I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
POEM XIX. After being surprised into Sin.
Augustus Toplady (1740–1778)
Ah! Give me, Lord, myself to see,
Against myself to watch and pray,
How weak am I, when left by thee,
How frail, how apt to fall away!
If but a moment thou withdraw,
That moment sees me break thy law.
Jesus, the sinner’s only trust,
Let me now feel thy grace infus’d!
Ah! raise a captive from the dust,
Nor break a reed already bruis’d!
Visit me, Lord, in peace again,
Nor let me seek thy face in vain.
O gracious Lord, now let me find
Peace and salvation in thy name;
Be thou the eye-sight of the blind,
The staff and ancles of the lame;
My lifter up whene’er I fall,
My strength, my portion, and my all.
Let thy meek mind descend on me,
Thy Holy Spirit from above:
Assist me, Lord, to follow thee,
Drawn by th’ endearing cords of love
Made perfect by thy cleansing blood,
Completely sav’d and born of God.
—The Complete Works of Augustus Toplady (Sprinkle Publications, 1987).
The Gospel According to John
Christ Heals the Paralytic Man
5 After these things there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. 3 In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, [waiting for the moving of the waters; 4 for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.]* 5 A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, “Do you wish to get well?” 7 The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.” 9 Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk.
Christ Heals on the SabbathNow it was the Sabbath on that day. 10 So the Jews were saying to the man who was cured, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet.” 11 But he answered them, “He who made me well was the one who said to me, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk.’” 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk’?” 13 But the man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away while there was a crowd in that place. 14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you.” 15 The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.
We have in this passage one of the few miracles of Christ, which St. John records. Like every other miracle in this Gospel, it is described with great minuteness and particularity. And like more than one other miracle it leads on to a discourse full of singularly deep instruction.
We are taught, for one thing, in this passage, what misery sin has brought into the world. We read of a man who had been ill for no less than thirty-eight years! For eight-and-thirty weary summers and winters he had endured pain and infirmity. He had seen others healed at the waters of Bethesda, and going to their homes rejoicing. But for him there had been no healing. Friendless, helpless, and hopeless, he lay near the wonder-working waters, but derived no benefit from them. Year after year passed away, and left him still uncured. No relief or change for the better seemed likely to come, except from the grave.
When we read of cases of sickness like this, we should remember how deeply we ought to hate sin! Sin was the original root, and cause, and fountain of every disease in the world. God did not create man to be full of aches, and pains, and infirmities. These things are the fruits of the Fall. There would have been no sickness, if there had been no sin.
No greater proof can be shown of man’s inbred unbelief, than his carelessness about sin. “Fools,” says the wise man, “make a mock at sin.” (Pro. xiv. 9.) Thousands delight in things which are explicitly evil, and run greedily after that which is downright poison. They love that which God abhors, and dislike that which God loves. They are like the madman, who loves his enemies and hates his friends. Their eyes are blinded. Surely if men would only look at hospitals and infirmaries, and think what havoc sin has made on this earth, they would never take pleasure in sin as they do.
Well may we be told to pray for the coming of God’s kingdom! Well may we be told to long for the second advent of Jesus Christ! Then, and not until then, shall there be no more curse on the earth, no more suffering, no more sorrow, and no more sin. Tears shall be wiped from the faces of all who love Christ’s appearing, when their Master returns. Weakness and infirmity shall all pass away. Hope deferred shall no longer make hearts sick. There will be no chronic invalids and incurable cases, when Christ has renewed this earth.
We are taught, for another thing, in this passage, how great is the mercy and compassion of Christ. He “saw” the poor sufferer lying in the crowd. Neglected, overlooked, and forgotten in the great multitude, he was observed by the all-seeing eye of Christ. “He knew” full well, by His Divine knowledge, how long he had been “in that case,” and pitied him. He spoke to him unexpectedly, with words of gracious sympathy. He healed him by miraculous power, at once and without tedious delay, and sent him home rejoicing.
This is just one among many examples of our Lord Jesus Christ’s kindness and compassion. He is full of undeserved, unexpected, abounding love towards man. “He delighteth in mercy.” (Micah vii. 18.) He is far more ready to save than man is to be saved, far more willing to do good than man is to receive it.
No one ever need be afraid of beginning the life of a true Christian, if he feels disposed to begin. Let him not hang back and delay, under the vain idea that Christ is not willing to receive him. Let him come boldly, and trust confidently. He who healed the cripple at Bethesda is still the same.
We are taught, lastly, the lesson that recovery from sickness ought to impress upon us. That lesson is contained in the solemn words which our Saviour addressed to the man He had cured: “Sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.”
Every sickness and sorrow is the voice of God speaking to us. Each has its peculiar message. Happy are they who have an eye to see God’s hand, and an ear to hear His voice, in all that happens to them. Nothing in this world happens by chance.
And as it is with sickness, so it is with recovery. Renewed health should send us back to our post in the world with a deeper hatred of sin, a more thorough watchfulness over our own ways, and a more constant purpose of mind to live for God. Far too often the excitement and novelty of returning health tempt us to forget the vows and intentions of the sick-room. There are spiritual dangers attending a recovery! Well would it be for us all after illness to grave these words on our hearts, “Let me sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto me.”
Let us leave the passage with grateful hearts, and bless God that we have such a Gospel and such a Saviour as the Bible reveals.—Are we ever sick and ill? Let us remember that Christ sees, and knows, and can heal as He thinks fit.—Are we ever in trouble? Let us hear in our trouble the voice of God, and learn to hate sin more.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
*See Bill Mounce, Where Did v 4 Go in John 5?