Year C – 6th Sunday of Easter – John 5:1-9

Text–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. (John 5:1-9)

Summary–Here we read John’s third account of a miracle by Jesus during his earthly ministry.  Remember that John doesn’t write a full biography of Jesus.  That would simply not be possible.  He tells that the whole world could not contain the books if everything had been recorded.  Rather, John writes to confirm that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.  The miracle of the healing of the man at Bethzatha shows us two aspects about Jesus that are important.  First, this miracle highlights the love of Jesus in his humanity.  He came to save the weak and the suffering.  Those waiting at the pool near the sheep gate in Jerusalem were described as blind, lame and paralyzed.  They could not heal themselves and were getting no help from the world around them.  They needed a savior to heal them.  Second, this miracle shows us the power of Jesus in his divinity.  This miracle validates Christ as the Son of God who cares and heals the sick.  Jesus being fully human in his compassion and fully divine in his power intersects at this miracle to tell each of us that apart from him, we are equally lost and without hope, like the beggar at the well.

Insight–The beggar at the well is a pitiful sight.  He is surrounded by others equally pitiful and without hope.  Maybe you think that this picture at the well is sad but not relevant to your circumstance.  After all, you can see the world around you.   You can run with your friends.  You can feel pleasure and pain; your not paralyzed at all. Friend, you must realize that apart of the saving work of Jesus Christ, you too would be blind, lame and paralyzed.  The beggar represents the whole human race apart from Christ and his righteousness freely offered to you through grace by faith alone.  How does God see people before he saves us?  Romans 5:6 tells us that it was when we were “powerless”, Christ died for the ungodly.  Powerless here means, “infirm, feeble, unable to achieve anything great, destitute of power among men, sluggish in doing right.”  In other words, God tells us that when we could not do a thing for ourselves spiritually, Christ died for us.  Before Christ called you to himself, you too were blind.  Jesus said this to Nicodemus in John Chapter 3 when he said, “no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.  Before God saved you, you were lame.  In Matthew 9 we read of the paralytic man who could not come on his own to be healed.  Finally, Romans 7:18 explains that you are paralyzed.  “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”  But take hope, it is at the time of your greatest weakness that Christ came to save you.  He came to save the blind, the lame and the paralyzed.  He came to find you.  Will you argue that you are not helpless, that you are able to come before God on your own and be judged righteous?  There will be only one verdict apart from trusting in Christ for your salvation.  Know that your sins have been dealt with in Christ and that he gives you new life when you put your trust in him.  What a glorious God we serve!

Catechism–(Q) Who did Christ come to save? (A) The blind, the lame and the paralyzed.

Discussion–Who is suffering in your neighborhood that you need to share this message of joy with?  Can you think of anyone who needs to be picked up and carried into the water of salvation? 

Prayer–Father God we magnify your glorious son who you sent to save us from our hopelessness.  Lord, open our eyes to your beauty.  Give us new hearts to live in a manner worthy of your calling which you have called us.  We praise you, Father, in the name of your son, Jesus Christ, by the enabling power of the Holy Spirit, one God world without end. Amen

Contributed by Michael Fenimore

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Year B – Proper 9 – Mark 6:1-13

Mark 6:1–13 NRSV –    He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. 6:2 On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! 6:3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. 6:4 Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” 6:5 And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6:6 And he was amazed at their unbelief. Then he went about among the villages teaching. 6:7 He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 6:8 He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 6:9 but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. 6:10 He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. 6:11 If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” 6:12 So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. 6:13 They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

Summary -Mark again places two stories together to show a contrast. On the one hand Jesus comes to his hometown. But he is not received with a “home-court” advantage. He is  distrusted. Instead of being inspired and hopeful through his many miracles of healing, they questioned: “Where did this man get all this?” They could only see him as a hometown boy, a carpenter and they knew, “where he’s from.” They know his mother and brothers and sisters. As a result of their distrust, “they took offense at him.” Jesus was amazed at their unbelief. On the other hand Jesus sends out the disciples, two by two, and gave them authority to cast out demons and heal and they did. While Jesus was constrained to “do no deed of power” in his hometown, he confers power to his disciples to do many deeds of power as they travel.

Insight – I know a young man. Prior to his genuine spiritual renewal he was headed in the wrong direction. He has made mistakes that are embarrassing and dumb. But God’s Spirit has been at work in him; he desires to grow spiritually; he is talking of how he wants to serve in God’s kingdom; he is trying to deal with his sins. It is clear that the most important work that God ever does is being accomplished in his heart. But others certainly see him as just the same old kid. One saying goes, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” The people in Jesus’s hometown viewed him as just the same old kid. But God anointed and empowered Jesus (at his baptism) preach the Good News and bring healing and life. They refused to believe that a humble and simple carpenter, the son of Mary no less, could be someone special. The most special person ever. A few chapters earlier his own family thought he was out of his mind and sought stop him. Jesus summed it up well: “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” So while Jesus was working miracles of God’s power all around, his closest relatives and neighbors’ unbelief tried to “cut him down to size.” It is just because we believe that a humble carpenter was the Messiah and saved the world, that we should be ready to see others with new eyes. We must see that the same God and Father of Jesus who empowered him by the Spirit is able to empower us. He empowers others. We should be eager to see others as breaking the mold that their previous life made. God changes people.

Catechism – What does God do? God changes people.

Discussion – How has God changed your life in ways that your family and friends weren’t expecting?

Prayer – Father and God, we give you thanks for Jesus who lived a humble and ordinary life until his commission as the Messiah. We thank you that he did extraordinary works of power by the same Spirit whom you have given us. Give us grace to appreciate the humble and ordinary and the hope to see your calling and commission in our lives and others’. In Christ’s name. Amen.