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Jul 01, 2012

Jesus' Style Health Care

Passage: John 4:43-5:13

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Life to the Full

Category: New Testament

Keywords: health care, healing, miracles, body


John's Gospel puts two very different healing miracles back-to-back in this passage for a reason. This message looks at what God wants us to know about divine healing, suffering and God's heart for people in physical need. At a time when health care is on everyone's minds, it is important for us to truly embrace God's heart and plans for the maintenance of our bodies.


Health Care Jesus-Style

John 4:43-5:1-13, 24-30

July 1, 2012


VIDEO:  David Glickman humorist-- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PNhveucFApo


At the danger of inducing high blood pressure and heart attacks this morning, I’m venturing into a topic that has been much on the minds of everyone this week, at least anyone who wasn’t comatose when the Supreme Court made its ruling on ObamaCare.  No, I’m not going to talk about ObamaCare.  But I am going to address “health care”…sort of.

To be honest, I’m just taking the next passage in our series in the Gospel of John.  But it just so “happens” that the next section in John 4 & 5 involves 2 medical miracles…and neither of them has to do with Medicade or Medicare.  J

So, if you’re physically able, I want to invite you to stand as we read from John 4:43-5:13, 24-30.  (Have someone read Jesus’ words in the narrative…from the back…while I read the narrator’s dialogue.)



CONNECT:  Alright, before you sit down, I want you to do something we did in our Beta Group this week.  We were actually studying this same passage (no, I didn’t plan it that way, really), and I asked people to share briefly with the group the most serious illnesses or health incidents they or close family member had experienced in their life.  So, as you meet a couple of people around you today, you can share that OR an experience you have had with what you would call a medical “miracle”. 


Health Care in the 21st 1st Century

The Bible actually has quite a bit to say about health care.  And it’s interesting (or depressing, depending on how you look at it) to see just how little the issues related to health care have changed. 

            Take for instance Mark 5 and the story of the woman who had suffered from bleeding for 12 years.  Here’s Mark’s commentary on her ailment and treatment.  25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.”


Now I know that modern medicine has brought us many wonderful blessings and treatments but…this still sounds an awful lot like modern medicine today:  12 year illness…costs you and arm and a leg…you keep getting worse and worse…lots of doctors/specialists…and, of course, suffering “a great deal.”  Has anything changed in 2,000 years? J


Life is filled with medical problems…if not your own, certainly those of lots of people around you.  With American citizens spending over 2 trillion dollars a year on health care, medicine comprises 17% of our national GDP.  Healing is still a huge deal for everyone, even in the country with the best medical care in the world, right?

If you’ve been blessed with good health, you have one of the best blessings of life.  If you have struggled with your health at any period in your life, you know that everything from medical emergencies to prolonged illnesses to death itself are not only physical and emotional crisis; they so often morph into a spiritual crisis. 


ILL:  Conversation with a pastor recently about one of his staff members who has been chronically ill for several months, in and out of the hospital with life-threatening problems.  He’s a wonderful man, very gifted, father of 4 children and still has two of them at home who need him very much…and he’s fighting for his life.  His pastor admitted that despite all the praying and fasting so many people have done on his behalf, he’s not getting better.  And that harsh reality is really causing some deep spiritual struggles in his own life and the lives of many other people in this city right now. 


Maybe that is why so many of Jesus’ miracles when he walked this earth had to do with healing.  Health, or the lack of it in sickness, has been and will always be, one of the most challenging areas of life as human beings.  The simple fact that Jesus healed so many people and a whole spectrum of illnesses—everything from what may have been simply cases of the flu to chronic illnesses and even death—certainly sets Jesus apart from all other prophets, teachers and spiritual leaders of all time.  Others in human history may have healed people, but never as many as Jesus did.  Others may have seen people rise from the dead, but none rose themselves nor saw so many resurrections.  Others may have cured certain illnesses, but never the spectrum Jesus did.  Jesus stands in a class by himself when it comes to healing. 


