Last time we looked at the miracle of water into wine, described as a ‘sign of glory’, a powerful demonstration of the transformation that Jesus brings to earth from heaven.
This time we are focusing on two more signs, the healing of the official’s son and the healing of the lame man, showing us how healing is a clear sign of the kingdom and how Jesus used faith and walked in grace.
Sign of Faith : Healing of the Official’s Son
He is back in Cana for a healing miracle. The place of transformation is now the place of healing.
The place seems to be significant, we are supposed to make some comparisons with the changing of water into wine and this miracle
- both are 3rd day miracles (4:43)
- both contain a rebuke (2:4; 4:48)
- Jesus performs the miracles at a distance, just speaking a word
- servants possess unique knowledge of what happened
- people believed as a result (2:11; 4:53)
- one was a scene of joy and one a scene of sadness
The nobleman, a high ranking member of the community, a government official or even royalty, had a sick son, no doubt was a bit desperate. Who knows, he was probably at the wedding and had already tasted of the new wine! He comes to Jesus, travelling 25 miles, to beg Jesus to do a miracle!
Jesus gets frustrated that they need signs all the time. They are missing the point of the kingdom, its not about seeing then believing its about believing then seeing. Kingdom mentality doesn’t wait for the evidence of what we see with our natural eyes, no we hear the word of God and operate by faith in the word.
Just as an aside, in our desire for signs and wonders don’t loose sight of the fact that the sign points to Jesus and is supposed to leave you wondering about him. Here is Jesus, logos creator of the universe, getting frustrated at the fact that they are talking with God (to him) but still they want a miracle.
Faith is not about convincing yourself, faith is hanging on to what God has said to you. If you are not sure what he has said, or don’t know how to hear from God then you are going to struggle in your faith.
The world has a proverb ‘seeing is believing’ but the walk of faith is ‘believing is seeing’. When it comes to the things of the kingdom we need to access them by faith and not from what we see. The man went away having had his faith activated, he saw from the perspective of faith.
Word spoken (4:49-53)
The healing happened at the time when the word left Jesus’ mouth. The story here is teaching us about the power of spoken commands. John has already established Jesus as logos word (1:1), well here we see it in operation. Jesus speaks and there is a power in the purposes that are achieved when the word is spoken.
No word spoken by God returns to him without accomplishing what it was intended to accomplish (Is 55:11).
So why do our words not have the same effect? We are supposed to be able to ask for anything and it will happen. In the ‘I am Vine’ passage (Jn15;7), the success to get what we ask for is directly connected to our capacity to remain or abide in Jesus. So here we see this at work. Jesus is able to speak and the thing he speaks comes into being, it is because he knows how to abide in his father.
2nd Sign (4:54)
The first sign (Water into Wine) was about transformation. The second sign is about healing as a sign of the kingdom, the power of the spoken word to accomplish it, and faith as being the way we operate the kingdom of God.
Sign of Grace : Healing of the Lame Man
The action moves to Jerusalem. The sheep gate is one of the many gates that surrounds the city and is symbolic of its trading nature and the place of sacrifice. Jerusalem is the centre of temple worship and would eventually be the pace that saw the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, Jesus.
Bethesda means ‘house of mercy’ or “house of grace”, and here Jesus finds a man in need of the lavish grace of heaven.
“The first (water to wine) shows that salvation is through the Word of God. The second (healing the nobleman’s son) shows that salvation is by faith. This third miracle demonstrates that salvation is by grace” – W. W. Wiersbe
It sounds like a hospital waiting room, sick people lined up waiting for a miracle to happen. Something must have happened in this place historically for it to be seen as a place of miracle.
Its much the same as people who are sick coming to a meeting where the healing evangelist prays for the sick, expectation is high but we don’t always get the miracles we hope for.
Comparing the contexts of the of the ‘signs’ so far, we have a joyous wedding feast, a noble man seeking help and now the poorest of poor needing a miracle – the gospel is truly for all! The lame man who is the subject of Jesus’ attention, has probably been there most of his life, being lame 38 years.
A bit of background, it was an historic story of an angel visiting this pool that caused this legend, and by all accounts continued to that day. Its much the same as today, there are places of visitation of God, Lourdes or Iona or Toronto or Bethel… we still go on pilgrimage to ‘bethesda’s’ to find our miracle & hear God. Pilgrimage is a great way to get us focussed on God, it causes us to go in faith and expect to receive something. Whether it is an historic site or a conference, the key is going expectant to receive the word of God.
