March 22nd, 2020
“With or Without Faith”
Aux text: John 15:1-11
Call to Worship: Psalm 91
Service Orientation: The world says, “God helps those who help themselves.” Jesus says, “God helps those who CANNOT help themselves and know it.
Bible Memory Verse for the Week: But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. — 2 Corinthians 12:9
- Chapters 5 through 7 of John’s gospel note the beginning of the nation’s shift in attitude toward Jesus from reservation (cf. 3:26; 4:1-3) to outright rejection (summed up in 7:52). Chapters 5 and 7 describe the opposition that He faced in Judea; chapter 6 records the opposition in Galilee. The first sixteen verses of chapter 5, which chronicle the controversy generated by Jesus’ healing of a sick man on the Sabbath, signal the beginning of that hostility. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: John, 171)
- The outbreak of hostility toward Christ was triggered by an incident at a pool in Jerusalem known as Bethesda. Jesus’ cleansing of the temple had stirred up antagonism (2:13-22), which only grew as His ministry gained popularity (4:1-3). His rejection of self-righteous Jews and His violation of the Jewish traditional regulations concerning the Sabbath fanned the flames of resentment into open opposition. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: John, 171-2)
- This is the first open hostility to Jesus recorded in this Gospel. As in the Synoptists the cause is Jesus’ attitude to the Sabbath. Those Gospels have several references to disputes between Jesus and his Jewish opponents on the question of Sabbath keeping. (Leon Morris, The New Int’l Commentary on the NT: John, 270)
- (v. 1) The truth of the matter is that we do not know what feast John has in mind. If the other feasts are named, it is because the context in each case finds Jesus doing or saying something that picks up a theme related to it. By implication, if the feast in John 5 is not named, it is probably because the material in John 5 is not meant to be thematically related to it. (D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, 241)
- (v. 1) The phrase after these things indicates that this incident took place at an unspecified time after Christ’s ministry in Galilee had ended. John recorded only one event from that period, the healing of the royal official’s son (4:43-54), but the Synoptic Gospels relate many more events (e.g., Jesus’ rejection at Nazareth [Lk 4:16-31]; His extended preaching tour [Mt 4:23-24]; and several healings, including a demon-possessed man [Mk 1:21-28], Peter’s mother-in-law [Mt 8:14-17], a leper [Lk 5:12-16], and a paralytic [Mk 2:1-12]). In fact, Lk 4:14-9:50 is all related to His Galilean ministry, as is Mk 1:14-9:50. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: John, 172)
- (v. 2) The multitude of sick people lay underneath the five colonnades. In modern times similar gatherings have happened in Fatima and Lourdes. Many people make pilgrimages to these sites to receive the healing benefit of the waters. The colonnade in Jerusalem was a place of collected human suffering–people attracted by a faint hope of being healed. (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: John, 99-100)
- (v. 2) After much guess-work with respect to the identity of this pool its site has finally been established to the satisfaction of most scholars. The pool (or, in reality, the reservoir which formed it) was laid bare in the year 1888 in connection with the repair of the church of St. Anne, in n.e. Jerusalem. A faded fresco on the wall pictures an angel “troubling” the water. It appears, therefore, that by the early church this pool was viewed as Bethzatha. (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: John, 190)
- (v. 3) In these lay a great multitude. It is possible that diseased persons lay in the porches to ask alms when the people were passing there who were going into the temple to worship; and there, too, it was customary to purchase the beasts which were to be offered in sacrifice. (Calvin’s Commentary on the Gospel of John, 185-6)
- (v. 3) What a pitiful crowd of broken humanity! It does not take much imagination to see those withered, wasted bodies, to smell the stench, to see his filth, and to sense the pathos of the old and young among that impotent, suffering humanity. It had to be a horrible, distressing sight–except for one thing–Jesus was there. (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: John, 146)
- (v. 3) Remember, beloved–this man was not lying in front of a bar on the street of forgotten men. He was not in a back alley. He was lying by the pool of Bethesda within a stone’s throw of the sheep market where worshipers purchased animals for sacrifice in the religious ceremonies in the temple! And worshipers passed him as they entered and departed. (Oliver B. Greene, The Gospel According to John, Vol. 1, 271)
- (vss. 3-4) Another problem arises from the absence of v. 4 from the best MS texts. It is omitted by all MSS dated prior to the fourth century, though the rest generally include it with numerous variations. It is generally regarded as a gloss that was introduced to explain the intermittent agitation of the water, which the populace considered to be a potential source of healing. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 9, 62)
- (v. 4) It is very doubtful this portion was written by John, since it is not found in the earliest manuscripts, and where it does occur in later manuscripts, it is often marked in such a way as to show that it is an addition. The passage was probably inserted later by scribes who felt it necessary to provide an explanation for the gathering of disabled people and the stirring of the water mentioned in verse 7. (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: John, 100)
- (v. 4) This is not a text on the ministry of angels. There are many other Scripture texts to reveal this. (Mt 4:11; Lk 1:11-22; Acts 12:5-11; Heb 1:7, 14)
- (v. 4) The Jewish people had strong faith in the ministry of angels, and during the four hundred silent years between Malachi and Matthew it could be that God chose to work through angels to keep the Jewish people reminded of the unseen things He is able to do. We know that during the transition period angels ministered in miraculous ways. This is clear from many accounts in the Gospels, and also in Acts. (Oliver B. Greene, The Gospel According to John, Vol. 1, 265)
- (v. 5) John noted that the man had been ill for thirty-eight years. Perhaps he saw in this a picture of his own Jewish nation that had wandered in the wilderness for thirty-eight years (Dt 2:14). Spiritually speaking, Israel was a nation of impotent people, waiting hopelessly for something to happen. (Warren W. Wiersby, Be Alive, 78-9)
