Introduction: Hello and welcome to this teaching from Skip Heitzig pastor of Calvary Albuquerque. We pray that God uses these messages to restore lives and we're thankful to hear that many are experiencing his love. If this teaching encourages you, we'd like to know. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you'd like to support this ministry financially, you can give online securely at calvaryabq.org/giving. Jesus loved the unlovable and was compassionate towards all people. As we continue or series called Jesus Loves People, we look into his heart for those who are broken. In the message "Jesus Loves the Broken," we learn how we can respond to and love people who are facing crushing circumstances. Let's open our Bibles to John, chapter 5, as Pastor Skip begins.
Skip Heitzig: Would you turn in your Bibles to John's gospel, chapter 5. I brought with me today a camera. You can tell by looking at it, those who can see it, it's a very old one. They don't make these things anymore. This is called an Argus C-3 camera. It was a very inexpensive, mass-produced, rangefinder camera made out of Bakelite, so that will date it, manufactured from between 1939 and 1966. And this camera is broken. It doesn't work anymore. But it's special to me and I have it because this was my father's camera. And so, all of the early photographs that he took of my mother, and their honeymoon, and the family, were all done on this little camera until it broke. And it broke just because it was used, and worn out, and he had pushed that button one too many times.
And people can get like this. People can get worn out, and used up, and there's enough people that will push their buttons one too many times. They get broken. If you're a member of the human race, you know what it's like to be broken to some degree, maybe a broken heart. Maybe somebody in a relationship broke your heart. A few years back a Nashville newspaper decided to do a special set of articles on people that were suffering from a broken heart. And so they asked pastors in the area to submit names in the local community of those that they knew had a broken heart. The newspaper would find them and interview them and write their story. One insightful pastor sent to the newspaper the telephone directory for Nashville. [laughter]
In other words, who doesn't have a broken heart to some degree? But then there are those who, more than just being hurt or having a broken heart, because of life's circumstances, we would say, "That person is a broken person." Malcolm Muggeridge once wrote: "The biggest disease today is . . . the feeling of being unwanted, uncared for, deserted by everybody. The greatest evil is the lack of love and charity, the terrible indifference towards one neighbor who lives at the roadside assaulted by exploitation, corruption, poverty, and disease." Today our study is "Jesus Loves the Broken," and that's because he does. And we know that he does because he announced that one of the reasons he came to this earth was to heal the brokenhearted.
"He has sent me," Jesus said in the synagogue at Nazareth, "He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted." The word "brokenhearted" is an interesting word, because it literally speaks of rubbing against something. And it was a word used for kindling a fire where you would take two sticks and rub them together so fiercely that you would ignite a flame. So the word came to mean a person crushed or broken to pieces. And that's because life rubs so hard sometimes against some people's lives that the end result is they are brokenhearted. They are crushed by those things. Well, how do you love a broken person? How did Jesus love a broken person? It is important to love those who are broken? My father had many sayings that he would quote. And there were dinnertimes where I would just roll my eyes and go, "Here goes."
And dads do that, and they have the right to do that. But I remember my dad, one of his favorite sayings was that "God helps though who help themselves." And he would even say, "You know, the Bible says, 'God helps those who help themselves.' " Now, I've never read that in the Bible. In fact, I did a little digging and found that it was Benjamin Franklin who was credited with saying that, and he is quoted in the 1757 edition of Poor Richard's Almanack. So, that's where that comes from. What we discover in our study today in the fifth chapter of John is God doesn't help those who help themselves, he helps those who can't help themselves. Here is a man who is unable to do something for himself, until Jesus comes along and heals this man.
And there's two overarching truths in John, chapter 5, there on your worship diagram today: people can get broken, and Jesus loves broken people. People can get broken; Jesus loves broken people. Now why is this important? This is important because as Gordon MacDonald once wrote: ". . . a single human being is the most beautiful, the most valuable, and potentially the most powerful thing God ever created." So if they get broken, that can impede God's purpose and plan for that person's life. People can get broken. Let's see how. In John 5, beginning in the first verse, "After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now, there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches."
"In these," that is, in these porches, "lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had. Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been in that condition a long time, he said to him, 'Do you want to be made well?' The sick man answered him, 'Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.' Jesus said to him, 'Rise, take up your bed and walk.' " Now all of us are aware that no matter where we go in this world, you're going to find broken people.
