Speaker: Mike Connell
In John 5 , Jesus likens us to sheep - this message gives several ways this is true! One similarity is that sometimes sheep are "cast", lying down, unable to move, unable to function. If we are lying down we may have many excuses, feel a victim, and be waiting for something to happen. However, like the man in this story, who had been waiting 38 years for help, we need to answer this same question Jesus asked: Do you want to be made whole? We have the power of choice - to receive Jesus and have the power of sin broken.
I want you to have a look at this story here – “After this, there was a feast of the Jews and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now, there was in Jerusalem a sheep gate”. It’s where the sheep came in and out of the city. Actually, maybe they only came in. For some kind of lamb stew or something like that.
Anyway, “there was a pool which called in Hebrew Bethesda – having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of sick people – blind, lame and paralysed, waiting for moving of the water, for an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water and whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was made well, whatever disease he had. There was a man who had an infirmity 38 years.” That’s a long time.
“When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him: “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered: “Sir, I have no man to put me in the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I’m coming, another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him: “Rise, take up your bed, walk.” Immediately, the man was made well, took up his bed and walked, and that was a Sabbath day.”
So here is a story of a man in desperate need. Before we look at the man, I want to just look at the situation there. The Bible describes it – there was a sheep gate at the side of the city where the sheep would come into the city. There were several porches there and it was called Bethesda, the place or house of mercy. There were multitudes of people who were needing healing.
Just in a moment, we’re just going to focus on the sheep gate. The Bible says that Jesus is the shepherd. He said: “I am the good shepherd.” In another part it says “We all like sheep, have gone astray.” So, God uses many natural pictures to help us understand spiritual things. So, God uses many pictures to describe what people are like; and many pictures to describe what He is like.
So the Bible describes people as being like sheep. Of course, if you haven’t’ seen sheep or know much about them, that doesn’t mean anything. If we said they’re like people on a motor scooter, now you know what they’re talking about because you see heaps of those. They’re all wild, all going their own way.
There’s no place like Taiwan for these motor scooters. I’ve never seen so many. You get there, and they’re all at the lights, all crowded around you. Motor scooters everywhere, surrounding you. Where did they come from? They all line up. Lights change, woah they’re gone, weaving in and out of the cars. First couple of visits here, I get quite frightened. All these motor scooters. Then, when it’s wet, there’s this big long coat that they wear. Our daughter had a motor scooter. We thought she’d like one of those. She’s laughed, “I’d never wear anything like that.”
So, the motor scooters. We talk about motor scooters, then you know what I’m talking about. If I talk about sheep, “Bah, I don’t know.” So I’ll tell you a little bit about sheep. Years ago, when we went to a small country town, we were in a place with many farms, lots of sheep. So I decided we would get a pet lamb. So cute. They’re lovely. But they grow to be big sheep. They don’t stay cute very long. I had to learn a lot of things about sheep. So I share with you a few things about sheep. Here are a few characteristics of sheep.
The first thing, sheep have got absolutely no sense of direction. None whatsoever. The moment they get out of sight of the other sheep, they’re lost. They have no sense of direction. You get a cat, you can take it across the city, it’ll come home and find you. You take a sheep, just move it round the corner, it’s lost. That’s why the Bible says in Isaiah 53:6 – “We all, like sheep, have gone astray.” We just got lost. Sheep get lost. Once they’re lost, they’ve no idea where home is. They need a shepherd.
It’s just like people. People who walk in sin are like sheep who are lost. We don’t even know we’re lost, we just don’t know our way. Look for all sorts of things, but cannot find a way. We need a shepherd, someone to show us the way. So, one thing about sheep is they easily get lost.
The second thing about sheep is they get easily scared. They get very easily frightened. So you get a sheep, slightest noise, then they’re off. They run. It’s like that with people. They get so scared so easily. They read the news – “Oh” – they get frightened and scared of all kinds of things. That’s why through the Bible, it keeps saying – “Don’t be afraid.” I think it says that more than anything. “Don’t fear. Don’t be afraid”. Because people get scared. Fear stops us following God. Fear is the opposite to faith. So the moment you startle a sheep, it’s gone, runs away, and then gets lost.
