Jesus is more than___!

Pastor Jeff Struecker

I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love the Olympics. I could watch the Olympics all day and all night, nonstop. I like everything about the Olympics. I could even watch the Olympic equestrian event (though I’m not sure why they give the person on the horse the gold medal; they should really put the metal around the horse’s neck instead of the person riding it). But everything about the Olympics is awesome, because you see people who have just invested all of their life into one thing, and this is the one moment where they have a chance to show the world where they’re at.

I was watching the Olympics this past week. Perhaps you were watching it too, and I watched this woman, Tatjana Schoenmaker, set the first world record in this Olympic games, this South African woman who won the 200-meter breaststroke. But what was so beautiful about this is when she ended up on the gold metal platform and what she said to the world about this metal. I’m going to use this lady today as the jumping-off point (I’m using a diving or swimming illustration) to talk about John chapter five today.

You see, this woman has a rock-solid faith in Jesus Christ. Before she left South Africa to go to the Olympics in Tokyo, she put a little post on Twitter, and she said, “Lord, no matter what happens, if I finish first, if I finish last, let Your will be done.” Not only did this woman win, but she set a world record in the process. 

Most of the international news started to talk about her, but if you were watching this event, maybe you got a chance to see her pull off the green cap that she was wearing, her country’s colors. Right underneath that green cap, she had a white cap on, and the white cap tells you why she was competing in the Olympics.

Many Christians recognize this phrase, soli deo gloria, “for God’s glory alone”. What Schoenmaker was saying is, “Beyond the gold medals, beyond the international fame, beyond all of the recognition, I’m in the water and I’m giving it everything I’ve got, and I’m giving it everything I’ve got for God’s glory.” She recognized that there’s something more than gold metals.

In fact, what I want you to hear from the Bible today is, “Jesus is more than___”. Notice the blank.You see, I left this blank on purpose because some of you right now are struggling with some really, really difficult things, and I need you to know that Jesus is more powerful than your greatest problems. Some of you are having the time of your life right now, and life is going just the way that you’d hoped it would go. I need you to understand that with Jesus, the best days are even better. And without him, the worst days are unbearable.

Jesus is more than___”.

So I want you to just humor me for a second, will you? I want you to think in your mind about the worst single thing that’s ever happened to you. I want you to put that thing in your mind. Jesus is more than that terrible thing that happened to you. 

Now I want you to flip the coin and think about the greatest single thing that’s ever happened to you in your life. Jesus is more than the best days. He’s there for you on the worst days. And today you get a chance to see a guy who is introduced to Jesus, and in the process, Jesus radically changes this guy’s life. But for a period of time, he doesn’t even know who Jesus is. The story is going to pick up for us in John chapter five, starting in verse one. What I want you to hear from the beginning of this passage is, Jesus is more than your health problems. 

Y’all already know this. In fact, all over the world we know this: that your health is the great equalizer. There’s no amount of money, the color of your skin, the country that you come from, your culture, your age, your gender, none of those things really can help you when you’re struggling with disease or when you’re struggling with a disability. This guy has a disease that no one and nothing can fix. In fact, he’s been living with it for 38 years! And then Jesus shows up and Jesus does a miracle. John chapter five, starting in verse one:

Jesus is more …

…than your health problems 

John 5:1-6 After this, a Jewish festival took place, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. By the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem there is a pool, called Bethesda in Aramaic, which has five colonnades. Within these lay a large number of the disabled—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been disabled for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and realized he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to get well?” 

I want you to think about the COVID wing of your local hospital and people who are on their death beds. There is nothing that anybody can do to help them; they can just try to treat them, and hopefully God will do a miracle. If not, there’s nothing we can do. That’s the situation that this guy is in.

When Jesus asks if he wants to get well, I just want to say, “Duh. Yes, of course I want to get well, Jesus. I have been here at this spot for 38 years.” Now this, the Bible tells us, happens right outside of what’s called the Sheep Gate. The Sheep Gate is where shepherds would lead their sheep into Jerusalem. They would take them to market, they would take them to the Temple, and this is the spot where the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, is moving with his disciples.