Whether you go to Syria or Syracuse, whether you find yourself in Afghanistan or Albuquerque, whether you're in Iraq or Indianapolis, whether you're in Paris, France, or Paris, Texas, you're going to find people who have been broken, broken people. And a person can be broken a number of ways. They can be broken spiritually; most all people are. You can be broken emotionally; many people to some degree are. You can be broken physically. And you can get broken by experiences that happen to you in life, by how other people mistreat you in life, or by making wrong choices yourself over time. As one author said, "Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won't either, for solitude will break you with its yearning."
So, no matter where you go in this life, there is the possibility of being broken---a marriage that didn't work out, and then another marriage that didn't work out; or being abused and abandoned by parents, or being abused and abandoned by children; a disease, an accident that renders one limited in their physical capacities. You can be betrayed by someone. Hurtful words can be spread by people who talk against you and about you. Proverbs 18 asks the question, "The spirit of a man will sustain him in sickness, but who can bear a broken spirit?" And the thing about brokenness is you can't always see it by looking at a person. The world was shocked last year when we heard that Robin Williams had taken his life, this talented actor, who whenever he was interviewed was so full of humor, so funny.
But there was a dark side to his life: broken marriages, he struggled with depression for years, some believe he was in the early stages of Parkinson's disease, substance abuse in his life. And those of us who didn't know him well had no idea. So here's the deal: right now in this room, people surrounding you, we don't know what has gone on in their life. We don't know what they're carrying as they come in. There may be a sense of helplessness that they feel because of it. Well, let's look at how this man was broken. There's three ways in which I submit to you this was a broken man. First of all, he is broken by his circumstances. We know he's sick. Verse 5 says he "had an infirmity." Now we don't know exactly what that infirmity was. It means a debilitating illness.
Whatever it was, he was either paralyzed or he was too weak to be able to move freely, because whenever something happened at the pool, he couldn't get in in time. Everybody else would beat him to the punch. And so he had the circumstance of being physically ill. And I will tell you this, that physical ailments, especially chronic disease, has a way of isolating a person and making them feel so utterly alone. They begin to realize they're unable to do what they used to do. They understand their physical capabilities have been pared way, way down. Then they find that their friends will invite them less and less to functions because of their physical disabilities, and they just feel more and more isolated. Now with this man, we're not told how old he was. He could have been much older than thirty-eight years.
We know his disease lingered that long. But he could have been much older and that this was an onset condition that came later on, which means---though we don't know---there's the possibility that this man was married or married at one time. There's no record of his wife. And I say that because so often when there is this circumstance of being broken by physical disease, it puts an enormous amount of pressure on the marriage relationships. Seventy-five percent of marriages where there is chronic illness end in divorce, 75 percent. And that is because the spouse, the caregiver is frightened at the prospect of long-term care, and 75 percent of the time will flee the marriage. So, circumstances can rub against a person's life and rendering that person crushed, broken.
E. Stanley Jones, some of you have heard the name of that great missionary to India, said that he knew of a pastor who prepared a series of ten sermons. And they were---it was a series called How to Avoid a Nervous Breakdown. Before he had finished the tenth message, he had one. He had one himself, broken by circumstances in his life. Something else I'd like you to notice as you look at your Bibles: in verse 3 this man was broken by people. Now, I want you to see this. In these porches, in this pool of Bethesda---and I'll describe that to you---in Jerusalem, there "lay a great multitude of sick people." So here's a place where they just stuck sick people or allowed them to congregate. "There was a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water."
It's important that you know that in ancient cultures they did a lousy job of caring for the sick. They did not have programs like we have today. If you were sick back then, if you were broken back then, you would either become a beggar in the streets or at the gates, or you'd simply congregate where people knew the sick people were in this pool of Bethesda. Now the pool of Bethesda---and there is evidence of it still to this day---was about two feet, maybe three feet deep, this large rectangular pool by the Sheep Gate. Because they would bring sheep into the city, and they would clean them up and get them ready for sacrifice. But we're told there was "a great multitude of sick people." One commentator suggests that you'd probably find about three hundred of them every day in that place.
