|Jesus saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool. Jesus saith unto him, Rise and walk. Immediately the man was made whole, and walked.| -- JOHN v.6-9.
|Peter said, In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.... The faith which is by Him hath given this man this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.| -- ACTS iii.6, 16.
|Peter said, AEneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole: arise. And he arose immediately.| -- ACTS ix.34.
Feebleness in prayer is the mark of disease. Impotence to walk is, in the Christian, as in the natural life, a terrible proof of some evil in the system that needs a physician. The lack of power to walk joyfully in the new and living way that leads to the Father and the throne of grace is specially grievous. Christ is the great Physician, who comes to every Bethesda where impotent folk are gathered, and speaks out his loving, searching question, Wilt thou be made whole? For all who are still clinging to their hope in the pool, or are looking for some man to put them in, who are hoping, in course of time, somehow to be helped by just continuing in the use of the ordinary means of grace, His question points to a better way. He offers them healing in a way of power they have never understood. And to all who are willing to confess, not only their own impotence, but their failure to find any man to help them, His question brings the sure and certain hope of a near deliverance. We have seen that our weakness in prayer is part of a life smitten with spiritual impotence. Let us listen to our Lord as He offers to restore our spiritual strength, to fit us for walking like healthy, strong men in all the ways of the Lord, and so be fit rightly to fill our place in the great work of intercession. As we see what the wholeness is He offers, how He gives it, and what He asks of us, we shall be prepared for giving a willing answer to His question.
WHAT THE HEALTH THAT JESUS OFFERS.
I might mention many marks of spiritual health. Our text leads us to take one, -- walking. Jesus said to the sick man, Rise and walk, and with that restored him to his place among men in full health and vigour, able to take his part in all the work of life. It is a wonderfully suggestive picture of the restoration of spiritual health. To the healthy, walking is a pleasure; to the sick, a burden, if not an impossibility. How many Christians there are to whom, like the maimed and the halt and the lame and the impotent, movement and progress in God's way is indeed an effort and a weariness. Christ comes to say, and with the word He gives the power, Rise and walk.
Just think of this walk to which He restores and empowers us. It is a life like that of Enoch and Noah, who |walked with God.| A life like that of Abraham, to whom God said, |Walk before Me,| and who himself spake, |The Lord before whom I walk.| A life of which David sings, |They shall walk in the light of Thy countenance,| and Isaiah prophesies, |They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.| Even as God the Creator fainteth not nor is weary, shall they who walk with Him, waiting on Him, never be exhausted or feeble. It is a life concerning which it could be said of the last of the Old Testament saints, Zacharias and Elisabeth, |They were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.| This is the walk Jesus came to make possible and true to His people in greater power than ever before.
Hear what the New Testament speaks of it: |That like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also should walk in newness of life.| It is the Risen One who says to us, Rise and walk: He gives the power of the resurrection life. It is a walk in Christ. |As ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye also in Him.| It is a walk like Christ. |He that saith he abideth in Him ought so to walk even as He walked.| It is a walk by the Spirit and after the Spirit. |Walk by the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh.| |Who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.| It is a walk worthy of God and well pleasing to Him. |That ye would walk worthy of the Lord, unto all well pleasing, being fruitful in every good work.| |I beseech you, that as ye received of us, how ye should walk and please God, even as ye do walk, that ye would abound more and more.| It is a walk in heavenly love. |Walk in love, even as Christ loved you.| It is a |walk in the light, as He is in the light.| It is a walk of faith, all its power coming simply from God and Christ and the Holy Spirit, to the soul turned away from the world. |We walk by faith, and not by sight.|
How many believers there are who regard such a walk as an impossible thing -- so impossible that they do not feel it a sin that they |walk otherwise|; and so they do not long for this walk in newness of life. They have become so accustomed to the life of impotence, that the life and walk in God's strength has little attraction. But some there are with whom it is not thus. They do wonder if these words really mean what they say, and if the wonderful life each one of them speaks of is simply an unattainable ideal, or meant to be realised in flesh and blood. The more they study them, the more they feel that they are spoken as for daily life. And yet they appear too high. Oh that they would believe that God sent his Almighty Son, and His Holy Spirit, indeed to bring us and fit us for a life and walk from heaven beyond all that man could dare to think or hope for.
HOW JESUS MAKES US WHOLE.
When a physician heals a patient, he acts on him from without, and does something which is, if possible, ever after to render him independent of his aid. He restores him to perfect health, and leaves him. With the work of our Lord Jesus it is in both respects the very opposite. Jesus works not from without, but from within, by entering Himself in the power of His Spirit into our very life. And instead of, as in the bodily healing, being rendered, if possible, independent of a physician for the future, Christ's one purpose in healing is, as we said, the exact opposite. His one condition of success, is to bring us into such dependence upon Himself as that we shall not be able one single moment to do without Him. Christ Jesus Himself is our life, in a sense that many Christians have no conception of. The prevailing feeble and sickly life is entirely owing to the lack of the apprehension of the Divine truth, that as long as we expect Christ continually to do something for us from heaven, in single acts of grace from time to time, and each time trust Him to give us what will last a little while, we cannot be restored to perfect health. But when once we see how there is to be nothing of our own for a single moment, and it is to be all Christ moment by moment, and learn to accept it from Him and trust Him for it, the life of Christ becomes the health of our soul. Health is nothing but life in its normal, undisturbed action. Christ gives us health by giving us Himself as our life; so He becomes our strength for our walk. Isaiah's words find their New Testament fulfilment: They that wait on the Lord shall walk and not faint, because Christ is now the strength of their life.