So in the book of John, this is the first miracle of healing…and the second.  John puts back-to-back two different miracles of healing, I think for a reason.  And he follows these two miracles with a rather lengthy recitation from Jesus himself about why his healings provoked such divergent responses from people. 


So let’s take a look at both these healings and what God might be trying to tell us in them. 


Jesus’ Health Care in the Emergency Rooms of Life

John starts this section with an emergency room situation.  Jesus has just finished passing through Samaria on his way to Galilee having been in Jerusalem one of the Jewish feasts.  He’s back in Cana of Galilee where he had performed his first miracle at a wedding feast, the one with lots of wine.  J  And while he is at Cana, “a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum” heard that Jesus was in the region. 

            Just how far away was Jesus from this royal official’s home?  About 17 miles.  17 miles isn’t too bad if you have a car.  On city streets or the average road, it will take you about 30 minutes to get there. 

            But if you don’t have a car or bicycle…or neither of them have been invented yet…then you’re pretty much limited to riding a horse or walking.  By horse hoof you’re talking probably 2-3 hours or off and on walking and cantering.  On foot you’re looking at the better part of 7-10 hours.

            And this is an emergency.  Twice John tells us that this father knew his son was dying.  This was an emergency, a critical care issue where time was of the essence and distance was in impediment. 


ILL:  I can still remember like yesterday one morning when our whole family was on vacation at Coeur d’Alene Lake.  We had taken our bikes out for the week and had decided to all bike just 3 miles to a nearby restaurant for breakfast one morning. We were just a matter of yards from the restaurant, rounding the last curve and descending the last rather steep hill on approach to the restaurant.  I was in bringing up the rear and Andrew was about 30 yards in front of me.  He rounded the last corner and disappeared from my sight for about 3 seconds. 

            That’s when it happened.  He was wearing an old helmet we had that had a plastic cover on it that was loose.  As he flew down the hill, that plastic cover decided to fly off.  He felt it come off and instinctively grabbed for it with one hand.  Just as instinctively and immediately, his other hand clamped on the hand break.  It happened to be the front break! 

            When I came around the corner, his bike was in a heap in the middle of the road.  Andrew was sprawled on the pavement.  He had landed head-first on the pavement. His face was the next thing to hit ground.  The whole left side of his body was bleeding and the people sitting on the deck of the restaurant were running up the hill to assist.

            As we assessed the situation, I knew he needed to get to a hospital.  I’ve been around enough accidents and hospitals to know that a minor head injury can cause major problems, even death.  Thankfully, one of the restaurant patrons just happened to be a medical doctor who was the father of one of Andrew’s best friends at Ferris.  My adrenaline was flowing fast and furiously. 

            Someone offered to take us to the hospital.  Not thinking very straight but thinking like a typical male, I said, “No.  I’ll just ride home and get the car, come right back, and get Andrew to the hospital.”  And nobody stopped me! 

            So I mounted my bike, rode back up that steep hill and started that 3 mile return trip to the cabin.  About halfway back it dawned on me, “I really should have accepted that ride.”  I began to think, “What if Andrew goes into shock?  What if he’s got a brain injury and we’re talking minutes here?”  By the time I got to the cabin, sweat was pouring off me.  My legs were shaking and I just about collapsed when I got off the bike. 

            Well, thankfully this story has a happy ending…as you all know by now.  We took him into the hospital.  They did an MRI just to be sure.  They told him that the fact he was wearing the helmet probably saved his life…and asked if they could have the helmet to show other people WHY kids need to wear helmets while riding bikes. They said the fact that he was wearing braces probably saved him from losing all his front teeth.  And they bandaged him up and sent him home.  [Picture]

            Just to show you what a trooper he is, that was Saturday and he was scheduled to play the drums the next day, Sunday, in church.  So the next morning, there he is, behind the drum set, looking a bit like Lazarus before they took off the grave clothes!  He’s one dedicated drummer. J


When someone you love is in a serious medical crisis, you’re in crisis. 

When someone you love is possibly dying, you’ll do anything you can to keep them from dying. 

