I love to tell the Story: Risky Business John 5: 1-9  Central Presbyterian 6/5/16
Some time later,
Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals.

Now there is in Jerusalem
near the Sheep Gate a pool,
which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and
which is surrounded by five covered colonnades.

Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—
the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.

One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.
When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he
had been in this condition for a long time,
he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

“Sir,” the invalid replied,
“I have no one to help me into the pool when
the water is stirred.
While I am trying to get in,
someone else goes down ahead of me.”

Then Jesus said to him,
“Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”
At once the man was cured;
he picked up his mat and walked.

The day on which this took place was a Sabbath.

May God add a blessing and hearing upon the reading of these words

Today’s story is about a man who

Hangs out “poolside” day after day.
A man who…

is looked over, broken, set aside.

We don’t know how became paralyzed, or how
as each day passed, another and another…

That over time he found himself sitting poolside
for 38 years.
You can tell, in his response to Jesus
there’s not much struggle left in him.
He waits for someone to get out of the way,
He waits for a good fortune,
in his case (as the legend says) for a “healing angel” to
stir up the water, and
for someone to put him into it, but it never happens.
Sitting poolside, this man is everyone who has given up,
given in and
resigned to disappointment.


This is everyone who struggles
in the face of life’s burdens


He has been on “stand-by” for 38 years, asking
“How long do I have to wait?
How long do I have to be looked over?
How long do I to be the “underdog”?


At the same time, our poolside invalid is also consistent and patient.

He sits day after day
trusting that, one day –
the magic of the pool water will deliver.


As the story goes…
It just so happens that Jesus is in Jerusalem for a festival.
He walks by the poolside in Bethesda.
The place, near the Jewish temple
where “this invalid” has been
hanging-out for 38 years.

This is the place where the water comes from deep within the earth,
is stirred by creative powers, bubbles and in that
effervescing moment becomes the
nourishing waters off life. HEALING water.

It is down, off of the streets, almost like a well within the city.
It is surrounded by stone porticoes.
(make arch with hand/arm).
which offer some shade and shelter.
According to the history behind this reading today,
there was a legend about this pool.


One about an angel who healed through the powers of the water.
The pool and the surrounding area
become the gathering place for anyone and everyone
who was ill, paralyzed & broken.

Especially the blind, the lame, and the paralyzed.


Expectant people….gathering poolside, waiting,
watching the surface of the water and listening for the
smallest sign of the rippling of the water.
They are all looking for one small bubble to rise
from the life giving underground spring
The slightest sound would cause a sudden stampede
with each person trying to be the first into the water.

Pushing aside anyone in their way.




Imagine If these magic miracle effervescing waters were here today.

Someone would find a way to bottle it,
label and market it on eBay, and then
of course Amazon would find a way to
pack it up in a box and get the
latest flying droid to drip it at your front door.


I would sell out, soon on back order.

Cause this is better than botox.
This water has the power
to make heal every pain and illness –


Jesus assesses the situation quickly.
He looks around, sees this man lying poolside,

Still waiting – after all these years –
for the water to do its magic.
Jesus, looks him in the eye and says,
“Do you want to be made whole?”


He must not recognize the voice of God

Or maybe he must can’t hear someone when they offer to help

He can’t seem to answer the question –
Instead he gives all the reasons why he has not been made whole


“No thanks, that is a little to risky.
I think I’ll just stay here on my mat and
wait for the waters to ripple.


I’ve been here for a few years now and
I know what to expect and
I know how to be sick

This is all I know
I’ve gotten used to being here,
so thanks all the same,
I’ll just lie here.”



Jesus could have just kept on walking. Others had done so.
This man had been
ignored as he laid there helplessly for 38 years,
Jesus could have walked by him for religious reasons.
“This man” was putting his trust in all the wrong places.
He trusted in the legend of the magic miracle water,
rather than God.
He invested all his time and energy in the latest
“pool-water treatment-plan “
Faith in such could easily be disqualified for help from
the Son of God.


(2) And – Jesus should have walked by because
it is – by the way –  the Sabbath,
and under Jewish Law
Jesus is not suppose to be working.
No healing allowed on the Lord’s Day!


