Billy Graham - House of Mercy
Now I want you to turn with me tonight to the 5th chapter of John's Gospel, to the 5th chapter of John's Gospel, the 5th chapter of John's Gospel. I won't read it to you, I'll just tell you the story. And you will be able to pick it up as I tell it and save the time of reading it. Jesus was going up and down the country. And He was preaching and teaching; and the scripture says that He taught as one having authority. He never did say, "I hope this is the way to heaven". He said, "This is the way". He said, "This is it".
He taught with great simplicity also. He always told stories to illustrate spiritual truth. He also spoke with great urgency. He indicated that what He was saying was very important and that you must listen. And He also taught with repetition. Someone has suggested that He repeated himself perhaps as much as 500 times. And then, another interesting thing about Jesus, He kept the law, the laws of Rome. He said, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's".
He never led a demonstration against Rome. You never find Him leading a vigil. And Rome was a strong and powerful and cruel nation that occupied His own homeland. I don't know if they had martial law like we read about today in some countries, but they certainly controlled it. But Jesus never led a fight against them. But what he said, and what he did, and what he taught undermined the whole Roman Empire within a relatively short time after his death, burial and resurrection. He taught with authority. He taught with compassion, as we've already heard tonight. And He had compassion upon the poor and the needy and the oppressed and the sick. But Jesus' fame began to spread abroad. He makes His way to Jerusalem to attend a great feast.
Now had I been in Jerusalem at that time, and had I been looking for Christ, where would I look for Him? I probably would have gone to the Temple, where all the religious leaders were. And I would have said I'm sure that He'll be here. But that's not where he was. Jesus was at the pool of Bethesda that had a pathetic crowd of broken humanity. He was where the people were hurting the most. And so, Jesus had gone to this place that was almost like a hospital. It had nine porches. Bethesda. And Nehemiah had built nine gates to Jerusalem and one of them was called the sheep gate. And that's where this pool was located, at the sheep gate. And when Jesus went through the sheep gate, He probably was reminded of the fact that John the Baptist had said, "Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world".
Jesus was the great lamb that was to come. Because, you see, through this sheep gate came the lambs that were to be slaughtered upon the alters as sacrifices to God, looking forward to the day when the great lamb of God would come. Because, you see, all the animals of the Old Testament that were slain, were slain in anticipation of the one that was to come that was to lay down His life for the sins of the world, on the cross. And the most vivid expression or description of the cross is found in Isaiah, the fifty-third chapter, eight hundred years before Christ was even born. And you find descriptions of the death of Christ upon the cross in the Old Testament, because the Old Testament looked forward to the day when Jesus Christ would become the great lamb of God, and offer Himself upon the cross for our sins.
And you'll never understand the Old Testament. Many people call it a bloody religion. Yes, there was a lot of blood shed in the Old Testament on the Jewish altars, but that meant something That showed the hideousness of sin because the blood that was shed on Jewish altars was for sin. And that blood was symbolic of life that was leaving the animal, that was only made good when Christ laid down His life upon the cross. When he laid down His life upon the cross, that made all the sacrifices made in the Old Testament made them good and acceptable to God, because they were only symbolic of that which was to come in Jesus Christ, because Christ's death was planned before the foundation of the world. Because God could look forward and see you and me as lawbreakers and sinners in need of a savior, and He was offering His own Son, the Lord Jesus Christ to die upon that cross as the great Lamb of God.
And Jesus, I'm sure, when He went through that sheep gate and saw these sheep going through, could not help but think that in a short time, He would be on the cross shedding His blood for our sins. Now, these porches contained a great many sick people. And they had an idea, the pool was bubbling. They had an idea that every day an angel came, or every few days an angel came, and stirred up the water and made it bubble, and if you were the first person into that water, you would be healed. And so people, as soon as the water started bubbling early in the morning, they would all try to be the first one in. This poor man that Jesus went to had tried for 38 years. He'd been paralyzed for 38 years! He couldn't get in there first. How discouraged he must have been.
Jesus looked upon that scene of terrible misery and he had compassion upon them. He sees the moral and the spiritual and the psychological and the physical cripples here tonight, because, you see, there are people here tonight that are physically well, but spiritually you're a cripple. You don't have peace with God. You don't have the assurance in your heart that your sins are forgiven. You don't know that you have eternal life. You're not certain of it. Oh, you might have been baptized or confirmed, or you joined a church somewhere and you have some little bit of religion. But you're not sure of your relationship with God. You have a doubt about it.
Well, before this night is over, settle it and make sure. Come to the cross where Christ died for your sins. He sees you. He sees the moral cripples here and the spiritual cripples and the psychological cripples and even the physical cripples. And the Bible describes us all as sick. The root cause of the world's problems tonight is sin. Sin is the sickness. Sin is the problem, and we go around treating the symptoms, when the root cause is sin. We're lawbreakers. We've come short of God's glory, and the Bible says, "all have sinned". You're a sinner. I'm a sinner. A lawbreaker. We've all broken God's law and we're headed toward judgement, and we're headed toward hell.