It is strange how believers sometimes think this life of dependence too great a strain, and a loss of our personal liberty. They admit a need of dependence, of much dependence, but with room left for our own will and energy. They do not see that even a partial dependence makes us debtors, and leaves us nothing to boast of. They forget that our relationship to God, and co-operation with Him, is not that He does the larger part and we the lesser, but that God does all and we do all -- God all in us, we all through God. This dependence upon God secures our true independence; when our will seeks nothing but the Divine will, we reach a Divine nobility, the true independence of all that is created. He that has not seen this must remain a sickly Christian, letting self do part and Christ part. He that accepts the life of unceasing dependence on Christ, as life and health and strength, is made whole. As God, Christ can enter and become the life of His creature. As the Glorified One who received the Holy Spirit from the Father to bestow, He can renew the heart of the sinful creature and make it His home, and by His presence maintain it in full health and strength.
O ye all who would fain walk and please God, and in your prayer-life not have your heart condemn you, listen to Christ's words: |Wilt thou be made whole?| He can give soul-health. He can give a life that can pray, and know that it is well-pleasing to the Father. If you would have this, come and hear how you can receive it.
WHAT CHRIST ASKS OF US.
The story invites us to notice three things very specially. Christ's question first appeals to the will, and asks for the expression of its consent. He then listens to man's confession of his utter helplessness. Then comes the ready obedience to Christ's command, that rises up and walks.
1. Wilt thou be made whole? About the answer of the impotent man there could be no doubt. Who would not be willing to have his sickness removed? But, alas, in the spiritual life what need to press the question. Some will not admit that they are so sick. And some will not believe that Christ can make a man whole. And some will believe it for others, but they are sure it is not for them. At the root of all lies the fear of the self-denial and the sacrifice which will be needed. They are not willing to forsake entirely the walk after the course of this world, to give up all self-will, and self-confidence, and self-pleasing. The walk in Christ and like Christ is too straight and hard: they do not will it, they do not will to be made whole. My brother, if thou art willing, speak it out: |Lord! at any price, I will!| From Christ's side the act is one of the will: |I will, be thou clean.| From your side equally: |Be it unto thee as thou wilt.| If you would be delivered from your impotence -- oh, fear not to say, |I will, I will!|
Then comes the second step. Christ wants us to look up to him as our only Helper. |I have no man to put me in,| must be our cry. Here on earth there is no help for me. Weakness may grow into strength in the ordinary use of means, if all the organs and functions are in a sound state. Sickness needs special measures. Your soul is sick; your impotence to walk joyfully the Christian walk in God's way is a sign of disease; fear not to confess it, and to admit that there is no hope for restoration unless by an act of Christ's mercy healing you. Give up the idea of growing out of your sickly into a healthy state, of growing out from under the law into a life under grace. A few days ago I heard a student plead the cause of the Volunteer Pledge. |The pledge calls you,| he said, |to a decision. Do not think of growing into a missionary: unless God forbids you, take the step; the decision will bring joy and strength, will set you free to grow up in all needed for a missionary, and will be a help to others.| It is even so in the Christian life. Delay and struggle will equally hinder you; do confess that you cannot bring yourself to pray as you would, because you cannot give yourself the healthy, heavenly life that loves to pray, and that knows to count upon God's Spirit to pray in us. Come to Christ to heal you. He can in one moment make you whole. Not in the sense of working a sudden change in your feelings, or in what you are in yourself, but in the heavenly reality of coming in, in response to your surrender and faith, and taking charge of your inner life, and filling it with Himself and Spirit.
The third thing Christ asks is this, the surrender of faith. When He spoke to the impotent man His word of command had to be obeyed. The man believed that there was truth and power in Christ's word; in that faith he rose and walked. By faith he obeyed. And what Christ said to others was for him too -- |Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole.| Of us, too, Christ asks this faith, that His word changes our impotence into strength, and fits us for that walk in newness of life for which we have been quickened in Him. If we do not believe this, if we will not take courage and say, with Paul, |I can do all things in Christ, which strengtheneth me,| we cannot obey. But if we will listen to the word that tells us of the walk that is not only possible, but has been proved and seen in God's saints from of old, if we will fix our eye on the mighty, living, loving Christ, who speaks in power, |Rise and walk,| we shall take courage and obey. We shall rise and begin to walk in Him and His strength. In faith, apart from and above all feeling, we shall accept and trust an unseen Christ as our strength, and go on in the strength of the Lord God. We shall know Christ as the strength of our life. We shall know, and tell, and prove that Jesus Christ hath made us whole.
Can it indeed be? Yes, it can. He has done it for many: He will do it for you. Beware of forming wrong conceptions of what must take place. When the impotent man was made whole he had still all to learn as to the use of his new-found strength. If he wanted to dig, or build, or learn a trade, he had to begin at the beginning. Do not expect at once to be a proficient in prayer or any part of the Christian life. No; but expect and be confident of this one thing, that, as you have trusted yourself to Christ to be your health and strength, He will lead and teach you. Begin to pray in a quiet sense of your ignorance and weakness, but in a joyful assurance that He will work in you what you need. Rise and walk each day in a holy confidence that He is with you and in you. Just accept Jesus Christ the Living One, and trust Him to do His work.
Will you do it? Have you done it? Even now Jesus speaks, |Rise and walk.| |Amen, Lord! at Thy word I come. I rise to walk with Thee, and in Thee, and like Thee.|