Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. 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
paralyzed. 5One 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 Jews 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 Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.
This passage of scripture is amazing and full of information. It opens up talking about Jesus going to Jerusalem for the Passover. So often today we
hear how church is not necessary, holidays are irrelevant, and that you should find God on your own. However, this is not the example Jesus provides.
Throughout the gospel accounts you'll read about Him preaching in the synagogues, and coming to Jerusalem for the high holidays.
Since the time of Malachi it had been over 400 years since a prophet had come to Israel. Yet here we see that the Jews were not abandoned by God. We
don't know much about the pool of Bethesda, how often it would be stirred up, what took place when people were healed, etc. All we know is that there
was a pool that would be stirred and the first person to enter would be healed. The name Bethesda actually means God is Merciful (I believe, I'll
have to double check on that tonight), and this demonstrates that. However, though He showed His mercy in the pool, He required action on the part of
those who were decrepit. They had to go into the pool, the miracle didn't come straight to them. God required an action.
We now come to a man who has been at this pool for 38 years, an invalid. For 38 years he'd been trying to get in when the waters were stirred, but
someone would jump in before him, and he never had anyone to help him. There was no mercy from the others that had been or were at the pool. This man
had no friend, and none wanted to be his friend. You would think that maybe one of those who had been healed by the pool would come back and help this
man into the pool, but not even those who had been shown great mercy were willing to show it to others. Think about it; this man's life was so
incredibly lonely, to have been here, no friend, for almost 40 years, a lifetime at that time.
Now along comes some guy who asks him if he wants to be well. Immediately he becomes defensive, and who can blame him? If you live in or near a large
city, I'm sure you've had the unfortunate experience of seeing someone yell at a beggar to get a job. Maybe you have been one of those people. This
man was at the pool for 38 years, and it was by the sheep’s gate, which would mean many people passed it by. This is probably how those at the pool
were able to eat -- the occasional hand out by a shepherd. When Jesus asked him if he wanted to be healed, you can tell by his response that it never
occurred to him that he could be healed in any way other than the pool. He explains, probably heatedly, why he had been there for 38 years, that he
had no friend, that he had no hope, yet he kept trying.
The other side to that question Jesus asked, do you want to be healed, is that many bums made their living off of their ailment, and if it were taken
away, he would not be as effective at causing people to feel sympathetic enough to throw a coin or two in his direction. Some do not want
Christ shattered this man's world. He was nothing, had nothing, had he died, no one would have cared or probably even noticed. Yet Jesus did notice,
He cared, and He reached out for this man. He healed him, told him to take up his bed and go. Someone took the time to help this man, to help him see
that God is merciful. Even when it feels we are all alone, no one cares, and we have to do life on our own, Christ is there, either knocking at the
door of our hearts or cradling us through the tough times. He is with us and He is for us.
But the story doesn't end there. In many of the miracles Christ performed, He would admonish the recipient to go and tell no one. Not so in this
case. As it notes, it is the Sabbath, and the Pharisees, who had added all kinds of stipulations to what the Sabbath entailed, what you could do and
what you couldn't, how much you could and couldn't do, said it was wrong to carry your bed on the Sabbath. The fact that Christ commanded him to go
and do so meant that as this man walked the streets of Jerusalem, he would be asked what he was doing, and he would explain.
The last two verses have much to say, and are hard for some to believe. Christ told this man He had healed not to sin more lest something worse should
happen. Sin has very, very real consequences. We live in a culture today where we believe that if it is done in private, or if it feels good, there
aren't going to be any consequences. Jesus says otherwise here. Scripture states that the wages of sin is death. At the fall, death was introduced
into God's creation. Yet, here Christ indicates there is more to it; there can be physical consequences to sin.
This passage is really amazing. Within it, we find support for the holidays like Easter and Christmas, gathering together with our church family. We
find that Christ is there with us when no one else is or even wants to be anywhere near us. We find that He is merciful; He chose one who was most
wretched to show mercy and grace to. Yet, as with the pool, He wants action on our part. Yes, He is extremely merciful, but He calls us to action. He
sent us on the great commission, and He has said if you love me you will keep my commandments.
Do you want to be healed?