Impossible

Scripture
John 5:1‭-‬11 (the Passion Translation)

From Galilee, Jesus returned to Jerusalem to observe one of the Jewish feasts. 

Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, there is a pool called in Aramaic, The House of Loving Kindness, surrounded by five covered porches. Hundreds of sick people were lying under the covered porches—the paralyzed, the blind, and the crippled— all of them waiting for their healing. For an angel of God periodically descended into the pool to stir the waters, and the first one who stepped into the pool after the waters swirled would instantly be healed.

 Among the many sick people lying there was a man who had been disabled for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, he knew that the man had been crippled for a long time. Jesus said to him, “Do you truly long to be well?” 
The sick man answered, “Sir, there’s no way I can get healed, for I have no one to lower me into the water when the angel comes. As soon as I try to crawl to the edge of the pool, someone else jumps in ahead of me.” 
Jesus said to him, “Stand up! Pick up your sleeping mat and you will walk!” Immediately he stood up—he was healed! 

So he rolled up his mat and walked again! Now Jesus worked this miracle on the Sabbath. When the Jewish leaders saw the man walking along carrying his sleeping mat, 
they objected and said, “What are you doing carrying that? Don’t you know it’s the Sabbath? It’s not lawful for you to carry things on the Sabbath!” 
He answered them, “The man who healed me told me to pick it up and walk.”

Sermon: “Impossible”  by  Tom Williams
Let us pray: Lord, as by your Holy Spirit I was prompted to write this message, may that same Spirit intercede between the words I say and the words your people hear. Amen


I chose today’s scripture reading from The Passion Translation for two reasons. The first reason is because it gives the Aramaic meaning of the name for the pool most commonly called Bethesda. The second reason is because this is one of the versions that includes the verse “For an angel of God periodically descended into the pool to stir the waters, and the first one who stepped into the pool after the waters swirled would instantly be healed.” The New Revised Standard Version, for example, omits it. The reason it is left out of some versions is because many of the oldest manuscripts do not include it. Personally, I’m for its inclusion because …  well because, without this part of the narrative, we are left wondering why … why are all of these people hanging around here. It isn’t a swimming pool. They are not sunbathers working on their tans. These are people seeking a miraculous cure for what holds them.

Now, about this pool. Over 300 years before these events took place, a stream that ran through this narrow valley was dammed up. It was done for the same reasons we dam rivers today, to control the flow of water into the city. In the Bible it is called a pool but we would more likely call it a reservoir. It wasn’t small like a swimming pool either. 

I’m doing some rounding off of these measurements. It’s length was approximately one and a third football fields long about half the length of a football field wide. And the depth? Well, like reservoirs do, the depth varied according to how much water was retained or released. At its maximum it was around 50 feet deep. 

It was divided into two pools, the upper and lower. There were five porches. One on each of the four sides and one on the wall between the pools. 

The upper pool was used for ritualistic religious cleansing people of their sins or heal them of disease by immersion in water. 
Maybe that’s where the legend of its healing powers began. 

At any rate John began his narrative by saying, “Jesus returned to Jerusalem to observe one of the Jewish feasts.” The author didn’t find it important to say which feast day it was, only that it was the reason Jesus came to the city.

Feast days were celebrated in the temple and large groups of people came to Jerusalem for the observation. 

Are there any fishermen here today? Where do you go to catch fish? The desert or the lake?
Right, you go where the fish are!

Jesus knew that if you want to fish for people, you must go where people are. This feast day was a ready made place to share his message.

John mentioned that the pool is near the Sheep Gate. I find it interesting that though John felt it unimportant to mention what Jewish feast day it was, he specifically mentions the Sheep Gate’s proximity to the pool. 

One might assume that John’s Jewish readers would know the location of the Pool of Bethesda without referencing the gate. 

Which makes me wonder, why did he choose to draw their attention to the Sheep Gate? Perhaps it was to remind people that the temple’s sacrificial sheep came in through this gate. It’s likely that Jesus, the ultimate sacrifice, entered through this gate on this journey into Jerusalem. I don’t know, but it could be, amen? 

Jesus came to the pool and observed hundreds of people gathered around the pool. Each of them coming for release from the illness, injury, or deformity that bound them.

Imagine for a moment, Jesus threading his way through this crowd of ailing people who came hoping for a miraculous healing. 

Within this multitude is the one person that Jesus was seeking. The person who had given up hope. Jesus came seeking the lost. Our scripture passage tells us, “There was a man who had been disabled for thirty-eight years.” 

