A Man Healed At The Pool Of Bethesda
Our Lord’s first two miracles recorded by John were somewhat private in nature. The servants and the disciples knew that He transformed the water into wine, and the servants and the nobleman’s family knew that He had healed the sick son. The miracle recorded in John 5 was not only public, but it was performed on the Sabbath Day and incited the opposition of the religious leaders. We see here the beginning of “official persecution” against the Savior.
There are three exciting “acts” in this drama.
- The Cure (John 5:1-15)
- The Controversy (John 5:16-18)
- The Claims (John 5:19-47)
When these events were completed, Jesus led His followers to Jerusalem where they would celebrate a Jewish feast together.
Jesus takes His disciples into one of the most miserable places they have ever seen. The suffering and impurity is frightening, but He comes to serve these precious people.
In Jerusalem they came upon a pool by the sheep gate surrounded by five covered porches. In Hebrew this place is called Bethesda.
Crowds of people lined the area, lying around the porches. All of these people were disabled in some way; some were blind, lame, paralyzed, or plagued by diseases; and they were waiting for the waters to move.
John 5:1-3 (VOICE)
When you visit St. Anne’s Church in Jerusalem, they will show you the deep excavation that has revealed the ancient Pool of Bethesda. The Hebrew name Bethesda has been spelled various ways and given differing meanings. Some say it means “house of mercy” or “house of grace,” but others say it means “place of the two outpourings.” There is historical and archaeological evidence that two adjacent pools of water served this area in ancient times.
The pool is situated near the northeast corner of the Old City, close to the Sheep Gate (Neh. 3:1; 12:39). Perhaps John saw some spiritual significance to this location, for he had already told his readers that Jesus Christ is “the Lamb of God” (John 1:29).
We do not know which feast Jesus was observing when He went to Jerusalem, and it is not important that we know. His main purpose for going was not to maintain a religious tradition but to heal a man and use the miracle as the basis for a message to the people. The miracle illustrated what He said in John 5:24—the power of His Word and the gift of life.
John described these people as ” blind, lame, paralyzed, or plagued by diseases.” What havoc sin has wrought in this world! But the healing of these infirmities was one of the prophesied ministries of the Messiah (Isa. 35:3-6). Had the religious leaders known their own Scriptures, they would have recognized their Redeemer; but they were spiritually blind.
From time to time, a heavenly messenger would come to stir the water in the pool. Whoever reached the water first and got in after it was agitated would be healed of his or her disease. In the crowd, Jesus noticed one particular man who had been living with his disability for 38 years. He knew this man had been waiting here a long time.
Jesus (to the disabled man): Are you here in this place hoping to be healed?
Disabled Man: Kind Sir, I wait, like all of these people, for the waters to stir; but I cannot walk. If I am to be healed in the waters, someone must carry me into the pool. Without a helping hand, someone else beats me to the water’s edge each time it is stirred.
Jesus: Stand up, carry your mat, and walk.
At the moment Jesus uttered these words, a healing energy coursed through the man and returned life to his limbs—he stood and walked for the first time in 38 years. But this was the Sabbath Day; and any work, including carrying a mat, was prohibited on this day.
John 5:4-9 (VOICE)
Be Pitiful Or Be Powerful
Why was this man lying beside the pool for 38 years?
Not only was he sick in his body, he was also sick in his soul. Sicknesses of the soul are much worse, and sometimes harder to deal with than sicknesses of the body. I believe the condition of his body and soul stole his confidence and caused him to give up in a gradual, passive kind of way.
Notice that when Jesus asked the sick man if he was “hoping to be healed”, he said he had no one to help him get into the pool where he could be healed. Jesus did not stand there and pity the man. Instead, He gave very specific instruction: “Stand up, carry your mat, and walk.” In other words, “Don’t just lie there, do something!”
Jesus knew that self-pity would not deliver the man, so He did not feel sorry for him. He had compassion on him, and that is different from emotional pity. Jesus was not being harsh, hard or mean. He was trying to set the man free!
