Sermon for May 22, 2022
- The Christian faith was always important to my mom. She took us to church every Sunday. She put me into C.C.D., which was the Roman Catholic version of Confirmation class.
She took me to class once a week, every week after school. I completed the course. The church then had an evening service where they celebrated and confirmed us.
It was a great occasion. It was a rite of passage. My parents and sister came. It was my day.
As we went home, my parents gave me two gifts. One of them was a barometer with a thermometer. I had been interested in science, and they thought it would be a nice reminder of my confirmation.
For some reason, I opened the gift and said something like, “Did you get this at ‘Pick ‘n Save’?” which was a discount store like the 99-cent store.
I don’t know why I said that. It was rude. I sounded like a spoiled brat, not a grateful son. It ruined the spirit of the moment and hurt my parents. Usually, I said “thank you” for gifts. Something came out of my mouth that I didn’t recognize.
I don’t remember how my parents responded. Soon afterwards, I felt guilty for having said that. I felt sorry for it. I don’t remember if I apologized. I should have been grateful for any gift they gave me.
I was confirmed that day in my Christian faith. I also confirmed the fact that I am a sinner, in need of Jesus Christ and the forgiveness He won for me.
2. The Gospel reading for today is the alternate for this Sunday. It is supposed to end at verse nine. But, as with other readings in the Scripture, there’s “more to the story”.
This is a well-known passage. Jesus comes to the Pool of Bethesda where a “multitude of invalids” are hoping to be cured. It’s like a covered courtyard with and open-air pool in the middle. They were all hanging out in the covered areas around the pool.
Jesus comes up to only one man. This man had been paralyzed for 38 years. He had probably been by the pool for a long time, maybe even decades. But, his hope seemed futile. He was paralyzed and had no one to help him into the pool.
At this pool, it was first come, first served. It was a race to be healed.
Jesus looks right at this man and says, “Do you want to be healed?” If I asked you that question here, you might just say yes or no. If you have been waiting in the hallway of a hospital on a gurney after nine hours of waiting for a doctor, you might say, “I have been waiting for the doctor to see me for many hours.”
And so, the man responds that he has no one to put him into the pool. He didn’t really answer Jesus’ question. Jesus was asking if he wanted to be healed. But, the man was blind and deaf to what Jesus was asking.
Then, Jesus gives the command to the paralytic’s body, “Get up, take your bed and walk”. Almost involuntarily, the man does just that.
Now think about this; here is a man who no doctor can cure. He has been paralyzed for 38 years. That means the muscles in his legs had probably wasted away. He probably didn’t even remember how to walk.
And, after this, he didn’t need months or years of physical therapy and rehab. He was immediately fully cured. Instantly, He was made whole. Christ spoke and the miracle of full restoration happened.
Did the man thank Jesus? Did he jump up and down for joy? Did he ask to follow Jesus or fall down at His feet and worship Him? Nope.
He was ungrateful. He had an entitled attitude.
I mean, a miracle just happened to him. He completely overlooked it.
You and I look at this and judge the man for being ungrateful. And, that is right. Yet, Jesus has done something even greater for you and me.
In the waters of your baptism, He made you a child of God. He forgave your sins; past, present, and future. He gave you His righteousness. He gave you eternal life. Jesus gave you the whole enchilada, as they say.
But, we have become numb to this great miracle. We have forgotten who we are. We live as if nothing has changed.
Instead of thanking God for “so great a salvation”, we complain and grumble when we pray. Are we ungrateful for the tremendous gift God has given us? Do we overlook it?
3. The day that Jesus healed this man was the Sabbath. It was a day of restoration and rest. When the Jewish leaders saw the man, they judged him superficially. They didn’t marvel at the fact that this paralytic had been healed after 38 years of living with the affliction.
They said to him, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed”. He told them that the man who healed him had given him a new command. He shifted the blame to the healer.
Then, they asked who the healer was. You probably know people like this. They don’t own their own problems. They blame others when cornered. Psychologists call these people, “externalizers”.
Jesus then finds the man. He warns him with these words, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.”
