Wise as Serpents: Do You Want to be Healed? (Part 4 of a sermon series by Jeff Crippen)
After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids — blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?”
The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.
Now that day was the Sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.'” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place.
Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him.
And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. (John 5:1-18)
I specifically want to call our attention to the words that Jesus spoke to the lame man there at the pool of Bethesda: “Do you want to be healed?”
I want to challenge each of us to put this question to ourselves, and I want to do so for the primary purpose of encouraging us to see that Jesus Christ is our Healer, that He is able and He is willing to set us free from enslavement to the bondage that comes with being deceived by lies of the enemy. If these words convict you genuinely, and you realize that you need to repent of some sin of your own, then please do so. But primarily our purpose today is to confidently assert that Christ most certainly sets all who call on Him free of all falsehoods we might be clinging to this morning. All we need do is ask Him.
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Gal 5:1)
And so we ask ourselves this question: How badly do we really want Christ to heal us? To change us? As we learn more and more about the nature and tactics of evil, it is vital that we understand that Christ is King and that no evil exists that is beyond His ability to conquer. We also need to be very clear-sighted about the fact that wickedness and its representatives will do all they can to prevent us from being free.
The question again: “Do you want to be healed?”
The question seems like a no-brainer, right? Of course the man lame for 38 long years wanted to be healed, didn’t he? And yet Jesus put the question to him. For 38 years, almost 4 decades, this man had lived lame. He had grown accustomed. He had made adjustments. He had a routine. Maybe his infirmity paid him some benefits? Pity. Alms. Or maybe he just figured – “This is it. This is my life. Nothing’s going to change.”
I want to tell you this morning that change and freedom are the very nature of life in Christ.
I. The Bondage of Sin — Including the Effects of the Sins of Others Upon Us
All through the Bible, sin is presented to us as the great enslaver. We see it in the person of Pharaoh (Exodus 1:13-14). Every attempt at freedom was met with even more severe oppression. Throughout its history, enemies worked to enslave and oppress the Jewish nation — Moabites, Ammonites, Hittites, Philistines, Assyrians, Babylonians, Medes and Persians and then the Roman Empire. All of these oppressors are images of sin. Sin is the greatest slave master (John 8:33-34).
As human beings living out our earthly lives in this sinful, fallen creation, we not only have our own sin to deal with, but we have the effects of the sins of others upon us. Sanctification in the Christian, this growth into more of the image of Christ and His holiness, is largely a matter of being set free from sin and its effects. Redemption is a redeeming from the power and effects of sin. But growth in Christ involves being made to see truth more and more clearly. Coming to know God’s will for us more accurately. Learning more perfectly what is pleasing to Him. All of this is freeing. It sets us free. This means, once more, being set free from not only our own sin, but from the effects of the sin of others upon us. Think on this. The Bible does tell us to put to death our own sin, by the Spirit in us. But it also just a frequently tells us to do things like:
- Test the spirits to see if they are from God
- Do not even eat with such a person who claims to be a Christian but walks habitually in wickedness
- Do not permit anyone to bring you into bondage by deceiving you with a false gospel
- Do not permit a Diotrephes to lord it over you, especially in the church
Why? So that we are not brought into bondage by their lies.
But the question I put to you this morning, to repeat it still another time, is — “Do you want to be healed?” Do you want Christ to set you free?
As we have pointed out, sin enslaves and it is vital that we understand all the ways that it does. Hear this again: it is not just our own sin which every Christian battles that works to hold us in bondage, but it is the effects of the sin of others that so often keeps us in its power. We can be free of it. For example:
- Many people suffer from trauma, the effects of it, often called PTSD. This is not due to their own sin (in spite of the claims of some schools of so-called Christian counseling that our problems are ultimately due to our own sin). A soldier returning home from the war, for example, and suffering the effects of that trauma, suffers from the sin and evil of others. So do many of the people who come to our ACFJ website seeking help.
- People who were abused as children suffer various results — harmful consequences — because of this evil at the hands of others.
- False teaching, false religious leaders, and other lies can enslave us.
- The malignant narcissist, the sociopathic wicked person — these are people who enslave others through their evil behavior and words.
Remember, and think on this very, very carefully – the primary enemies and the fundamental sources of enslaving evil in the Bible and thus today have always been the counterfeits in the visible church. Always. Professing Christians. The false prophets in Israel. The serpent in the garden. Judas. Scribes and Pharisees. The anti-Christ. (Listen to the full sermon to hear real examples of the very kinds of slavery we need to get free of, and which Christ is able and willing to free us from.)