But on festival times like this, great feasts where people would gather to Jerusalem, you would find about 3,000 sick people congregating together. Now it doesn't take a great imagination to envision what this would look like and what this would smell like. If you've ever visited a Third World country hospital, and you have seen sometimes two patients per bed in a little, single bed. They don't even know each other, but they're put in the same bed, and their families are camped around on the floor cooking food for them. What it looks like, sounds like, and smells like---I've experienced it---reminds me of what I read here. Now, why were they there? Well, it speaks about "the moving of the water." Evidently, there was some subterranean spring that fed this pool that caused the water to bubble up every now and then.
And so people thought it was an angel that did that and that's why it is written. By the way, though it is written in Bibles this way, in the most ancient manuscripts it doesn't say the angel stirred up the water. So it is believed that a scribe, in trying to describe to us what people believed in that day, said that it was an angel that did it. Either way, people congregated there in hopes of finding healing. "Bethesda" is a word that means the house of mercy. It's ironic, because it had become a house of misery where "a great multitude" had gathered together. But I'm bringing this to your attention because this is how many broken people feel. They feel just like they did in ancient times, that our culture doesn't do a very good job in taking care of them. They feel isolated.
They feel-they feel shelved, sort of like this camera here. This camera ordinarily sits on a shelf at home. It's to remind me of my past, my father, but that's all it is. It just sort of sits there broken on the shelf for me to walk by and be amused by. And people who are homeless feel like they're on the shelf, and people walk by them and are amused by them. AIDS victims often feel they're on the shelf; people walk by and are amused by them. Those in nursing homes feel like they're on the shelf; people walk by, they're amused by them. There's no real involvement or care. They feel broken by people. This man, broken by circumstance, broken by people, and also he was broken by time, verse 5. I just want the length of time to settle into our hearts.
"A certain man was there who had an infirmity [almost four decades] thirty-eight years." The next verse says, "Jesus saw him . . . and knew that he had been in that condition a long time." Here's a man on whom time had taken its toll. Not only has he been broken by the circumstance of disease and broken by the relegation of a place by people, but he got up every single day to the same reality, so that his helplessness turned into hopelessness. Whatever hope he had of getting better had vanished decades before this. It was just this daily, hopeless routine. Sometimes people say, "Well, you know, time heals all wounds." No, it does not. Sometimes the longer the time protracts and elongates, it feels like eternity upon eternity to a person in this condition, and they spiral downward from helplessness to hopelessness.
I've appreciated the honesty of Paul the apostle in Second Corinthians when he said, "[He] had suffered beyond the ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life." It always caught me off guard. It's like, that's Paul despairing of life? What could have happened to him? Well, he goes on and his honesty is unveiled in chapter 11 of that book. He says, "I have labored and toiled and I have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and I have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. And besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches." It's that daily pressure day after day, week after week that adds up. It takes its toll and it finds a person crushed. Like the psalmist said, "My tears have been my food day and night."
Crushed, rubbed down by circumstances, by people, and by time. And how is brokenness expressed? Well, a number of different ways: Depression is one, anger is another, substance abuse will be true for others. Others will be antisocial in their behavior. Others will be suicidal in their thinking. And others will self-injure, cutting, self-injury. A number of different ways it's done, but basically it's when a person has the emotional problems that are so pronounced they feel they can't share. They can't put it into words. They can't articulate the amount of grief or shame or hurt or anger they feel. And it hurts so badly emotionally that they resort to self-injury physically, because it takes their mind off the other pain.
When I go to a dentist, and when he starts putting the stuff in my mouth, the needles and the drills, I'll often pinch my finger so hard just so I'll think about a different hurt. There's people who live like that. Now, let's see how Jesus loves this man. How does he approach this man? Well, we know he heals him. So that's a great part of it, but there's something else. And I want you to see how Jesus handles the broken, how he approaches a broken person, because this is what we ought to do. First of all, Jesus observed him compassionately. He observed him compassionately. Verse 6 is really striking, it says, "Now a certain man who had been there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there"---out of this huge miserable crowd Jesus sees one guy.