Here’s another thing about sheep – they follow one another. They like to get in a group. Ever seen teenagers all get in a group? Sheep like to be together. But once one goes, it doesn’t matter if they don’t know where they’re going, the other sheep just follow. “Where’s everyone going?” “That way.” “What’s that way?” “I don’t know, we’re all going that way.” “Is there any good way?” “I don’t know, we’re all going that way. Follow quickly.” So they all follow.
It’s like the crowd; like people. Follow the fashion. Fashion goes this way – everyone goes this way. Fashion goes that way, everyone goes that way. You follow the crowd. So, sheep just follow the crowd. So if you startle one and it starts to run, the others all run too. Bible says – Don’t follow the fashion of this world. It’s changing. So, there’s some things about sheep.
Here’s another thing about sheep – when they get sick, they isolate. So you find a sheep on its own, it’s probably sick, got something wrong with it. So, it’s the same with people. When they get sick, when something’s wrong, they stop talking, they stop phoning and texting. They don’t come to church anymore, don’t come to the small group anymore. That’s why you have to keep ringing them up – “Hey where are you? What’s happening?” They’re sheep. They go astray. When they get sick, they just go away on their own.
So, here’s another thing about sheep – they get parasites in them. They get bugs in the ground from what they eat, and they cannot get rid of the parasites. They need the shepherd to come. They get parasites inside them from what they eat. It’s the same with people. We open our lives to many different things and then demonic spirits come in, and we can’t get them out. We need the shepherd to come and get them out.
So, in New Zealand, the shepherd will come and what they do is they drench the sheep. They have something – a chemical – they put in their mouth. So they grab the sheep, the sheep doesn’t like this. They squirt this thing inside, the liquid goes inside them. Then, you know what happens? All night – they’re coughing. Coughing out the bugs which have been killed by the drench.
It’s like that when I come to some meetings. I pray for people, I speak to the demons. Coughing. We were praying for someone just the other day, and they’d been coughing all week. The drench is working. The medicine is working. So, these are some things with sheep.
There’s another thing about sheep. We have a particular fly called a blowfly. It’s quite big. Horrible things really. What they do, is they come out at certain times of the year and they lay eggs on the sheep. On the back or on the head or around the ears. What happens is, the little eggs hatch and they become what’s called maggots - little wriggly things; and they will feed off the sheep. They’ll either eat right through the skin into the flesh, or they’ll go into the ear and into the brain and drive the sheep crazy.
It’s just like the devil - sows his lies into our life, and when you believe the lie, gets into your head. Then you act stupid. Do crazy things. “Why do you do that?” “I don’t know, I just want to do that.” So the sheep need to be helped.
Here’s another thing about sheep. There’re lots of interesting things about sheep. Here’s another thing about sheep – they have no defence against the predator. No defence. They got no sharp horns, they’ve got no sharp teeth. They really don’t have much defence against anything. It’s very like people.
The Bible likens us to sheep, likens the devil to a wolf or a predator – come to steal and destroy. When the predators chase the sheep, the sheep get highly distressed because they’re being hunted and they get into a panic.
So sometimes we have a problem in New Zealand where a dog will begin to chase the sheep, they begin to bite at them, tear at them. It’s incredibly distressful because once the dogs get a taste for the blood, they don’t eat the sheep, they just kill them. Something happens to some dogs when they get the taste of the sheep blood. They become extremely dangerous and they chase the sheep and then they’ll leave the sheep bleeding and dying across the paddock.
This is exactly like the devil – like a wild dog with a taste for blood pursuing people, destroying their lives, and leaving them bleeding, leaving them injured and wounded. Guilt and shame, grief and sorrow, damaged. If you look at a paddock where a wild dog has gone, you’ll see sheep lying on the ground and they’re bleeding, and because there’s no remedy, you have to put them out of their misery and kill them.