- (v. 6) The English language here fails to give the full force of the Greek. It means, “Hast thou a will? (J. C. Ryle, Expository thoughts on John, Vol. 1, 274)
- (v. 8) The bed, as it is called in the older English versions, was a mat or pallet of straw, easily rolled up and carried on the shoulder (Gk. krabattos, as also in Mk 2:9, 11, 12). (F. F. Bruce, The Gospel of John, 124)
- (v. 9) Unlike many alleged modern healings, Jesus’ healings were complete and instantaneous, with or without faith. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: John, 175)
- (v. 9) We need hardly say that we are here shown, once more, the Word at work. The Savior did nothing but speak, and the miracle was accomplished. It is thus the Son of God is revealed to us again and again in this fourth Gospel. (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 251)
- (v. 9) It is by this means that He will get the hearing He seeks, for He is going to cause trouble at the very point where they were the most sensitive–the Sabbath. This is but one of six miraculous cures performed by Jesus on the Sabbath, all of which were unsought. (C.S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on John, 80)
- (v. 10) God had forbidden working on the Sabbath (Ex 20:10); however, the command was against working to conduct business for one’s livelihood (Jer 17:19-27; Neh 13:15-22). The Pharisees, who used the law in an attempt to earn righteousness, had expanded on God’s law and added many trivial Sabbath rules governing almost all activities. Jesus’ act exposed their work-righteousness. (Gary P. Baumler, The People’s Bible: John, 78)
- (v. 10) Jesus’ refusal to observe the legalistic and man-made Sabbath regulations of rabbinic tradition was a major point of contention between Him and Israel’s religious establishment (cf. Mt 12:1-14; Mk 2:23-3:6; Lk 6:1-11; 13:10-17; 14:1-6; Jn 7:21-23; 9:14-16). In fact, the Lord deliberately chose to heal this man on the Sabbath to confront superficial and bankrupt Jewish legalism. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: John, 176)
- (v. 13) One of the cruelest lies of contemporary “faith healers” is that the people they fail to heal are guilty of sinful unbelief, a lack of faith, or a “negative confession.” In contrast, those whom Jesus healed did not always manifest faith beforehand (cf. Mt 8:14-15; 9:32-33; 12:10-13, 22; Mk 7:32-35; 8:22-25; Lk 14:1-4; 22:50-51; Jn 9:1-7), and this man is a prime example. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: John, 175)
- (v. 13) This brings out the moral perfections of the Savior. It evidences the meekness of the Divine Servant: He ministered without ostentation. He never sought to be the popular idol of the hour, or the center of an admiring crowd. Instead of courting popularity, He shunned it. Instead of advertising Himself, He “received not honor from men.” This lovely excellency of Christ appears most conspicuously in Mark’s Gospel: see 1:37, 38, 44; 7:17, 36; 8:26, etc. (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 252)
- (v. 13) Jesus did not pause to heal anyone else; instead, He “conveyed himself away” (Jn 5:13) so as not to create a problem. (The Greek words means “to dodge.”) (Warren W. Wiersby, Be Alive, 79)
- The Jews regarded the Sabbath as a joyful day, but nevertheless they hedged it about with a multitude of restrictions, which cannot but have been burdensome. Work of all kinds was prohibited, and the attempt to define work with precision, so as to be certain what was disallowed, was sometimes fantastic. Jesus persistently maintained that it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath. He ignored the mass of scribal regulations, and thus inevitably came into conflict with the authorities. (Leon Morris, The New Int’l Commentary on the NT: John, 270-1)
- But John’s deft portrait of the invalid throughout this chapter paints him in far more dour hues. He tries to avoid difficulties with the authorities by blaming the one who has healed him (v. 11); he is so dull he has not even discovered his benefactor’s name (v. 13); once he finds out he reports Jesus to the authorities (v. 15). In this light, v. 7 reads less as an apt and subtle response to Jesus’ question than as the crotchety grumblings of an old and not very perceptive man who thinks he is answering a stupid question. (D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, 243)
The question to be answered is . . . Why did Jesus heal this one helpless man out of the great number of disabled souls at the Pool of Bethesda?
Answer: I believe Jesus singled this man out to reveal it is God’s grace that saves us, not our efforts. This man could do nothing. He may not even have had faith in Jesus. But Jesus healed him.
Fred Smith. Whenever the church has a choice between spiritual power and political power, the church will inevitably chose political power. (Steve Brown; “Beloved Pagan: Keeping the Church Honest; Pt 3, The Gift of Powerlessness” 2 Chronicles)
God allows you to go through hard times so that God might bring you to the end of yourself. (Steve Brown; “Beloved Pagan: Keeping the Church Honest; Pt 3, The Gift of Powerlessness” 2 Chronicles)
The great danger of the mega churches is not their marketing, bad theology, or the impersonal nature, but it is the mega church. (Steve Brown; “Beloved Pagan: Keeping the Church Honest; Pt 3, The Gift of Powerlessness” 2 Chronicles)
Early Americans, despite their faults, knew that God hated sin and punished it in the unrepentance, including unrepentant believers and churches. Because they feared God and His ability to punish, they sought to lead their people in quick and thorough repentance.
They were alert to signs of God’s manifest displeasure among them. Natural calamities, which some of us treat with a shrug of a shoulder, were dutifully examined, prayed over and improved by godly men of old. Even the unexpected death of a pastor, a youth, a government official, a farmer or a housewife had power to provoke them to inquire if God had a grievance against His people.
Their attitude of brokenness and contrition before God made them sensitive to what He was saying to them, just as the arrogancy and self-sufficiency of today’s church make it virtually immune to the voice of God and the promptings of the His Spirit. If they passed into dry seasons spiritually, they took this as a message from God and sought His face in renewed repentance and dedication.” (Owen Roberts; Sanctify the Congregation, p. xii)
Aquinas was with the Pope at the Vatican and the Pope said to Aquinas, “No longer can the church say, “silver and gold have we none.’”