That’s what this father was feeling—a combination of desperation, of panic, of fear, of helplessness mixed with a lot of adrenalin.  If you’ve ever had a loved one near death but not near medical care, you know what this father was feeling.  You can guess how fast he was walking or riding or running those 17 miles from Capernaum to Cana. 


This is an emergency room situation.  Only the patient isn’t there.  The son is stuck in Capernaum.  And the father is frantic. 


You know the rest of the story.  The father begs.  Jesus responds with a curious and seemingly short, rather impersonal, response.  The father begs again.  And Jesus just says, “You may go.  Your son will live.”

            “Live.”  That word can mean a whole lot of things.  Lots of people survive illnesses and accidents and “live”…but they don’t have much of a life.  But when your child is dying, those are really the only words you want to hear from the doctor, aren’t they?  “Your daughter is going to make it.”  “Your son is going to pull through.”  And you deal with whatever after effects there may be as the recovery unfolds. 


But let’s go back to that comment Jesus made, not just to the father, but to everyone who was standing around.  “Unless you people (pl) see miraculous signs and wonders, you will never believe.”    

            Before we get all high and mighty about our own level of belief, stop and ask yourself how serious you would have been about following Jesus if all you had were his teachings and NONE of his miracles?  If Jesus had just been a great orator, a good teacher of moral truths, without a single miracle to his credit…not even his own resurrection…, how much would that have affected whether or not you staked your life on his claim to be God in human flesh, Savior of the world and or your life in particular?  I’m guessing pretty much.

            You see, WE actually have the advantage.  We have 4 different accounts of dozens of miracles Jesus performed before thousands of people.  We have page after page of Jesus’ teachings, his actions and his loving sacrifice for people.  And yet so many find belief so difficult. 

            Everybody needs some facts upon which to base their faith.  If you don’t, get ready for a lot of people to take advantage of you throughout life.  We all exercise faith in people based upon the degree of trustworthiness we think they have. 

Life with Jesus who is asking us to trust him with our entire life and eternity, is no different.  Jesus just wants us to know that the reason He did these “miraculous signs and wonders” was to give us enough fact on which to plant our faith in Him.  No one can claim that Jesus didn’t give them enough evidence for them to believe, not then and not now.  This is just one of those many “miraculous signs and wonders” Jesus has given all of us to respond to. 


I don’t think Jesus was done doing miracles in the 1st century either.  A few minutes ago, some of you hopefully shared about a miracle you’ve experience or seen in someone else’s life that God did.  Miracles aren’t just about physical healings.  There are many other types of rescues God does that are just as miraculous as a physical healing.  But God still does all kinds of “miraculous signs and wonders.”  


ILL:  Just this past year, Emilio Pitotti’s family experienced what I would say was a miracle.  Angela twisted her ankle badly one day and decided to elevate it and try to keep the swelling down.  But she apparently didn’t move around enough.  So clots developed in her legs, one of which dislodged and went straight to her lungs.  Before we knew it, she’s in the ICU with a massive blood clot on her lung.  Most people die from that kind of problem.  In fact, it was so large that the doctor at the time commented to one of us that she had never seen a patient come in alive with that large of a clot let alone leave the hospital alive.  People all over the world prayed for her…and God must have said in the heavenlies, “You may go.  Angela will live.”  


God still works in the emergency room of life!  He still heals some desperate situations.  And he may do it differently every time.  In this situation in John 4, he waited for this father to come and plead for his son’s life.  He simply spoke the words and 17 miles away, someone was healed.  It didn’t depend on the father’s faith or the patient’s faith or anyone’s faith.  But it did come as a result of one man, his father, seeking Jesus out and asking. 


APP:  Sometimes God waits for us to ask.  That’s about the lowest level of faith you can have, isn’t it?  Just ask!  Asking at least acknowledges that someone has the possibility or capability of answering.  That is sometimes all it takes.

            That’s why I encourage people to ask…pray…for things from God.  Sometimes that might be alone at night when you are crying out for someone.  Or it might be week after week as you gather together in your Life Group or come together with God’s people in a worship service. 

            I’m pretty sure this miracle would not have happened if this father would not have believed that Jesus had this kind of power to heal…believed his previous miracles…walked…and run…some 17 miles…found Jesus…and asked…and asked again…for healing.