There are things that we do not know about this man. How many of his thirty-eight years had been spent at this pool? How did he get to the pool? Certainly, at one point, someone had helped him. Why were they no longer helping?

Is want to ask him, 
“After 38 years, why are you still here? It’s obviously not working for you. 

Are you just stuck here because you don’t know what else to do?

Has staying put … become more comfortable than going elsewhere? 

But here came Jesus, straight to this man like he had an appointment.

Can’t you just see the gentle look of concern on Jesus face when he asked THE question? “Do you truly long to be well?” 

Of course he wanted to be healed, Right? It seems, at first, to be an absurd question, doesn’t it? Almost like a cruel taunting of a crippled man. amen? I certainly wouldn’t go to a person in a wheelchair and ask, “Would you like to walk? 

But we know that Jesus was never cruel. At the same time, he had a way of cutting to the heart of the matter with his questions. 

Listen closely to the question 
“Do YOU truly long to be well?”  Out of this vast crowd Jesus asked “Do YOU?” As  if to say, “I know that THEY want to be healed – but do you?” 

“Do you TRULY long to be well?”  Do you want to be well? Or have you become so adjusted to your ailment that you have accepted it as your new reality. Do you think, “It is what it is?” 

The sick man answered, “Sir, there’s no way I can get healed”.Ah, there it is. “there’s NO WAY I can get healed.” Hopelessness! He had given up. No faith in himself or his friends. No faith in the magical mystical pool. No faith in God.

Jesus asked if he wanted to be healed and instead of truthfully answering, he gave excuses. 

Excuse number one. No help. “I have no one to lower me into the water 
Excuse number two. The uncertainty of when a healing might come. “when the angel comes.”
Excuse number three. His own weakness. “As soon as I try to crawl to the edge of the pool”
Excuse number four. Blame it on everyone else. “someone else jumps in ahead of me.”

What a pathetic individual, amen?

But wait a minute. How do you answer Jesus when he asks you, “Do you TRULY want to be released from the burden you carry? 

Are you hopeless? Have you become so accustomed to carrying your burden that you have resigned yourself to the fact that it is yours and yours alone to shoulder that burden? 

In the hymn There Is Power In The Blood

Lewis Edgar Jones, the hymn writer, questioned four things. 
Would you be free from your burden of sin?
 Would you be free from your passion and pride?
 Would you be whiter, much whiter than snow?
 Would you do service for Jesus your King?

The hymn writer didn’t leave you with questions only. He gave the answer   There is power power wonder working power in the blood of the lamb. 

But back to our story. Jesus asked, if the man truly wanted healing.

The lame man never gave a direct answer but only excuses as why he wasn’t already healed. 

Jesus, heard the pain behind the excuse and knew that the man needed healing. Jesus
gave the lame man a series of commandd, Jesus said to him, “Stand up! 
Pick up your sleeping mat 
and  walk!”

Those are impossible things for a lame man to do, Amen?

At the risk of sounding like Forrest Gump, “My mama always said things are only impossible until they aren’t.”

Who is this Jesus to commands this man to do the impossible? 
John 1:1‭, ‬3 testifies this about Jesus, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.”

In Matthew 28:18 Jesus proclaimed, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

John the Baptist asked for clarification about Jesus and Jesus replied, “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.”

Think about that. This is the power Jesus commanded while in the physical body of a man. How much more can he do, through the Holy Spirit, now that he sits at the right hand of the Father!

Okay, so far we’ve been focused on a lame man way back a long time ago. But now we’re looking inward at ourselves. 

To quote The Music Man, “You got trouble, folks. Right here in River City, trouble with a capital “T”

I don’t know what your trouble with a capital “T” may be.  We all face the impossible in 
spiritual, 
physical, 
emotional, 
financial, 
relational, 
and many other “al”s. 

What, in your life, is impossible? Seriously, take a moment to think about that Big Bad Thing in your life.
Go on … I’ll wait. Don’t say it out loud. This is a between-you-and-God thing.

… 

Got it in mind? 

Good. Now, how will you answer Jesus when he asks you, “Do …  you … truly … long to be free … from your burden?”  

Will you make excuses for the mess you’re in? 
Excuse number one. No help. 
Excuse number two. The uncertainty of when a release might come. 
Excuse number three. Your own inability to solve the situation?. 
Excuse number four. Blame it on everyone else. 
Excesses 5 through infinity. We are so good at excuses. Excuses are so much easier than believer that the impossible can happen for us, Right? 