It sounds like a place of miracles, the angel comes from heaven, a portal, a window – and healing flows. Jesus is not denying the story, he just turns up and opens up this ancient well of anointing!
Jesus goes to where the people are : he makes it look so normal, and so it is, he operates naturally in mission. We cant wait for people just to come to where we are, we need to go to where they are!
Jesus asks a Question which seems to me a bit of a silly question. Of course he wants to get healed! Jesus must have perceived something in the heart of the man. It is possible to get our identity so linked to our sickness, particularly if we have been sick in some way for a long time. We can give up believing for healing, it can be very hard to find the faith to believe when time and time again we feel disappointed.
A sign of the kingdom is healing, we must continue to press into that. But in our theology of sickness we need to make space for when it doesn’t happen. Of course God wants us well, but when it doesn’t we space in our view of God to recognise something greater. Believing for healing may not be immediate, it may take time, it may never come. In our journey we need to hang on to the idea that God can, will and does heal, and like the man we need to stay pressing in for it.
We must not be tempted to recalibrate our theology of healing just because it doesn’t happen on demand, but we need to give ourselves emotional space so that disappointment does not capture our hearts. Abiding in him was the lesson of the true vine, choose to abide and then you will understand the issues of God’s will.
I draw a very positive picture of this man. He is still sitting by the healing pool after 38 years of unfulfilled expectation, he is waiting even abiding, well today was his day!
But he had a very practical problem (5:7), he misses the healing every time. Healings are clearly taking place at this pool but he doesn’t get to the water quick enough, he needs to sit by the pool and fall in!
Command & Obey (5:8–9)
Now Jesus operates in the Word ministry. He speaks a positive word over the man and gives him a command. The man didn’t argue, I love the authority of Jesus command and the responsive obedience of the man. We are too quick to debate with God but actually in most things of the kingdom we need to follow the commands of the commander in chief and obey. He sends the word, the man responds in obedience and faith, healing comes.
Religious Spirits (5:9-13)
Now you think that everyone would be well up for this miracle, but no, there are always people that find something objectionable in the good! When someone gets a free undeserved gift people want to know why it was not them. When someone else gets healed they pour cold water on it because they didn’t receive their healing. This is either a legal or religious spirit, and it will crush any move of God. Its very easy to let this one in. A cynical word can crush the testimony of God. Testimony can be very fragile, we have to learn to celebrate and applaud the things of God, if we celebrate the little things then the bigger things will come
Sabbath : I am not going to discuss the sabbath issues in this passage but suffice it to say, law takes principles and uses them to bind us up! Jesus comes to loose the bonds.
Jesus often healed on the Sabbath (cf. Matt. 12:9–14; Mark 1:29–31; 3:1–6; Luke 6:6–11; 14:1–6; John 5:9–18; 9:14). Jesus cast out demons on the Sabbath (cf Mark 1:21–28); Luke 13:17). Jesus defended the disciples’ eating on the Sabbath (cf. Matt. 12:1–8; Mark 2:23–28; Luke 6:6–15). Jesus initiated controversial subjects in the synagogue on the Sabbath (cf. Luke 4:16–30; John 7:14–24).
Sin & Sickness (5:13-15)
It seems a strange phrase “sin no more or worse will come upon you” what was he supposed to have done that was a sin? So the question we should ask from this is can my sin cause my sickness? It is one of the first natural responses of a person when confronted with sickness, what have I done?
Well the answer is all sickness is the fruit of a sinful world, but not all sickness is the consequence of our personal sin, although in this case Jesus seems to imply that it was. Jesus used sickness to demonstrate his glory and makes it clear in other miracles that the person was not sick because of something they have done (John 9:1–3; Luke 13:2–3). But James the apostle, makes it clear that there is a connection between sin and sickness (James 5:14–15).
Actually I think Jesus was addressing not the sin he may have committed 38 years ago but rather the state of his soul, Jesus was addressing the mans eternal life, we would call it being born again. Jesus goes on in the next passage to speak about judgement and eternal life.
Focus on Grace
The key to focus on in this passage is not the debate about whether the man’s sin caused his sickness, or the debate on the breaking of the sabbath in the eyes of the legalists, or even why he only healed this one person.. no the key to focus on this passage is the wonderful nature of the grace of God. He steps into the house of mercy & grace to make mercy and grace abound.
We can so often rob ourselves of the delight of seeing God at work rather than celebrate the great outpouring of grace. Here is a picture of Jesus showing grace to a man that desperately needed it.