of Jesus to heal than many in the church who suffer from constant illness. Many confuse the church's ministry of healing with one aspect of it: healing crusades or special services. Faith healers are seen as the church's contribution to healing, and faith healers have become discredited both in the eyes of the secular unbelieving community, and in the eyes of an embarrassed church. That people are healed by non-medical means, we no longer doubt. But faith-healers are not the normal means through which God uses Christian people in the work of healing today. Christians in very large numbers use their personal and professional skills in their employment to be the means through which God heals. Christian doctors, nurses, therapists, para-medical specialists of many kinds, seek to be God's agents in healing today. Modern people are preoccupied with health. More than any generation, more than those who consult soothsayers, witch-doctors, or voodoo priests, our generation seeks health.

We seek health from whoever promises it by conventional or alternative medicine, fitness gurus or vegetarian dietitians, quacks or charlatans. By any means we demand good health and we believe the Government should pay for us to have good health! We have Medicare, health benefit funds, medical insurance, personal fitness disciplines, alternate medicines, chiropractors and naturopaths, self-medication, new age and religious healing ministries. We should know what the scriptures say about healing. Those who read the scriptures after hearing faith healers get a surprise!

The healing of physical illness is rare in the Bible. There are about fifty references indicating God can heal us, but not many examples of miraculous healing. There are many entreaties like: "So Moses cried out to the LORD, "O God, please heal her!" Num 12: 13; "O LORD, have mercy on me; heal me, for I have sinned against you." Psa. 41:4; "Heal me, O LORD, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved." Jer 17:14; and promises like: "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." 2 Chron. 7:14 The healings in the Old Testament are mostly in the ministry of Elijah and Elisha, and in the New Testament they are centred in the ministry of Jesus where 23 healing miracles are recorded. Jesus was known as a healer. The New Testament has about thirty references as: "Jesus said to him, " I will go and heal him." Matt 8:7; "He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness." Matt 10:1;

The Apostles healed people on occasions. Peter and John prayed: "Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus." Acts 4:30. Paul healed several people. There are virtually no other examples from the early church. Most the healings in the Bible centre in the work of Jesus Christ. There are many illustrations in the scriptures of Jesus confronting the inner turmoils of disturbed people. He brought them peace and integration by his confronting their inner conflicts, guilt and their demons. The madman of Gadara found a wonderful counselor who heals a man torn in body and mind. The town's people rushed to see what had happened. They found the man clothed, in his right mind, and seated at the feet of Jesus. Jesus confronted a woman burdened with guilt at a well. That woman at Sychar tried to throw Jesus off the track by asking religious questions about the place of worship. But Jesus persisted: "Go and call your husband and come back." She answered, "I don't have a husband." Jesus replied, "You are right when you say you don't have a husband. You have been married to five men and the man you live with now is not your husband." 4:16-18. His confrontation led to her healing.

Jesus used confrontation in healing the frustrated man at the pool of Bethesda. The man had been lying there for 38 years yet Jesus asked: " Do you want to get well?" And when the man answered with bitterness and resentment: "Sir, I don't have anyone here to put me in the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am trying to get in, somebody else gets there first." Jesus confronted him: "Get up, pick up your mat, and walk!" 5:6-8.

Most healing today is through doctors and nurses who use conventional medicine and who demonstrate Christian faith in their caring and praying for patients. Most healing in the modern church comes about not in tent crusades or Pentecostal Churches, but in hospitals like St Vincent's, St John of God, St Joseph's, St Luke's, St Andrew's, Bethesda, Epworth, Wesley, Wandene and Lottie Stewart, and in surgeries and consulting rooms in Macquarie St., Milton Street, or Help Street. Wesley Mission believes in the healing of the whole person: emotional, spiritual, psychological and physical health are all essential. I know of no other church in the world that employs more than 700 full-time staff dedicated to caring for the sick and seeking to make people whole. Wesley Mission is a centre of complementary healing.