Then Aquinas responded to the Pope by saying, “Yes, your eminence. But, no longer can the church say, ‘rise up and walk’ either”. (Steve Brown; “Beloved Pagan: Keeping the Church Honest; Pt 3, The Gift of Powerlessness” 2 Chronicles 20)
The Word for the Day is . . . Grace
Three questions we should ask concerning this miracle?:
I- Do you understand pride and sin has made us all broken? Do you see pride and sin as the obstacle to grace? (Jn 5: 6, 14 see also: Ps 5:9; 10:7; 36:1; Prv 3:34; Rom 3:9-23; 8:3-8; Jam 4:6; 1 Pt 5:5)
I discovered an astonishing truth: God is attracted to weakness. He can’t resist those who humbly and honestly admit how desperately they need him. ( Jim Cymbala; Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, 19)
The most natural understanding of the Lord’s warning, then, is that the man’s illness was the result of specific personal sin on his part. If the man persisted in unrepentant sin, Jesus warned, he would suffer a fate infinitely worse than thirty-eight years of a debilitating disease–namely, eternal punishment in hell. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: John, 178)
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. (J. C. Ryle, Expository thoughts on John, Vol. 1, 267)
Similarly, “Humble yourselves…casting your anxieties on God.” One way to be humble is to cast your anxieties on God. Which means that one hindrance to casting your anxieties on God is pride. Which means that undue worry is a form of pride. Now why is casting our anxieties on the Lord the opposite of pride? Because pride does not like to admit that it has any anxieties. And if pride has to admit it, it still does not like to admit that the remedy might be trusting someone else who is wiser and stronger. In other words, pride is a form of unbelief and does not like to trust in future grace. Faith admits the need for help. Pride won’t. Faith banks on God to give help. Pride won’t. Faith casts anxieties on God. Pride won’t. Therefore the way to battle the unbelief of pride is to admit freely that you have anxieties, and to cherish the promise of future grace in the words, “He cares for you.” (John Piper, Future Grace, 96)
The great weakness in the North American church at large, and certainly in my life, is our refusal to accept our brokenness. We hide it, evade it, gloss over it. We grab for the cosmetic kit and put on our virtuous face to make ourselves admirable to the public. Thus, we present to others a self that is spiritually together, superficially happy, and lacquered with a sense of self-deprecating humor that passes for humility. (Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust, 122)
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 to 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.” (J. C. Ryle, Expository thoughts on John, Vol. 1, 269)
God does not save us because of what we’ve done. Only a puny god could be bought with tithes. Only an egotistical god would be impressed with our pain. Only a temperamental god could be satisfied by sacrifices. Only a heartless god would sell salvation to the highest bidders.
And only a great God does for his children what they can’t do for themselves.
That is the message of Paul: “For what the law was powerless to do…God did.” (Max Lucado, The Applause of Heaven, 29)
Having dealt in “grace” with the poor helpless sufferer Christ now applied the “truth.” “Sin no more” is a word for his conscience. Grace does not ignore the requirements of God’s holiness: “Awake to righteousness, and sin not” (1 Cor 15:34) is still the standard set before us. “Lest a worse thing come unto thee” reminds us that the believer is still subject to the government of God. “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Gal 6:7), is addressed to believers, not unbelievers. If we sin we shall suffer chastisement. (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 253)
Why do we hate waiting so much? There are many reasons, but I think one of the biggest is that waiting makes us feel helpless and powerless. Lewis Smedes described it like this: “As creatures who cannot by themselves bring about what they hope for, we wait in darkness for a flame we cannot light. We wait in fear for a happy ending that we cannot write. We wait for a ‘not yet’ that feels like a ‘not ever.’” (Lewis Smedes, Standing on the Promises, 41) (Pete Wilson, Empty Promises, 7-8)
Will you argue that you are not helpless, that you are not blind, lame, or paralyzed? If you will argue God’s verdict upon your spiritual capabilities, you will not be saved. The Bible teaches that God will not debate his verdict upon the spiritual condition of the human race. God declares that the creature is not the Creator. You are not as perfect as the Lord Jesus Christ, and that makes you a spiritual paralytic or any other name for a handicap that you may wish to apply to it. Yet–this is the glory of the gospel–it is for such that Christ died. (James Montgomery Boice, John, The coming of the Light, 359)
II- Are you willing to allow grace to make you well? (Jn 5:6 see also: Ps 41:3-4; 103:1-3; Prv 3:5-8; Isa 53:5; 57:18-19; Jer 17:14; 30:17-18; 33:6; Mt 4:23-24; 8:7-13; 10:1-8; 12:15; 14:14, 35-36; 15:30-31; Mk 6:55-56; Lk 4:40; 7:1-10; Acts 10:38; Jam 5:14-16; 1 Pt 2:24; 5:10)
We must acknowledge our dependency and decide if we want Christ to heal us. Jesus wants more than to make some “minor” corrections in our lives–he offers radical transformation (2 Cor 5:17). Only when we admit our need will we receive the amazing power of his grace and the miracle of salvation and eternal life. (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: John, 101)
Did not the Savior ask the question to impress upon this man the utter helpless of his condition! Man must be brought to recognize and realize his impotency. Whilever we console ourselves we will do better next time, that is a sure sign we have not come to the end of ourselves. The one who promises himself that he will amend his ways and turn over a new leaf has not learned that he is “without strength.” It is not till we discover we are helpless that we shall abandon our miserable efforts to weave a robe of righteousness for ourselves. It is not till we learn we are impotent that we shall look outside of ourselves to Another. (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 249)
The man had waited for thirty-eight years and it might well have been that hope had died and left behind a passive and dull despair. In his heart of hearts the man might be well content to remain an invalid for, if he was cured, he would have to shoulder all the burden of making a living. There are invalids for whom invalidism is not unpleasant, because someone else does all the working and all the worrying. But this man’s response was immediate. He wanted to be healed, though he did not see how he could be since he had no one to help him. (William Barclay, Daily Study Bible Series: John, 179)
Many of us pray, Lord make me stronger and stronger so I can become more patient and less vulnerable to sin. When in reality we need to ask the Lord to make us weaker and weaker. It is US that is the problem. Why in the world would we want to make US stronger. We should instead want to kill the sinful nature in us. Think about when you are least likely to think lustful, sinful thoughts. It is not when you are strong and life is going well. It is when you are fasting or when you are sick with mono or some other terrible disease that weakens us. It is when we are weak that helps to kill the sexual, sinful desires in you. We should therefore be concerned with asking the Lord to make us weaker and weaker, not stronger and stronger. —PK
