Lord, unstick us! Lord, unstick me! Wherever I am stuck in my flesh, wherever I am stuck in self-pity or stuck in self-righteousness, please! God, unstick me.
As I read through again John 5 the words of Jesus, the stories recounted by John, the miracles that took place only one year into His official ministry on earth, I imagine.
The chapter begins at the side of a pool, Jesus, perhaps alone, coming upon hoards of paralyzed men and women, sick, and waiting. perhaps sick of waiting.
The gate where the needy lay was the Sheep Gate. Rebuilt by Nehemiah after the Babylonian Empire destroyed Jerusalem’s walls, the Sheep Gate is where lambs were sold for sacrifice. This gate led to Golgotha. And we who are familiar with the bible’s stories know that Golgotha is where Jesus, the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world, was crucified.
Even if we pause here before the whole story of John 5 is told, there are lessons for us to learn.
How many of us lay sick right beside the gate to salvation, but do not accept Christ as our Savior?
Who of us needs to enter the Sheep Gate through Jesus?
The story continues…
There’s this one man. 38 years he’s been there. Paralyzed. And he seems hopeless. I mean, come on. 38 years. If one truly believes that the pool will heal, why not hurry up and get help. But maybe he cannot get there fast enough. Maybe he has no friends. And maybe his paralysis is not his biggest problem. And this man is the man Jesus notices.
Jesus says to the man, “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?’”
I wonder if Jesus was calling him up short. This man had been paralyzed and poolside a LONG time. He had been in this same condition for ALL of his life (at least most of it). I wonder if Jesus wanted the man to become aware again of the need for healing. For the desire to be well to be rekindled in the man. Maybe he had never walked; maybe he had forgotten was it was like to walk.
And the invalid replied, “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.”
As I read this man’s reply, I can think of a couple of speculative observations.
1. I don’t think the man knew who Jesus was, in both senses : he had never encountered him and, even more so, he did not recognize Him as the Christ.
2. The man does know his condition, a little too well. He’s pretty self-focused at this point.
3. Maybe a pitiful answer, maybe the honest truth.
4. He’s been beaten to the pool, many times. He’s probably pretty beaten down.
Maybe we can identify with this man. Who of us needs to admit that we are sick and that we without help and hope unless someone helps us?
The account continues…
“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.”
A short, sweet story of healing.
A man stuck, unstuck. The LORD unstuck this man! We know he was physically paralyzed; it could have been from sin that he was physically impaired, and whether it was or not, anyone without Christ IS spiritually paralyzed, stuck. This is his biggest problem. He was without Christ; he was stuck. Stuck in his sin. Stuck as an invalid. Helpless, hopeless, hurting.
Now, whole. In a twinkle of an eye. Really, in an utterance of a command. In response to immediate obedience.
The man did not ask how or why or what if or whatever he could have asked. Immediately he did as Jesus told him to do. And he was healed.
How many of us are stuck because of self-pity?
How many of us are paralyzed because we do not obey Jesus’ clear commands?
How many of us are spiritual invalids because we do not know Christ the Savior?
And we learn, too, from Scripture that Jesus performed this healing miracle on the Sabbath. Which He creates a whole other issue.
The Pharisees are mad. Irate, even. Jesus has done work on the Sabbath, therefore violating the Sabbath law. Never mind that he healed a man. Never mind that the work that he did was something good, beneficial, and truly humanitarian. He did it on the wrong day and the Pharisees are out to kill Him. And if that isn’t enough, Jesus quickly claims to be equal to God. He calls God His Father.
John records, “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 [also] 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.”
Equal with God! Healing on the Sabbath! Let’s kill Him!
In Jesus’ first public teaching recorded in John, the Pharisees, elite leaders and intellectual know it alls, completely miss it. Jesus has healed a man. Jesus is calling Himself equal with God and he supports this claim with four witnesses: the Father, John the Baptist, Jesus’ own work, The Old Testament, which certainly the accusers knew a thing or two about, especially including Moses and Abraham, who the Pharisees cling to as their forefathers.
And that’s what happens to us. In our stupid self-righteousness, we end up saying some of the dumbest – even sinful – things we’ve ever uttered. We end up betraying the One we’ve been looking for and trying to emulate. We end up crucifying those who are actually doing good; the One who is truly Good.
And so we too, just like the person wallowing in self-pity, are stuck in our self-righteousness.
This happens to us self-righteous individuals because we are more concerned with what others think of us, with giving glory to ourselves – our little group of friends or colleagues or even family members – than we are concerned about giving glory to the One who has made us, saves us, and sustains us. We get wrapped up. We get stuck.
Jesus asks the Pharisees – and He asks us, too – How will you believe if you do not already? And we, friends, on this side of the Cross, have even more witness, even more evidence, than the Pharisees.
It is only Christ – only Jesus who is equal with God the Father and who calls us up short and calls us to healing and salvation in Him – who can unstick us.
Let’s let Him unstick us.
We do not have to wait for a chance movement in the water. We do not even have to be the first one there. Our Helper offers complete healing to us in Christ, if only we will listen and obey.
Friend, Jesus offers to you and to me healing, the remedy to our physically, spiritually, emotionally, pitifully sick selves. He has asked you, too, if you want to be healed. Let’s say yes to Jesus today.
If you are more like the Pharisees, stuck in your stupid self-righteousness and know it all intellectualism but are completely missing the One True God right in front of you, let Christ call you out from your sin and call you into Him. Let the Savior rid you of your selfishness, your self-centeredness, your self-righteousness, and let Him be your identity, your Center, your Righteousness. Let Christ show you who He is and respond in repentance. He will restore you. He will replace the fear of man and the glory of others with the fear of God and the favor of God in your life.
And together, the self-pitying and the self-righteousness, can come together, equal at the foot of the Cross of Christ. We can enter through the Sheep Gate of Salvation by the Lamb, who for the joy set before Him, endured the Cross, who takes away the sin of the world.
The Lamb of God saves us from self-focus, from self-pity, from self-justification, from self-righteousness and saves us into Himself. He gives to His children, to those who believe in Him, refreshment, remedy, restoration, redemption.
And I’ll be the first to admit – I need healing. I need to be called out.
Lord, UNSTICK ME!