John 5: 1-9, 15
Mark 5: 24-34
Revelation 3: 15-20
Luke 15: 27
We have been speaking about very great things, indeed glorious things, together over these days, and, of course, we would always have to confess that we but touch the very fringes of them. That is why I think Paul, writing to the Ephesians, prays in the first of the two prayers in that epistle that “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, would give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the full knowledge of him, being enlightened in the eyes of your heart”, Eph 1: 17, 18. There are wonderful things which are available to the believer by the Spirit, the greatness of God’s inheritance in the saints, also touched on there in Ephesians, divine thoughts in their fulness, such that if we could only open our hearts to the fulness of them it would eclipse everything that this world can offer. These are very great things and I trust that there has been some impression left that may have whetted our appetite a little for them.
My impression for this preaching is the wonder that the One who is so great, the One we have spoken of, “by whom also he made the worlds” (Heb 1: 2), who created all things, “the visible and invisible”, and all the things that we read of in Colossians which “have been created by him and for him” (1: 16), our Lord Jesus Christ, is the One who in the glad tidings has a care for you. We know what it is like to sit in the preaching and other meetings and to listen to the truth being spoken and to hear of great divine things, and apparently some of the company enjoying them very much, and yet they seem to pass us by. It is a wonderful thing to know that the One who inhabits the highest glory is the One who would come near to you. He would come really near to you with a desire that you might not just be an onlooker in the vicinity of divine things, but you might be brought into the fulness of them. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the Lord of glory would come near to you tonight in the glad tidings to appeal to your heart.
I read the reference in Luke 15 where the servant goes out to the older son and says, “because he has received him safe and well”. Somebody said to us once that God’s desire for you in the glad tidings is contained in those words, “safe and well”. It is not that you might just be on the periphery of divine things but that you might be ’safe and well’. There are two things there because we know what it is, some of us, to be safe, but not well; we know what it is to know God’s salvation yet not be in the enjoyment of it. We know what it is to know our sins forgiven and to have peace with God in relation to our eternal destiny, but as far as the present time, we may be troubled and unsettled as to many things. I think that expression covers both, “because he has received him safe and well”. The Lord Jesus has a desire for you, as He has a desire for me, and for everyone here, that you might not only be aware of the greatness of divine things, but that you might be a participator in them, and for that you need to be “safe and well”. Do you know what it is to be safe? Are you safe in relation to your eternal welfare and destiny? Are you safe? Young people like to be safe. Parents provide an environment, as far as they are able, which is safe. But as far as our eternal destiny is concerned, these things are beyond the reach of human ability, and when we look for safety as to our eternal welfare we have to do with God, we have to do with our Lord Jesus Christ.
I will tell a little story, which I have told many times. The people of Israel were in Egypt, and Pharaoh was refusing to let God’s people go. God had brought the plagues upon Egypt, and the final plague came upon them where the firstborn in every house in Egypt was to die as Jehovah passed through the land. Now, suppose there were two houses in Egypt at that time, both with Israelite families in them. They had heard the word of God that they were to take of the blood of the lamb that they had kept in the house, and they were to dip a bunch of hyssop into the blood, and put the blood across the top of the door and down the two door-posts of the entrance of the house. God had said, “I will go through the land of Egypt and smite all the firstborn ... and when I see the blood, I will pass over you”, Exod 12: 12, 13. The man of the first house could not see and understand how applying the blood like this could possibly make any difference. He was in terrible fear for his family and anxiety about what would happen, but in obedience to the word, despite his anxieties and concerns about it, he took of the blood and put it on the door-posts and the lintel of his house and shut the door for the night. He spent the whole night in anxiety, awake and waiting for the morning to see what would happen. There was another man in the second house who had full confidence in what was said. If God had said that the blood on the door-posts and the lintel of his house would ensure its safety, he had full confidence that if God said that, that is what would happen. So he took of the blood and put it on the door-posts and the lintel of the house, shut the door, confident in his God and in His word, that what He said He would do. ’Now’, the old preacher has asked, ’which was the safer house?’. The answer was that they were both safe, because it is not what I see and understand of the blood of Jesus, it is what God sees, and if I take shelter under the blood of Christ, my eternal destiny, my eternal future is secure through the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. Remember that, if you remember nothing else, that when it comes to faith in the blood, it is not what I see in the value of the precious blood of Christ - I could never put the proper value upon it - but it is what God sees. What God sees is that the One who meant everything to Him, the One who fulfilled His will, the Man who was here upon this earth, in obedience to His will, who demonstrated in manhood everything that He had ever looked for in a man, went into death and shed His precious blood that that blood might become the purchase price for the safety of millions. There are countless millions of persons who put their confidence in the fact that what God saw in that blood was great enough to save them forever. These are very precious things. Remember this: both the houses were safe. It is not your feelings or fears, it is what God sees. By faith lay hold of that work of Christ, which you can never appreciate in its fulness; what God sees in it is great enough to save you. Have you got that? Do you know what it is to put your confidence in God and in the work of Christ in relation to all your sins and your guilt, and all the things that have entered into your life?
