Meditations, Reflections, Bible Studies, and Sermons from Kowloon Union Church  


A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 1 May 2016 by the Rev. Dr. Tjeerd de Boer. The scripture readings that day were John 5:1-9.

John 5: 1 After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

2 Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. 3 In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed.  5 One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” 7 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 making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. Now that day was the sabbath.

This Gospel reading is about healing, healing on a holy day, somewhere between Easter and Pentecost, about a sign, an indication that Jesus is the one we are waiting for, even if do not know who he is.

Healing, at different levels, in different circles, individual-community-nations healing as of one of the signs by which Jesus makes it very clear who he is – and what his ministry and mission mean.

It is in a place called Bet-zatha, Bethesda (still name of many hospitals): pool of mercy, and it is one of seven signs (in the Gospel of John) by which Jesus shows how comprehensive, how all-inclusive his healing is: by changing water into wine, by cleaning the temple, by curing a sick boy and a lame man, by feeding the multitude, by opening the eyes of one was blind and one who was dead – seven signs of life, of new life.

For many of us, Christians, Jesus’ ministry is the ministry of healing in the first place, indeed – Jesus came and comes to heal.  

A survey among new Christians in mainland China shows that nearly 70%  of them gave healing as motive for conversion, the recovery from illness of oneself or of a family member.
More in general, that is true for most of the first generation Christians in all Asian, African and Latin American (and perhaps other) churches and countries.

The Gospel tells us how Jesus meets with the crowds, with the invalids —blind, lame, and paralyzed people – that is the first circle, of the ones Jesus is coming for, as he testified in his first public sermon: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,  because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor”

Here, he meets with one of them personally.
Very striking, the story of this disabled man, who for already 38 years is waiting for a miracle, waiting to be healed, waiting for someone to heal him, or at least, someone to help him to be healed, 38 years – and still hoping?
Exactly the number of years of the journey of the people of Israel, through desert and wilderness, which took them 38 years – and cost them a whole generation (Deut. 2:14).
So, in fact, Jesus’ encounter with this lifelong lame is a miracle in itself.

And then, Jesus bluntly asks:  “Do you want to be made well?”
It seems to be a rather senseless and unnecessary question, to a person who is, a lifetime long, waiting to be healed.  Of cóurse he wants to be healed.

But the question is and remains to be intriguing, does he really want to be healed, to live with a new perspective, a new life, fundamentally different from the life he used to live, for so many years? Does he realizes what it really means to be healed?

- It is not only as a question to that lonely lame man, it is a question also to us :
do we want to get well, do we want to be healed? Do we want that new perspective? Do we really want to see that what needs to be healed, is healed?
Do we want to change all that has to be changed? Are we willing, are we able, to start a new life, or to start our life anew?

The poor man’s perspective is narrow, limited by his daily routine, he expects his new friend, his unknown benefactor, to help him to go into the pool, without knowing that it is Jesus who asks him the key question
But, Jesus does not bring him to the pool, he heals him right away – without asking further questions or putting conditions - and the man was made well, took up his mat and began to walk –

At this (crucial) moment of change, the Law of Sabbath is broken by both the healer and the healed
Because of tradition, you were not allowed to heal on Sabbath, and you should not take up your mat on Sabbath!

Through those two very short lines, stand up and  walk – and: that day was a Sabbath, the circle becomes wider, wider than the blind, lame, and paralyzed in the pool, as wide as the whole community of believers – of all those who had not seen the need of the invalid, of the poor among them, for so many, many years
-          we get to know Jesus, who heals whenever it is needed and heals whom wants to be healed, if necessary, breaking the Law,

Jesus’ healing goes beyond the Law. Jesus’ message is a sign to the whole community of believers, as the individual change – and healing -  involves all

The message is clear
-          the only authority Jesus respects is the authority of his Father,
-          his mission is God’s mission
-          his question is, with even more emphasis: do you want to get well, do you want to get healed – is also a question to the authorities, whose rules he breaks: do you really want a new perspective, of life?

Jesus’ mission and ministry, Jesus’ healing goes beyond all borders, all kinds of borders, beyond traditions and authorities, beyond pools of mercy, beyond neighborly or friendly help and assistance, beyond our human efforts, how important traditions and authorities may be, how admirable acts of charity and solidarity and how essential human efforts, of course, are !

Jesus’ healing is human and divine at the same time, is very down to earth and effective, is directly related to the sorrows and pains of daily life and is directly to the promises of new life, a new earth, a new city where all and all needs are being taken care of,  and all are healed.

That is the widest circle: the circle which includes áll peoples, áll nations (áll cultures, áll languages), the city where Jesus is Lord (which we celebrate at Ascension Day, this coming Thursday), the community where there is place and food and health and life for all, forever,
>>that is our perspective, perspective of life, néw life
>> therefore this question to all of us: do we really want to be healed, do we really want:

Beauty for brokenness
Hope for despair
Lord, in the suffering

This is our prayer
Bread for the children
Justice, joy, peace
Sunrise to sunset
Your kingdom increase!

With the words of Psalm 67, Psalm of Ascension - which we sang at the beginning of our worship (Laudate Omnes Gentes, Sing Praises, All You Peoples):

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us,
That God’s way may be known upon earth, God’s saving power among all nations.
Let us, the peoples, praise God; let all the peoples praise God

Let us all, healed and waiting/wanting to be healed, praise God.  Amen !

# posted by Heddy Ha : Sunday, May 01, 2016

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