All God’s giants were weak people. (Hudson Taylor as quoted by Rick Warren; Purpose Driven Life, 275)
When the Savior said, “Wilt thou be made whole?” it was tantamount to asking, “Are you willing to put yourself, just as you are, into My hands? Are you ready for Me to do for you what you are unable to do for yourself? Are you willing to be my debtor?” (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 249)
Those that were sick of these bodily diseases took the pains to come far and had the patience to wait long for a cure; any of us would have done the same, and we ought to do so: but O that men were as wise for their souls, and as solicitous to get their spiritual diseases healed! We are all by nature impotent folks in spiritual things, blind, halt, and withered; but effectual provision is made for our cure if we will but observe orders. (Matthew Henry’s Commentary: Vol. V, 919)
Does this question imply that the soul of this man had actually descended to that morbid state where he had lost the very will to be cured? Whether or not this was the case, in all probability these words were spoken in order to bring him to an open acknowledgment of his deep misery and of his inability to deliver himself from it; so that, in turn, this confession might cause the miraculous recovery to stand out in bolder relief. (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: John, 192)
Jesus’ question shows us that he will not force himself upon anyone. He seeks permission before intervening in that person’s life. (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: John, 101)
Why this murderous attempt to do away with God? The answer is here in the sabbath question. They wanted rules, they did not want God’s grace. They wanted human merit. They did not want the simplicity of divine pardon. They wanted to do something for themselves. They had it all worked out. They would make a show of keeping a day as sacred, while their hearts wallowed in lust and their minds conceived schemes of greed. Their avarice could swell to outrageous proportions, but the sabbath would be their cloak. Keeping a day would be their mask. (James Montgomery Boice, John, The coming of the Light, 366)
Who would not want to be healed from utter helplessness? Yet the question also implies an appeal to the will, which the long years of discouragement may have paralyzed. Jesus thus challenged the man’s will to be cured. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 9, 62)
So often people succumb to their illness, “bedding down” with their alcoholism or heart trouble or partial paralysis, or whatever. They become psychological and spiritual invalids, retreating within themselves, avoiding responsibilities, becoming more and more self-centered as they demand sympathy from others. Every now and then in dealing with this kind of defeated person in the office or at a hospital bed or in a luncheon appointment I have asked that question, “Do you want to be made well?” (Roger L. Fredrikson, The Communicator’s Commentary: John, 112)
Not always are the wretched willing to be relieved. Invalids sometimes trade on the sympathy and indulgence of their friends. Others sink so low that they become despondent and give up all hope, and long for death to come and relieve them. (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 249)
You would think that after thirty-eight years of nothing happening to anybody, the man would go elsewhere and stop hoping! It seems wisest for us to accept the fact that something extraordinary kept all these people with disabilities at this pool, hoping for a cure. (Warren W. Wiersby, Be Alive, 78)
Surely there was no need to ask that; but no doubt the many disappointments and the long years of waiting and of suffering had stamped apathy upon the sufferer’s face, and Christ saw that the first thing that was needed, in order that His healing power might have a point of contact in the man’s nature, was to kindle some little flicker of hope in him once more. (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture: John, 286-7)
The Lord’s question seems strange; obviously the man wanted to be cured, or he would not have been at the pool in the first place. But Jesus never engaged in flippant, idle conversation. His question served several purposes: it secured the man’s full attention, focused on his need, offered him healing, and communicated to him the depth of Christ’s love and concern. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: John, 174)
III- Do you know you are hopelessly helpless to get well without grace? (Jn 5: see also: Ps 72:13; 82:3-4; Isa 40:29; Ezek 34:16; Mt 5:1-10; Jn 15:1-11; Rom 5:6; Eph 2:1-10; )
The first step to joy is a plea for help, an acknowledgment of moral destitution, an admission of inward paucity. Those who taste God’s presence have declared spiritual bankruptcy and are aware of their spiritual crisis. Their cupboards are bare. Their pockets are empty. Their options are gone. They have long since stopped demanding justice; they are pleading for mercy.
They don’t brag; they beg. (Max Lucado, The Applause of Heaven, 29-30)
The (paralytic) man says, “I haven’t been able to get better this way and I am clueless now as to how to do it” and all Jesus says is, “That’s all I need;” and He does it (heals the man). (Tim Keller; Working and Resting)
You, too, were lying amid the “great multitude of impotent folk,” for by nature you were a child of wrath, “even as others” (Eph 2:3). Yes, you were lying in all the abject misery of a fallen creature–blind, halt, withered–unable to do a thing for yourself. Such was your awful state when the Lord, in sovereign grace, drew near to you. (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 248)
The whole world lieth in the wicked one (1 Jn 5:19), and were it not for sovereign grace every member of Adam’s race would perish eternally. Grace is the sinner’s only hope. Desert he has none. Spirituality he has none. Strength he has none. If salvation is to come to him, it must be by grace, and grace is unmerited favor shown toward the hell-deserving. (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 246-7)
The Gospel is always more compelling to people who know their own inadequacies. (Tim Keller message “Injustice: Hasn’t Christianity Been an Instrument of Oppression”?)
All (the paralytic man) does is admit that his false trusts are false. All he admits is that he is helpless. All he does is say, “What I am doing isn’t working.” And that is all Jesus needs (to heal him). (Tim Keller; Working and Resting)
This healing differs from many others in that, not only is there no mention of faith on the part of the man, but there seems to be no room for it. He did not even know Jesus’ name (v. 13). Moreover, until Jesus uttered the critical words his thoughts were centered on healing through getting into the pool (v. 7). We must feel that, while faith was commonly the prerequisite of healing, it was not absolutely necessary. Jesus is not limited by human frailty as he works the works of God. (Leon Morris, The New Int’l Commentary on the NT: John, 269)
The Gospel is especially empowering and compelling to the poor. (Tim Keller; message “Injustice: Hasn’t Christianity Been an Instrument of Oppression”?)