What John wants you to know is, not only is he the Good Shepherd, but he’s also the Great Physician. And he’s about to do something at this little pool right inside of the gate in Jerusalem that is going to blow people’s minds.

I just want you to remember that there are a lot of people at this pool in Jerusalem when Jesus shows up and when he chooses to heal one man. I need you to wrestle with this, because there are a lot more people there that Jesus could have healed, but he didn’t. He went to this one man who had been there for 38 years; he looked him in the eyes and said, “Do you want to get better?” Jesus is going to deal with this guy’s greatest and most pressing need at the moment. He’s going to deal with his health problems. 

I just need you to understand that there are some times in life when you are following the Good Shepherd, and it feels like he doesn’t care about you or he’s forgotten about you, because you’re struggling with a health problem. And people around you are not dealing with that health problem; they’re healthy, or they’ve been sick, but God has chosen to do something beautiful in their lives, and he’s not doing it in your life.

In other words, sometimes when you’re the sheep following the shepherd, it feels like the shepherd’s leading you out to pasture and to good food. But some days, if we’re just honest, it feels like the shepherd may be leading me to market, and I’m on the menu. 

And that may be what it feels like for this guy for 38 years when Jesus shows up and does a miracle in his life. If you’re healthy, go home and thank God, because you and I can sometimes take health for granted until it’s gone. And when it’s gone, like this guy, we’ll do anything that we can to deal with the health problems. But the issue is (and this guys realizes it firsthand), there are some problems we can’t fix. Jesus is more than your health problems.

Jesus is more …

…awesome than the angels  

Now, I’m also going to narrow in on one verse in this passage, and I want you to see from this one verse (this word does not show up in the Bible), that Jesus is more awesome than the angels. 

There are some cultic worship practices that are going on at this pool that everybody in town knows about when John writes this passage, and I’m going to try to give you the backstory in just a second. But I want us to pause, slow down, and focus in on verse seven, not because of what it teaches us about this guy and how desperate he is to be healed, but what verse seven teaches us about Jesus. Look at John chapter five, verse seven:

John 5:7 “Sir,” the disabled man answered, “I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I’m coming, someone goes down ahead of me.”

Now, I want you to look at the verb tense in verse seven. This water is being stirred up. It’s not a manmade occurrence, and when the water is being stirred up, this guy is saying, “I need to get into the pool, but the problem is, I’m so disabled that I can’t get into the pool when the water is stirred up.”

Basically he’s saying, “Other people crawl on top of me, they jump past me, they pull me back so that they can jump in the water when the water is stirred up.” 

You’re probably saying, “Jeff, where is the word angel in this verse?” It’s not there. But I need you to understand this pagan practice, and I also need you to see just how bad it is for this Jewish boy, because there is a cultic worship practice at this pool. It’s the worship of this pagan god called Asclepius. Now, the belief is that Asclepius will stir the waters, and this miracle of stirring the waters, if somebody is sick and they jump into the water, the first person into the water when you’re sick, Asclepius will fix you or will heal you. Can you imagine how bad it has to be for a good Jewish boy to try to hope this pagan worship practice will heal them because they’ve been praying to the God of Israel and not getting healed?

The Jews have taken this worship practice, and they’ve distorted it a little bit. They have believed that God sends his angels to this pool in Jerusalem, that the angels stir the water up, and the first person that jumps into the water after the angels stir the water up, that person it’s healed because of the water or because of the angels. And I’m convinced Jesus shows up at this pool with the pagan worship practice of Asclepius, with the Jewish idea that maybe it’s God’s angels that are doing this. Jesus shows up, and he probably picks out the most disabled guy who’s been there the longest, and he does something that the angels can’t take credit for, that this pagan worship practice can’t possibly take credit for.

In fact, this guy, when he’s healed, is going to unquestionably believe that Jesus is more awesome than the angels because he’s hoping in healing, he’s hoping that, “Maybe the angels can stir the water up, and I’ll be the first to jump in and they’ll heal me.” And what he’s going to find is the Great Physician, the one who created the human body in the first place, is going to fix this man’s ailment. 