  • What’s the “emergency” in your life that needs Jesus’ emergency room?  Do you believe Jesus enough to embark on a journey that may be long, tiring, hot, uncertain and hard just to be able to ASK him to heal whatever it is that needs it in our life or the life of someone you love?  (Not all emergencies are medical in nature.  Many are relational or emotional or financial or spiritual.)
  • Are you ready to obey Jesus when he does speak by exercising more faith than you probably ever have…even before you see the answer in person?  Are we ready to talk with someone when God says, “Go”?  Are we believing Him enough to step out and do something outside our comfort zone when Jesus says, “Now…there …with them”?  If we’re asking Jesus for miracles, he’ll be answering…and it may demand even greater faith than it took to ask in the first place.  



  • Answer what the “emergency” situation may be, the critical, life-altering or even eternal life-threatening challenge is? 
  • Now will you take the journey, no matter how long or tough, to bring it to Jesus?  (From this day to months/years from now…or from your seat to this cross?)

Talk to God about this later when we have communion.


From this story John moves directly into the next healthcare challenge.  But whereas this one in chapter 4 was the “emergency room”, the one in chapter 5 is assisted living.  And that’s not the only big difference.  There is plenty of contrast between these two stories that I think God intends us to notice so that we’ll be drawn to trust him for not only these 2 kinds of situations but everything in between. 


Let’s notice as many differences as we can between these two healthcare incidents.

  • Age of the patient (youth vs. middle-age to older)
  • Duration of the illness  (short vs. 38 years)
  • Severity of the illness  (life-threatening vs. chronic)
  • Distance from Jesus  (17 miles vs. touch)
  • Surrounding safety net of support  (Loving father and servants vs. nobody)
  • Family involvement/non-involvement
  • Who seeks whom?  (Father seeks Jesus; Jesus seeks the invalid.)
  • Setting/location (diff. cities, types of people)
  • Social class (royal official vs. outcast marginalized)
  • Mindset of the people involved (Jesus can do this vs. I can’t do this)
  • Responses  (royal official and whole household believe vs. jealousy and hatred of Jewish leaders)


Sometimes I think God does things in such very different ways just to mess with our tendency to want to systematize things.  We want to find a formula for healing that we can trot out every time and have it work.  God wants to find people’s hearts right where they are and do something that requires us to engage and sometimes wrestle with Him. 


And while Jesus’ healing of this man who had been in the nursing home for 38 years is a pretty amazing thing, how many other sick people in that place didn’t get healed?  How many other blind people never saw light again?  How many other paraplegic and quadriplegics never got to take up their litters and walk?  How many questions and accusations and doubts about God’s goodness did Jesus’ one healing in that place provoke in the hearts of everyone else there? 


Healing, important as it is to us, is apparently not as important to God.  That doesn’t mean He is indifferent or callous or uncaring.  It does mean he sees and understands and uses illness in ways we don’t seem to value or want or care about.  God has been using illness and suffering for thousands of years to try and get the attention of wayward mankind.  Sometimes people find God in their suffering.  Sometimes people curse God and run from him and grow more resistant to him in their suffering. 

            While we would probably heal every person who was sick if we had the power Jesus does, the one who does have that power…and is both all-wise, all-loving and all-compassionate… chooses not to.  We can judge that as wrong or deficient or even evil.  But we’re the one’s lacking wisdom and knowledge and love and a host of other amazing qualities God has in perfection that we don’t have.  Faith not only believes God for healings; it trusts him in sufferings.


Notice a couple of interesting things about this story.  The first is Jesus’ question to this chronically-ill man:  “Do you want to get well?” 

What kind of a question is that?  Would you have the guts, the audacity, to go into the nearest nursing home, pick some man or woman out of the crowd, and ask them, “So tell me, do you really want to get well?” 


Can we all agree that all of us suffer from different kinds of “illnesses”? Some of us may have physical limitations or disabilities that we have to contend with for decades…or a lifetime.  Some of us may suffer from mental or psychological disorders that assault us for years.  Others may be handicapped relationally or professionally or educationally or financially. 

