Updated: Feb 3
John 5:1-18 New International Version (NIV)
The Healing at the Pool 1 Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. 2 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.
So many Christians are under the impression that Jesus healed the sick and raised the dead. They see this as the amazing powers God gave to His Son.
Do you hold the same opinion of Jesus?
Consider that a rhetorical question; but also contemplate this: Why would Jesus go to the pool by the Sheep Gate and only heal one lame guy, instead of really making a name for himself by standing and pronouncing, “Everybody here now, in my presence, you are now healed and can all go have the Temple priests check you out”?
The reason is Jesus was not like a David Blaine illusionist or one of the magic card (sleight of hand) artists you marvel at on America’s Got Talent. Jesus did not heal anyone that day by the pool at the Sheep Gate to Jerusalem. He was like a holy messenger from God … like the angel that stirred the pool waters. God wanted to clearly ask the lame man, “Do you want to get well?”
That took the presence of God within a physical body, who could make God’s voice heard to others.
After God asked that question through Jesus, the lame man gave his standard excuse about “Poor me!” God then told the lame man to “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” Basically, God said, “No more excuses! Leave this place and be productive!”
The lame man did just that, being lame no more. There was no physical touching by Jesus that healed him. There was no loud praying by Jesus that healed him. There was no magic wand waved by Jesus that healed him.
The lame man just began walking, because the angel of the LORD was told to choose him for healing. Jesus held that angel within his being. Call that angel the Holy Spirit of God in a human form.
Later in the story, we see that God had Jesus tell the man, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” This was not a command to “Stop sinning,” as if any mortal being has ever had the self-led capability to forever stop sinning. You have to have faith to be considered as one who can “Stop sinning.” Then you have to show years of active devotion, just to fully understand what sinning means (the Pharisees never knew that definition). AND, then you have to have the angel of God take up residence in your body, controlling your actions by constantly telling you what God wants you to do next. Do what God wants and you “Stop sinning.”
Of course, God gave our souls (surrounded by mortal bags of death awaiting an eventual end) the option of doing what God wills, or not doing what God wants. However, the presence of the Holy Spirit makes it clear that “something worse can happen,” like coming back as a reincarnated mortal being (souls, of course are eternal), with more than lameness to deal with, rather than sacrifice the comforts and pleasures of the here and now (material plane rewards) for an eternity of bliss in heaven.
In this reading we are told, “The day on which this took place was a Sabbath,” which if you pay close attention to these miracles of Jesus, they were regularly on a Sabbath. In this case, this information makes it possible for one to understand the chronology of Jesus’ ministry for God. One is able to realize the reason Jesus went back to Jerusalem, and how he was there on a Sabbath.
In John 2:13, after the miracle at Cana, we are told, “The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.” Here, in chapter 5, we learn (in verse 1): “Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals.” That would be the festival of Shavuot, which follows the Passover festival.
Shavuot begins on with the Day of Pentecost, where “pentecost” means “fifty days,” those coming after the first full day of Passover. It is the final day in the “counting of the omer,” which begins when a measure of the First Fruits (grains mostly) are placed in the temple. That takes place on the first full day of the Passover’s week-long (eight day) festival. The “fifty days” are counted daily, as the Day of Pentecost was when Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the Law by which all the Israelites would be led.
Since John did not identify this festival of the Jews specifically as the Fiftieth Day, but stated that the day of healing was a Sabbath, this implies a series of Shabbats (Sabbaths). Shavuot means “Weeks,” and from Sabbath to Sabbath is a week in between. A Sabbath on the eve of Shavuot means a prior Sabbath that came on the first day of Passover, such that seven weeks later (49 days) would be another Shabbat (Sabbath). This would not be during the actual Shavuot festival, but the day before. The Day of Pentecost would then have been on a Monday, seven weeks and a day after the first full day of the Passover, which began on a Sabbath and ended on a Sabbath.
This was indeed the case in 3785 (Jewish year). Then, the first day of Passover was on a Shabbat. The Day of Pentecost was on Sunday, with the second (and last) day of the festival of Shavuot being on a Monday.
We can be assured of this timing, when the lame man was healed during the festival of Shavuot, because in John 7:2 (two chapters later) he stated, “Now the feast of the Jews, the Feast of Booths, was near.” The “Feast of Booths” is the festival of Sukkot, which occurs in September or October (Roman month). In 3785 (Jewish year), Sukkot also began on a Sabbath then (October 1st by a Roman calendar). This is then how John stated the chronological order of the three festivals commanded by God to maintain – Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot – which Jesus faithfully attended during his first year of official ministry.
