Read: John 5:1-18
Focus Verse: “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” Colossians 2:8 NIV
Recently we read an announcement about a sound healing event in the local area. I thought, What in the world? As I continued to look through this announcement, it occurred to me that it’s a Zen Buddhist religious practice using vibrations from music to heal people of almost anything supposedly. Essentially, it’s an energy channeling practice wrapped up as Zen meditation. This “magical, healing experience” is a concert leading the audience in vibration healing meditation. “Mats and blankets will be made available for comfort for the participants.” What’s so disturbing about this? It is part of a spiritual stronghold that’s gripped our nation called New Age. Why should we be concerned? Because New Age meditation practices are touted as alternative medicine, people fall for hook, line, and sinker. They have no idea it’s a religious practice. Even Christians embrace this spirituality. In my mind, they don’t see it as witchcraft since it’s not witches hovering over a black cauldron chanting incantations (Watt, 2020).
What’s the Deal?
My Boaz and I decided to get away for the day last Sunday. It was a chilly day in Central Florida, so we visited Venice, FL, about three hours south, about ten degrees warmer. Quaint shops in the historic district charmed us. Along the way, mermaids elaborately decorated appeared randomly on street corners–ancient myths of sailors.
When we finished perusing the shops, we headed over to the beach. We could hear drums coming from the sand as we crossed the access. What we encountered was precisely what I told you about at the beginning of this post: drummers drumming the same set of beats on bongo and hand drums over, and over, and over. There was no structure or singing. A woman randomly got up from her chair and started dancing. A little girl joined her with a long rainbow scarf. I found it mind-numbing. In our spirits, we knew it wasn’t from God.
New Age healing practices come from a blend of Zen Buddhism (Taoism + Buddhism), Hinduism, Shamanism, Wicca, and American Indian medicinal practices (Melton n.d.). All of these are pantheistic. They share the common belief that God is in everything. You will find New Age healing arts in doctors’ offices, hospitals, gyms, yoga studios, massage therapy, chiropractic offices, and more. These practices have infiltrated our schools and churches. Christians who can’t find healing from doctors often resort to these alternative healing practices out of desperation. Should we indulge in them?
In Jesus’ day, many Jews were caught up in the pagan religions surrounding them. Statues of demi-gods were everywhere. Temples scattered across the countryside stood in the background of a culture in stark contrast to Jewish practices. Some Jews even fell for the lies of promised healing, as the man paralyzed for thirty-eight years. After all, there isn’t any harm in getting involved in it, is there? Market squares offered meat sacrificed in pagan temple rituals, cheaper than the meat otherwise available. Jewish life in exile under Roman occupation had to be tough.
There was a Pool at Bethesda with five colonnades, referred to as porches. These colonnades were large and grand. If you’ve lived in or traveled in the south, you will see enormous stone columns two and three stories high over a large, grand concrete slab or wooden entrance of a home, bank, or church. Imagine these, but larger with elegant capitals at the top. Steps that went down into this deep ritual bath by the Sheep’s Gate set the scene of Jesus’ healing miracle of this paralyzed man, having lived on one of those porches all those years. The spring that filled the pool would bubble and churn periodically, which pagans believed to be an angel stirring up the water (Stirring of the Water in the Pool of Bethesda n.d.). He wanted so badly to be healed that he would try to pull himself into the water, but others would scramble over and past him. As a result, he never got the healing he longed for.
If you’ve been watching The Chosen as we have, you’ve gained a whole new perspective on the biblical accounts of Jesus’ ministry. One hazard we see is that it’s easy to think the artistic license segments and added words are in Scripture. I almost made that mistake. In the movie, Jesus zeroes in on one man who’s been at the Pool of Bethesda for thirty-eight years! He believed the pagan superstition that an angel would stir up the water and the first person to get in at that moment would be healed. Then I looked closer at John 5. Jesus found out about this man and asked him, “Do you want to be healed?” Interesting question since that was why the man hung out at that pool. He believed if he could just get in at the right time, he would be healed! Why would Jesus ask such a question? In this episode of The Chosen, Jesus tells him that there is nothing for him there. But these words don’t appear in John 5. But it fits the context of the passage.
