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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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”
he meets with one of them personally.
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?
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.
in fact, Jesus’ encounter with this lifelong lame is a miracle in itself.
then, Jesus bluntly asks: “Do you want
to be made well?”
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.
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?
is not only as a question to that lonely lame man, it is a question also to us
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?
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?
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
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 –
this (crucial) moment of change, the Law of Sabbath is broken by both the
healer and the healed
of tradition, you were not allowed to heal on Sabbath, and you should not take
up your mat on Sabbath!
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,
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 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?
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 !
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
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,
is our perspective, perspective of life, néw life
therefore this question to all of us: do we really want to be healed, do we
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):
God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us,
God’s way may be known upon earth, God’s saving power among all nations.
us, the peoples, praise God; let all the peoples praise God
us all, healed and waiting/wanting to be healed, praise God. Amen !