Now it describes the different people who were sick there, which we can spiritualize and apply to ourselves tonight. First, it says the impotent people. Who are they? They are the ones who had the law of Moses, but they had no power to keep it. You try and keep the Ten Commandments. Not a person in this audience has ever kept the Ten Commandments. Nobody. There's no such thing as a person being morally perfect. And then the scripture says this. If you break one commandment, you've broken them all. So, I have to say, "I've broken all the commandments". And yet, if you've broken only one commandment, you've broken them all and that makes you a sinner and no sinner can be accepted in the sight of God. You must be clothed in righteousness to come into the presence of God. God is a Holy God. Yes, these people were impotent. They had no power to keep the law.
You see, that's the reason I cannot say I live the Christian life. I can't live it. I can't live by the golden rule. Christ has to live it through me and in me. That's the reason, when you come to Christ, He gives you the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit came in this age to help us live the life that Christ taught and to obey him.
And then it says the blind were there. Blind, and you say, "Well, I'm not blind". You may have 20/20 vision, but your spiritual eyes are blind. You're blind to the fact that you're a sinner before God. You're blind to your spiritual needs because the Bible says that you were supernaturally blinded. Do you know who blinded you? Listen to this in II Corinthians 4:4, "In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them". The god of this world is the devil. Satan blinds us. He puts blinders on us. Only the Holy Spirit can remove that blindness. That's a supernatural act of God. When you receive Christ, He removes those blindfolds.
Then it says the halt were there. Who were they? Well, they're the cripples who were spiritually and psychologically crippled. They have no strength to obey their conscience. Why? Well, you'd like to read the Bible, or you'd like to pray, but you're just too crippled to do it. Too spiritually crippled. You don't have any desire to pray. No desire to read the Bible. No desire really to go to church. You go just because it's the thing to do, maybe, or because your parents want you to go. You know Christ will not let you be a half-way Christian. And there are some people trying it though. They've got one foot in the kingdom of God, and trying to keep the other foot in the world. They've got them in both camps, and neither one is happy. Step on one side or the other. Go all out for Christ.
And then he said the withered were there. Who are they? They had withered hands. Our wills have been paralyzed by sin. You see the Bible teaches there are three little men living inside of us. There's the intellect, the emotion, and the will. Now by wisdom, by your intellect alone, you cannot come to Christ. There is that step of faith. Timothy Dwight, who was president of Yale until the later part of the last century, The second Timothy Dwight said that truth can only be dimly seen by the intellect. And how right he was. Just dimly seen. You can never come to the truth by the intellect alone. It must be faith.
There is that step of faith that you must take and receive by faith. But my emotion looks at Christ on the cross and I say I can love Him, He died for me. I look at the judgements that are in the Bible and I'm afraid. That's emotion. But the thing that God is really getting at is your will. He wants you to say, "I will receive Him as Savior and Lord". But, you see, your will has been affected by sin. Paralyzed in some cases. You just can't say that. When you got married, or when I got married a number of years ago, the minister said, "Will you have this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife"? I didn't say, "I love her". I didn't say, "Well, she's lovely". I didn't say, "Well, we get along fine". I'd already settled all of that. I said, "I will". I yielded my will to her. I yielded by will. Just a simple declaration. And that's what you say to Christ.
Now isn't it interesting that you go and stand in front of a minister and he signs a piece of paper. Maybe the wedding lasts 30 minutes or 15 minutes or 40 minutes or however big you have the wedding, maybe 5 minutes, and you've made a lifetime commitment, supposed to be. Just by saying, "I will". And when you come to Christ you say, "I will," and that's a lifetime eternal commitment forever. And He receives you and forgives you and cleanses you. What a wonderful good news that is.
Now this man had been waiting 38 years. He'd tried everything else. He had tried 14,000 times to get in that water, if you count every day. And perhaps you could do that. But he was now hopeless, helpless lying there on that pallet, crippled. No friends to help him in the water first. And Jesus goes up to him and He went to him probably because he was the worst case there. And he said, "Do you want to be healed"? And I want to ask you tonight, "Do you want spiritual healing tonight? Do you want your sins forgiven"?
If you do, you that are watching by television, pick up the telephone and call that number that is on the screen right now and if you don't get it immediately, keep calling and talk to someone about your need tonight and get it settled over the telephone. And you that are here in this great audience, you can get it settled this very night, this very moment by saying yes to Jesus Christ. But, you know Jesus' question to this man sounds almost cruel. Every day he'd tried. But then you start to think about it, it wasn't so cruel after all. Do you really want Christ in your life? Do you? Do you really want Him to come into your heart? Are you really ready to meet His demands and surrender everything to Him and make Him your Lord?