Have you lost hope and accepted that it is what it is? 

Or will you Give it to God who has always done the impossible from the very beginning?

Be careful with how you answer Jesus. If you truly want to be free … he’s going to command you to do the impossible.

He commanded the lame, “Stand up! Pick up your sleeping mat and you will walk!” Impossible! 

Jesus commanded Peter to get out of the boat and walk to him on the water. Impossible! 

He commanded Lazarus to rise from the dead. Impossible!

What impossible thing will Jesus command to to do? “Do …  you … truly … long to be free?”  
Are you willing to obey the command to do the impossible? 

There are some of his commands that are universally given to everyone.
“Follow!” Be willing to give up everything and everyone to follow him wherever he leads you. 

These are Jesus’s words in Luke 14:33 “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” 
And in Matthew 29:21
“If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”. 
And Matthew 16:24
“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” 

And the Great Commission is given to every believer. In Matthew 28:16-20 Jesus command his followers, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching  them to obey everything I have commanded you.” 

Those are universal commands. For us all to make Jesus the most important person in your life. 
No person
No possession
No place
No plan
Nothing is to take the place of god in our lives. 

In addition you, me, and every believer will have their own personal impossible duty to perform for the Master.
For the lame man three commands in a row, 
“Stand up! 
Pick up your sleeping mat and 
you will walk!” 

Well, I don’t know what your impossible duty will be, but I know how to be prepared. 
John Wesley had a prayer that is now known as the Covenant Prayer. 
“I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, 
put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or 
laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or 
brought low for thee.
Let me be full, 
let me be empty.
Let me have all things, 
let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things
to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine. 
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.” 

The first time I heard that prayer I was amazed because, though far more eloquently stated, it echoed a simple prayer I had been praying on my own. “Lord, push me, pull me, place me where you want me. I give you permission to override my freewill. Not my will but your’s, Lord. Amen.

Okay, so we truthfully answer Jesus and we do what he commands and, like a Disney movie, everyone lives happily ever after, right? Right? 

Well we have the perfect example right here in this section of scripture. He, the lame man “rolled up his mat and walked again! Now Jesus worked this miracle on the Sabbath. When the Jewish leaders saw the man walking along carrying his sleeping mat, they objected and said, “What are you doing carrying that? Don’t you know it’s the Sabbath? It’s not lawful for you to carry things on the Sabbath!”  

This poor guy had only been made whole for a moment or two and was already in trouble by the religious leaders.
And I imagine that there were other difficulties he would face. He now needed a place to stay and a job to provide for himself. 

“What are you doing carrying that? Don’t you know it’s the Sabbath? It’s not lawful for you to carry things on the Sabbath!”
This formerly lame man had the perfect answer for his accusers, “The man who healed me told me to pick it up and walk.”

That has to be the answer to our detractors also. Oh yes, as we travel our journey following Jesus, there will be barriers and stumbling blocks to overcome. But our answer must always be, The man who saved me told me to.”

Know this from 1 John 4:4 “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. “


The is a song by Jamie Kimmett titled, BURDENS. I’ll not sing it but read it as poetry.

When you’re all alone
When there’s trouble stirring in your soul
And if your world is falling apart
Just hold on for the morning break to dawn

Come and lay your burdens down
To the place where freedom is found
At the feet, at the feet of Jesus
Come and lay your burdens down

When the deepest sorrow weighs on your heart
When you’ve prayed for answers but the answers never come
For every tear that you cry
There’s a promise He will make your burdens light

Come and lay your burdens down
To the place where freedom is found
At the feet, at the feet of Jesus
Come and lay your burdens down

Lay them down
Lay them down

When we see Him face to face
All our worries will surely fade away
In the presence of His glorious light
We’ll sing hallelujah to the one who gave us life

Come and lay your burdens down
To the place where freedom is found
At the feet, at the feet of Jesus
Come and lay your burdens down

Come and lay your burdens down
To the place where freedom is found
At the feet, at the feet of Jesus
Come and lay your burdens down
Come and lay your burdens down.


© 2018 Jamie Kimmett Pub Designee (BMI) / Be Essential Songs (BMI) (admin at EssentialMusicPublishing.com); Ben Cantelon Publishing Designee (BMI) / Capitol CMG Paragon (BMI) (admin at CapitolCMGPublishing.com)

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