Jesus goes to him and asks this question: Do you want to be healed? The man tells him he can’t get in the water because everyone else gets there first, probably trampling him upon occasion. If someone has been paralyzed that long, there is little muscle on his legs, possibly even smaller than would typically be on the body of a man who can walk. Jesus looks straight at him and tells him to pick up his mat and walk. Now this man has a decision to make: get up and walk or insist someone put him in the pool at the right time. We don’t know if this man felt something unusual, like tingling in his legs that signaled the healing, or nothing. The passage just says he was cured. But he did what Jesus told him. He picked up his mat and walked!
We know this man was Jewish since the Pharisees were indignant about this man carrying his mat on the Sabbath. The man responded that the one who healed him, Jesus, told him to pick up his mat and walk. If you notice, he obeyed Jesus, not the religious critics. They also criticized Jesus for healing on the Sabbath and accused Him of blasphemy for forgiving the man’s sins. Jesus came back with, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” (v.17).
The healed man went to the Jewish Temple and told the religious leaders what happened. Now you can see why the writers of this episode of The Chosen added, “There is nothing for you here.” There was no healing for him at that pool shrouded in a myth. It bubbled and churned due to the natural actions of the spring that filled this pool. Jesus tells the man when He sees him at the Temple later, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” (v.14). Did the man’s sin cause him to become paralyzed, or did he sin by expecting a myth to bring him the healing? Regardless, spiritual and physical healing happened that day!
Why do Christians fall for false healing claims in the New Age practices of today? The roots of these practices are a blend of Zen Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Shamanism, American Indian pantheism, and Wiccan witchcraft. These beliefs are a spiritual brew from a smoldering cauldron called New Age, which infiltrates our schools, healthcare, massage studios, chiropractic office, and fitness facilities. You can also find energy channeling done by Reiki masters as massage therapists and some chiropractors. You will find meditation and mindfulness in yoga and tai chi classes, but even at the end of most exercise classes now. Would you believe that fitness instructors and personal training certification renewal classes from several certifying agencies offer Meditation 1 and 2?
People are hungry for meaning and truth—albeit man’s wisdom that is foolishness to God (1 Corinthians 3:19). Some are so desperate for healing they will do anything, even if it’s from ancient religious or pagan practices, just like the paralyzed man from the Pool of Bethesda. It sounds good—angels stirring the water. The god within can heal you. But we read in Colossians 2:8 that we are not to allow ourselves” to be taken captive through human philosophy” (Hindu, Tao, Zen Buddhism, ancient pantheism, etc.) or “elemental spiritual forces of this world” (fallen angels parading as angels of light). Instead, we have Jesus, our Healer to whom we can go, praying for healing. Sometimes He performs overt miracles. Other times, He chooses to work through medical practices. We need only to ask Him where, how, and who. Christians are never desperate. Our Creator can fix anything broken; after all, He created us.
It’s best to avoid anything that appears religious, where Jesus isn’t the focus. This includes yoga, tai chi, smudging, crystals, any form of eastern spiritual meditation practices, and channeling of energy. None of these come from our God.
Christian meditation, i.e., prayerful contemplation of Scripture, brings peace to our souls. Jesus is our Peace (Ephesians 2:14). We can add calming Christian hymns and praise choruses to this if we wish. I especially love Christian music that focuses on the Bible passage I’m reading for that day. The effect we receive is far more significant than Eastern meditation because we truly commune with God, the Creator of the Universe. We may take our concerns, including illness, to Him. We need not delve into other spiritual practices.
Christian, there is nothing for you here but a ruse of the Evil One. If you find yourself seeking healing and restoration in such places, stop. True healing comes through Jesus Christ, our Savior. Ask Him for what you need, whether a miracle or the right people and places where He directs you. He will never operate contrary to His nature, as seen in the Bible. Anything else is counterfeit. Look to Jesus, take up your mat, and walk away from such practices. Go to our Savior and Lord who heals.
Don’t know Jesus? Maybe you’ve realized how empty and shallow New Age practices are. Yet you yearn for something more and better. Come to Jesus, His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. Confess your sin to Jesus and ask Him to come into your heart and life. When you do, you will never be the same!
How can I pray for you? You are welcome to email me at email@example.com.
Blessings to you!
Used with permission from Charlaine Martin.