He saw them all, he knew them all, but he zeros in on one person, one solitary human being. He saw him. And this is really the great story of Jesus. He was able to speak to crowds and move crowds. And people would say after he would speak, "Never a man spoke like this man." And, yet, you could get him one-on-one and he would be so individual and engaging with Nicodemus, or the woman at the well, or this needy man here in our story. Loving the broken begins by how we see the broken. It's by how we observe them. One of the great stories of the New Testament is when Jesus is surrounded by a huge crowd of people up in Galilee. They start coming toward him. And a lot of people will go, "This is awesome! They're coming to hear me." But those weren't Jesus' thoughts.
It says, "He saw them---he saw them, and he was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd." It's that kind of compassion that enabled Jesus to see like he saw. How do you see broken people? Do you see them, do you view them with embarrassment? Do you see them as an inconvenience? I've always loved the story of the two boys talking out in front of school. You know, little boys will say anything to each other. And they were observing parents picking their kids up. And one boy said to his friend, "I'd hate to wear glasses all the time, wouldn't you?" It's something a little boy would say. And his friend said, "I don't know, if they were my grandma's glasses, I don't think they'd be all that bad."
He says, "Well, what do you mean by that?" He said, "Well, you know, my grandmother has this way of seeing if somebody is hurt, or if somebody needs something, and she says just the right thing. And one day I asked her, 'Grandma, how is it that you can see people like that?' And she said, 'I don't know, I think it's just the way I've learned to look at things as I get older.' " And the other little boy really didn't get it, so he said, "I think you're right, it must be her glasses." [laughter] And I think, God give us that kind of prescription in our glasses, fill our prescription with the kind of love that allows us to see people like you saw them, to observe them with compassion. We need our sight corrected. We need to be more farsighted.
We are so nearsighted, we can't see past ourselves so often---our deal, our thing, our issue, our problem. Lord, give us that kind of vision. Observe compassionately. Here's the second thing he did: he interacted honestly. And this has always been striking to me how Jesus talks to this man, but he's very honest. In verse 6, "Jesus saw him lying there, knew he had been in this condition, and he asked him, he said to him, 'Do you want to be made well?' " What kind of a question is that? This guy's been crippled thirty-eight years---"You want to get better?" It sounds cruel. In thirty years of doing hospital visitations, I have never asked this question. [laughter] I'd never have the guts to ask that question. But Jesus asked it, and it was appropriate, and here's why. Verse 6 tells you the clue.
"He knew that he had already been in that condition a long time." He had learned to live this way so long that now a change in his condition and circumstances would mean a change in his responsibilities. J. A. Findlay said that in those days in the Middle East, a man who would have been healed could lose a substantial living. He had been so used to the system of being a beggar and laying around and collecting handouts from people, that Jesus would ask this question. He said for him to be healed means that he has to join a very hard workforce and work for pennies a day as a hard laborer. So he's a broken man, but if he is healed, he has to take on new responsibilities. So he asked him, "Do you want to be made well?" Are you content with your condition? Do you want to change? Do you really want a different life?
Roger Frederikson, a commentator on this, was very helpful to me this week. He writes: "So often people succumb to their illness, 'bedding down' with their alcoholism or heart trouble or partial paralysis or whatever. They become psychological and spiritual invalids, retreating within themselves, avoiding responsibilities, becoming more and more self-centered as they demand sympathy from others. So every now and then in dealing with this kind of defeated person in the office or at a hospital bed or in a luncheon appointment I have asked that question, 'Do you want to be made well?' "I read that and I thought, "You know, I've never asked that question, but maybe I should start asking it now in some cases." Jesus is so honest as he deals with him.
Well, notice something else in verse 14. "Afterward," after the healing took place, "Jesus found this man in the temple, and said to him, 'See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.' "What!? What could possibly be worse than thirty-eight years of being broken? You know the answer to that? There's something far worse that could happen---eternal suffering because of unrepentant sin could mean this man could be eternally lost. And though the disease had taken the best years of his life away, unrepentant sin would take his eternity away. Now just think about this---probably no one had ever spoken to this man like that. No one had ever talked to this man about his sin. "Hey, you don't do that. He's sick. He's an invalid. You don't talk about their sin."
But Jesus did. Why? Because he loved him. Because he loved him and he knew there was something far worse. So, loving the broken means preaching the unbroken gospel. At some point, if you care for that person, you will care for that person's soul. If you merely feed that person or make them better, it is temporary, unless at some point you are honest enough to talk about something far worse than any physical brokenness or malady. As Augustine well put it, "If I weep for the body from which the soul is departed, should I not weep for the soul from which God is departed?" So, observe compassionately, interact honestly, and the third thing Jesus did, he expected adversity. He knew it was coming. Verse 9, "Immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath."
