Lord, help me to focus, hear your truth, and write a message that allows people to encounter you. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Later, Jesus went to Jerusalem for a special feast. In Jerusalem, there is a pool with 5 covered porches, which is called Bethesda in the Hebrew language. This pool is near the Sheep Gate. Many sick people were lying on the porches beside the pool. Some were blind, some were crippled and some were paralyzed. A man was lying there who had been sick for 38 years. When Jesus saw the man and knew that he had been sick for such a long time, Jesus asked him, “Do you want to be well?”
The sick man answered, “Sir, there is no one to get me into the pool when the water starts moving. While I’m coming to the water, someone always gets in before me.” Then Jesus said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk.” And immediately the man was well; he picked up his mat and began to walk.
This man had a dream, “If I could get in the water first, then I would be made well.” For 38 years he had been sick. The scripture doesn’t tell us what kind of sick, it tells us others are blind and paralyzed, and simply that this man was sick. And in that day and time that would have meant he was marginalized and outcast. As someone who was sick, he would have been ritually unclean and as someone who was unclean, he would not have been welcome in people’s homes. They wouldn’t have wanted to have contact with him for fear of being unclean themselves. He wouldn’t have been able to work, maybe because of his illness and maybe simply because he was unclean. So instead he would have had to beg for something to eat. And he likely longed for healing. For 38 years he was sick. For 38 years he suffered physically, emotionally, relationally, and probably spiritually. And because of all that, he had a dream: to be made well.
I imagine that as he dreamed he didn’t just think, oh I hope to be made well. No, I imagine he played it out in his mind. I think he imagined himself waking up and feeling great, not struggling with pain or nausea or headaches. He probably imagined himself going to work with the other men in town, invited to join people for meals and festivals and celebrations. He probably imagined friends and family laughing together, enjoying life. He probably imagined certain events in their fullness and himself healthy and well in the midst of it all. He had a dream to be made well. And in seeking after his dream he saw one way to get there, to get in the pool of Bethesda immediately after it was stirred. If he got in first, then he would be healed and his dream would become a reality. It may not seem like a big dream, it doesn’t sound fancy or grand, but when you struggle with your health day in and day out for 38 years, being well would be miraculous. And, being well in a culture of clean and unclean would totally change your life. It would change your relationships. It would change your social status. It would change your privilege. It would change where you could eat, where you could live, where you could relax. Being made well would change everything.
How many of you have ever dreamed of winning the lottery? Regardless of whether we buy a ticket or not, most of us have imagined what it would be like to win millions. I have. I started young. I can remember dreaming of the ways I would spend my millions from elementary school on. (And in my house my parents weren’t big gamblers, so it was only “worth” buying a ticket if the pot got over $100,000,000) So, if we won the lottery, what kind of things would we do?
· Buy a house
· Pay off our debt
· Buy a new car
· Go on a vacation
· Help our parents with their expenses
· Help our children or our grandchildren go to college
· Buy some new clothes
· What else?
I don’t know about you, but in doing that math, I rarely even got to a million dollars in expenses….most of the time it was closer to $500,000 when I it was all said and done. $500,000 of my $100,000,000 million and I had a long way to go to spend all my money. So I started dreaming of helping other people. I wanted to renovate an old apartment building and help the homeless. I wanted to pay for wells for clean water. I wanted to build schools and educate others. I wanted to grant scholarships for people to go to college. I could dream up a lot of fun ways to spend the money and none of it had anything to do with me. I had dreams of having a few nice things, but beyond that, my biggest dream was to bless other people and make a real and lasting difference in their lives.
Many of us would say our dream is to win the lottery, but really, our dream is to do our list, because with or without the lottery, our list is still there. If we could actualize our dream without the lottery, would we still want the car? Or the house? Or the new wardrobe? Or to help our family? Or to change the world? Of course! We all have dreams, and many don’t require a million dollars.
I imagine our dreams sound a little more like this:
· If I were thin, then I would love my body.
· If I could pray like Michelle, then I would pray out loud for other people.
· If our bills were paid, then we would take that trip to Europe.
· If I could make sense of the Bible stories, then I would have strong faith.
· If life weren’t so hectic, then we would try and adopt.
· If I didn’t have to work, then I would take the time to build my motorcycle.
· I’m sure there are hundreds more….at least one, if not two or three, for each person in this room.
We all have dreams. Every single one of us has a dream of doing something or being something or going somewhere IF only our circumstances were different in one way or another. So, I want you to take a minute, pull out your bulletin, or the notepad on your phone, or your Bible and I want you to write your dream. IF __________________________ THEN ________________________________. IF (this changed) THEN (I would live my dream).
We all have a dream. Your dream is actually the part that follows your “then”. The “if” is what needs to change or happen in order to actualize your dream. For the man at Bethesda, his dream was to be made well, his IF was getting in the pool first. IF I could get in the pool first, THEN I could live my dream of being well.
Alright, so focusing back on the scripture and the scene before us, Jesus enters the scene. He comes to the pool at Bethesda and sees the man there and KNOWS he’s been sick for a long time and so Jesus approaches the man and asks, “Do you want to be made well?” And the man says, “I try to be made well. I try to get to the pool first, but I’m never able to make it in time.” And Jesus says, “Get up, pick up your mat and walk.” Do you hear the tension that’s there? The man was focusing on the contingency. He was focusing on his IF, not his dream. And Jesus said, “no, focus on your dream, make it your reality. Get up and be well. Get up and live your dream.”
Like the man, many of us have our dream. We imagine it. We see it in our mind’s eye. We garner hope from our dream. But our energy and our effort is focused on our contingency. We put our time, energy, and money into our “IF” and then we never live our dream. In essence, our IF, our contingency, becomes a barrier to realizing our dreams. The IF consumes us. It gets the best of what we have to offer. And our dream gets none of us. For the man, the healing power of the pool became his focus. He spent his days waiting for it to be stirred, clamoring for a chance at healing, focusing on the limits of his illness, but never daring to live his dream before them. But the truth is, God doesn’t want us spending our lives battling our obstacles. God wants us living our dreams.
Now of course that’s easier said than done. Remember, living his dream of being well would dump that man’s world on its head. To be well would mean not being at the pool every day. It would mean different friends, he wouldn’t be with those who were at the pool, he would be with others at work, or sitting around a table, or sharing in the temple. To live his dream would change everything in his life: his habits, his expectations, and his norms. Living his dream would mean a complete upheaval of his life. Let’s not minimize that truth. But, it’s his dream, so it’s worth it. Right?
Now, what about your dream? Do you really want your dream? Do you want to pray without reservation? Or enjoy financial freedom? Or love your body? Or build that motorcycle? Or have a better marriage? Or spend your time in missions? Because God wants you to live your dreams. BUT, living your dreams will change everything. Your habits will have to change, your expectations will be different, and you will have a new normal. But it will be worth it. Won’t it? Aren’t your dreams worth it? Stop focusing on your “IF”, stop putting your time and energy into the barriers and obstacles that are standing in the way of your dream. Start living your dream.
Stand up, go out, and live your dream.