In our ministry we have health professionals: professors, doctors, psychiatrists, nurses, radiologists, pharmacists, therapists; health administrators: CEO'S, treasurers, chairmen, Board Members; health workers: counselors, elders, chaplains, prayer groups, crisis intervention teams, and health centres: hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, rehabilitation and therapy centres, medical suites and counseling centres; as well as therapeutic activities: worship services, physio units, pools, supportive groups and healing services. We employ Christian people to enable the total task of healing to be completed. Wesley Mission is a multi-faceted ministry, a centre of complementary healing of the body, mind and spirit, by all of the means at our disposal through the skills of faithful Christians.

At the Pool at Bethesda, the place known as "The House of Mercy", Jesus liberated the frustrated invalid. A later scribe explained their belief: v4 "they waited for the moving of the waters. From time to time an angel of the Lord would come down and stir up the waters. The first one into the pool after each such disturbance would be cure of whatever disease he had." The waters bubbled up from an underground spring and they believed the first one in would be healed. Excavations show it was surrounded by five colonnades.

The people congregated at the pool, hoping to be cured. John 5:2-9 "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 paralyzed." Jesus did three things for him and for you:

  1. Jesus makes you see your real self. v5 "One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to get well?" Could you imagine him replying: "Want to get well? Want to? What do you think? Why have I been here all these years?" Note the respect Jesus has for the patient to present his own views. Patients must desire recovery. I have heard older people say, "Don't let them try anything else. I am happy for God to take me home." After years as an invalid, they do not want to be healed because of the problems that creates. This man, if healed, would have to get a job, learn to keep himself and his family instead of depending upon the charity of those who pitied his suffering.

    I have known people who prefer to have the pity of others for their invalidism rather than get a job and keep themselves. I have known some to keep their suffering and refuse treatment that could heal them. The pain of being well and independent is greater than the pain of being an invalid and dependent. Confinement to a bed and mat for thirty-eight years would leave the sufferer so weak he would be unable to walk or even stand. Jesus selected an older person who was needy. So why Jesus' question? Who does not want to be healed from invalidism? Yet the question also implies an appeal to his will, which may also have become paralyzed. Jesus challenged the man's will to be cured.
  2. Jesus makes you see your real problems. The real problem was not with what the man suffered, but with his hidden problems. Illness is frequently a symptom not a cause. The real cause lies deeper. Note what he replied to Jesus: v7 "Sir, 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." There was the problem: "someone else goes down ahead of me." Someone who had not been there nearly so long. Someone who pushed in ahead of his turn. The invalid's reply shows that he had lost his independent determination. He was waiting for somebody to assist him. Such efforts as he had been able to make had proved futile. He was despairing of success and full of resentment at these others who pushed in. Resentment. Bitterness. Frustration. Negative forces that can caused deep psychological problems, and certainly enough to prevent healing. Just ask any of our 69 doctors and psychiatrists working at Wesley or Wandene Hospitals about the physical impact of negative forces.
  3. Jesus makes you face a new challenge. v8-9 "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 frustrated invalid wanted someone to put him in the water so he could have a hope of being cured. Jesus challenged him to do something entirely new. The man wanted hydrotherapy, but Jesus was giving him psychotherapy! The healing was not a response to a request, nor did it presuppose an expression of faith on the part of the man. Jesus asked him to do the impossible, to stand on his feet, pick up his bedroll, and go his way. Renewed by the miraculous influx of new power, the man responded at once and did so. Jesus supplied even the will to be cured!

Sometimes the challenge of Jesus is to a new experience. This man was given two commands: Rise! Walk! Both were beyond his expectation and capacity. Sometimes the challenge is to live creatively within our limitations. The healing is of our attitudes and outlook. Jesus makes us new on the inside but the outside may still have the same handicap. Many people learn that their illness is not healed; the paralysis remains; the disability is still there. But they have been renewed on the inside. They can live a totally different life because within they are brand new people. Sometimes the challenge of healing is to see the healing does not take place in this life, but only in heaven. Completeness is not made here on earth, but only in eternity. So Jesus encourages us to accept whatever new challenge He has for us. Jesus calls people to come to Him and find wholeness. We invite you to receive Him as Saviour and Lord. We will pray with you for divine healing of your frustration and disability. You simply trust Him.

"Everything to Gain" Jimmy Carter p62 

Rev Dr Gordon Moyes


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