Why all this viciousness? Why this desire to destroy the meek and lowly Jesus? Why this murderous attempt to do away with God? The answer is here in the Sabbath question. They wanted rules, they did not want God’s grace. They wanted human merit. They did not want the simplicity of divine pardon. They wanted to do something for themselves. (James M. Boice, John, Vol. 2, 32)
His very efforts to keep the law, and his repeated failures to do so, would but make manifest his utter helplessness. In like manner, when the angel troubled the water of Bethesda so that the first to step into it might be made whole, this only magnified the sufferings of those who lay around it. How could those who were “impotent” step in! Ah! they could not. Was, then, God mocking man in his misery? Nay, verily. He was but preparing the way for that which was “better” (Heb 11:40). (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 245)
Confinement to a bed for thirty-eight years would leave the sufferer so weak he would be unable to walk or even stand for any length of time. His case would be hopeless. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 9, 62)
I think this man’s statement is among the saddest in the Word of God–“I have no man to help me!” (Oliver B. Greene, The Gospel According to John, Vol. 1, 272)
No man can help God save you, but God uses human instruments to bring you to the knowledge of salvation. (Oliver B. Greene, The Gospel According to John, Vol. 1, 272)
Why, he could not even roll himself into the pond, and so there he had lain, a type of the hopeless efforts at self-healing which we sick men put forth, a type of the tantalizing gospels which the world preaches to its subjects when it says to a paralyzed man: “Walk that you may be healed; keep the commandments that you may enter into life.” (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture: John, 237)
Israel as a people were impotent. They had the Law, made their boast in it, but were unable to keep it. Not only were they impotent, but “blind”–blind to their own impotency, blind to their wretchedness, blind to their desperate need, and so blind to the Divine and moral glories of the One who now stood in their midst “they saw in him no beauty that they should desire him.” (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 243)
How striking is the order here! Consider them inversely: a man cannot perform good works unless he is walking with God; and he will not begin to walk with God until the eyes of his heart have been opened to see his need of Christ. This is the Divine order, and it never varies. First the eyes must be opened, and then an illumined understanding prepares us to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called; and that, in turn, equips us for acceptable service for God. But so long as the eyes are “blind” the feet will be “halt” and the hands “withered.” (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 244)
The natural man is impotent–“without strength” (Rom 5:6). This sums up in a single word his condition before God: altogether helpless, unable to do a single thing for himself. Then follows an amplification of this impotency, given in three (the number of full manifestation) descriptive terms. First, he is blind. This explains the lethargic indifference of the great multitude today–sporting on the very brink of the Pit, because unable to see the frightful peril that menaces them; making merry as they hasten down the Broad Road, because incompetent to discern the eternal destruction which awaits them at the bottom of it. (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 244)
I have no man. This diseased man does what almost all of us are wont to do; for he limits the assistance of God according to this own thought, and does not venture to promise to himself any thing more than he conceives in his mind. (Calvin’s Commentary on the Gospel of John, 189-90)
Worship Point: Worship the God of grace Who wants you to get well. (Jer 29:11-13; Mt 8:16-17; Lk 13:1-5; Jn 10:10)
When you have pursued God in repentant helplessness, you will have worshiped. And every time you sense his embrace, your soul will shine the slightest bit brighter with his reflected glory, and you will be the slightest bit more ready to face what his life has in store for you. (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 122)
About a year after these symptoms appeared, Julie and I attended a leadership conference and shared a meal with our good friends Gary and Betsy Ricucci. I knew Gary was a wise and gracious pastor. I also knew I needed help. Desperately. Early in our conversation I confessed, “Gary, I don’t know what to do. I feel hopeless all the time. Completely hopeless.”
I expected Gary to say something like, ‘You’ll be okay, Bob. God is faithful. He’s working all things for your good.” Instead he looked at me with compassion and stated, “I don’t think you’re hopeless enough.”
I’m not sure what the look on my face said at that moment, but inside I was picking myself up off the floor.
Gary smiled. “If you were really hopeless, you’d stop trusting in yourself and what you can do and start trusting in what Jesus accomplished for you at the cross.” (Bob Kauflin, Worship Matters, 23-4)
Humility is not a popular human trait in the modern world. It’s not touted in the talk shows or celebrated in valedictory speeches or commended in diversity seminars or listed with corporate core values. And if you go to the massive self-help section of your sprawling mall bookstore, you won’t find many titles celebrating humility. The basic reason for this is not hard to find: humility can only survive in the presence of God. When God goes, humility goes. In fact you might say that humility follows God like a shadow. We can expect to find humility applauded in our society about as often as we find God applauded. (John Piper, Future Grace, 85)
If your kid is hurt and they don’t come to you for comfort and help, it hurts. We worship God when we come to Him with our pain, suffering and hurts. —Tom Phillips
I believe God also speaks to sinners through sickness. Many times He calls parents through the illness of their children–and He is not cruel in doing this. It is a sad, sorrowful thing to see someone sick, or paralyzed, or the victim of tragedy; but it is much more sorrowful for them to spend eternity in hell. If God can speak through the illness–or even the death–of a loved one and bring the unsaved unto Himself, then the sickness is profitable and to His glory. God in His mercy and grace does all that a loving God can do to keep a person from spending eternity in hell before He finally says to the Holy Spirit, “Ephraim is joined to idols; let him alone!” (Oliver B. Greene, The Gospel According to John, Vol. 1, 279)
Like anyone who loves somebody (This lover – Jesus) demands your perfection, demands purity, demands your flourishing and wants to see you change, wants to see you grow . . . . Any love is holy love. A love that says, “Oh, I don’t want to bother you. I just want you to be happy as you are. I never want you to be upset with me . . .(is not love. That’s co-dependancy.) Real love intervenes. Real love confronts. Real love is a holy love. You need a holy lover. (Tim Keller; Lord of the Storm)
Jesus had not only confronted Jewish legalism at its very core by disregarding their Sabbath rules, but had also challenged them with His true identity as the Son of God, in whom “all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Col 2:9). As impossible as it is to imagine, the Jews’ opposition to their own Messiah would harden and intensify until they finally were able to satisfy their wicked hearts when they “crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor 2:8). (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: John, 179)
