The Deliverer

There lies the helpless cripple, around him a mass of suffering humanity, but none worse than he; for thirty-eight years he had suffered, and through all those years no thrill of strength had stirred his palsied limbs. The doctors must have pronounced his case hopeless, and yet with a strange persistence he hoped, an example of the saying, "Hope springs eternal in the human breast." But his hope was not in a doctor's skill, but in the pool by the side of which he lay.

It was a strange pool, a large reservoir inside the walls of the city of Jerusalem near the sheep market gate, and it was known as Bethesda, which means the house of mercy. It was well named, for at a certain season an angel from heaven appeared and stirred the waters, then whoever stepped down first into the water was made whole, no matter what his plague might be.

What a scramble there would be at every season, and what disappointment, and amongst the disappointed ones was our cripple. How many times during those years he had fallen back in his misery we do not know, but at last he seemed to be reduced to despair. Did he think that Jesus was but a passing stranger interested in his helplessness when He asked him, "Wilt thou be made whole?" If He had been only that, such a question would have been a mockery; but, because of who He was, two things transpired: first, the confession of the man's despair; then the mercy of the Lord that met him there.

Yes, the man had lost all hope, and the Lord's question does not seem to have pleased him over-much, for it did seem from the man's point of view, an unnecessary one, "Sir," he answers. "I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool; but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me" (John 5:7). My own efforts have all proved vain, and there is not a man who cares a straw for me. As he lay in his helplessness his language might well have been: "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Rom. 7:24). "I have no man."

Does not this man's sad case illustrate that of many, whose struggles after holiness and good have been long and earnest but in vain? The bitter cry of their souls is "I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would that do I not: but what I hate, that do I" (Rom. 7:14-15). The lesson must be learned that there is no strength for good in the life that is paralysed by sin, and that every hope of overcoming this condition of continual defeat is a vain hope. Aye, but it is just here that the crisis is reached, for man's extremity is God's opportunity.

When the paralytic of John 5 confessed that all his hopes were dashed, and that he had no resources either in himself or in any other man, and that the blessing of the pool was not for him because it was out of his reach then the Lord spoke and His word was a delivering word, "Jesus says to Him, Rise, take up thy bed and walk. And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed and walked; and on the same day was the sabbath." Christ superseded the pool; His word did for the helpless cripple what neither angel nor man could do. He was a delivered man, and he had had a grateful heart, which he does not seem to have had, he would have cried, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord," and he would have followed Him and clung to Him.

I heard of an East Central African negro, who summed up this story in two sentences. They were these. The impotent man said to Jesus, "I have no man," and Jesus answered "I am your Man." And not only had this negro the art of going to the very kernel of the matter, but he must have learnt the wonderful and soul emancipating truth, that all life, virtue, power, blessing and deliverance for men lie in Christ, and that it is when the groaning, struggling soul ceases all his efforts and cries out, "Who shall deliver me?" that deliverance comes.

Deliverance from the power of sin does not come by efforts to keep the law. The weakness of our fleshly nature is not strengthened to do good by resolutions and vows. What has your spiritual history been, my reader? Have you to say:

"Oh the regret, the struggle and the failing!
Oh the days desolates and useless years!
Vows in the night, so fierce and unavailing!
Stings of my shame and passion of my tears!

"Oh thou poor soul, enwrapped in such a sinning,
Bound and in the shameful body of thy death!"

— there is hope for you. Lift up your eves from self and sinning to Him who died for you, bearing the judgment, and has been raised up from the dead. He is your Man, your Deliverer. If you have believed on Him, He is not only your Saviour but the Source of your power, and you have been joined to Him to bring forth fruit to God. You have come under a new headship, you are in Christ, and a new life may work in you now. Not Paul only, but you also may say, "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death" (Rom. 8:2). He is your Man: His Spirit dwells in you; and through Him that loves you, you may be more than a conqueror.