Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sermon 1-17-09


46 So Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum. 47 When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. 48 Then Jesus said to him, "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe."
49 The nobleman said to Him, "Sir, come down before my child dies!"
50 Jesus said to him, "Go your way; your son lives." So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way. 51 And as he was now going down, his servants met him and told him, saying, "Your son lives!"
52 Then he inquired of them the hour when he got better. And they said to him, "Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him." 53 So the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, "Your son lives." And he himself believed, and his whole household.
54 This again is the second sign Jesus did when He had come out of Judea into Galilee.

 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, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda,[a] having five porches. 3 In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. 4 For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had.[b]
5 Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, "Do you want to be made well?"
7 The sick man answered Him, "Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me."
8 Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up your bed and walk." 9 And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked.
And that day was the Sabbath. 10 The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, "It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed."
11 He answered them, "He who made me well said to me, 'Take up your bed and walk.'"
12 Then they asked him, "Who is the Man who said to you, 'Take up your bed and walk'?" 13 But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place. 14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, "See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you."
15 The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.

16 For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him,[c] because He had done these things on the Sabbath.




In churches we spend a lot of time talking about the preaching ministry of Jesus. We spent a lot of time talking about the teaching ministry of Jesus. We spend a lot of time talking about the ministry of Jesus on the cross, and the new life that resurrection offers. All of this is very important. It is essential as a matter of fact. It is sad, however, that we spend very little time talking about the healing ministry of Jesus.


When we do talk about the healing ministry of Jesus, we usually talk about it one of two ways. Either we choose to reflect on the power of Jesus to perform miracles, or we talk about the compassion of Jesus. When we talk about the power of Jesus we talk about how God can do things that we don't even think about or cannot even imagine. This is important to remember. God is active in the world. He created the world. God can reach into our world and do things that we thought were impossible, including healing the sick. We have all seen how prayer has pulled people through situations that were supposed to kill them. We have prayed for people to survive life-threatening illness, and we see them living among us. God can do greater things that we think or imagine. He is that powerful. But as we look at these healings, that will not be our focus this morning.


Sometimes when we talk about the healing ministry of Jesus we remember his compassion. How he looks at people, and hurts with them and for them. We think about how Jesus touches people who nobody would touch, and makes them healthy and whole again. He restores their health, he restores people to community, and he gives them the knowledge that God loves them and has done amazing things in their life. We all have stories, at least I hope most of us do, about how we have experienced God's love and compassion. But as we look at these two healings, it is not this compassion I want to focus on today either.


I want to talk about how God wants to heal you. Heal me. Much of Jesus' ministry is a healing ministry. We should not forget that.





On one hand, it is hard to forget that we serve a God that we believe wants to heal us. We pray with a prayer list every Sunday. And that prayer list has names on it, and most of those prayers are prayers for healing. Specifically, 90 percent of those prayers are for biological healing. We believe that God can heal, or we would not pray for people's health.


On the other hand, many of us are uncomfortable with the kind of healing ministry that we have seen over the years. In the old days it was religious huckster coming through town on a bus, setting up a tent for faith healing, and raking in the dough until we ran out of money and he moved on to the next town. Today it is a television preacher encouraging you to max out your credit cards in giving to him in order to be well, and telling you if you don't give like this than you don't have enough faith. Over the years, from before the time of Jesus, people have wandered around seeking to be seen as healers in God's name so that they could line their own pockets.


The kind of healing Jesus wants to do in you and I is the kind of healing that is different from the self-aggrandizing faith-healers. In many ways, it is also different than the kind of healing that we ask for when we put a name on the prayer list. Jesus does not want fame for healing illness. Nor does Jesus seem to emphasize the awfulness of injury and unhealthiness. That is because Jesus does not JUST want to heal our bodies. Jesus wants to heal our whole selves. Jesus wants to heal our souls as well.


Let me repeat that again, speaking directly to you. Jesus does not JUST want to heal your body. He wants to heal your soul.


This morning we read the second and third of the signs of John. Each of them are healings. In some ways these healings are the same. In many ways they are much different.






The first healing is the healing of a nobleman's son. The man came to Jesus, and asked Jesus to come with him to heal his sick son. The man pleads with Jesus to come with him. Jesus instead heals the boy "by remote" and tells the father to go home and see that his son has been made well. The nobleman goes home. The son is well. It is reported that he was healed at the very moment Jesus pronounced that the boy would get better. This healing leads the nobleman, the son, and the whole household to believe in Jesus.


The second healing is of what we would call today a paraplegic. He has been handicapped for thirty-eight years. He stays by the healing pool, hoping to get into the water at just the right time and be healed. Jesus comes up to the man. He asks the man if he wants to be well. The man responds that he has been laying by a healing pool for 38 years, trying to imply that this was the purpose most of the people sat around the pool. Jesus tells him to get up and walk. The man does get up and walk. This ignites a controversy, because Jesus healed the man on the Sabbath. Jesus meets the man in the temple, and encourages him to stop sinning. This healing makes the religious leadership angry. They start plotting to kill Jesus because of it.


These healings are very different. One is in Galilee. One is in Jerusalem. These are two different regions of the country, with two different attitudes toward life and toward Jesus. One healing is solicited by a father. The other healing is unsolicited. One healing leads to belief of a whole household. Another healing leads to doubt of the religious leaders. One healing is in close proximity. The other healing is from miles away. One healing is of an older man with a chronic health problem. The other healing is of a young man with a recent and aggressive illness. The paraplegic man is poor. The nobleman's child is from a rich family. There are so many differences between them.