So in the same way, if you have spiritual lives to see, you’ll see people with broken hearts, broken lives, hearts full of grief, desperately needing help because they can’t help themselves. So the image of a sheep is an amazingly accurate image of what people are like spiritually, and our need for a shepherd. So Jesus describes Himself as the good shepherd, willing to give His life for the sheep.
If you read Psalm 23, you’ll see what a shepherd does. We haven’t got time to do that, I want to just stay on this story. There’s one more interesting thing about sheep. There’re lots of interesting things, I’ll give you one more thing.
Sometimes, the sheep when they’ve been well-fed and they lie down, if they lie down too long, they get an unusual condition. They become, we use the word ‘cast’. It probably can’t be described here so I’ll describe what they look like. They’re lying on the ground and they can’t get up, and if they get up, they’re all giddy and they fall over again. So when the sheep is cast, when it’s lying down like that, it can’t get up. It actually can’t get up of its own accord. It needs the shepherd to get it back on its feet again, hold it steady until it gets back going again. If it’s like that too long, it affects its whole balance.
See, we’re not made to lie down like that. We’re not made to be cast on the ground, unable to get up, unable to move, unable to serve God. We’re not made for that. Whatever has cast you down, whatever’s caused you to lie down and give up, if you stay there too long, it’ll get harder and harder to stand up. There’re many things that can cause us to lie down, many things that cause us to give up. We get offended, we have a disappointment, someone betrays us, someone hurts us, things we had hoped for don’t happen, and we start to draw back from God.
Instead of being alive and standing spiritually; instead of being in a place of faith and trust; instead of moving forward with God’s plan for our life; we quit and we give up. I see many people like that. They’re not lying on the ground, but they’re lying down inside. The fight is gone. The faith is gone. They’ve drawn back inside.
Last night, we used a different picture. We used the picture of a person hiding in a cave. Today, the picture’s of a sheep cast on the ground, unable to get up, and the shepherd goes to the sheep, never to condemn the sheep. The shepherd doesn’t go like this: “Hey, why’re you lying down? Why’re you lying down like that? Don’t you understand? If you stay like that, you never get anywhere, you’ll never be able to get up again. Stupid sheep. Get up on your feet!” See, they don’t do that. Doesn’t work. Sheep goes: “Bah.” The shepherd helps the sheep get up.
Now let’s have a look in the story – And Jesus came to the pool of Bethesda, which means the place or house of mercy. And there were lots of people there, and they were sick and they were blind and they were lame and paralysed. People who had infirmity – no strength. People with no vision. People unable to walk. People who were crippled, not functioning properly. They were waiting, hoping something would change. There was one man there who had an infirmity for 38 years. He was lying. Everyday someone would carry him to the pool and he was lying there.
38 years is a long time to be sick. That’s more than half of a person’s life. That’s a long time to be sick. Jesus saw the man, just as He sees you, and He asked him an interesting question. Remember the man is on the ground. He’s like the sheep, he cannot get up, he has no power to stand up. What he needs is a miracle. He needs the power of God to change him. Something is wrong.
The Bible says he had an infirmity. The word infirmity means to be without strength. Maybe he had what’s called ‘palsy’ or he’s paralysed. But he had no strength of his own to stand up again. So he’s hoping somehow God will do something. But he has his own idea about what would happen. God has to do it a certain way. God’s got many ways of helping us, getting us back up on our feet.
Jesus saw him and asked him an interesting question – “Do you want to be made whole?” Now that’s a strange question to ask. When God asks a question, it’s not because He doesn’t know the answer, He wants you to think and He wants you to see something about your life.
This man was so used to being like this, he developed a whole lifestyle around being a victim. A whole lifestyle around being powerless. A whole lifestyle around being helpless. When Jesus said – “Do you want to be whole?” You know what the answer to that is? There’s only one answer to that. The answer is – Yes. But he didn’t say that. He didn’t answer that at all. But what came out of this mouth was what God wanted to have out there. God wanted to draw out of him what was really going on in his heart.
“Do you want to be made whole?” “Yes!” So Jesus asked the question – “Do you want to be made whole?” “Oh, I have no one to help me. No one to look after me. There’re so many people here and when the angel comes, by the time I get there, it’s too late. This is so terrible. It’s not my fault. Too many people. No one to help me.”
