John 5:1–18—The healing at the Pool
1 Afterward Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days. 2 Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches. 3 Crowds of sick people—blind, lame, or paralyzed—lay on the porches. 5 One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?”
7 “I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.”
8 Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!”
9 Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking! But this miracle happened on the Sabbath, 10 so the Jewish leaders objected. They said to the man who was cured, “You can’t work on the Sabbath! The law doesn’t allow you to carry that sleeping mat!”
11 But he replied, “The man who healed me told me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’”
12 “Who said such a thing as that?” they demanded.
13 The man didn’t know, for Jesus had disappeared into the crowd. 14 But afterward Jesus found him in the Temple and told him, “Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you.” 15 Then the man went and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had healed him.
16 So the Jewish leaders began harassing Jesus for breaking the Sabbath rules. 17 But Jesus replied, “My Father is always working, and so am I.” 18 So the Jewish leaders tried all the harder to find a way to kill him. For he not only broke the Sabbath, he called God his Father, thereby making himself equal with God.
Points of Interest
- ‘Crowds of sick people lay on the porches’—apparently, like the springs in Bath, England, or Hot Springs, Arkansas, or Spa, Belgium, or numerous other places, this pool is known for its (real or imagined) therapeutic properties. It seems people think the water is particularly beneficial when the spring is bubbling.
- ‘I have no one to put me into the pool’—is the man hoping that Jesus will offer to help him into the pool? The man has built up an explanation of why he is sick; it’s because he can never manage to be the first in. Imagine how disappointing it would be to somehow, beyond hope, manage one day to get into the pool first, only to find yourself sick still. Thankfully, Jesus has more to offer than that. The man doesn’t even need to get into the pool. He can just get up and walk.
- ‘You can’t work on the Sabbath!’—the Sabbath is the weekly day of rest prescribed by Moses. This situation reminds me again of John 1:17: ‘the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ.’ Jesus is about the heart of the law which was to bring heavenly realities to earth. In this case, Jesus makes it clear that among those realities is the restoration of our bodies and not some sort of detached religious activity driven by guilt.
- ‘so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you’—it may be hard for this man to imagine, but Jesus thinks there are even worse things than being sick for thirty-eight years. Jesus would hate to heal the man’s body, only to see his soul die. I don’t know exactly why Jesus considers it so urgent to warn this man to stop sinning. What sin is he in such immediate danger of being seriously harmed by? One thing that seems pretty certain is that, once again as with the Samaritan woman, it’s not being a better rule-follower that Jesus has in mind.
- ‘tried all the harder to find a way to kill him’—I get the feeling that the ‘something worse’ Jesus is warning about has already happened to the leaders. Something has to have gone very wrong in someone’s life if, in the name of God, they try to stop one man being healed and they try to kill another one, all over a mat being carried.
Taking It Home
- For you: The crippled man in this passage blames others for not putting him in the healing waters—for 38 years! He gets so wrapped up in his bad circumstances that he almost doesn’t notice the amazing offer of help Jesus gives him. When do you let blaming others or complaining about what has happened take all of your attention? Ask Jesus to give you a way to move out of both your bad circumstances and your bad mood, and pray that blaming and complaining won’t get in the way.
FF Family/Household Option: The crippled man in this passage blames others for not putting him in the healing waters—for 38 years! He gets so wrapped up in his bad circumstances that he almost doesn’t notice the amazing offer of help Jesus gives him. Talk about when you let blaming others or complaining about what has happened take all of your attention? Talk about how Jesus could give you a way to move out of both your bad circumstances and your bad mood. Pray that blaming and complaining won’t get in the way.
- For your 6: As we discuss above, it may be the case that the man at the pool gets a little too wrapped up in blaming others for his illness. Then again, he has in fact been desperate and alone for a long time. His words, ‘I have no one who can help me,’ are somewhat striking. Pray today about the ways that your 6 have the same sense of helplessness. If there are any ways that your 6 feel doomed in their current situation, ask Jesus to pull them out like he did for this man.
- For our church: Being in Jerusalem for the Jewish Holy Days was probably somewhat similar to being at the mall three days before Christmas; it wasn’t exactly a moment for thoughtful reflection. Isn’t it great that in the hustle and bustle of all of the holiday activity, Jesus takes notice of one man among the crowds and sees that God might have something to offer him. Ask God to give our church the ability to slow down and see what God is doing. Pray that we wouldn’t overlook how God is working because we are too consumed with all of the busyness that surrounds us.