Did you know that in just a couple of weeks, we’re going to take a pause from the book of John and we’re going to do an in-depth study on angels and demons? You can ask any question you want, and I will answer them during this several-week sermon series about angels and demons.

This guy’s hoping that God will heal him, and for 38 years, it doesn’t happen. So he’s going to take it a step further, “Maybe I’ll just try these pagan worship practices. Maybe the pagan idol of Asclepius can heal me.” And that’s when Jesus shows up and does something miraculous. 

Jesus is more …

…than a bunch of religious rules  

But notice, there are some religious leaders who are watching this whole thing, and they miss the miracle because they can only think about the rules. And I need you to know that Jesus is more than just a bunch of religious rules. These guys that we’re reading about, we don’t even know their names, these religious leaders, they break my heart today because they miss the essence of what’s important. All they can think about, all they can see, is the rules.

If you think about it, sometimes religious people can be the most critical and the most judgmental people out there. Sometimes we can only focus on the rules. Maybe this isn’t you, but maybe you’ve met people like this, and what they’re really trying to do is show everybody how good and holy they are by telling everybody else around them how bad they’re doing. And I really believe it’s the sin of pride. It’s trying to make yourself good in God’s eyes by helping other people feel bad about the way that they’re living, and that’s exactly what these religious leaders do, because all they can see is a man who’s breaking the rules right now. Look what happens when Jesus commands the disability, and it’s healed instantly.

John 5:8-13 “Get up,” Jesus told him, “pick up your mat and walk.” Instantly the man got well, picked up his mat, and started to walk. Now that day was the Sabbath, and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “This is the Sabbath. The law prohibits you from picking up your mat.” He replied, “The man who made me well told me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ “Who is this man who told you, ‘Pick up your mat and walk’?” they asked. But the man who was healed did not know who it was, because Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.

It breaks my heart what we just read in John chapter five, because right in front of their eyes, apparently lots of disabled, lots of sick people, are all hoping to be healed, and these religious leaders get a chance to see a guy who, “I know this man. I know what he looks like. I know this man has been crippled for 38 years, and now he’s walking through the streets of Jerusalem, carrying his mat. Obviously God has just done a great miracle.” 

But these religious leaders can’t see the miracle, because all they’re focusing on is the Sabbath. By the way, go back and read your Bible. You will not find anywhere in your Bible where God prohibits a man to pick up his mat and walk on the Sabbath. These are man-made rules. But he’s walking through town on the Sabbath day, “doing work”, as the Jewish religious leaders interpret it, by carrying his mat. And they don’t care about the healing; they’re mad at him for breaking their rules.

Now I want you to put yourself in his shoes for just a second, because Jesus tells him to get up and do something. And Jesus knows, “This is going to break the rules, if you do it.” And I think there are times when you and I are placed in this situation where, if I do what other people are telling me to do, I know it’s not what the Holy Spirit is calling me to do, and if I do what I believe the Holy Spirit is asking me to do, it’s going to make some religious people mad. And you’re placed in the same situation that this guy is: “Am I going to follow the Holy Spirit, or am I going to try to follow the rules?”

And Christian, sometimes following the rules will get in the way of your relationship with Jesus. You see, sometimes following the rules will make it worse, not make it better, because sometimes we’ll go to bed at night looking ourselves in the mirror and thinking, “I’m a good boy,” or, “I’m a good girl because I followed the rules and I did what other people told me to do.” And now what you’re trying to do is to be self-righteous and to earn God’s approval based on your efforts. And everything that the Bible describing our relationship with God says you can’t follow the rules enough to get into Heaven. There’s no the amount of doing the good stuff that you do for the rest of your life that can make the sin that you and I’ve committed go away.

And so, the very idea of self-righteousness, “I followed the rules. I did exactly what people told me to do,” can sometimes harm your relationship with Jesus because it makes you feel good about yourself, and it makes you feel like, “I don’t need him because I’m a good boy,” or, “I’m a good girl.” This guy was placed in this delicate situation where, “If I do what this man (I don’t even know his name) told me to do, I know I’m breaking the rules. But I also know that a man just told me to pick up my mat and walk on the Sabbath day, and that man healed me. I have been broken and disabled for 38 years. Which am I going to do?” 