But, Jesus isn’t concerned with following the law or the crowd


What Jesus is concerned about
is the voice of the one saying

“I have no one to help me…”
Jesus hears, above the voices superstition or religious authority
“I have no one to help me.”

Help me? We hear this alot
Our children cry out from the day they are born.
Some are the regular every day cries for attention

A parent can tell though, between the regular
everyday cries and ones that come from
deep fear, pain or anxiety

Society cries can be the same

There are so many crying out for help so that we
easily become numb.
Sounds crying out for help, physical, emotional, financial and more.


There are so many sitting poolside, unable to help themselves –
so many who are vulnerable.
It can be overwhelming.

One way to cope is to flip the “off switch” and
not to listen to it anymore.


But what if, what if instead of flipping the off switch
we ask a  “wonder question”
I wonder what a paralyzed man sitting poolside, can teach us about
listening to the cry for help, even from those who
seem almost unwilling to help them selves?


Jesus issues a challenge

  1. We have to dare to hear, to listen to the voice of Christ
    Do YOU want to be whole?

If yes, Then – share the story

  1. If you accept this mission, it is risky business.

It is risky to get off our comfortable poolside mat –
what has become second nature.
Risky business is relative.
Only you and God and define what that means for you.
It could be as simple as a phone call to someone, a letter or card
to let someone know you care


I have learned over the years, however, that
“I love to tell the story – risky business” usually means
being Uncomfortable.



Picking up your mat and taking a step might be
at the local soup kitchen on thanksgiving,
speaking out about a new insight, or
traveling on a mission trip to learn more the needs
of humanity in another culture or faith.



For Wilhelm, it meant stepping up and using his gifts in a way
he had not anticipated.


During the days right after WWII,
he felt most overwhelmed as he attempted to deal with
both the physical distress and the guilt of
soldiers returning from the front.


For him It was as much about bringing help to the soul as
healing to the body.

He engaged in conversations with his patients
about God’s forgiveness and power,
while also attempting to help their bodily illnesses.


Having been, as he put it, a “witness to history,”
Wilhelm had seen more than his share of human need.


He was overwhelmed with the existence of evil all around him.
It would be completely understandable
the paralyzing emotions, the physical pain
He could easily have “shut-down”
and turned a numb ear to the cries for help.




It was a dark time in the life of his countrymen, and
how easy it would have been for Wilhem,
as a man, who resisted the Hitler regime,
                             …how easy it would be for him to
judge the German veterans of war and
to disregard their
physical and spiritual pain.


He moved among the
many morally and physically injured while
reflecting the ears and compassion of Christ.


He himself grew up in a community of faith
where forgiveness and compassion was lived.
In the dark days of war, he could not sit silent, He took a risk.
He embraced to what he had lived his whole life.
He became a quiet healer.


The soldiers had nowhere to turn, they were broken,
paralyzed from the horrors of war.
They were paralyzed,  “sitting poolside”.
Even today many would say these German soldiers
deserved their misery,
having placed their trust, not in God, but in the
worst possible tyrant: Adolf Hitler.


Nevertheless, Wilhelm didn’t stop to judge;
the son of a Lutheran Pastor
he was moved by compassion and grace.
Compassion and grace he learned
growing up in a home and community of faith in Christ.



“I am poolside, I have no one to help me.”


God’s work, in Christ is so often reflected
by those, who have been held by compassion and hope
and who now quietly work as disciples.


People who risk stepping in, people who believe
ALL are worthy of healing.




Jesus did not carry the man to the pool,

He simply said, “Get up and Go!

“Go and live your life!
“I hear your cry”
Participating and the grace of Christ is risky business
It is easier to remain on standby
To get up and move is much more risky.
It means being noticed,

After 38 years, this man in our story,
takes a risk, he wants to be whole.


He takes a deep breath and nods to Jesus,  (thumbs up)
Reaches down, picks up his mat and moves!






Janet L Ramsey
Professor Emeritus of Congregational Care Leadership, Luther Seminary, St Paul, MN

Scott Cowdell, Charles Sturt University, Canberra, Australia Good preacher.com may 2013


Wherever you go,

God is sending you,

wherever you are,

God has put you there;


God has a purpose in your being there.

Christ who indwells you

has something He wants to do through you where you are.

Believe this and go in

His grace and love and power.


Richard C. Halverson