It's not easy. It means that some of those things that you've been doing that are wrong you'll have to give up. It means there will have to be new attitudes in your life. It means that He becomes Lord of all of your decisions. He helps you to make the decision about marriage. He helps you in your vocation. You must turn to him at every turn. And read the Bible and pray and witness. And get into the church. It means that your total life is committed totally to Him, as Lord and Savior. Do you really want that? Jesus said to this man, "Do you really want to be healed"? Do you? You can be tonight. You see, the closer we get to Him and realize His demands, the more we're not sure. Jesus said, "Will you be made whole"? Would you let Christ make you whole tonight?
Apparently, this man answered, "Yes, I want to be made whole". That's all you have to say. "Yes, I want to be made whole". Now, there are three important things that happen. You must have faith. Jesus said, "Rise". Now, this man had been trying to rise for 38 years. And just at the command of Jesus Christ to rise? But he had faith in Jesus Christ. He looked up and he saw something, and he felt something, and he knew something that was different than anything else that had ever come into his life. And when Jesus said, "Rise," by faith he took that first step on those paralyzed legs and he walked. He'd tried it a thousand times before and had failed.
Now he looked at Jesus with faith. Something about the way he looked, or the voice of authority, "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thy heart that God hath raised Him from the dead," you can be saved tonight. And then there must be repentance. You see, you have to leave the old lifestyle. He had to leave that old pallet. Take it up and throw it out. That old dirty place, and get out of that place with all of that thing that was there. The old lifestyle had to change. And what a new lifestyle this man had because he was jumping around. His legs were as good as new. For the first time in 38-years he was not paralyzed any longer. That could happen to you tonight spiritually. And then you have to accept the responsibility. Accept the responsibility. Jesus said, "Walk". Walk a new road. Walk the narrow road with Christ. Walk in discipleship. And when he did that, there was instantaneous healing.
And it's interesting to me that the people that came to Jesus in the New Testament, Most of them came to Christ and had instantaneous, instantaneous conversion to Christ. They received Christ right then and there, in a moment. And they did it openly and publicly. Nobody, except Nicodemus, ever came to Jesus by night. And we're not sure that was the night Nicodemus really found Christ. But all the people that came to Jesus came to him publicly and openly. And He said, "If you're not willing to acknowledge me, publicly and openly, before men, I'll not acknowledge you before My Father which is in heaven". He said, this is a public decision.
You see, when He died on the cross, He died publicly for you and for me. Now we must publicly say yes to him, openly. It's not something done in a secret or quiet place necessarily. It may be made in secret, yes, but there comes a time when you make it public and open and you make your witness known either by the fruit of the Spirit or by telling people or however. And Jesus told him a very interesting thing in verse 14 in this passage. Jesus met him later at the Temple. And Jesus said something to him that I want you to always remember. He said, "Sin no more, lest a worst thing come upon you". What could be worse than 38-years of paralytic? Jesus was teaching that man something about judgment and something about hell that is yet to come if we go on the way we're going. The narrow road, He said, leads to eternal life. The broad road, which most of the people are on, leads to destruction.
Yes, you must do something. Jesus told this man to do something. Rise and walk. I'm asking you tonight to get up out of your seat and walk and stand in front of this platform, as we've seen thousands do all over New England and say by coming symbolically, I want a new life. I want to know my sin is forgiven. I want to know that I have eternal life. I want to receive him tonight, or I want to recommit my life to Christ tonight. I want to settle this thing. I want Christ tonight. I'm going to ask you to get up out of your seat right now, hundreds of you and come and stand in front of the platform. And as you stand here, that will be a symbol, an outward symbol, a public symbol of what you're doing inside, the decision that you're making. And then after you've all come, I'm going to say a word to you and we're going to have a prayer together. Then we'll give you some literature to help you in your Christian life. And then you can go back and join your friends.
If you're with friends and relatives, they'll wait. You get up out of your seat and you that are watching by television. Pick up that telephone and call someone right now. So you come right now from all over, hundreds of you just get up out of your seat. Now you may be a member of the best church in town, whatever religious background you come from. I'm not asking you to join a specific church tonight. I'm asking you to come to the person of Christ. You may be a professing Christian, or you may not have any religious background or Christian background. And if you've come in one of those buses, they'll wait. It'll take you about a minute or two to come from that top stand up there, so start now quickly. As many people are already on the way you come and join them.
As these are coming forward this evening here at Nickerson field, take time to call that phone number on your screen. Write the number down and if the line is busy, call back. We want to help you now. As you can see here in Boston, Massachusetts, Boston University football stadium, hundreds of people have already come and many more on the way to make that commitment to Jesus Christ. You can make that same commitment where you are in your hotel room, at home, or wherever you are. Say yes to Christ and call that number that you see on your screen. God bless you and be sure and go to church next Sunday.