by Cindy Bleuler Tucker
On the north side of Jerusalem by the Sheep’s Gate there was a pool fed by underground springs. The pool, called Bethesda (house of mercy), was rich in minerals. It was believed that occasionally an angel of the Lord would dip his fingers in the water and stir the water, causing the pool to have healing properties. Those who made it to the pool before the currents subsided received the healing properties of the waters.(1)
Daily, people would bring the sick and disabled to the edge of the pool in hopes that their loved one could get to the pool at the right moment and be healed. Among the sick was a man who had been disabled for 38 years. Day after day he lay by the pool, unable to get into the healing waters. How had he gotten to the pool in the first place? Had someone brought him there and left him? How did he get food and water?
Perhaps as Jesus walked to the temple and taught he had observed this man and his futile efforts to try to make it to the pool in time. John writes that Jesus “knew he [the man] had already been there a long time,”(vs.6) Something about this man compelled him to approach this man and ultimately change his life. He could see the lack of hope and despair this man faced daily. Jesus approaches the man and asks him an obvious and seemingly cruel question. “Do you want to be healed?”(vs 6) Of course he wants to get healed, but he is powerless to anything about it. He tells Jesus “Sir, I have no one to put me in the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps in front of me.”(vs 7) This man is in a hopeless situation. He cannot help himself, and there is no one to pick him up and carry him.
Jesus may have been be the first person to take an interest in him in years. He probably thought, here is somebody who will get me in the pool! But Jesus had something far greater in mind. He tells the man to pick up his mat and walk which required the man to act, taking the initiative to do something. Jesus heals the man’s body completely. But the complete healing of the man’s body doesn’t fully meet his needs. He needs the healing of his soul, which Jesus does.
When Jesus meets up with the man later he sees him in the temple. This man for the first time in decades is clean and able to worship. (Those who were sick were considered unclean and were not allowed be in the temple). Jesus sees the man and says, “See, you are well! Sin no more…” Jesus had forgiven the man’s sin. That was his greatest need- to be spiritually healed. He had been healed of a disease far worse than the one which paralyzed him, the disease of sin. Describing this, John Gill states that” the man had been cured of the disease that had attended him for so many years, and a wonderful cure it is” but the greater cure was the cure of the disease of sin “which is original, natural, and hereditary to men,it is an epidemical one, and all are affected with it, and all the powers and faculties of the soul.” Sin permeates every fiber of our being, body, spirit, mind and soul. sin is ” nauseous and loathsome…what is mortal and in curable in itself, and only to be cured by the great physician, Jesus Christ.”(2) Being forgiven of our sin is not a temporary respite from the clutches of physical death, but an eternal healing of our immortal souls.
(1) John 5:4 is omitted in several modern Biblical translations, including the ESV, NIV, NASB, NKJV, and NRSV. An interesting article discussing the reasons for omission is Textual Criticism-what is it?, S. Michael Houdmann, http.//www.gotquestions.orgtextual-criticism
(2) John Gill, John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible,http.//www.studylight.org