They were far more concerned with legalistic regulations than with the man’s well-being (cf. Mt 23:4)–an attitude for which the Lord sharply rebuked them (Mt 23:13ff.). The false religion of Judaism, like all false systems, cannot change the inside, so it is left to manipulate life on the outside. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: John, 177)
Once again, they proved themselves to be far more concerned with the minutiae of the law than with the weightier matters–such as the mercy that had been shown to this needy individual (cf. Mt 23:23). (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: John, 177)
In Jesus’ eyes, the sabbath was given to be a blessing and not a burden to human beings, and it was most worthily kept when the purpose for which God gave it was most actively promoted. He therefore regarded acts of healing and relief not as permitted exceptions to the prohibition of work on the sabbath, but as deeds which should be done by preference on that day, because they so signally fulfilled the divine purpose in its institution. (F. F. Bruce, The Gospel of John, 125)
The defense is, that he who had been cured replies that he does nothing but by the command of him who had power and authority to command; for, though he did not yet know who Christ was yet he was convinced that he had been sent by God, because he had received a proof of his divine power, and learns from it that Christ is endued with authority, so that it must be his duty to obey him. (Calvin’s Commentary on the Gospel of John, 191-2)
The sabbath was made for man, partly that he might be restored to physical strength, but also that in the spiritual refreshment provided by that day he might have a foretaste of the higher life, which he would enjoy more fully when the blessed Messianic age should come. In the discourse in John 5 Jesus implies that with His own coming that age has arrived. His own activity is paradoxically an expression of the sabbath “rest” of God, who keeps no sabbath week by week, because He keeps endless sabbath. He needs no special rest on one day in seven, because His activity as the Sustainer of the world He has created, and as the living God, whose purposes and judgments are reflected in the events of human history, is ceaseless and effortless. (R.V. G. Tasker, Tyndale NT Commentaries: John, 86-7)
It is astonishing that he would accept this healing after nearly four decades of terrible distress and then walk away from Jesus and show his loyalty to the Jews who hated Him. This has to be one of the great acts of ingratitude and obstinate unbelief in Scripture. He did not intend to praise or worship Jesus for healing him. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: John, 178)
Gospel Application: Jesus saves sinners who know they are hopelessly helpless to save themselves. The Law helps no one. (Rom 3:19-21, 27-28; 4:13-16; 5:20; 6:14-15; 8:2-7; 10:4-5; Gal 2:16-21; 3:10-25; 5:3-4; Phil 3:8-9; Heb 7:19)
All you need is need. All you need is thirst. All you need is nothing. (Tim Keller; “Gift of the Spirit”)
Anyone who has any conceivable alternative to Jesus Christ (as Savior) is not a Christian. (David Martyn Lloyd-Jones as quoted by Tim Keller; Lord of the Storm)
John described these people as “impotent, blind, lame, paralyzed.” What havoc sin has wrought in this world! But the healing of these infirmities was one of the prophesied ministries of the Messiah (Isa 35:3-6). Had the religious leaders known their own Scriptures, they would have recognized their Redeemer, but they were spiritually blind. (Warren W. Wiersby, Be Alive, 78)
The mantra of these people is: I’ve tried this and it doesn’t work. Why don’t they want to change? Because they enjoy the sympathy and attention that she gets from her helpless and pathetic attitude.
We get in God’s way when He is trying to do a work when people are constantly having the same problems over and over again and we give them grace and attention and compassion in the mist of their improper and dysfunctional behavior. We need to back off and let them feel the full brunt of their wrong behavior.
We need to stop being enablers and promote the co-dependency. Stop. Allow people to grow up.
The pain we go through is God’s gift to us in that it makes us uncomfortable so we are more inclined to change. When our self-righteousness becomes so painful to us, then we will understand Grace. — Steve Brown
The Law requires attitudes and behaviors which are opposite the natural desire of the human heart. It demands unnatural affections. It demands hated attitude and hated behaviors. The Law goes against the natural will.
The demands that the Law makes are not only against the sinner’s will but they are beyond the sinner’s capability. So the sinner is both unwilling and unable.
The Law exacts absolute perfection, accepting absolutely nothing less all the time. Perfection with no excuses. All the time.
The Law accepts no partial payment for violations. The Law offers no restitution and no reparation. No good acts erase bad acts. There is no accumulated goodness that cancels out one sin. A lifetime of human goodness can’t cancel one sin.
Also, the Law refuses to accept good intentions. The Law is indifferent towards good intentions or noble motives as if that is any consolation or credit against guilt.
Further, the Law provides no lightening of the burden or responsibility. The Law does not shorten the sinner’s sentence. It is an unrelenting task master. There is not one millimeter of mercy in the Law.
Furthermore, the Law shatters the soul of the noblest sinner like a hammer shatters glass. And then the Law sends the violator to the most extreme punishment and forever, without relief eternally.
The Law provides no strength to help its victims. The Law offers no assistance. The Law listens to no excuses, listens to no confession, it is indifferent to repentance.
You want to live under the Law? That is what all people in all religions do outside of the Gospel. That is the curse of the Law. The Law, yes, is holy, just and good; but, it will damn you forever mercilessly unless it becomes your tutor driving you to Christ. (John MacCarthur Jr.; “The Nonnegotiable Gospel”)
They think they see what is important, but in religious matters there are none so blind as those who are always certain that they see (cf. 9:39-41). (D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, 245)
There is no indication that this encounter strengthened the man’s faith and attachment to Jesus; in fact, the contrary could easily be inferred. But he did confess Jesus as his healer. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 9, 63)
So it is no spiritualizing of this story, or reading into it a deeper and more religious meaning than belongs to it, to say that what passed in that man’s heart and mind before he caught up his little bed and walked away with it, was essentially the same action of mind and heart by which a sinful man, who knows that Christ is his Redeemer, grasps His Cross and trusts his soul to Him. In the one cause, as in the other, there is confidence in the person; only in the one case the person was only known as a Healer, and in the other the person is known as a Savior. But the faith is the same whatever it apprehends. (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture: John, 238)