            It is sometimes easier to learn to live with our personal disabilities and weaknesses than it is to have to learn a new way of living than we’ve ever experienced before. 

  • Why do people stick with addictions that are killing them and the people around them? 
    • Not because nobody has ever kicked the habit. 
    • Not because there aren’t 12-step groups or recovery groups around where they can learn from others and grow up enough to face the pain of life in a healthy way. 
    • It’s not because God isn’t offering them a way out and the power to do it.

Most of us prefer the “known” experience we’re in despite the pain and suffering it brings to the “unknown” road to healing that health usually requires. 


Just take this fellow here for instance. 

  • What would have to change in his life if he were healed?
    • No more begging for bread.
    • No more non-working lifestyle.
    • No more sympathy miles from people for his illness?
    • Maybe a whole new set of friends and associates would have to be developed?
    • Maybe he’d have to come back to this pool and start caring for people the way he had wanted others to care for him when he was sick.

A whole lot of things were going to change in his life if Jesus healed him. 

  • Notice what didchange when he got healed.
    • Immediately he gets criticism for doing what Jesus told him to do.
    • He gets put in a bind:  do I rat-out the guy who changed my life or do I run the risk of offending the powers that be and becoming a different kind of outcast?
    • He looks and feels like an idiot for not even knowing who so radically changed his life.
    • He now has to “stop sinning”.  The tense of that verb (present) clues us into the fact that Jesus isn’t referring to what supposedly happened more than 38 years ago but to the present condition of this man.  He is currently in an unreconciled sate with God.  “Something worse” might be another illness.  But more likely, I think, could be what would truly be “worse” than any physical illness, namely remain alienated from God and face eternity separated from the God who had met him and blessed him at close range.  

Which brings up one of the most important issues related to healing and illness.  How many times does God use illness to bring us to the point where we truly cry out to God for healing?  How many people in this world cry out to God for perhaps the first time when they run out of health? 

C.S. Lewis said in his book The Problem of Pain, “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”


Once roused, how many, experiencing a healing they long for and cry out for, never turn back to or carry through with the God who gives more life and time?  To every single person who has ever cried out in pain for God to rescue them…and God has…Jesus says, “See, you are well again.  Stop sinning…surrender to me…let me give you a new heart…let my Spirit take control of your life…end this life of constant enmity and rebellion against God…or something worse will happen to you.”


The Author of all life, especially human life, speaks to every one of us who has or is suffering, every one of us who has been or is being healed, (Jn. 5:24-28)

24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. 25 Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.

28 “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.


Our Savior is speaking to every one of us in this world, “the dead” spoken of in vs. 25.  He does it through illness and suffering; he does it through healing and health. 

            But not everyone is listening.  So many refuse to hear His voice, whether in suffering or strength, brokenness or health.  The most important issue is not whether God heals us every time we want him to.  It is whether we hear and see and feel and respond to Him every time he speaks through pleasure and pain, through health and illness.  Jesus is clearly the source of life, both physical and flawed in time and spiritual as perfect in eternity.  What are you doing with what He is speaking?  How are you responding to how He is calling? 


At the end of all this healing, Jesus points to the future of every one of us when he says (vs. 28), “…a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.”


God’s word is clear that everyone is going to experience a resurrection from the dead.  Everyone is going to have some sort of corporal, immortal body that will be with us for the rest of eternity.  Jesus’ resurrection guaranteed that.  His healing power evidence from time to time with various individuals in the 1st century and in every century since will be manifested in all its power with every one of us for all eternity.

            But not everyone will have the same eternal experience. Those who “rise to live” in the presence of God forever through faith in Jesus Christ will rise to life in a depth, a beauty and a magnitude unimaginable to us today.   As John would later see and write about in his Revelation of heaven at the end of his life in Rev. 21:3ff-- And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars —they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

Vs. 22ff-- 22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.


This is the ONLY “health care” plan that will ultimately and forever satisfy!


[Call to faith in the source of life, the great Physician.]