See, he is thinking as a victim. He is thinking like a victim thinks. Victims blame everyone else. Victims find excuses. “Oh, well my family were very poor you know. My father left us. My parents broke up. Oh, the teachers didn’t like me.” “Do you want to be made whole?” “Oh, you don’t understand. I come from such a poor family.” “Oh, you don’t understand, I don’t have any opportunities.” “Do you want to be made whole?” “Oh well, you know, it’s been a long time that I’ve been like this you know. And I’ve been getting a benefit from the government. You know, I would lose my benefit. What would I do?”
You understand, his whole thinking is like a victim. There’s nothing there except blame and excuse. Jesus said – “Do you want your life to be different? Will you make a choice?” You see, our life, God has given us a free will. He’s given us the power to make choices. And the life you are living now is the result of the choices you’ve made. It’s not all the bad things that happened to you, it’s how you chose to respond. So God gives you the power to choose what you’ll do with your life.
When Jesus died on the cross, He died to break the power of sin. When He rose from the dead, He defeated the devil, He totally broke the power of sin. He made it possible for every person to be free from the power of sin, to be free from evil spirits. “Do you want to be made whole? Do you want to be free?”
See, the issue now lies with us. God has done on the cross for us, all that needs to be done. Do you want to be made whole? Will you make a choice? A choice to respond to God. A choice to believe His word. Do you want to be made whole? Do you want it to be different? If you want a different future, you need to start by making different choices.
“Well, I haven’t had much education.” “Well why don’t you choose to get some?” “Well, I was terribly treated. I’m so angry about that.” “Well, would you choose to forgive?” “Well I can’t get over what happened to me.” “Would you choose to let it go? Would you choose to go to counselling? Would you choose to get some help? Do you want to be made whole?! Do you want to be different?!” “Oh well, it’s my husband. You don’t understand what he’s like. He drinks so badly. He’s so bad to me. That’s why I’m always depressed.” “Do you want to be made whole?! It’s a choice whether you let that happen to you. We have the power of choice.”
So when Jesus died on the cross, He broke the power of sin and made it possible for you to make a choice; a choice to receive Him and have the power of sin broken; a choice to follow Him and live a different life. Every day you wake up, you have the power of choice. Every day when you wake up you can choose to walk with God. You choose your attitude for the day. You can choose a positive attitude, a negative attitude. You can choose to believe God, you can choose to remain in defeat.
“Do you want to be made whole?” That’s what Jesus said, and it drew out of him the condition of his heart. Then Jesus spoke to him “Rise and be healed.” The man snapped out of it and stood up. “Woah, I’m standing.” Then He said to him a little later, He said: “Don’t continue sinning or a worse thing will happen.” In other words, Jesus connected the condition of his life to sin in his life, and Jesus came not just to deal with sickness, not just to deal with demons, but to deal with the root issue in our life – the power of sin that separates us from God.
Do you want to be made whole? Wholeness begins with a decision and it’s also a journey. The journey to be made whole in your spirit begins with the decision to receive Christ. God puts the spirit in you, and you become connected and alive to God. The journey to wholeness involves many decisions – decisions daily on giving God access to your life and choosing to agree with Him about life, and to let go of your old ways and old opinions. When you begin to walk with Jesus, it’s a journey of wholeness. As we rise each day and connect with Him, and we begin to let His words get in our heart, we begin to change.
You can stop at any point. You can lie down at any point. So I find many people – some don’t know Christ, and they’re lying down on the inside. Defeated by life. Dependent on others. Living like a victim. A sad thing is to see Christians lying down, who came to Christ and stood up again to walk with God, and something happened – someone offended you, someone let you down, something negative happened. And instead of standing and believing God and asking God to show you how to handle it, you lay down on the inside and then couldn’t get up.
Jesus wants to help you today. He wants to speak into your life and get you back up again into the place of serving and functioning like you ought to be, walking with God again in a place of life.
Why don’t we close our eyes right now.
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