Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool…but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” John 5:5-9
This is the word of a confessor, a confessor who admitted his utter and absolute need of help or there could be no hope even though his heart longed for health, for freedom and for fullness of life.
Jesus gave him no lecture about God helping those who help themselves. He gave him no good advice about avoiding a victim mentality before walking away to some other person who could contribute to his own healing. I have only one point to make here and I know that what I have to say needs balanced. If you tell me what I have to say here needs balanced you’ll be wasting your breath—I know it! I do know it!
But balance is for those who can contribute to their own healing and I am not “God enough” (nor is anyone else) to know who these are and I’ve seen enough people, like little animals caught in cruel snares, vainly struggling to get free; in agony and without hope unless someone strong comes and patiently works with the captive, even if and while the captive protests and mistakes rescue for further torment.
The story of Christ meeting that powerless man is more than (not less than) the meeting of two persons; we’re not to read the story that way!
It was the meeting of two worlds—an old world and a new world. One was a world where the powerless were left to do the best they could (or not) the other was a new world that was made new by God walking into it. Every incident we read involving Jesus is about God on a mission of deliverance—a deliverance of a world and not just some individuals lucky enough to meet up with Him.
One world is the survival of the strong, the other the strengthening of the weak. The one would support only those who could contribute to hope and the other sought out those who had sunk into despair. This lame man well illustrated “a world” without pity because his malady was desperate and no one had the time for him or the patience for him—there were no one prepared to help him to healing and joy and joyful righteousness.
Understand this: I’m not saying there were no kind and humane people in the world—there were such people. Jesus was not the first kind man! I am saying there existed (and exists) “a world” that is shaped by the forces of evil that humanity turned loose and ended up imprisoned in that world. I am saying that when we see disease and abuse, despair and cruelty, selfish indifference and a shrugging at the state of the oppressed we’re seeing the “world” in which this man was living.
I am saying that “the world” that that man was a part of is human existence lived out under the spell of satanic and demonic power; it is this world, there aren’t really two; it’s this life; this life under evil, godless mismanagement.
We humans invited the powers in and this world and human existence became something other than what God made it for and intended it to be. But rather than obliterating it and humanity with it, God came in and as the human, Jesus of Nazareth, to redeem and reconcile it to Himself “in Christ!”
Something has actually, really, happened since Jesus came and is now Lord! Another Adam, the last Adam (1 Cor 15:45), now has dominion and is God’s servant Son undoing the work of the first Adam (Romans 5:12-21) and when He completes that undoing and has destroyed the last enemy He offers to God the dominion. In doing that He does precisely the opposite of what the first Adam did and as the Head of the redeemed humanity He acknowledges God’s overarching dominion.
I’m saying that Jesus, being God being a man, represents and brings another “world”—it’s this world, not another, it’s this world re-visioned and seen by the eyes and hearts of faith as under new management in Jesus Christ. It’s this world since Jesus entered, showing that the prince of this world has been kicked out, the usurper has been exposed and his corrupt and corrupting vision of human existence is false. A world seen and acted in by Jesus is reconciled to God!
Jesus doesn’t represent a kind humaneness, He approves kindness and humaneness (its the work of God though He isn’t given the credit for genuine kindness and compassion and warm justice). but Jesus, being God being a man, represents and brings into reality a “new” creation where Sin and Suffering and Death don’t belong.
This evil threesome made themselves at home in humans and so humans came to be known as “sinful flesh” and God came in and as the man Jesus Christ in the very image of that sinful flesh (Romans 8:3) and in Jesus of Nazareth, His life and work, God “condemned Sin in the flesh” and re-visioned humanness and so re-visioned the world. That vision is only seen by faith in Jesus Christ, a faith that insists that the new world already exists but will be brought to glorious completion in a coming day.
This sinner in John 5 lay for thirty-eight years waiting deliverance but others have waited longer than that, much longer than that, for their deliverance. A life-time! Waiting for spiritual power, spiritual wealth, for health to flow through them, for the inspiration to joyfully live righteously more consistently, more holistically and more thankfully and all of this as a result of seeing GOD walking into their lives, making them believe that not only can they be healed but that He has come to bring that very thing about!
Jesus announces the arrival of a new world!