“Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralysed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.” But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?” The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.” (John 5:1–15 NIV11)
This story is so full of twists and it is intriguing . Let me start by saying it falls into a bigger story which unfolds in Chapter 5 of the Gospel of John, where we see Jesus put on trial.
- Jesus’ authority is challenged
- Jesus’s is accused of breaking the Sabbath law
- Jesus’s Father is revealed as his witness
- Jesus Glory is revealed.
Also, this story has to be read with another healing account, the healing of the Blind man in John 9. They are very similar but with different outcomes. That story is also within the seven signs of Jesus.
As I previously wrote, I read this account having witnessed how God heals today. Signs and wonders are real; they are used by God to point us to Jesus so that we can experience the fullness of his Salvation.
What is the fulness of his salvation? The fullness of his salvation is to be Healed, Saved and Delivered. That is what the meaning of the word Salvation.
This story will challenge us, and just like the story of the Royal Official’s son in Chapter 4 of the Gospel of John, it will shake us or it will shape us in your relationship with Jesus.
I want to say three things about this story.
Who is this lame man? Most commentators believe he has paraplegia. We don’t know his name but what we know is that he was well known in and there about in Jerusalem Sheep Gate. We know because the text tells us that near the Sheep Gate there was a pool, we are given its Aramaic name “Bethesda”.
We know that in this pool there was a lot of disabled people who gathered there, we even have a description: The Blind – The Lame – The Paralysed
We know that the person with paraplegia that Jesus talked to was 38 years old, in Jesus time mortality rate for disabled people were short.
In Jesus time, there was no NHS, there was little if nothing of a welfare system and most if not all of the disabled beg for their lives, and they made a living from it.
If life was hard for anyone with a disability, imagine what it was like being disabled in Jesus time. Things like personal hygiene, mobility, food, and above all, being marginalised. He lived by the compassion of other people, and the fact that he is 38 years old may mean that he was able to sustain himself.
Why was he there?
He is there because of the pool! He tells us that : “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” (John 5:7 NIV11-GKE)
Why does he need help to get into the pool? What is the meaning go of “When water is stirred?” What does he mean by “While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me”.
Unfortunately, most English Bible translation omits part of verse three and four. Have you noticed it? I understand that these verses belongs to a later manuscript of the book of John This is why it is one of the reasons the I love the New American Standard Version.
“John 5:2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. John 5:3 In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, [waiting for the moving of the waters;” (John 5:2–3 NAS95) “for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.]” (John 5:4 NAS95)
I believe that by omitting these verses, the story does not read well, but also it takes something away for what Jesus is about to do! I have a problem with this story of the Angel, and if I am right or not, I believed this story is harsh. We are talking about people with disability who lived with the hope of being healed. We do know if this story was real, but it was very much alive in the mind of those who waited for the stirring of waters. Hence the explanation of the lame man in verse seven.
What I do know is that someone more significant than an Angel appeared that day. Someone with greater power to heal, Jesus.
What do you make of the question that Jesus asked?
“A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, “Do you wish to get well?” (John 5:5–6 NAS95)
It is Jesus who takes the initiative, and none of the people who were near the pool asked Jesus to do something. The request came from him and not from others.
I want you to know that when Jesus takes the initiative, there is nothing that can stop him. I believed that Jesus is so moved, and heartbroken with compassion that he saw this man and felt deep love to heal him.
This man’s faith was, and hope for healing was placed on someone who could lift him! We don’t know how heavy he was but what we know is that his faith was placed in diving into the pool and being helped by a stranger. This man needs it a Helper!! He wanted to dive in!! He does not realise that the one asking him the question is the very one who can restore him.
What if today you hear Jesus taking the initiative asking you and me: “Do you want to get well?”
What would you say?
“Yes, please or don’t bother!!”
Jesus’ question is full of compassion; he knows this man was for 38 years bound to this condition. Jesus also knows that he only does and acts according to what He sees his father doing.
“Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.” (John 5:19 NAS95)
Jesus said to the man! “…Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” (John 5:8 NIV11-GKE)
- Get up
- Pick up your mat
Something happened in this man’s life. He felt the power of Jesus’ words and even though he did not respond to Jesus, and we know that he believed what Jesus said. This is what he did “Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk.” (John 5:9 NAS95) He felt the power of Jesus’ words. He had enough faith to get up, to pick up his mat, and he began to walk!
Can you imagine that? He did this in a place of so much need!! Can you imagine this man walking and everyone saw him!
The helper came, the stranger came and healed this man. He did not dive into the pool but walked away from it.
There is a mystery about this story; this man does not know who Jesus is.
” The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.” But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.'” So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?” The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. Later, Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.” (John 5:9–15 NIV)
Chapter 5 is full of surprises! Immediately we read that there is a challenge when the wonders and the signs of God are manifested.
The enemy will try everything to shut it down, and sometimes it is the church who does this.
The challenge and the problem for the religious leaders are that this sign took place during a Sabbath Day. It was prohibited to carry your bed on the Sabbath!
Can you see what the religions mindset cannot see? These leaders are talking to a man who could not walk for 38 years!! They are more concern about the fact that he is carrying his bed!! Yet, he explains to them that a stranger healed him! “Who told you to carry your mat?” The one who told you to do it is as much as guilty as you are of breaking the Sabbath.
They could not see the sign; they could not see the healing! They could not see that the Lord showed his mercy and healed this man!! They couldn’t praise God.
But this man also does not know that Jesus was the one who healed him. Much has been written about what Jesus meant by these verses: when Jesus found this man in the temple.
Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.”
I don’t think that this man’s condition was the outcome of his sin, nor the sins of his parent. Yet, some sicknesses are the result of deliberate sinning.
I believe that Jesus now revealed himself as the Messiah, the one who can heal body and spirit. He comes to this man and tells him to stop sinning, or something worse may happen to you.
Jesus, the Son of God, is the one who can heal the sickness of the soul, the illness of the spirit. Jesus reveals that he is the Saviour but also God. By telling him to stop sinning Jesus is warning him, Jesus the healer is also the Judge. So who is on trial now? What we have here is the warning of the Holiness of God, the Righteousness of God and the Judgement of God.
The lame man tells the religious leader that it was Jesus who healed him and from then on, Jesus is put on trial for the rest of chapter five and indeed for the rest of the Gospel of John.