The younger ones here will know something like me about the guilt of sin. What a wonderful thing it is when we come to put our trust in relation to all of that in the Saviour’s work and in His Person, and in His present position as a risen and glorious Saviour:
My sins - O the bliss of this glorious thought -
My sins - not in part, but the whole -
Were borne on the cross, and are gone evermore.
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
Have you got that? It is a precious thing if you have your faith in the blood of Jesus and in His precious work, and in the fact that He is now a risen, glorious, living Saviour in heaven. “If thou … shalt believe in thine heart that God has raised him from among the dead, thou shalt be saved”, Rom 10: 9.
That is the first thing I would like to speak of in the glad tidings, that ability to save. Nothing man can give you can save you. Man does his best, but how often in relation to this world things go wrong, things break down, things do not work any more, or do not work as they should: catastrophes and disasters come about. There has never been a catastrophe in relation to the word of God. Everything that He says is sure; that salvation is secure. I can tell you this, beloved young one, that for myself, my faith and trust is in the blood of Jesus, and the work of Jesus and the Person who has risen out of death and lives in heaven, a glorious living Saviour. That is what it is to be saved.
But are you well? As we get older, we learn that we are not always well. We are not always well in our Christian life either, in relation to the Christian pathway, where sometimes the enemy can assail us. Sometimes we know what it is for Satan to come in and trouble us in our thoughts and try to destabilise us. These are very real things. I wonder how many troubled hearts there are amongst us. It says in scripture, “why are thoughts rising in your hearts?”, Luke 24: 38. The Lord Jesus knows all this and the glad tidings come to us, not only to save us, but to make us well.
I have read these other scriptures because they speak of those who have been made well. John is the last gospel written, written in days when things were breaking down publicly. John does not write directly about the assembly, he does not write about any organised structure, he does not speak about disciples in that way. He has one thing only before him: he speaks about Christ. He presents the Lord Jesus Christ; he loves to speak of Jesus. John is not a historical gospel; he does not write it as a history like the others. He writes with a purpose. He says at the end, “Many other signs therefore also Jesus did before his disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life in his name”, John 20: 30, 31. He speaks about a Man. We have been speaking of the glory of that Man, and John loves to speak of Him, and he writes as a lover of Christ. He speaks about the Lord Jesus Christ all the way through his gospel, and you find things in it that you do not find in the other gospels; and always he speaks about the Man, the Man that was here. I have read of one of those occasions. John the baptist says, “A man comes after me who takes a place before me, because he was before me”, John 1: 30. John, the writer, as an admirer of Christ, uses every opportunity that he can use to magnify Jesus. I would like to do that. In this scripture that we have read, the man by the pool at Bethesda says, “Sir, I have not a man”. The woman in chapter 4 says, “Come, see a man who told me all thing I had ever done” (John 4: 29), and in John 9 the blind man who was healed says, “A man called Jesus made mud and anointed mine eyes” (v 11), and right at the end, as Pilate brings out the Lord Jesus Christ to die, even he, hardened, hard-bitten Roman governor, is moved to say, “Behold the man!”, John 19: 5. That is John’s gospel which in summary, you could say, is about the Man.
