The pool of Bethesda, whose name means “house of mercy”, located on the eastern side of the city was fed by a nearby spring. People with disabilities such as blindness, lameness, paralysis and all kinds of chronic illnesses would sit by the pool daily, awaiting the stirring of the waters. Tradition held that an angel of the Lord would periodically come to stir the waters. The one who stepped first into the stirring water received healing. Its here at Bethesda where Jesus speaks to a man disabled 38 years. We do not know how the man came to be disabled or how old he is at the time of his healing; in fact we know very little about the man.
We do know he has been in this condition for 38 years waiting at the pool of Bethesda every day, feeling his situation held no hope. Jesus approaches the man and asks the all-important question, “Do you want to become well?” The Greek language implies Jesus is not asking idly or out of curiosity; He’s asking, are you earnestly seeking both spiritual and physical wholeness.
I find it amusing Jesus offers the man healing and the man replies with, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I’m trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” The man had no recognition or knowledge of Jesus.
Jesus, ignoring what the man perceives to be his plight, says, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the disabled man picks up his mat and walks. Keep in mind after 38 years his muscles would have atrophied; yet his healing was complete; everything in perfect working order. Amazing!
Enter the Jewish leaders who say to the man, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.” The Sabbath was a central issue in the conflicts between Jesus and his opponents. Mosaic Law required all work cease on the seventh day. Additional laws (over 400) were added by later Jewish religious authorities, which became very complicated and burdensome. These human traditions and additions obscured the divine intention of God’s command. God commanded the Sabbath for man (Mark 2:27) so he could, experience joy in a time of worship and have needed rest. The Jews rigid tradition taught, if anyone carried anything from a public place to a private place on the Sabbath intentionally, he deserved death by stoning. The man now found himself in danger of losing his life by stoning. Realizing the potential of danger he states, he was simply following orders. The Leaders inquire further, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up your mat and walk?” The man does not know. Jesus has slipped away into the crowd, nowhere to be seen.
Later, Jesus finds the man at the temple and says to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you”…interesting words. I cannot help but wonder what he’s doing with his new found freedom. Theologians believe Christ is addressing the man’s soul in eternity. Will he surrender and follow Jesus or continue to sin and find himself in Hell. The man realizing “Jesus” healed him, goes back to the Jewish leaders to inform them who brought about his healing. When you have an encounter with Jesus you want to share the good news.
Like the disabled man in our story, when Christ enters into our lives and we respond in the affirmative to him, we find healing and hope for living. We are forever changed.
We need to be aware of whom we are following. Are we following Jesus, through obedience to the inspired Word of God, or a list of man-made, “churchy” rules and beliefs; or rules and beliefs of our own making?
How many times in our lives have we become concerned about the wrong thing and in so doing missed the miracles along the way? It’s easy to lose sight of what is important and lose our focus.
The Lord’s heart is for people first and foremost and our relationship with him. Will we spend eternity with him in heaven or with Satan in hell? The man had need of healing both physically and spiritually. He had to turn from his sins and seek God’s forgiveness for spiritual healing. God’s forgiveness is the greatest gift we will ever receive.
The healing appears to have taken place apart from faith. The man had no knowledge of Jesus prior to his healing. There’s no formula for healing. Healing comes as the Lord deems it to come. He knows what we need. The disabled man was chosen by Jesus as an act of grace because of his need and for God’s glory.
“Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy.” Isaiah 35:5-6