Sunday, March 14, 2010

Healing at the Pool (Jn. 5:1-18)

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev Dr Stephen Tong on 7 March 2010 in True Way Presbyterian Church. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

John 5:1-18

When Jesus went to Jerusalem He did not go to the rich but He went to the poorest. He saw a man who was sick for 38 years. His family would not want him anymore because he had been sick for too long and become a burden. This is very normal human reaction. When a loved one is sick for too long, love and filial piety wear thin. Human life is very paradoxical. We cannot predict many problems in life.

This person laying by the pool because his family is no longer taking care of him. His relatives would have dumped him there. Jesus came to find this person to heal him. This is a great spirit. Jesus came to comfort and strengthen those who are weak. He sought out those who were sick and healed them.

This person did not expect to see Jesus. Jesus knew he was sick for a long time and Jesus was the one who approached him and spoke to him first. In the case of Nicodemus, Nicodemus spoke first. In the case of the Roman official likewise, the Roman official approached Jesus first. But to the Samaritan woman and to this sick man, Jesus was the one who spoke first. We see that in the Bible Jesus never initiated going to the rich and powerful, but always went to the poor and forsaken.

The love fo God comes down from above. We love because He first loved us. When we were still sinners, Christ died for our sins.

This person did not have faith and did not ask for healing, but it was Jesus who initiated to heal him. This is very different from the signs and wonders in charismatic faith where it is the sick who are asked to have faith as the means to be healed. The Bible teaches that God will have grace on whom He will have grace. He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy. It is not ultimately dependent on man’s faith. The fact is many people believe not because they choose to but because God’s grace comes to them. This person did not say anything and Jesus went to him directly.

Jesus asked him a simple question, ‘Do you want to get well?’. This question seemed redundant since the answer must be yes. But Jesus asked this to reveal his attitude. The man did not say yes or no to whether he wanted healing, but elaborated why he had not been healed after so long, that is, that he was slower than others, so someone always got ahead of him to the pool when the angel came and he never had a chance to be healed. So he believed in healing and was prepared to be healed, but there were reasons he was not yet healed. He gave an excuse why he was not yet healed.

Like this man, many people are only giving excuses and not giving solutions. He was emphasising the he is not able to jump into the pool so forever he would not have a chance to be healed. But why should there be only one answer? Humans are trapped by tradition. We cannot break through beyond our own boundaries. From His question, Jesus drew out the main problem of the man. The man only saw one solution. In other passages, Jesus said new wine cannot go into old wineskin as the old wineskin will burst and the new wine spoilt. Likewise a new cloth cannot be sewed into an old clothing.

Jesus simply said, “Get up, take up your mat and walk.” The man never thought of this possibility. Jesus is not interested in his excuse and simply commanded him to stand up and walk. He immediately got up and walked, and he was healed immediately.

Later on the Pharisee saw and rebuked the man for taking up his mat on a Sabbath day. Instead of praising God that he had been healed, he pushed the blame to Jesus who asked him to carry his mat and thus breaking the Sabbath. There was no gratitude in his heart.

Jesus found him again later on and warned him to stop sinning or something worse would happen to him. This statement tells us that some illnesses (but not all illnesses) come as a result of sin. This person was suffering because he deserved it.

The Jews later on accused him of healing the man on the Sabbath. Jesus always expressed the truth instead of quarrelling with them. Jesus said, “My Father is always at work to this day, so I too am working.”

Why did Jesus heal the man? This is recorded in the Bible and Jesus wanted to release us from the constraints of our errors. Jesus said, “My Father works unto this day,” implying that God does not stop working on that Sabbath day. So Jesus is also working as His Father is working. By accusing Jesus of breaking the Sabbath, the Jews had in fact accused God of the same thing, because God works on the Sabbath day.

Then what is the Sabbath? Does that mean God has no Sabbath? What sort of example did God set for us? What about the passage in Genesis which recorded that God rested on Sabbath after His works of creation?

To be continued…

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Jesus Healed the Official's Son (Jn. 4:46-54)

John 4:46-54

When Jesus entered Cana in Galilee, a Roman official came and begged Him to go to his house to heal his son who was about to die. The fact that he went to Jesus instead of to a doctor, despite his high status, indicated that he believed in Jesus. In non-believers’ circle, there are still people who have faith in God.

The Lord Jesus’ life was clearly guided by God. He was very sensitive to the guidance of God. The gospel of Matthew and Luke recorded that it was the Holy Spirit who led Jesus to the desert to be tempted by the devil. Did the Holy Spirit guide people to the devil? But the Bible recorded so. In typical Chinese concept, God will always guide to better and richer places. But this is not true according to biblical principles.

Many western missionaries left the best and most advanced culture to the most backward places. But Chinese often only consider the guidance of God in reverse direction. May God recover us from this illness.

Jesus Christ went wherever He was guided by the Spirit. He was obedient to the guidance of God. When led to the desert to be tempted by the devil, He went. When led to Samaria to preach to the Samaritan woman, He went. When led to Galilee, He went. When not led to the house of the Roman official, He would not go. Do not think that Jesus would definitely come if invited.

Jesus rebuked the official first, saying they would never believe if they do not see miraculous signs. It is addressed not only to unbelievers, but to the Jews as well. He was exposing the common error of the generation. Jesus asked the official to go back as the son was now healed. In this, Christ showed that He is the Lord that transcends time and space.

This official was a believer because he came to Jesus for help. He was not angry when Jesus asked him to go back and refused to go to his house. In contrast many of us today constrain God by our so-called faith. We claim to believe in God’s sovereign will but our action betrays us. Most of us just learn academically and do not obey God in practice.

Jesus used His sovereignty to heal the son but not using the method the man expected. On his way back, the servant reported the son was healed. When he asked for the time his son was healed, he found out that it was exactly at the hour Jesus spoke. Instead of just assuming the son got well naturally, he wanted to check when the son was healed to see if Jesus was right. This Gentile is closer to God than many Israelites. He met Jesus the day before when the son recovered. It means he had to travel a long way to see Jesus. The son’s recovery brought him and his household to believe in Jesus. Jesus transcends social status, boundaries of space and time. He performed miracles for both Jews and Romans. He can heal when you are near and when you are far away. The divinity of Jesus transcends all boundaries.

Some people would only visit the rich, not the poor. A lot of churches have gone astray in this way. They are controlled by the rich and are afraid to offend them. The servants of God should not bow down to the rich. It is most difficult to transform the entire generation from this trap of love of wealth.

The last verse says this was the second miraculous sign Jesus performed in Galilee. The first was turning water into wine in a wedding. The second one is a miracle of resurrection. The Lord placed emphasis on good marital relationship and is willing to give life to a person who is dying.

In chapter 5, Jesus started to talk about His death. It is the beginning of His journey to Golgotha. We will learn to see how Christ is obedient to God step by step to the cross.