The gospel is about a Man, not about a creed. It is not about a book of laws; it is about the Lord Jesus Christ Himself personally, God’s Man. I want you to imagine this pool at Bethesda, which apparently had healing powers as an angel appeared at certain seasons and troubled the waters. I cannot say much about it; that is what the scripture says - any one who went into the water first was healed. You can imagine that man had made something of this place as a place of healing and Bethesda had these five porches. Entrances had been built into the place, as men would do with such places. It is a bit like the gates of Christendom, all the different entrances that men’s minds have conceived, Methodism, Catholicism, and all kinds of ‘isms’ in Christendom that purport to show the way to salvation. Maybe these are like the porches of Bethesda. But, there is no ‘ism’, no position, that can bring you salvation in relation to your never-dying soul. The only One who can do that is the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ personally. That was the position here and all these persons were lying there waiting for the water to move, waiting for the angel to come, waiting for something to happen. One of these was this man “who had been suffering under his infirmity thirty and eight years”. That is a long time. He was lying there waiting. Presumably he was crippled and could not reach the water, and the Lord Jesus comes alongside him and says, “Wouldest thou become well?”. How long have you been around the Christian company? How long have you known what it is to be in a condition of things where you are not really able to fully participate in the whole thing? The Lord Jesus would say to you today, “Wouldest thou become well?”; do you want to not only be saved, but do you want to feel well? Do you want to come into the full joy of Christian life? Do you want to know what it is not only to have salvation as some distant thing, or something that is on paper, but do you want to know the blessings as an inward truth by the Holy Spirit? The man says, “Sir, I have not a man” - beloved, the gospel would present the Man for you. The Lord Jesus says to him, “Arise, take up thy couch and walk. And immediately the man became well, and took up his couch and walked: and on that day was Sabbath”. The man “went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well”. No position in Christendom, no ecclesiastical position however distinguished, no building, no church can ever bring you into soul salvation and wellness; the only One who can make you well is Jesus. That is the truth. I am not saying that we do not have a responsibility as to our walk down here because we do, but the first thing in becoming well is by contact with Christ.
Someone said to us once, ’You do not find the Lord Jesus through a company, you find the company through the Lord Jesus Christ’. You become a person who has had to do with Him, and the man said it was Jesus who had made him well. How many persons in this room could say that - ’It is Jesus who made me well’?
I read of the woman in Mark who had a flux of blood twelve years, a state of things which was draining her life away. If this condition had gone on she would have died, and for a long time she had suffered from it, and suffered much under many physicians, and had spent everything that she had. She had found no advantage from it, and then it says, “but had rather got worse”. Even the best that man could offer had been of no advantage. If we turn this into a spiritual context, there is nothing that man can do, despite his best efforts, and despite everything that money could buy, that could bring peace to a troubled soul. There is nothing of that kind that you could spend your money on and your time on that will make your soul well. You may feel that you could try becoming a better person, and that if you committed yourself in a different way or to a different company, it would bring you joy, peace and satisfaction. Beloved, you could spend it all to no avail. The only thing that will bring you these things is if you have to do with Christ. She says, “If I shall touch but his clothes I shall be healed”. What a wonderful thing that is. Does that appeal to any one here who feels their life is draining away, and spiritual life, spiritual energy, and enjoyment is still missing, and that spiritually you are not well? Beloved, today, if you will have to do with Christ alone, you can be restored, not only for safety, but to wellness. I commend that to you. It was Jesus who made her well. The only One who can make you well is Christ. You say, ’I have a problem, I have difficulties in my life’. Others concerned for you might try and help you, thank God for that, but the only One who can make a difference in relation to your soul is Christ. The only way that I can find peace and fulfilment and joy is through the Lord Jesus Christ personally.
I read the last scripture in Revelation - it does not involve a person, it involves a place, one of the assemblies that the Lord Jesus addresses Himself to in Revelation, the last one, the one that marks the last days of the church’s history here, Laodicea, lukewarm, full of pride and arrogance and all the things that tends to mark religious presumption everywhere. It is a company and sometimes we have situations and difficulties that come up in the Christian company. Some may say that what such and such a place needs is this or that, and what they need to resolve matters is this or that, or they need to follow this advice or that advice, and all these things. Beloved, as it is with the persons, so it is with an assembly, the only way that it will become well is to make way for Christ. I say that very simply because we may try many remedies for all these things, but only Jesus can make you well. In divine things, whether it is a person, whether it is a situation, whether it is a company, whatever it is, it is only as we make way for Christ that it can be remedied.
I commend this to you. We have spoken about the One who fills the highest glory, but He has a desire, that One who fills eternity has a desire, that you might not only know what it is to be safe in your Christian life by faith in the work and Person of our Lord Jesus, but that you might be in the fulness and enjoyment of it. You will only get that by having to do with Himself. The Lord of glory would have to do with me, would have to do with you. Make Him your Friend. The hymn writer says:
Jesus! Our Saviour, Shepherd, Friend,
Thou Prophet, Priest, and King,
Our Lord, our Life, our Way, our End,
Accept the praise we bring.
These are very real things; make it real to you. It was John Newton who wrote that hymn, one with a long history away from God, who knew what degradation was in his early life until God touched his heart through the Lord Jesus Christ, and he became devoted to Him for the rest of his life. May such be the message and the song of each one, for His Name’s sake.
Walton on the Naze
28th September 2008