John chapter 5 reports Jesus visited a pool called Bethesda — an Aramaic word for grace and mercy. It was surrounded by suffering people. Invalids of every stripe — blind, lame, crippled.
Jesus gave His particular attention to one of those suffering, a man He knew to be afflicted for 38 years. “Do you wish to get well?”
The sense of Jesus’ question was a not-so-subtle exposure of the man’s helplessness like — “Do you have a plan to get well?”
That’s why the man answered, “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.” The man had a hopeless plan to roll the dice on a superstition. And he was helpless even to do that.
After exposing the man’s helplessness, Jesus helped. “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.”
“Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk.”
God spoke. The helpless man was restored.
For Jesus Christ helps (only) the helpless.
We have no real control over our circumstances or other people. We cannot create absolute certainty for ourselves or for others. We cannot reach complete clarity over what happens in life or why.
Yet how delusional we can be. We fall into thinking walking on the moon is the same as hanging the moon, that experiencing success is the same as causing success, that physical treatment is the same as physical cure, that physical cure is the same as spiritual cure.
We are helpless.
And Jesus Christ helps us.
God speaks. And we are restored.
“I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” He said. And immediately the Word of God roused us from the dead, the waters of His baptismal pool cleansing us of all our sin.
“Upon this your confession, I forgive you all your sins, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” He says. And immediately the Word of God transforms the anchor of our sin into a pallet for our conscience rest in His absolution.
“Take and eat, this is My body. Take and drink, this is My blood. Given and shed to forgive your sins,” He says. And immediately the Word of God restores us.
Divine service. God helping His helpless.
All because God Himself became helpless.
Conceived of the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ is God who entered the womb of a woman. In a country that has such cultural and legal disregard for life, we have keen sense of the helplessness of the unborn.
Born of the virgin Mary, Jesus Christ is God who became dependent upon human parents for His protection and provision.
Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Jesus Christ is God who submit Himself to the attacks of the devil, to the flawed allegiances and violent oppositions of man, and to the vulnerabilities of His own flesh.
Crucified, died and buried, Jesus Christ is God who made Himself defenseless to death and the grave.
And for such obedient and selfless love, Jesus Christ received all the divine wrath and judgment we deserve. For Him, His Father had no mercy, no grace.
On the third day, Jesus Christ rose again from the dead. And, in Him, the helplessness of man before sin, death and the devil, came to an end.
This is the Good News. In Christ, neither sin, death, nor the devil, can threaten you. And since they cannot threaten you, nothing else can either. This is the certainty, clarity, and control of God — for you.
Kevin Wendt is pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Destin.