"The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, 'It's the Sabbath; it's not lawful for you to carry your bed.' He answered them, 'He who made me well said to me, "Take up your bed and walk." 'Then they asked him, 'Who is the Man who said to you, "Take up your bed and walk"?' "Now they're hunting him down. "But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, 'See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.' " Now notice something in verse 13. They couldn't find Jesus, because "Jesus had"---what?---"withdrawn" himself. He knew that doing this, showing this kind of love and compassion would put him right in the bull's-eye, so he withdrew.
He got out of the way. This was not the time to be arrested and be crucified. That would come later. It was all in a perfect timetable. So, expecting adversity, Jesus withdrew himself, because love has consequences. And one of the great consequences of loving the unlovely is you'll be misunderstood by people. We've had enormous groundswell of love and support for this series Jesus Loves People, but what has amazed me is some of the messaging we have gotten back from "Christians" who will say, "I can't believe you guys are saying that Jesus loves prostitutes." Good, I'm glad you're reading it well. That's exactly what we are saying. You got the message. "Jesus loves homosexuals?" Yes, he does. Yes, he does.
That does not mean in saying that all of these people that Jesus loves that he condones their choices or their behaviors, but he does love them, and he will forgive those who come to him his way. And it's time the church starts saying that Jesus loves people. [applause] You know, a few years ago we did a huge outreach, a few of them, to the AIDS community in this town. We just brought them food and loved on them, and they received it very suspiciously, because of what they have heard about Christians in the past. But what we found is it was very controversial, and we were misunderstood by both the faith community as well as those in the AIDS community. And then over the years we have ministered to inmates, and when they get out of prison we've actually hired many of those inmates here at the church.
And people have said, "Oof, that's risky. That's risky to hire those guys." You know what? It was risky when they let me come. [laughter] We're all a risk. And I find that Jesus was so often willing to take that risk. Now let me just say something else as we wind this down. Expect adversity, not just from the community who will misunderstand you, but from the very people you're trying to help sometimes. You will find pushback and blowback and they'll say things about you. You're trying to love them and help them and they'll say nasty things to you or do nasty things. There's an adage in the mental health community that goes like this: "Hurt people hurt people." People who have been hurt will often be the ones who will hurt reactively, because it's like it temporarily numbs the pain that they have experienced of rejection.
So expect anything, but don't let that hold you back from loving the broken. There was one American artist that noted that when the Japanese mend broken things, that often times they will aggrandize the damage done to that thing by filling in the cracks of the broken object with gold. Interesting. They would fill in the cracks with gold, because they say when something has been damaged, now it has a history, and now it's more valuable. It's more beautiful. I love that thought. Here's this broken man, what a history he had. And, by the way, there's no record that he even knew who Jesus was, but Jesus came and was merciful to him and loved him, this broken man. He had a history, and he was valuable, because a single human being is the most beautiful, the most valuable, and potentially the most powerful thing God ever made.
I have to say this in closing: There is a brokenness that God loves. There is a brokenness that God wants. The Bible says, "A broken and contrite spirit, O Lord, you will not despise." He loves when we are humbly broken before God, because we realize our failures, our sins, our inadequacies, and we bank on him for compassion and forgiveness. And, Father, as we close this service, we do that before you. Break our hearts with the things that break your heart. May we be drawn to those who are broken by circumstances, by people, by time. It is not easy. It is inconvenient. It can be embarrassing. We will be misunderstood. But we believe it captures so much the heart of Jesus who saw and he acted upon what he saw.
And, Lord, help us too to balance out our help and our love with loving a person's soul enough to tell them how to get from earth to heaven, that they might find forgiveness and the joy of eternal life, in Jesus' name we pray, amen.
Closing: Our God is a God of mercy and he's the hope for the helpless. Let's make sure any hurting people in our lives know this beautiful truth. How has God carried you through trying times? Let us know. Email email@example.com. And just a reminder: you can give financially to this work at calvaryabq.org/giving. Thank you for listening to this message from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Albuquerque.