Among the things that unite us as human beings, I believe one is our common desire to see miracles — to see the things that seem to defy nature, physics, and the limits of the human comprehension. The kind of miracles we like to see are things like half-court shots, last-second touchdowns, buzzer-beating jumpers, walk-off home runs, magic tricks, amazing acrobatics, and death-defying feats of courage (or insanity, depending on how you look at it). We all long to see the things that shouldn’t happen, but do. And we sometimes call these things “miracles.” But what exactly is a miracle?
As with many of the words in our English language, the word “miracle” is among the ever-growing group that have lost their punch. We deem so many things “miracles” that when something truly miraculous does occur, we’re somewhat numb to it. A “miracle,” though, can be defined as “an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause”; or, it is “an effect or event manifesting or considered as a work of God.” A miracle is a wonder or marvel of nature. And isn’t it interesting to note that this outside definition references God in its explanation of a miracle? We could summarize it this way: A miracle is considered as something so unlikely, that surely God is behind it.
Again, I think we all want something like that to happen to us. I think we all want miracles to happen in our lives. Perhaps you dream of being the guy who sinks that buzzer beater or runs for that last-second touchdown or gets that walk-off home run. We all want to be the unlikely hero that pulls off that miraculous play. Or maybe you’re in school or you’re trying to save up for that car or new gadget and you’re hoping that you’ll come across $100.00 on the sidewalk to go to that cause — those would be miracles to us. Perhaps that’s you: you’re just waiting for a miracle to happen in your life, waiting around for something supernatural. If you’re like that, if you’re just waiting around, sitting idly by, I want to open your eyes to see a different kind of miracle, a miracle that happens to people everyday, and a miracle that can even happen in your own life right now.
In John 5, we find the story of a man who was waiting for a miracle in his life, and we pick up with Jesus Christ going to a special festival in the city of Jerusalem. “Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades [or porches]. In these lay a multitude of invalids — blind, lame, and paralyzed.” (John 5:1–2) Near one of the gates of Jerusalem, which was the holy city in Israel, there was a pool called the Pool of Bethesda, which means “house of mercy” or “house of grace.” And around this pool, along the porches surrounding the pool was a crowd of people, all suffering from either terminal illnesses or physical defects. But they were all struggling to survive and clinging to this last ray of hope. And isn’t it interesting that this is precisely where we find the Son of God. Jesus came for the sick and the broken and the outcast. And today, these infirmed and destitute were greeted with a gracious Visitor.
But why where they camping out around this pool? Historically, it’s believed that certain cults and groups determined that the Pool of Bethesda had healing powers. According to ancient traditions, it was believed that an angel would come down from the heavens at certain times of the year and touch the water, stirring it up. Then, whoever stepped into the water first after it had been touched would be healed from whatever disease or condition they had. These invalids, these outcasts, were all waiting for one thing: they were waiting for a miracle. They were all waiting for that angel to come and stir the water, and for their lives to be drastically altered because of the healing powers in the pool. They were waiting for a miracle — sort of like us today.
We oftentimes wait for miracles. Some of you are waiting for them to happen right now! You have stresses, you have pressures, you have pains, you have struggles, you have circumstances in your life right now that you know can’t or won’t be resolved without some sort of miracle, without some sort of divine intervention. But if you’re waiting around for a miracle and you don’t believe in Jesus, if you’re not trusting in his grace, you’ll be just like the man we find in the next verse. “One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.” (John 5:5) Thirty-eight years! That’s a long time to be waiting for a miracle. Also, you’ll notice that when the Bible says that he’s “been an invalid” that this literally means that he’s had this infirmity, this defect, since his birth. He’s been crippled for his entire life and he’s most likely been waiting for a miracle to happen for most of his existence. What a sad, miserable, wretched condition that must be, waiting and sitting near this pool, hoping and wishing that something supernatural, something unexpected might cure him.
Today, if you’re just idly waiting, idly wishing in something that the world offers as a miracle, you’ll be just like this man, waiting and waiting and waiting. If you don’t know Jesus as your Savior; if you haven’t decided to let his saving, redeeming, rescuing grace change you; if you’re living with a void in your heart, living with guilt because you know you’re doing wrong and you know that there must be something more to this life, you’ll be just like this man at the pool, waiting and waiting and waiting for that miracle to happen but it never does. You see, miracles only come from God; miracles can only come through Jesus.
But look at the love of Christ so beautifully displayed in the next few verses. “When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’” (John 5:6) Look again that phrase, that Jesus “knew he had already been there.” Jesus knew this man’s condition. He already knew what kind of ailments he was suffering from, and out of his infinite love, he approaches the crippled man and asks a question that was really simple to answer.
And just like Jesus knew this man’s physical condition, Jesus knows your spiritual condition! He knows that you’re living in sin, living with regrets, with guilt. He knows your heart and he knows what you’re trying to hide. He knows those things you think you’ve done in secret, those thoughts you think no else can hear. Jesus knows. He knows your condition and just like he asks this man if he wants to be healed, he’s asking you, today, right now, if you want to be renewed! Jesus is asking you today to come to him and to confess those sins you’ve been hiding, to repent to him for the life you’ve been living, and to let Jesus into your heart and let the love of Christ consume your life.
Nothing else can cure you. No amount of hoping or wishing or anticipating that “miracle” in your life will make it happen. Nothing but Jesus Christ can perform miracles today and he’s still performing miracles every day, and that’s the miracle of salvation. We’re all sinners. When we’re born we sin and we live selfishly, and if we live our entire lives like that, we’ll go to a horrible place called hell, a place of pain and suffering. But because of Jesus Christ and because he died to take our place, we no longer have to go to hell; we no longer have to live for ourselves. If you believe in Jesus and his grace, and let him change you, acknowledging the surety of his sacrifice and the efficacy of his crushing your sins, he’ll perform a miracle inside you, the miracle of salvation, the miracle of redemption! All you have to do is trust him. All you have to do is believe.
At first, the crippled man didn’t understand what Jesus meant by his question: he still thought that Jesus was talking about the rumored miracle that everyone was waiting for. Look at how the man answers: “The sick man answered him, ‘Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Get up, take up your bed, and walk.’ And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.” (John 5:7–8) Jesus performed a miracle in this man’s life: he healed him of all his physical ailments and changed the course of this crippled man’s life, all by speaking a sentence, by uttering a few words.
So, too, can you be changed, wholly changed by Jesus Christ, and all you have to do is believe — believe that Jesus has removed your sin and that his love can cure all life’s woes, making you whole. That void you’ve been living with can only be filled with Jesus. That guilt you’ve been trying to hide can be only completely destroyed by Jesus. That miracle you’ve been waiting for can be experienced in Jesus. Will you believe in Jesus today? Will you let him perform an everyday miracle?