The differences with these healings tell us something. They tell us that Jesus wants to heal us, no matter who we. Whether we are near or far away, Jesus wants to make us whole. Whether we are seeking Him, or sense that he is seeking us out, Jesus makes an effort to renew, to heal. Whether we are old or young, whether we are rich or poor, whether we have suffered a little or a lot, it does not matter. Jesus is a healer. He reaches out his hand to renew his creation that has been beaten and mangled, battered and bruised by this destructive world we live it. God does not play favorites, is not captive to anyone's agenda.


In spite of the many differences, between the two healings, there are some similarities. Both signs have an accompanying conflict. With the nobleman's son, Jesus addresses the crowd (the "you" in the sentence is plural) about their demands for signs and wonders. In the healing of the paralytic Jesus has to deal with people that are hostile with him because the healing was performed on the Sabbath. In both cases we can see that Jesus does not do his signs as parlor tricks. He does not heal to become famous or to get rich. Jesus does not heal people in order to impress people or draw crowds. He knows that the more people know what he is really about, the more they will want to push him down, belittle and mock Him, and crucify Him. He heals because he comes to earth to heal US. As the Scripture on the top of your bulliten says, "He has come that we might have life, and have it abundantly".


You will also see that neither person who was healed asked to be healed. Jesus is Lord. These signs are a Christ's initiative, they are through His power, as he wills to do them. He is sovereign. He is in control. The healing power is in His hands. He goes and heals at His pace. Nobody forces his hand. Nobody manipulates Him into healing somebody. He is God and we are not. He heals who he sees fit when he sees fit. And he does it as a sign of something HE wants to do in each of us.







The next thing that we notice is that he performs these healings by the power of his Word. In other gospels Jesus is touching people to make them whole. Or people are touching him in faith and being healed. In John's gospel, John is sharing about Jesus being present in creation from the start, and telling the gospel events as a part of God's creation work. And this power of his word hearkens back to the first couple chapters of Genesis. God spoke and things were created. Jesus speaks and things are healed. Recreated if you will. He heals on the Sabbath. What does the Sabbath refer to? Creation! God is setting things that are broken to wholeness again. He is setting thing to rights.


This re-creative word brings us back to what we said at the beginning. God wants to heal all of us. He wants to heal our souls. He wants to bind up our wounds. He wants to heal our heartaches and our heartbreaks. He wants to take those things that are festering deep inside us, and bring them under the power of his healing light.


Many of us in this congregation have physical ailments. We are cancer survivors and accident survivors. We are diabetics and we have MS. We are asthmatics and anemics. We have lung trouble and heart trouble. Our backs hurt, our knees hurt, our shoulders hurt, and our arms hurt. Our bodies are tired, they are at points worn out. They cry out for healing. God may heal some of us of our sickness and diseases. He probably won't heal all of our physical maladies. Even Paul had his "thorn in the flesh" that he had to live with.


God may not heal all of our physical maladies, but he does want to heal all of our souls. There are pockets of anger and bitterness he wants to clean up. There are addictions that are rotting us away from the inside out. God wants to heal our souls. There are wounds deep down inside us that have been festering and untreated for years. A parent that abused us, physically or sexually. A parent that left our family or abandoned us. A friend that betrayed us. An enemy that belittled and mocked us until we felt hopeless and helpless. A loss of someone we have still yet to recover from losing. A loved one who so wounded themselves that it left your heart in shambles. Whatever it is you have carried that wound around with you for months or years. It has crippled you from being the person you want to be. It has infected your soul in such a way that you wonder if you could feel right again. I have news for you, God wants to heal your soul.

The question is the same question that is set before the paralyzed man. The question set before you this morning is, "Do you want to be made well?" You see there are a lot of times where we talk like we want God to work in us, we talk like we want Jesus to heal our hurts and our pains, our heartaches and our broken relationships, but deep down we don't. Deep down we are comfortable with our grudges. We are cozy with those things that poison us and hurt us the most. We don't want to change looking at others around us with hatred, suspicion, and distrust. We don't want to be vulnerable. We say we want God to work in our lives, but we do not want it to hurt. We do not want God to get deep down in the mess of our lives, treating our wounds, and making us stronger again. But that is exactly what God wants to do. God wants to heal our souls. But before he does that he looks at us in the eyes and says to us like he said to the paralyzed man, "Are you willing to be made well".

When Tony Campolo was in a church in Oregon, he prayed for a man who had cancer. In the middle of the week, he received a telephone call from the man's wife. She said, "You prayed for my husband. He had cancer." I said, "Had?" Whoa, he thought, it's happened.She said, "He died." Campolo felt terrible.

"Don't feel bad," the woman said. "When he came into church that Sunday, he was filled with anger. He knew he was going to be dead in a short period of time, and he hated God. He was fifty-eight years old, and he wanted to see his children and grandchildren grow up.

"He was angry that this all-powerful God didn't take away his sickness and heal him. He would lie in bed and curse God. The more his anger grew toward God, the more miserable he was to everybody around him. It was an awful thing to be in his presence.

"After you prayed for him, a peace came over him and a joy came into him. The last three days have been the best days of our lives. We've sung. We've laughed. We've read Scripture. We've prayed. Oh, they've been wonderful days. And I called to thank you for laying your hands on him and praying for healing."Then she said something incredibly profound: "He wasn't cured, but he was healed."

God is about giving us life. Abundant life. Three times in the story of the son being healed the word life is mentioned. Specifically the phrase "Your son lives!" The second healing God comes up to the man he healed and tells him to go forward and to stop sinning. He is not just concerned with his physical life, but his entire life. God want all of us. He wants to heal us as whole persons. He wants to make us healthy physically, yes, but also spiritually and emotionally. God wants to heal your soul. Are you willing to be made well? I hope you are!

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