The Pool of Bethesda was constructed with five porches to house the multitudes of sick and infirm who were gathered there around the clock. Jews had made this place something of a shrine. It was fed by an underground stream, and at certain seasons the water would stir up, or as the Hebrew puts it, it would “boil up.” This movement of the water was attributed to an unseen angel who did the stirring, at the same time release healing power into the water. The first one in the pool would be healed. All the rest — tough luck.
Because this pool had become a shrine, Bible says “great multitudes of impotent, blind, and crippled folk would lie around it waiting for the moving of the waters.” (Vs. 3) Now, I don’t believe that John is recording here something that he believed was so, or that it was something that was actually happening. I believe John was reporting it as a Jewish tradition just as the Jews believed it in that day. I think he did it for a very important reason: to expose its weakness and limitations – in comparison to the all-inclusive healing power of our Lord Jesus Christ. This was not, and could not have been, of God.
Let’s take a look at the situation. The water may have stirred. Hydrostatic pressures within a feeding stream is normal, and occasionally that will cause a movement in the body of waters they feed. But we do not serve a God who would create such a scene of selfishness and disregard for hurting and dying people. Who could have made it to the pool when the waters did move? Only the strong, the rude, the selfish, who would shove and shoulder their way to the edge, ahead of everybody. The rich and important could make the poor and the helpless to step aside. Only the most agile, alert, with the most help, could possibly get to the pool first, stepping over the crippled in the process.
The cry went up, “The water is moving!” What a mad rush it must have been – but only one could benefit. The poor cripple in our text heard that cry for 38 years. But he had no chance. By the time he dragged his crippled body a few feet, it was all over. Somebody else had used up all the power.
This is kind of like a “Wheel of Fortune”, and I can tell you right now, our Lord Jesus will have no part in such a pool. No doubt some were healed. Many have been healed at Lourdes, but not because of the shrine or its water. The body may have responded, as it very definitely can, to the move of faith. Our body is a marvelous creation. Some may have truly believed Jehovah God and received His miraculous touch. But that some were healed is not the point or the question.
Think about it: at the Pool of Bethesda each healing brought more anguish to the hundreds who still lay there in their suffering. (And you can bet the religious hucksters and the money hungry priests were “Johnny-on-the-spot” to take advantage of their terrible disappointment. Ah, but in contrast, look at how many times Jesus “healed them all!”
In this passage from John, Jesus had just come from the well experience with the Samaritan woman. He had just told her that the healing water of life did not come from that well, or from some pool – but it came from within the hearts – BY FAITH – a well springing up unto everlasting life. And He was the giver of that fountain. Now every poor soul waiting by the pool was undoubtedly a Jew. They already had something better than a possible moving of the water at the pool. Every one of them – as a Jew – had the wonderful promise of a loving Jehovah God to heal them. They had Moses and the prophets and the Psalms of David. What greater promise could He give that the one He gave through Moses: “And God said, ‘If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the Lord, your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will allow none of the diseases to come on you that came on the Egyptians, for I the Lord am your healer.'” (Exodus 15:26).
And this from David: “ Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all of his benefits;Who forgives all of your iniquities and Who heals all of your diseases.” Psalm 103:2-3.
And Jeremiah 17:14says, “Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me, and I will be saved.”
The truth is, this bunch of people at the pool were spiritually blind to the Word of their God. Think what glory God would have received if they had sought out His Word with as much vigor as they were expressing at the pool. You know what was wrong? They were waiting for the wrong thing.
Jesus was drawn to this one certain crippled man. Now you can put a lot of different faces on this man because he represent multitudes today who are suffering — including Christians. Like with the woman at the well, Jesus knew exactly what this man was thinking. Scripture doesn’t say why Jesus picked him out. Maybe he had lain there the longest – 38 years of despair and disappointment. The average person there could not understand the depths of his suffering, but Jesus did. Think how many times he must have raised his hands and pled, “Please help me.” But they rushed on by.
And the world rushes on by. Multitudes of Christians today are lying in a state of despair and depression — impotent either physically in one of many ways, or impotent spiritually – hoping for a miracle. They’re waiting for someone to stir things up and make something happen. Many of them spend their entire lives waiting for that life changing miracle. They drag themselves to meeting after meeting; seminar after seminar; whole series of counseling sessions. And they tell and retell their story of pain and woe — but nothing seems to happen.
Notice something very important here. Jesus asked this man a question that on the surface seems ridiculous. “Do you want to become well?” What He was really asking him was, “Are you really in earnest about getting well? Do you mean business? Or do you want me to sympathize with you?” This happens to be a fact of life — some do not really want to get well. They have been through so much pain and agony, they just cling to it and make do.
Notice what the man replied. He did not respond with an eager, “Oh yes, I want to be healed!” His reply was “I have no man to help me.” In other words, “I am not healed because it’s somebody else’s fault.” If the truth were known, he probably gave up on success here long ago.
A sad truth is that so many people have built their lives around pain and suffering. They have complained and discussed their situation for so long that if they did get healed, they would have nothing to talk about and probably have to learn a whole new lifestyle. They would have to learn the language of hope; they would have to be joyful and encourage others.
Fortunately for this lame man, Jesus ignored his response. He simply responded with, “Rise, take up your bed and walk!” Notice that Jesus did not rebuke him, did not cross examine him, and made no moral demands. He was compassionately touched with his infirmity. All that Jesus asked him to do NOW, was to believe His words and OBEY — rise up and walk!
You know, the man could have refused by saying, “It won’t work. I am destined to die like this” or, “Are you kidding?” He had to believe that his time for deliverance had come, and move in total obedience. Now look at verses 19-20. Jesus tells the Pharisees. “My Father wanted him healed, so I healed him!” It was God’s love, His will, His desire that this man be whole … and so it was.
Sometimes it is so difficult when you are down and weak to believe that God loves you. But no matter how worthless and displeasing you feel, that is the time to step out in childlike faith and declare, “Lord, on Your Word alone, I will arise, get up, and walk with You!” You don’t need to understand any of it. There is time to learn the ins and outs of doctrines —all of that will come in time. But you must take the first step of obedience, rise up and turn to the Lord! He’s waiting! God will respond to the cry from the heart.
I somehow feel that Jesus came to the man at Bethesda in response to the heart cry to the Father. “In my distresses I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God. He heard my voice out of His temple, and my cry came before Him, even unto His ears.” Psalm 18:6. You can be sure that a cry from the heart to God will always be answered by the coming forth of a healing word from heaven. GLORY!
Saints, there is no such thing as too far gone. And don’t think you have to spend the rest of your life running to the pool and waiting for something to happen. The lame man spent years at that pool. But if Jesus had not come by, and if he had not OBEYED the Lord, he would have died lame on that porch.
According to God’s Word, all of our suffering, regardless of what it is, can be turned around and not only bring healing to the individual, but also bring great glory to our Lord and Savior. Seek the Word of the Lord and the power of the Holy Spirit will surely manifest on your behalf…and your testimony of deliverance will testify of the greatness of our Healer and Deliverer, our Lord Jesus. Don’t be that Christian that just sits by the pool murmuring and wallowing in self pity.
Jesus has come by. He is here. Repent, cry out to the Lord. Heed His Word in obedience. Then rise and walk with Him, and be made whole! GLORY!
Photo Courtesy of Garden of Praise