Healing at the Pool
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. 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 man 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.
“Do you want to get well?” Jesus asked. Isn’t it obvious that anyone who is sick or has a physical impairment that he/she would like to become whole? Why would Jesus even bother to ask this man that question? Would it have been more appropriate for Jesus to ask instead: “Do you want to be healed of your infirmity?” Would that have made any difference? What if Jesus had asked: “Do you want to be forgiven?”
The answer to Jesus’ question by the invalid is interesting. Most people would blurt out: “Of course I want to get well! I haven’t felt good for a long, long time!” but the invalid replied that he needed assistance to get into the pool before anyone else would, as it was the current belief that when the water stirred, the first one in the pool would be healed. Jesus by-passed and ignored the man’s answer and promptly told him to do something he hadn’t done for a long time: to walk, and to carry his mat at the same time. This healing was done on the Sabbath, and no doubt Jesus knew about this man’s condition beforehand and could have performed it any other day of the week, but chose the Sabbath day. Why the Sabbath, and why not one of the other six days of the week?
Besides being an invalid for 38 years, this man had another problem far worse than any physical impairment. What is his primary problem? Could people without physical deformities have similar problems? And what did Jesus mean when he told the man: “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” How was the man sinning? Are we given a clue that perhaps he did “stop sinning?” [The answer to the question about the man’s primary problem is found in verse 13. The answer to the question about a clue that the man stopped sinning is found in verse 15].
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