It is impossible to imagine this man’s excitement. His entire life has been defined by his illness. Now he is free from it. Free from the pain and weakness. Free from the depression that gripped his soul. Free, too, from the shame he always knew. Now he does not just walk—he runs and celebrates with friends and family. Everyone is rejoicing with him, except for some of the Jewish leaders. Instead, they drill him with questions as if they can disregard this miracle.
Jewish Leaders (to the man who had been healed): 10 Must you be reminded that it is the Sabbath? You are not allowed to carry your mat today!
John 5:10 (VOICE)
The miracle would have caused no problem except that it occurred on the Sabbath Day. Our Lord certainly could have come a day earlier, or even waited a day; but He wanted to get the attention of the religious leaders. Later, He would deliberately heal a blind man on the Sabbath (John 9:1-14). The scribes had listed thirty-nine tasks that were prohibited on the Sabbath, and carrying a burden was one of them. Instead of rejoicing at the wonderful deliverance of the man, the religious leaders condemned him for carrying his bed and thereby breaking the law.
Formerly Disabled Man: The man who healed me gave me specific instructions to carry my mat and go.
John 5:11 (VOICE)
If following Jesus’ instructions led to perfect health, then it would be wise to follow His other instructions, even if they contradicted the religious teachings of the day. Yet, people who receive miraculous deliverances from the Lord routinely submit themselves to religious rules that void the liberty Jesus has provided for them (Galatians 5:1). It’s because they make the mistake of thinking the religious leaders are the spokespeople for God. That’s not always so.
When we obey God, we get what God can produce. When we obey people, we get what people can produce. People were not able to help this man. He made the right choice (Romans 6:16).
He That Made Me Whole
The man reasoned correctly. If Jesus had power to work to signal a miracle, he had a right to explain the law. If he had conferred so great a favor on him, he had a right to expect obedience; and we may learn that the mercy of God in pardoning our sins, or in bestowing any signal blessing, imposes the obligation to obey him. We should yield obedience to him according to what we know to be his will, whatever may be the opinions of men, or whatever interpretation they may put on the law of God. Our business is a simple, hearty, child-like obedience, let the men of the world say or think of us as they choose.
Jewish Leaders: Who is the man who gave you these instructions? How can we identify Him?
The man genuinely did not know who it was that healed him. In the midst of the crowd and the excitement of his renewed health, Jesus had slipped away.
John 5:12-13 (VOICE)
This man didn’t even know it was Jesus who had healed him. It’s improbable that he had never heard of Jesus. But it’s evident that he didn’t know Jesus well enough to recognize Him as the man who had healed him. It must have just been the power of the Holy Spirit that took the words Jesus spoke and caused faith to rise in this man’s heart.
I don’t know why Jesus didn’t stay and heal all the people there. They were all looking for healing, and this demonstration of His healing power would have certainly caused many of them to come to Him for healing. It’s possible that the hysteria that would have occurred would have resulted in many people seeking a healing touch out of desperation but not in faith (Hebrews 11:6). He had the luxury of ministering to this individual man in private and soliciting a faith response from him. That wouldn’t have happened with the crowd.
Afterward, when Jesus found him in the temple, He said to him, See, you are well! Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.
The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus Who had made him well.
John 5:14-15 (AMP)
Jesus didn’t just bump into this man. He sought him out. And He found him in the temple. This man was probably worshiping the Lord for the great thing He had done for him.
Jesus linked this man’s paralysis to his sin. He said if he sinned, something worse could come upon him. Not all sickness is directly related to some sin in our lives, as is evident in John 9:1-4, but it’s one reason we have sicknesses and diseases.
There isn’t any reason to believe this man was in agreement with the Jews in their stance against Jesus. He was probably just naive or so excited over his healing that he didn’t think about how this might be used against Jesus.
They didn’t care about people. All they could think of was their rules that had been broken. One of the litmus tests for whether or not we are religious is whether we love people or our rules.
DECLARATION OF FAITH
In Jesus, I have been made well. I will not dishonor Him by continuing in sin and thus leaving the door opened for the devil to attack me with another wave of his foul sicknesses.
I pray this declaration of faith in Jesus’ name, Amen!