It is ultimately Christ’s truth that sets you free. And I am asking each one of us this morning, “Do you want to be healed?” — Of all the junk in your thoughts? Of all the false notions that you have embraced? Of all the things you have been blinded to? Of the false Christians in your life who keep whispering the lies of the enemy in your ear? Do you want it? Do you want your life to be radically changed?
Because, and here is the vital thing,
Christ is able and Christ is willing to free you. The question is, do you want Him to do so? Do you want to be delivered from that comfy (or not so comfy) mat you have sat on by the pool for 38 years? Really? Do you really want Him to do this by showing you what it really is? Do you want to know the truth about the people around you in your life who are holding you in slavery no matter who they are? Do you want to know what lies have come into your life over the years even if it means coming to see that someone you thought was a great saint of the church, isn’t?
You see, if we really don’t want to be free, then Christ isn’t going to set us free. And I have known more than one professing Christian who simply was not ready for freedom, did not want it, and ran from it as something just too threatening to deal with.
II. Christ is Able and Christ is Willing
Consider now very carefully the following accounts of Jesus healing people. Think on this. Listen to what He says. The message is plain. Christ is able and Christ is willing to set YOU free from all the things that evil is oppressing you through. Not necessarily free from all the interference of the abuser who keeps trying to get at you (often enabled by the Family Court). But Christ, the Light of the world, is able to shine through the darkness so that we can see and hear — even while the abusers in our lives may not yet be bound hand foot and mouth, and sent to where they cannot get at us any more.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed. (Luke 4:18)
When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. (Matthew 8:1-3)
And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples. And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.”
Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.
And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. And the report of this went through all that district.
And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” When he entered the house, the blind men came to him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.” And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, “See that no one knows about it.” But they went away and spread his fame through all that district.
As they were going away, behold, a demon-oppressed man who was mute was brought to him. And when the demon had been cast out, the mute man spoke. And the crowds marveled saying, “Never was anything like this seen in Israel.”
But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the prince of demons.”
And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:19-36)
Christ did all this. Christ is able, Christ is willing. Many people have gone to counselors and therapists for a long, long while. In some cases this has provided some help, but ultimately, I can tell you this, It is Jesus Christ alone who turns on the lights in your mind, shows you the lies you have embraced, shows you the reality that you have been blind to, and replaces all that mess with His truth, setting you free.
That is how this ministry of A Cry for Justice began. The lights came on about the nature and tactics of evil. Christ did it. He showed us and He delivered us from bondage to lies and wickedness that had deceived us for a long, long time.
III. Evil Will Scream and Fight and Protest our Freedom
Evil hates freedom. Evil always works to enslave. Evil lusts for power and control, and therefore evil and its minions hate Jesus Christ, the one who sets men free. Expect it. When the captives are set free, Pharaoh inevitably sets his armies to chase after them and bring them back to slavery.
When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, the mind of Pharaoh and his servants was changed toward the people, and they said, “What is this we have done, that we have let Israel go from serving us?” So he made ready his chariot and took his army with him, and took six hundred chosen chariots and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them. And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued the people of Israel while the people of Israel were going out defiantly. The Egyptians pursued them, all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and his horsemen and his army, and overtook them encamped at the sea, by Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon. (Ex 14:5-9)
the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the prince of demons.” (Matt 9:34)
The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. (John 5:15-16)
Now it was a Sabbath day when Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes. So the Pharisees again asked him how he had received his sight. And he said to them, “He put mud on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others said, “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?” And there was a division among them. (John 9:14-16)
See? Evil lays rather dormant when it has victims in its power. But when light comes and its power is threatened, wickedness springs into action. We must be wise to this tactic and we must expect this final “Battle of the Bulge” final desperate attempt by the enemy to renew its grasp on us.
Here is a clear example:
Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” (Rev 12:12)
So there it is. Christ is able and Christ is willing to set you free, to heal you, to open your eyes and ears to His truth, to expose all and any lies you have been taught to believe. In fact, He is the ONLY one who can do this.
Do you want Him to? There is the question you see. If you do, if you will believe that He can, and you begin to call out to Him to change you and free you no matter what the cost, be assured that He will.
This text has been slightly adapted to make it more applicable to the bulk of our readers (victim/survivors of domestic abuse). Audio and PDF of this sermon is here.