John 5 – The Healing at Bethesda
In Jerusalem there was a pool, called Bethesda, where blind, lame, and paralyzed people would gather. My Bible has a footnote that says John 5:4 isn’t in the most reliable manuscripts. John 5:4 says “From time to time an angel of the Lord would come down and stir up the waters. The first one into the pool after each such disturbance would be cured of whatever disease he had.” If this verse isn’t legitimate, the rest of the story doesn’t make sense, so I’ll assume it is valid.
Anyway, there was a man there who had been an invalid for 38 years. Jesus asked him if he wanted to get well. This seems like a strange question to ask someone who was an invalid. But who knows, maybe he was making a good income begging, and wanted to stay in his condition.
Instead of saying, “Yes!”, the man started making excuses – he replied that he didn’t have anyone to help him into the pool when the water was stirred, so he never got into the water first.
Jesus then told him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
This is a curious miracle. The man didn’t ask Jesus to heal him. The man didn’t have faith that Jesus could heal him – when asked, he didn’t even know who had healed him. Also, there were many sick people there, and Jesus only healed this one man. First, I do have to acknowledge this is a tremendous example of grace. But I do have to wonder, why did Jesus heal this man?
If we keep reading the story, we find that instead of being happy for the man that had just been healed, the religious leaders criticized him for carrying his mat on the Sabbath. He told them he was just doing what he was told by the man who had healed him. When asked who that was, he didn’t know.
Later, Jesus found him again and told him to stop sinning or something worse would happen to him. (We can assume Jesus meant the final judgement, but we’re not told.) After this, the man went back to the religious leaders to tell them Jesus had healed him – on the Sabbath.
Now, I think we are finally at the point of understanding why Jesus healed this man. I wonder if Jesus wanted to shake up the understanding of the religious leaders of his day, and this was a good way to get their attention. He told them, “My father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” Notice that Jesus said “My father” instead of “our father”.
The Jews recognized that Jesus was telling them that He is the son of God. In this chapter, He also called himself the “Son of Man”, which they would have recognized as a messianic reference from Daniel 7:13l. They were furious that not only was Jesus breaking the Sabbath, he was claiming that He was (is) the son of God. And they made the mental leap to say that if Jesus was claiming to be the Son of God, he was claiming to be equal with God.
They studied the scriptures regularly, and thought they would “earn” eternal life because of that. Jesus pointed out, “These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day couldn’t accept what He was telling them. Instead, they just wanted to kill Him. What about you? Do you acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God who will one day judge the living and the dead? To paraphrase James 2:19, the demons acknowledge this too – and shudder.
If you do acknowledge Jesus, what are you going to do about it? I would encourage you to take a cue from the man who was cured, and obey what Jesus said. No, don’t pick up your bed and walk – instead read your Bible to understand all Jesus taught about, and obey all of that. Finally, we should all take to heart Jesus’ warning to the man, “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”
Because, as we’re reminded in John 5:28-29, “… for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out — those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.”
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – John 5
Tomorrow we read Matthew 12:1-21, Mark 3, and Luke 6 as we continue in our Bible reading plan.