By realizing the lame man was healed on a Sabbath, the forty-ninth day, on the eve of the Festival of Weeks (the meaning of Shavuot), one can see this healing as a parallel to the healing of Jesus with his disciples on the day of his Ascension. The next day, when Jesus met the healed lame man in the temple on the Day of Pentecost, we have a parallel of how the disciples would be changed by the Holy Spirit presence coming within them. When Jesus met the lame man and told him who he was, so the lame man went to the “Jewish leaders” and identified Jesus as the one who healed him, that was a confession that the healed lame man was born anew by Jesus, thus he was Jesus reborn. The healed man went to the Jewish leaders with the name of Jesus, symbolizing an announcement, “I walk in the name of Jesus [Christ].”
Just as Jesus did not physically touch his disciples to make them Apostles, men who suddenly knew some stuff beyond the reaches of their human brains, Jesus did not heal the lame man by the pool at the Sheep Gate by physical touching. He was healed by his own faith in God, when the presence of the Holy Spirit was passed onto him via Jesus. Thus, someone other than Jesus of Nazareth was then filled with the Holy spirit, from which comes salvation from all past sins. Likewise, the eleven disciples were just as lame as the lame man by the pool, before they were filled with the Holy Spirit; but on the Day of Pentecost they took up their mats of disciple-hood and walked in the name of Jesus Christ.
Of course the reason the “Jewish leaders” (the ‘Law Police’ Pharisees) pulled the lame man (who had been healed) over was to cite him for doing work on the Sabbath. Anyone who carried a mat with them was going to unroll it and kneel down to beg for alms, which was the work of a beggar (which was all those who had diseases or infirmities that kept clean Jews from having anything to do with them, other than drop alms in a beggar’s bucket). When the healed lame man told the authorities that some man had healed him (which was wrong because God healed him), they wanted to know who that man was. That was because healing was also a profession, thus the healer had done work on a Sabbath.
So, you can see, nothing sought by the Jewish leaders was about helping anybody out. It was more to do about getting other people in trouble for breaking the laws (Jewish). Therefore, had Jesus done a David Blaine-like theatrical healing at the pool by the Sheep Gate, he would have been guilty of working on the Sabbath and thus rightly liable for punishment (according to the laws set by God).
In the reading above, the yellow-bellied New International Version did not even list any words for verse four. That source simply put a “4” inside a left bracket (“[4”), followed by a footnote, which was then followed by a right bracket (“[4. a]”), followed by a 5. That means they posted nothing as verse four. However, in the footnote they stated, “some versions state, “ — 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 they had.”
That is what I added as the end of verse three and then created as verse four. That part about an angel, waters being stirred and actual healing being witnessed is very important stuff to know. It shows how the hand of God comes to the faithful of all kinds, especially in places not considered to be “official” houses of worship.
All of the sick and lame that lay be the pool by the Sheep Gate on the Sabbath did so to be healed by an angel of God. Their infirmities were signs of sinfulness, such that the temple and the synagogues had to deny them entrance (by law). Still, even those who had sinned were able to set themselves before God as the faithful who repented their sins.
The more mobile of those sinners would inch their way to the edge of the pool, where the ones with good eyesight could see when the waters would be stirred by the healing angel. They would then be the first to leap in, be healed, and then get out and merrily go some other place where the clean were allowed (being clean meant the laws forbid them from still hanging out with the sinners by the pool). The angel, of course – as God’s agent, was not breaking any laws by healing people at the pool by the Sheep Gate on the Sabbath. Further, the people who got in the water and were healed were not working, thus they also broke no laws.
By omitting the information about the angel of god and the stirring of healing waters from verses three and four, the reader is missing how Jesus came to the pool and was himself a stirring of emotional waters. The angel of God came in him and spoke with the lame man.
The lame man was told, “Pick up your mat and walk” because the lame man was “the first one in,” in the sense that he had ‘tenure’ for being there the longest. By being first in length of time at the pool by the Sheep Gate he was healed. He was healed because God knew the lame man had reconciled himself to the fact that he was never going to be first in the stirred waters, even if he saw them move first. Still, day in and day out he requested to be taken there, so he could celebrate when someone else was healed.
The lame man got pleasure from those healings, and in thirty-eight years he had seen a lot of healing. He had seen so many healings that his faith had been elevated to the point that he believed in the angels of God stirring the waters and he believed God healed the first ones who immersed themselves in that whirlpool from a warm spring. Even if he could not be healed, the lame man wanted to be close to those healings. Therefore, God informed Jesus of the man’s thirty-eight years in waiting.
When God stirred Jesus to ask, “Sir, do you want to be healed?” the lame man thought his faith was being questioned. He was not excusing himself from being healed because of his lameness, as much as he was saying, “There are others more worthy of healing than myself. I’m okay with that.”
