1 ¶ After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. 3 In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. 4 For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. 5 And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? 7 The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. 8 Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. 9 And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath. 10 The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed. 11 He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk. 12 Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk? 13 And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place. 14 Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee. 15 The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole. 16 And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day.
As Jesus returns to Jerusalem for a feast-day another interesting point about reality and the human condition is revealed. If you remember in Job we learned that God is absolute sovereign over the universe and no good or bad thing or even what we consider a natural event happens to anyone anywhere unless He either permits it to happen or causes it to happen. He even points out to Job that man’s awareness of something is irrelevant for it to be true as He causes things to happen in places where there is no man (Job 38:26).
Here, in this passage we have a miracle that occurs regularly presumably before and possibly after the Lord’s life on earth. An appearance of one of the sons of God in heaven oversees and causes a healing miracle in this pool on a regular basis. How many out-of-the-ordinary events, whether good or bad, take place on earth like this that we chalk off to randomness or just plain luck that are actually caused by supernatural agents?
This man with the infirmity that rendered him impotent, meaning powerless, had been that way for a long time. He was waiting for someone to carry him to the healing water. Well, now, the healing water, in a manner of speaking, came to him. Jesus asked the question all men and women are asked, “Wilt thou be made whole?” The man’s answer was the excuse that there was no one to carry him to the healing. We were completely unable to come to God on our own before we were saved. There was no capacity in us to believe without the Holy Spirit’s prompting and preparing our spiritual hearts. Our free will was so tainted by the corruption of sin that our soul was weak and impotent, unable to even drag itself to Christ.
It was then that Christ came to us. Here, this Jew is not even required to have faith before he is healed but after he is healed he is called to believe and obey. He has already been healed but he could still lay in his own filth and lament that there was no man to carry him if he had not heard and obeyed when Jesus said, “Take up thy bed, and walk.” The issue for the unsaved before Christ is not whether they accept every doctrine of the Bible or believe what I believe or what you believe right now. But, are they even willing to be made whole and will they take up the symbol of their weakness and walk at Christ’s and by Christ’s command?
So many people aren’t willing to be saved. Their sin is eating them alive but it is, after all, theirs and they are used to it, even proud of it as a mark of their identity. Maybe they are afraid of having to give up something or maybe they are convinced that they’ve gone too far to be saved. If you want to be healed then believe Christ and act on it when He says to get up and walk. At some point we are confronted with a question and a command. Wilt thou be made whole? If the answer is yes then respond to Christ’s command and get up and go.
Christ’s free gift of salvation is there for us. We, in a sense, are already healed. But, we have to receive it for it to be of any effect. We are helpless, unable to even drag ourselves to the Cross. We must only believe and follow through with the faith we are then given. I could not drag my feeble carcass to Christ, so He came to me.
Wilt thou be made whole?
The Jews, like all people bound to ritual, duties, and performance rather than genuine faith and worship, criticized this healed man for carrying his pallet on the Sabbath day. So, it is with many Christians today who are more concerned about how something appears than someone’s true response to a work of God in that person’s heart. There are other examples in the Gospels of the Jews being critical of things done by Jesus and His disciples on the Sabbath day.
Mark 2:23 And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn. 24 And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful? 25 And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him? 26 How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him? 27 And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: 28 Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.
When Jesus saw the man again He warned him not to sin. This could be a lesson for us who have been delivered from sins over which we had no control. Do not return to what you’ve been freed from as you can be given to it tenfold. You think the state you were in was bad when God took the desire for alcohol away from you. You might despair if you knew what would happen if you now willingly go back to it so as not to appear judgmental to the old crowd you hung out with before you were freed from its bondage. You have no idea how bad it can be if God removes His hand of blessing from you for your lack of regard for what He did for you.
15 and 16 tell us that the Jews sought to persecute and even to kill Jesus because, according to the Law, He had violated the Sabbath.
Exodus 31:14 Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. (notice by parallel phrasing that the definition of “be cut off from among his people,” is, “be put to death.”)
At a different time, Jesus will try to inject some common sense into this thought.
Luk 14:1 ¶ And it came to pass, as he went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the sabbath day, that they watched him. 2 And, behold, there was a certain man before him which had the dropsy. 3 And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day? 4 And they held their peace. And he took him, and healed him, and let him go; 5 And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day? 6 And they could not answer him again to these things.
It is important to remember God’s intentions in how we should regard His instruction, either as unthinking robots and mini-tyrants or as men and women using reason and thoughtful application through prayer and submission to Him.
2Corinthians 3:6 ¶ Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. 7 But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: 8 How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? 9 For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory.
In Paul’s argument in the book of Romans he points out that the Jews had the Law, the oracles of God, and in not obeying them they still believed themselves superior to the Gentiles who by accident, in their customs and culture, might obey the Law more than the Jews. So, who then was justified, the willfully disobedient Jew or the accidentally obedient Gentile? He then points out that no one is justified by the Law but that is only faith in Jesus Christ that justifies. Read the first few chapters of Romans again carefully.
Jesus made an interesting point elsewhere;
Matthew 21:28 ¶ But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. 29 He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. 30 And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. 31 Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.
Who will be justified then? Certainly, not someone who is slavishly devoted to a rule or outward appearance, the heart of which he or she neither understands nor cares about. The Jews were devoted to the Sabbath regulation but only insomuch as that devotion justified their behavior. As Christians are today they were selective in their observation of the Law. Today, we are so much more concerned with the sin that is characteristic of another’s life and usually blind to our own sin. One person justifies his or her divorce while condemning another person’s fornication. One person justifies his or her gossip while condemning another person’s absence on a Sunday.
As in the case of the Jews in this passage so it has been throughout Christian history, that rigidity in regards to the letter of the Bible or church doctrine has led to murderous intent on the part of so-called followers of Christ. They sought to kill Jesus because He did not honor the Sabbath as they thought He should, even though they, in practice, didn’t live up to their own unreasonable expectations.
There is an important standard that Jesus set, to judge others by the same standard you judge yourself.
Matthew7:1 ¶ Judge not, that ye be not judged. 2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
The Jews condemned Jesus for healing a man on the Sabbath, and yet there was not a one of them who wouldn’t have rescued their own child or beast from harm on that very day.