Spiritual Challenge: Embrace the tension that God has given you gifts, abilities and resources to use to benefit yourself and the world; while at the same time, realize you are who you are by the grace of God (1 Chr 29:10-13; Jn 3:27; 15:5; 1 Cor 4:7; 15:10; Phil 2:13). As Augustine said, “Pray as though everything depended upon God. Work as though everything depended upon you.” Jesus is our example of dependence for no one was more dependent than Jesus. (Jn 3:17; 5:19-37, 43; 6:37-38, 43, 65; 7:16, 28; 8:28-29; 11:42; 12:49-50; 14:31; 15:10; 17:4, 6, 9-10, 23)
The power of God never dispenses with the effort of man. Nothing is truer than that we must realize our own helplessness; but in a very real sense it is true that miracles happen when our will and God’s power cooperate to make them possible. (William Barclay, Daily Study Bible Series: John, 180)
This is foundational to everything. Being a Christian means being broken and contrite. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you get beyond that in this life. Brokenness marks the life of God’s happy children until they die. We are broken and contrite all the way home–unless sin gets the proud upper hand. Being broken and contrite is not against joy and praise and witness. It is the flavor of Christian joy and praise and witness. Jonathan Edwards says it best:
All gracious affections [feelings, emotions] that area sweet [aroma] to Christ…are brokenhearted affections. A truly Christian love, either to God or men, is a humble brokenhearted love. The desires of the saints, however earnest, are humble desires: their hope is a humble hope; and their joy, even when it is unspeakable, and full of glory, is a humble brokenhearted joy. (John Piper, Shaped By God, 38-39)
I’m basking in my brokenness. —Nathan Plummer (5-19-19)
In each of these miraculous healings, the act of obedience brought the blessing; the power of healing was in the Person–Christ (Jn 5:9; Mt 12:13; Lk 17:14; Jn 9:7). (Oliver B. Greene, The Gospel According to John, Vol. 1, 273)
Let us consider what regard we ought to have to our own duty and to the grace of God. Some would separate these things as inconsistent. If holiness be our duty, they would say, there is no room for grace; and if it be the result of grace there is no place for duty. But our duty and God’s grace are nowhere opposed in the matter of sanctification; for the one absolutely supposes the other. We cannot perform our duty without the grace of God; nor does God give his grace for any other purpose than that we may perform our duty. (Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace, 133)
Remarkably enough, at the end of the day it might not matter very much how we classify the damaging behaviors of addicts. Whether these behaviors amount to sin or symptom, the prescription for dealing with them may turn out to be just about the same. Nobody is more insistent than A.A. that alcoholism is a disease; nobody is more insistent than A.A. on the need for the alcoholic to take full responsibility for his disease and to deal with it in brutal candor. Moreover, nobody is more insistent that the addict must admit helplessness and therefore surrender his life to God or a “higher power.” This idea is that those who surrender shall be free–or, at least, free for today. (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 141)
Our Lord’s sobering warning reflects an important biblical truth. Although Scripture is clear that illness is not always an immediate result of personal sin (9:1-3), it also teaches that some sicknesses are directly related to deliberate disobedience. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: John, 178)
Are we ever sick and ill? Let us remember that Christ sees, and knows, and can heal if He thinks fit. Are we ever in trouble? Let us hear in our trouble the voice of God, and learn to hate sin more. (J. C. Ryle, Expository thoughts on John, Vol. 1, 269)
Christ does not reproach the man with what he had given him, but only reminds him that he had been cured in order that, remembering the favor which he had received, he might all his life serve God his Deliverer. (Calvin’s Commentary on the Gospel of John, 192-3)
For them the sabbath meant idleness; for Christ it meant work. Nevertheless, for them it constituted hardship; for him, rest. As they saw it, man was made for the sabbath; as he knew it, the sabbath was made for man. (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: John, 193)
They do not ask, “Who healed you?” They are not at all interested in this man’s glorious recovery. They are interested only in their hair-splitting man-made regulations. In their great zeal for the maintenance of the latter they even forget to see the utterly ridiculous character of their complaining: they do not seem to realize that, after all, it was only a mat that the man was carrying. (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: John, 194)
The conversion of a sinner is the cure of a chronic disease; this is ordinarily done by the word, a word of command: Arise, and walk; turn, and live; make ye a new heart; which no more supposes a power in us to do it, without the grace of God, distinguishing grace, than this supposed such a power in the impotent man. But, if he had not attempted to help himself, he had not been cured, and he must have borne the blame; yet it does not therefore follow that, when he did rise and walk, it was by his own strength; no, it was by the power of Christ, and he must have all the glory. (Matthew Henry’s Commentary: Vol. V, 922)
If God does not succeed in doing us good by the stripes with which he gently chastises us, as the kindest father would chastise his tender and delicate children, He is constrained to assume a new character, and a character which, so to speak, is not natural to Him. He therefore seizes the whip to subdue our obstinacy, as He threatens in the Law, (Lv 26:14; Dt 28:15; Ps 32:9) and indeed throughout the Scriptures passages of the same kind are to be found. Thus, when we are incessantly pressed down by new afflictions, we ought to trace this to our obstinacy; for not only do we resemble restive horses and mules, but we are like wild beasts that cannot be tamed. There is no reason to wonder, therefore, if God make use of severer punishments, to bruise us, as it were, by mallets, when moderate punishment is of no avail; for it is proper that they who will not endure to be corrected should be bruised by strokes. In short, the use of punishments is, to render us more cautious for the future. If, after the first and second strokes, we maintain obstinate hardness of heart, he will strike us seven times more severely. If, after having showed signs of repentance for a time, we immediately return to our natural disposition, he chastises us more sharply this levity which proves us to be forgetful, and which is full of sloth. (Calvin’s Commentary on the Gospel of John, 193-4)
Spiritual Challenge Questions:
- The Bible often speaks of man’s bankruptcy before God. How can we better understand and embrace this truth so that it realigns our sense of dependency on God?
- Do you agree with Jim Cymbala when he says, “God is attracted to weakness”? If so, why do you think this is so?
- What connection does Sabbath observance (legalism) have with pride in this passage? What is the significance of both legalism and pride in this miracle by Jesus?
- Do you have an area of your life that you know needs made well? Are you willing to let Jesus do what He needs to do to heal you? Are you sure?
So What?: God’s grace flows to the humble while God resists the proud. Embrace 2 Corinthians 12:9. (Prov 3:34; Jam 4:6; 1 Pt 5:5)
There is a direct correlation between God’s work, in and through His people, and the acknowledged helplessness of His people. To wit: The greater the acknowledged helplessness, the greater God’s power.