It was this degree of faith that the angel of God was sent to heal the lame man. It was also his faith that took him to the temple on the Sabbath and the following day – the Day of Pentecost – where Jesus would find him again. Because God knew the healed man had been encountered by the Jewish leaders, he sent Jesus back to him. When Jesus said, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you,” Jesus was stating God’s knowledge of the man. By his being well again, he had been well before; and therefore the man (probably a boy then) had been a Jew in good standing inside the temple grounds, when previously well (thirty-eight years earlier).
Jesus then let the man know that God knew all about his begging and thoughts about others he regularly saw around the pool. Still, the main reason for this second contact with Jesus was so the lame man who had been healed would tell the Jewish leaders the name of Jesus. By being healed in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, the man would not be accused of being a faker, as his ability to walk then was not a matter of choice. The lame man had not chosen begging as a profession, using lameness falsely as his affliction so he could beg. That was not the case. Therefore, Jesus gave him a name to report so “nothing worse could happen to him.” That is nothing more than the persecution that could come from having been healed in the name of Jesus Christ (the angel of the LORD).
Now the application of this reading needs to be seen as more than announcing, “Jesus heals another one!” Too often we read the stories and accounts in the Holy Bible and see them as history, and little more. We struggle with pronouncing the names of ancient characters, with no clue those names have meaning that adds to understanding the meaning behind the story, behind the history. Most non-Jews do not even think of looking up that meaning, so they just “skim read” a lot of the Old Testament.
Everyone who came to Jesus and was healed was healed by God, due to their faith in God. The stories of the Gospels are not told from four slightly different perspectives as a way of verifying all the things Jesus did were miraculous (even though that is a side effect). Instead, they are to tell each of us PERSONALLY how we each need to connect to God for full understanding.
This means the main point of everything is to speak to the reader, YOU, so that the reader constantly hears the voice of God’s angel asking, “Sir [or Madam], do you want to be healed?” That says, “Do you want to understand the meaning behind true faith?”
To hear that question, the reader (YOU) must be able to see how he or she is laid up on a mat, near a pool where people go to get healed. The reader (YOU) is always in a state of need, regardless of how well off materially the reader (YOU) might be. This story it meant to tell YOU that if YOU are happy being near others who are saved, while okay with not once trying to get up off YOUR lame mat and crawl into the pool first, so YOU can help others into the pool, YOU are just as lame as the lame man, before he was healed.
Are you a church goer of some regularity, but never go to anything other than the song and sermon part of church? Do you feel your heart skip a beat whenever you eat a cracker and wash it down with a sip of wine? Do you think God and Jesus sit in a box by the altar, patiently waiting for a priest to call them out, like a Siegfried and Roy act?
If so, that is lame.
God forbid you go to a Bible Studies class as an adult, because you went EVERY Sunday to Children’s church for fourteen years! Has it been thirty-eight years since you were last in children’s church? Can you see how you were well before, as a child who was raised to go to church every Sunday, but the subsequent years of sin will mean a future that is worse than laying on a mat by the pool, if you don’t come clean for real?
Do you get a nice tan pretending to wait for God by the pool?
Do you have an excuse ready at all times, one which no one will ever doubt or question, about how you believe in God’s healing miracles … in fact you have seen many examples of God’s presence in this world … but you are just too slow to jump in the water before all the others have gone first? Do you have crutches of doubt that you lean on when people ask, “Have you ever heard the voice of God?” Or, are you afraid of what God would ask you to do, if you did hear His voice?
If so, that is lame.
This is why it is so important to hear God speaking to YOU, when your eyes read, “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?”’
Do YOU want to get well? How do YOU define “get well”?
If the condition YOU are in is being in love with all the fun stuff that comes with being religious, while never having to actually do anything; or if your wealth is (like the Pharisees) seen as God’s reward for knowing the laws, which excuses you from needing to get in the pool … plus sinners hang out by the pool … then you really are lame.
You beg for prayers. You buy beads to hold and crosses to wear, and you donate your alms to poor children who will have only a few presents at Christmas (unlike YOU); but you never pick up you mat and stop the sin of being lame. You do nothing to help others into the pool of healing. You do nothing to teach those whose eyes read this story in the Gospel of John and think Jesus was so special – he healed the sick and raised the dead. Glory be to Jesus.
It is lame to not be strong enough to let go of YOU so YOU can become Jesus reborn!
The story is simple. The story is one repeated over and over in the Holy Bible. If you want to be made well, you have to do more than wish upon a shooting star or close your eyes and click you heels together three times. You have to show God how much YOU are serious about YOUR love of God. YOU have to prove YOUR willingness to ACT – to read the Holy Bible and ask question to those led by the Holy Spirit, until the voice of God tells YOU the answers.
Then, YOU need to pick up your mat of dependency on others and walk so that YOU can help others learn to walk in the name of Jesus Christ.
Otherwise, you might as well sit on the sidewalk and hope for David Blaine to come do a trick for you.