Can you say “Wow!” In fact, I’ll even say it again…”WOW”! That’s what comes to mind after just getting back from Israel. In the months and weeks leading up to us going to Israel, everyone said, “you’re crazy to go…there’s turmoil in the world, and all the missiles are aiming at Israel.” You know what, that just kind of fuels my fire. If I’m going to “go,” I might as well go in the Holy Land. I am so blessed to be a child of God and go to the place where Jesus walked, be among His people, and teach the Word there.
A huge highlight of our trip was the opportunity to take my daughter. Callie led worship all throughout Jerusalem, the Mount of Beatitudes, and on a boat at the Sea of Galilee. I also had the privilege of baptizing her in the Jordan River. You know, it just doesn’t get much better than that — to see the tears in your daughter’s eyes as she has so desired to be baptized in the Jordan, and to hear her share with me the joy she has in serving the Almighty God. Her faith is so strong and so vibrant for the Lord. This truly was a highlight!
People always ask me for my favorite place to teach when I do a tour through the Holy Lands. I have to tell you that everywhere I teach is my favorite because each place has a different message. Karen and I have now traveled to the Holy Lands eight times. For just a moment I want to highlight one of the places we visit that I think will greatly bless you today.
Let’s look at John 5:1-9. I’ve entitled this talk “I’m Free” for a good reason. Let me ask you a question. Have you ever felt like your circumstances or a situation have had a tight grip around you and you couldn’t get away? Have you felt like you were discouraged and somewhat depressed? Then this message is for you!
In this passage Jesus was teaching at the feast of the Jews in Jerusalem. He is at a place called the pool of Bethesda. It is called the “sheep gate”. It had five porticoes, so it was a place that was easily identifiable to the people coming to it. This was a place people brought the sick, blind, lame, their family, and their friends. They would wait for the stirring of the waters, and at the exact moment the waters began to move, an angel of the Lord would heal whoever touched the water first. This person would be healed of whatever affliction, disease, or condition they were in.
The Pools of Bethesda:
Now, I don’t know about you, but if something was wrong with me or someone else I knew, and I knew that this was real, I guarantee I would set up a great strategy to get in that pool. In verse five we read about an ill man who had been there for thirty-eight years. Jesus saw him lying there and knew he’d been there a long time and asked him, “Do you wish to get well?” Now, you and I might think this is a crazy question, but I’ve thought about that as I have stood right there and looked around. I could just visualize seeing 40, 50, even 100 people lying around waiting for the stirring of the waters, and I could only wonder in my mind what kind of strategies, selfishness, or attitudes would have been there that day. Some of the attitudes might have been, “I’m going to do it…I’m going to beat everybody.” Another might have been, “I’m going to try, but I don’t think I’m going to be able to…there’s other people that will probably beat me.” Then there are those people that just say, “You know what, I’m not going to do anything because I can’t do it.” These types of attitudes aren’t much different than the attitudes I see in many people today: attitudes of discouragement, despair, and possibly even depression. When Jesus asked this question, he was waiting for an answer. In verse seven it says the sick man answered and said, “Sir, I have no one to put me in the pool.” Then he gives an excuse, “When I wanted to get in I couldn’t because someone came and got in front of me.” Then Jesus does what some would think is the impossible. He says, “Get up and walk!” With those powerful words, immediately this man became well and he picked up his pallet and began to walk.
As I taught all throughout Israel, and as I teach today, this message is a great message for all of us to hear. So many of us are lying paralyzed, bound in shackles of fear, pain, discouragement, and maybe even some major sickness. The reality of it is that JESUS has asked the question, “Do we wish to get well?” It’s not necessarily that our “well” is that we’re healed in the sense of being able to do something more physical, but what I really believe that we need to realize as Christians is that we’re being healed to do something very spiritual: to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. There’s a lot of healing that needs to go on for us to be able to say, “I am free.” I pray today that if you’re struggling through some things in life, that you’d get rid of any “excuse-itis” you may have. I pray that you’d take great means toward execution of entering into God’s presence and being freed from what has paralyzed you. I pray that today you feel the stirring of the waters of freedom to live in Christ and to make a difference. Know you are loved and prayed for. I hope this encourages you today.