And this man, it’s easy for him. “I’m picking up my mat, and I’m walking. I don’t know about the rest of you, Religious Leaders, but I do know that the guy who just healed me told me to pick up my mat and walk.

Jesus is more …

…than the sins that haunt you

This brings me to the final point from this story today. Jesus is bigger than your health problems, and he really is more awesome than the angels. And I need you to know that following Jesus is not living by a bunch of religious rules; don’t ever let somebody place that on you. We call it living free around here, but I want you to notice that Jesus does more for this guy than just heal his body. You see, following Jesus is also more than the sin that haunts you.

Think about this with me for just a second. In light of an eternity, there really is a Heaven, and there really is a Hell that lasts forever. If all Jesus does is fix this guy’s body, but years later he dies and spends eternity in Hell, did Jesus really do anything for this guy? Did he really make things better for him, eternally speaking? No. So Jesus is going to go find this guy, and now he’s going to deal with the most important spiritual issue. “I’ve already dealt with your body. Now let’s talk about your soul.” And if you want to know where to find the guy who’s just been healed, just experienced a miracle, well obviously he’s going to be in church. So, I’m going to go to church to go find him.

John 5:14-16 After this, Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well. Do not sin anymore, so that something worse doesn’t happen to you.” The man went and reported to the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. Therefore, the Jews began persecuting Jesus because he was doing these things on the Sabbath.

In your mind, you may be thinking, “Ah-ha! This guy was a bad boy. He did something wrong, and God punished him by making him crippled.” That’s not exactly what this verse is saying. Jesus is saying, “You’ve already been living in sin. Don’t keep living in sin anymore, because it opens the door for deeper sin and for more mistakes and bigger failures. The first step is the first step to a whole lot more steps down this bad road. Don’t sin anymore so that something worse doesn’t happen to you.”

This is a turning point in the Gospel of John, in the book of John in the Bible. Up to this point, the Jewish leaders have criticized Jesus and complained about him, but now they’re going to go on the offensive because of what just happened on the Sabbath day. “The man went and he reported that it was Jesus who had made him well. And therefore the Jews began persecuting Jesus, treating Him harshly for doing something good.” The Jews began persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath, and they didn’t like the fact that the Son of God was doing miracles on the Sabbath. So, they’re going to do whatever it takes to stop the Son of God from doing miracles on the Sabbath and breaking their own religious rules.

I bring up that Jesus dealt with this guy’s sin because frankly, if God were to do a miracle in your marriage, awesome! Praise God, hallelujah! Maybe he does a miracle at school, and you’re able to pass that class that you know you should fail, but somehow you just squeaked by on extra credit. Or maybe it was at work and you’re struggling to keep up with the demands, and God does something for which he deserves all of the credit. 

Whatever it is, maybe God does something really awesome in your life, but nothing changes in your soul, 10,000 years from now, it really didn’t matter what he did for you. You see, what I need you to know is, when Jesus deals with people, he deals with them body and soul. In fact, most of the time in the New Testament, Jesus is much more concerned about your soul than he is about your body.

And so, Jesus shows up at the Temple, and apparently he doesn’t want this to just be about the man’s body, so he goes and he finds him in the Temple. He says, “Hey man, remember me? The guy who healed you? When you leave here today, I want you to leave here pure, holy, and free from your sin. And don’t go and enter back into sin and make your life worse. Look, I want you to go away forgiven.” And when this man leaves, he leaves pure, holy, and totally and completely made new: new on the outside as well as new on the inside. 

If you’ve been reading through the book of John with us, by now it should hit you like a ton of bricks. In John chapter four, you had a woman who was the town’s most notorious sinner, but when Jesus met her and Jesus changed her, she was not hiding her sin anymore. She was proud to tell everybody, “Come see the man who told me every sin that I ever did. He’s changed me and made me into a new woman.” 

By the time you get to John chapter five, you’ve got a guy who says, “Hey, come and see the man who healed me. And He didn’t just heal my legs so that I could pick up my mat and walk. No, He healed my soul, too.” And I need you to know that the same Jesus who did that for this man in chapter five, who did that for that woman in chapter four, can do it for you, too.