- September 29, 2013
- By Tim Rowell / Pastor, Flatonia Baptist Church, Flatonia
• The Explore the Bible lesson for Oct. 13 focuses on John 5: 1-47.
A few friends and I played in a fund-raising golf tournament in San Antonio. This tournament benefitted kids with special needs. Specifically, the goal was to raise money for a great place where these children can hang out and just be kids.
It is a playground where children with special needs and those without physical limitations can play together. They have rides and games for kids to play and even special harnesses and other safety equipment so everyone can play alongside each other.
The manager of this facility spoke at the end of the tournament. He said one of their goals is to provide a place where children with special needs could feel normal for a just a little while, and where other kids could learn to interact and respect the kids with special needs.
Desire for equal treatment
That is one of the things I admire in the way Jesus handled the situation we find in this week's Bible study lesson. Jesus knew no matter who you are or where you are, people all want to be treated the same—with love and respect. Jesus treated the man in the story the same way he treated everyone else. Jesus paid attention to both the man's physical problems as well as his spiritual needs.
The LifeWay author of this week's lesson pointed out Jesus went to this area of Bethesda intentionally. By traveling there, he would have been well aware the people he would encounter would need help. I imagine Jesus had a dual purpose in what he did that day.
By intentionally going there, it seems Jesus was planning on challenging the norms of Jewish custom. This was a major issue and one Jesus would deal with on several occasions. Specifically, Jesus was challenging Sabbath laws. Jesus could have done this any number of ways. He could have had an open debate with the religious leaders or just carried a mat himself that day.
Instead, Jesus chose to tackle this issue while at the same time bringing healing to a man desperately needing a touch from God. I almost can see Jesus give a wink to his disciples as he told them where they were going that day.
Basic need to be healed
Jesus knew this man had a basic desire to be healed. Jesus treated him with respect and brought about that healing. There were a couple of other ways Jesus treated the man the way he treated everyone else.
First, Jesus called for this man to demonstrate faith. When Jesus told him to pick up his mat and walk, he required some level of trust on the part of the man in need of healing. He had been in this condition 38 years. I have trouble even imagining what his life was like. He must have needed constant help and attention from his friends and family.
I imagine over the years he had prayed earnestly for God to heal him. Maybe by this point, he had given up any hope of ever being made whole. So, it took a certain amount of faith for this man to grab his mat that day and begin to walk for the first time in many, many years—maybe the first time ever.
Sin no more
Another way Jesus shows equal treatment of this man was speaking to him about a greater issue than just his physical problems. I appreciate the writer of this week's lesson being brutally honest in regard to Christ's comments about this man's sin. Jesus tells him not to sin anymore.
This is the kind of thing that would not receive a great reaction in our politically correct world. Jesus did not care about that. He cared about this man and treated him the way he treated everyone else. This man needed to know the truth about life and the choices we make.
We do not know if this man's sin led to his physical problems. It actually could be just the opposite. Perhaps God allowed this trial to come into his life for a purpose, and yet, this man may have reacted negatively to his circumstances.
As a pastor, there have been many times when I have been called on to help a person or family navigate through difficult waters—divorce, cancer, death, etc ... . Often, people allow their heartache to drive a wedge between them and God. My job is to help them see that those trials are meant to drive us closer to God.
In regard to the man in this story, it could be his sin was how he handled his adversity. The truth is, we do not really know, but either way, we know Jesus confronts him about that sin and attempts to lead him in the right direction—just as he would with anybody else.
I believe this is one of the main things we can take away from this week's lesson: Treat others—regardless of their physical or mental setbacks—with love and respect. We should be willing to find ways to help them. Let us not stop at just meeting physical needs. Let us follow the example of Jesus and be willing to help with their spiritual needs as well.