A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
The first three Gospels are so much alike that people accuse
Matthew and Luke of borrowing heavily from Mark, who supposedly wrote His
gospel first. John's gospel is different
from all of them.
None of the Gospel writers wrote strictly historical
accounts. But among them, John seems least interested in preserving the
chronology of events, placing them more to contrast with one another than to
preserve their order. A good example is John
2 where the water into wine miracle is followed by the cleansing of the Temple. The former took place at the beginning of the
Lord's ministry while the later happened at the very end. John placed them side-by-side to contrast the
purity of the gospel Jesus taught with the corrupt practices of the religion of
the day. From all the miracles Jesus
performed, John chose to include only seven in his Gospel, along with seven
"I am" statements and seven discourses. Out of the Lord's 3 ½ year
ministry John focused on only 21 days, devoting 10 chapters to the last
week and 1/3 of the book's 879 verses to one day.
Each of the seven miracles in John also symbolizes a greater
truth and frankly, to my mind a couple of them are a little strange. The water into wine miracle is a good
example. But of all the miracles Jesus performed, perhaps the strangest one is
the healing at the Pool of Bethesda in Chapter 5. It was so out of character for Him. Let's read it. (To read about all seven,
go to gracethrufaith.com and type "seven and miracles" in the search
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 (and they waited for the moving of the waters. 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.) Note: Some manuscripts don't have the
parenthetical portion of this passage, but its inclusion makes the following
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 invalid 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. (John
What's Going On here?
A look at the anomalies will help us decode this strange
miracle. For instance, usually upon
encountering a group of people, Jesus healed all the sick among them,
regardless of His personal plans, as in Matt 4:23-24,
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching
in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every
disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all
over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases,
those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and
the paralyzed, and he healed them, and Matt. 14:13-14.
When Jesus heard what had happened, (the death of John the Baptist) he withdrew by
boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on
foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion
on them and healed their sick.
But at the Pool of Bethesda, where the place was littered
with the sick and handicapped and where one sweep of His hand could have taken
care of everyone, Jesus healed only one.
And that one didn't approach Him.
Jesus made the initial contact after learning something about the
man. "Do you want to get
well?" He asked.
Then there's the man's story, a real Catch 22. Because he was crippled, he couldn't get to
the Pool to be healed. But if he could
have gotten to the pool he wouldn't have needed healing. He needed someone to
heal him right where he was.
And he never asked Jesus to heal him. In fact he didn't even
know with whom he was speaking. The Lord said, "Pick up your mat and
walk," and without hesitation the man did just that, for the first
time in 38 years.
Then there's the fact that this happened on the Sabbath, so
by carrying his mat he drew the attention of the priests who told him it was
illegal. The ex-cripple said he was obeying the man who healed him but he
couldn't tell them who the man was.
Later Jesus found him again and warned him to "stop
sinning or something worse may happen to you." Was that a threat?
What's going On Here?
With these facts in view, it appears that the healing at Bethesda is meant to
convey much more than meets the eye. The
first clue to what that might be comes with the fact that the man had been an
invalid for 38 years. The only other
time the phrase thirty-eight years appears in the Bible is in Deut. 2:14
describing the length of time the Jews had spent in the wilderness where they
received the Law.
The cripple by the pool in his Catch 22 represented Israel in
theirs. Because they were sinners, they
couldn't keep the Law to be saved. But
if they could have kept the Law they wouldn't have needed saving. They needed someone to save them just as they
means House of Mercy. Like the cripple, Israel needed
someone to show them mercy in their hopeless condition. The Lord showed His mercy to the cripple and
offered to do the same for Israel.
Though Jesus came to the pool specifically to heal this one
cripple, the man didn't recognize his healer and didn't know with whom he was
speaking. Though Jesus came to Earth
specifically to save Israel
(Matt. 15:24), they didn't recognize their Savior and didn't know with
whom they were speaking.
Jesus told the healed cripple to stop sinning lest something
worse should happen. He couldn't have
been speaking generally because He knew that if man could stop sinning
altogether, he could save himself and wouldn't need a Savior. The Catch 22 wouldn't exist. So He must have had a specific sin in mind.
By working to keep the Law in an effort to save themselves, the Israelites were relying on their own
righteousness, a sin. The Law was never
meant to be a means of salvation, but to reveal the need for a Savior. He was
to stop committing the sin of self-righteousness lest something worse should
happen. And it did. In the Lord's time on Earth Israel was subordinate to Rome but still existed as a nation. 38 years
after the crucifixion Jerusalem was destroyed
and soon after that Israel
would cease to exist altogether.
So it looks as if this one crippled man was chosen to send a
message to Israel,
joining the Lord in acting out a parable.
But they were also sending a message to us, the Lord and the
cripple. For which of us has not claimed
to be our own Savior? Which of us has
not been proud in our self-righteousness?
Each of us is in the same Catch 22 as the cripple, helpless
to save ourself and hopelessly lost. We're destined
to carry our sins to the grave unless God extends His mercy. And so meeting us right where we are and
inquiring about our condition, He asks us just like He did the cripple,
"Do you want to get well?" Selah 12-02-0