The man immediately disobeys Jesus and betrays Him to the Jewish religious leaders. He turns to people he knows want to destroy Jesus.
One of my favorite movies of all time is The Matrix. The story is that the reality we live in is just a digital imaginary world. People are used as batteries to power machines.
The real world is a place where men and women fight the machines. It is a difficult life and even the food is not very good. A group of people free a man named Neo and bring him from digital imagination world to the real world to help fight the machines.
But not all the members of the group want to live in the real world anymore. One of them, named Cypher, betrays the others. He wants to become a battery again and live in the imaginary world where food and life are better.
He wants to return to the way things were. He ends up betraying three of his friends who are killed and wounding another. He left a trail of destruction before one of them kills him.
Jesus warned the former paralytic. He told him not to continue in sin or something worse would happen to him.
That is what happens when people reject the Gospel. When they live as if it meant nothing at all.
That happens with us, too. Gossip and slander betray those who are trying to do good in the church and elsewhere. It undermines service and ministry. Words become weapons of destruction.
As James writes,
“The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
Christ warns us, “Sin no more that nothing worse may happen to you”. Destruction is the price for those opposed to the work of the Gospel.
4. When the Jewish leaders come to Jesus and persecute Him, he responds by saying, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”
Jesus is not stopped by the paralytic’s unbelief and betrayal. He is not stopped by the Jewish leaders’ persecution. He is not stopped by the fact that it was the Sabbath day which was a day of rest and restoration.
He continues to work salvation in this world. Nothing can stop Him.
Jesus was betrayed by one of His own disciples, Judas Iscariot. The religious leaders captured Him. But, they played right into God’s plan.
That’s because Jesus was commanded by God His Father to go to the cross. His life’s purpose was to become a sacrifice for all human sin.
He went to the cross and became the betrayers. He became the gossips. He became the slanderers. He became those who use words to undermine others. Jesus became the destroyers.
And, filled with their sin, God the Father made Him pay for that sin. Jesus took the blame. The Father poured down wrath on Jesus until His judgment for sin was satisfied. Christ was destroyed for their sin. Their destruction is destroyed in His body.
It is finished.
Christ declares to them, “You are forgiven”.
As Peter wrote in 2 Peter 3:9:
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
God the Father accepted Jesus’ payment for sin. The proof of that is Jesus was resurrected three days later. He overcame the destruction of death.
Christ took the blame and gave you His honor.
5. Jesus also came for the ungrateful, the entitled, the overlookers and the spoiled kids. Nothing stopped Him from going to the cross for our sin.
He took all of it in His body. He became all our rotten attitudes and died for them on the cross. He died for you and the sinner in this pulpit, too.
You are forgiven this morning. Jesus Christ is the God who worked your salvation at the cross. His passive work of dying for sin and paying your penalty was finished that day.
When He was later raised, Jesus became your gratefulness to God. In fact, every day, every moment, you are perfectly grateful to God in worship because Christ is your gratefulness and perfect worship of God for you.
Christ took the blame and gave you His honor.
And, nothing can stop Him from continuing to save and restore you. As you go through life, you will find that you fall back into old sins. You will live as if nothing has changed. You will forget the great salvation Christ has won for you.
At times like these, you can confess ungratefulness and Christ is faithful to forgive you your sins and cleanse you from ALL unrighteousness. He will restore you again.
He is always interceding on your behalf before God the Father. In fact, He never stops advocating for you. He never sleeps, He never tires, He never fails to intercede for you.
Christ took the blame and gave you His honor.
And the benefits of His cross washed over you in your baptism. It is there that you were made a new creation. You were given a heart of flesh. You were adopted into God’s very family.
You now live in the Easter reality of resurrection life. You have the same Holy Spirit who raised Jesus Christ from the grave. And He is working on your behalf, too.
Now, we come to the table of thanksgiving for all He has done. We demonstrate our thanks by receiving the forgiveness and restoration He gives us in His body and blood.
Come and be restored. Come and be forgiven. Come and be a new creation in Jesus Christ, your savior.