The ancillary to this proposition, “When the helplessness of God’s people is met with the help of God, God’s people properly do not get the credit.” (Steve Brown; “Beloved Pagan: Keeping the Church Honest; Pt 3, The Gift of Powerlessness” 2 Chronicles)
The nation without God hasn’t got a prayer. (bumper sticker on truck)
A real Christian is an odd number anyway. He feels supreme love for One who he has never seen, talks familiarly every day to Someone he cannot see, expects to go to heaven on the virtue of Another, empties himself in order to be full, admits he is wrong so he can be declared right, goes down in order to get up, is strongest when he is weakest, richest when he is poorest, and happiest when he feels worst. He dies so he can live, forsakes in order to have, gives away so he can keep, sees the invisible, hears the inaudible, and knows that which passeth knowledge.” (A.W. Tozer in The Root of Rightesouness, 156)
The opposite view, that we can prosper spiritually on our own–apart from the public ordinances of the church and the public gatherings of the saints–is foolhardy. No, it is worse than that. It is worldliness–worldly individualism, worldly pride, worldly self-sufficiency. (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 330)
Government vs. God? People are less religious when government is bigger, research says.
BY JARED GILMOUR
April 18, 2018 07:20 PM
Updated April 18, 2018 10:14 PM
Researchers call it an exchange model of religion: If people can get what they need from the government (be it health care, education or welfare) they’re less likely to turn to a divine power for help, according to the theory.
But are people actually more likely to drop religion in places where governments provide more services and stability? In a new paper, psychology researchers crunched the numbers — and found that better government services were in fact linked to lower levels of strong religious beliefs.
Those findings held true in states across the U.S. and in countries around the world, researchers said.
The article, “Religion as an Exchange System: The Interchangeability of God and Government in a Provider Role,” was published April 12 in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
Authors Miron Zuckerman and Chen Li of the University of Rochester and Ed Diener of the Universities of Utah and Virginia wrote that their findings suggest “that if the function that religiosity provides can be acquired from some other source, the allure of religion will diminish.”
The researchers also found something of a staggered link between the government services on offer and levels of religiosity in a given state. Between 2008 and 2013 in the U.S., for example, “better government services in a specific year predicted lower religiosity 1 to 2 years later,” researchers wrote.
“If a secular entity provides what people need, they will be less likely to seek help from God or other supernatural entities. Government is the most likely secular provider,” the researchers concluded. “We showed in two cross-sectional analyses, one using world countries and one using states in the United States, that better government services were related to lower levels of religiosity.”
How exactly did the researchers measure government service levels and how religious people are? The research relied on a mix of World Bank, World Fact Book, U.S. Census and Gallup data, researchers said.
Researchers measured government services by looking at how much each state or country spent on health and education as a percentage of gross domestic product. Then researchers compared those numbers with data about religion that Gallup collected from 455,104 people across 155 countries, according to the paper. That’s nearly 3,000 respondents from each country, researcher said.
“If the benefits acquired in the religious exchange can be acquired elsewhere, religion becomes less useful,” researchers wrote. They added that, when it comes to the role religion plays in establishing predictability and control in society, “the power and order emanating from God can be outsourced to the government.”
Researchers adjusted their results to account for differences in quality of life and income inequality across countries and states. That way, they could attempt to isolate the relationship between two variables: government services and how religious a population is.
The findings “imply that the government can provide an extra layer of security … that might help people cope with future needs, both expected and unexpected, and as such, might reduce dependence on God or other supernatural entities,” researchers wrote.
The paper’s lead author, Zuckerman, has previously analyzed links between intelligence and religious beliefs. In 2013, he published a study with other Rochester researchers finding that the more intelligent someone is, the less strong his or her religious beliefs tend to be.
The paper combined the results of 63 other studies to reach its conclusions, researchers said. And Zuckerman, for his part, said he wasn’t surprised by the result.
” You have to realize that this relation is not new,”“ Zuckerman told the Verge. “Studies from 1928 found [this].”
If a secular entity provides what people need, they will be less likely to seek help from God or other supernatural entities. Government is the most likely secular provider.” The research concluded. “We sowed in two cross-sectional analyses, one using the world countries and one using states in the United States, that better government services were related to lower levels of religiosity.” (“Religion as an Exchange System: The Interchangeability of God and Government in a Provider Role” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin; April 12th, 2018. as quoted by Jared Gilmour; Government vs. God? People are less religious when government is bigger, research says – searched May 31dst, 2018)
The world idolizes strength. Jesus said God demonstrates his strength through people’s weakness. The world values large numbers. Jesus chose a small group to be his disciples and often ignored the crowds to focus on individuals. The world seeks happiness. Jesus said blessed are they that mourn. The world is attracted to large, spectacular performances. Jesus said his kingdom would be like a mustard seed. The world does good deeds in order to win people’s praise. Jesus said, do your good deeds in secret, because the Father will see them and give a reward. The world uses slick marketing campaigns to attract people. Jesus said no one can come to him unless the Father draws them. Over and over again Jesus rejected human reasoning in favor of God’s wisdom. What is the difference between human reasoning and God’s wisdom? Eph 3:20 says: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (NIV). (Henry & Richard Blackaby, Spiritual Leadership, 66-7)
Most of us instinctively turn to government to solve our social problems. It’s a habit reinforced from the time we’re young.
Listen to these quotations from the teachers’ edition of a fifth-grade social studies textbook. “Today, when people lose their jobs,” the textbook says, “they can get some money from the government.” A few pages later the book says, “Today, families who do not have enough money for food can get money from the government.” A few pages later we read, “Today families who cannot afford to pay their rent can get help from the government.”
The message is obvious: Government is the solution to every social need.
Here’s a remarkable quotation that sums it all up. Explaining why the national government has grown so large, a junior-high civics textbook says that over time, “people were no longer content to live as their forefather had lived. They wanted richer, fuller lives. They wanted the government to help make their lives rich and full.”
This goes far beyond the traditional philosophy of limited government, in which the state is given only certain specified tasks, such as operating a police force and regulating traffic. And it shows that Americans have fallen prey to what political writer Jacques Ellul calls “the political illusion”: the idea that government is actually capable of creating the good life, the good society.
This is nothing short of idolatry, treating the state as a god.
But like all idols, the state inevitably disappoints those who worship at its shrine. A government that can’t even manage the simple accounting task of balancing its budget is certainly not capable of making people’s lives “rich and full”–not by turning to government but by turning to God. The kingdoms of this world rise and fall, but the kingdom of God will rule in human hearts for eternity. (Charles Colson, A Dangerous Grace, pp. 125-26)