Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
John 5:1-4 AAfter this there was a feast of the Jews: and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. 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.@
A pool in Jerusalem was believed to have healing qualities. It may have been a hot spring or contained high concentrations of minerals. Many sick people gathered there hoping to find health. Bethesda had become a hospital, a place where the sick gathered to find healing.
Jesus came to Jerusalem to celebrate a Jewish feast. The city was glad, every household rejoiced, but Jesus kept the feast by walking among the poor and weak. When Jesus came to Jerusalem, He frequented not the palaces. Instead, He visited the hospital. He always feasted His soul on being kind to others.
This encounter with the sick pictured Jesus= humility, condescension, compassion, and purpose for coming into the world. He came to seek and to save the sick, wounded, and lost. Jesus entered earth looking for ways to help people.
Christ went about doing good. The helpless man did not go to Jesus. Jesus went to him. Our Master sought out the outcast. He did not stand in one place, waiting for people to come to Him. He searched for cases of need to undertake.
The people our churches often overlook are the ones Jesus would visit first if He came to our city. Bethesda was exactly the kind of place we would expect to find Jesus. Where else would a physician be found, if not where the sick gather?
Our Great Physician continues to seek the weak and worn. He remains accessible to everyone at all times, but something sad has happened. The Pharisees saw Jesus as a friend of sinners, but now sinners often see Jesus as a friend of Pharisees. No worse reproach could be brought against our Lord.
John 5:5-6 AAnd a certain man was there, who had an infirmity thirty and eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had been thus now a long time, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made well?@
At Bethesda, Jesus approached a man who had been sick for 38 years, about seven years longer than Christ had been on earth. This man=s pain had been known by Jesus before He left Heaven.
Jesus asked the man if he wanted to be cured. After 38 years hope may have died and left only despair. Years of waiting and suffering may have stamped his life with apathy. Jesus began His treatment by trying to kindle a flicker of hope in the patient, AWill you be made whole?@
Jesus asks the same question to the spiritually ill. Some have heard the story of Christ so long and often that they have become numb to it. Religion has become to them a form, mere custom. They see no sickness in themselves.
In our text, the man=s illness was obvious, but unbelievers are slow to acknowledge their own sickness. They often delight in the sickness itself, being proud of their sins.
We would consider a person insane if he or she spoke happily of physical illnesses. AWhat a beautiful cataract I have on my eyes. You ought to see the boil on my knee. My fever blisters are beautiful. I have a scab worth admiring.@
This is crazy, yet people often elevate spiritual illnesses into virtues. They are proud of their drinking, cursing, adultery, toughness in seeking revenge, etc. They scorn any hint they might need a physician. They love their sickness.
People want to be saved from Hell, but Hell is not the sickness. It is the result of the sickness. Sin is the sickness. Hell is merely sin full-blown. Sin is evil in conception; Hell is sin totally developed.
Sinners want to be saved from the consequences of their sin, but even this is not the sickness. The sickness is sin itself, separation from God, rebellion against His authority. If we would be made whole, we must forsake sin itself.
This is why people are in no hurry to be made right with God. They find the poison too sweet to relinquish. We want customs of religion without its cleansing.
Sinners desire breakfast, dinner, and supper with Satan, but merely snacks with Jesus. Many like to live for the Devil while tipping their hat to Christ.
People came from afar and stayed long at Bethesda to find a cure. We would have also. How wonderful it would be if people were as concerned about their spiritual condition.
If sinners are willing to be made whole, to part with sin, salvation=s work is done. Christ is always willing to heal. We just have to be willing to be healed.
John 5:7 AThe 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.@
For 38 years this man had tried unsuccessfully to find help. AI have no man@ is one of Scripture=s saddest cries. It still breaks the heart.
Many are lost because they have no one who will take time to help them. If we ask unbelievers to come to Jesus, some will. If we don=t ask, none will.
This lame man wanted health, but didn=t know how to find it. No one had ever been willing to help him into the pool. Jesus, though, was always a friend of the friendless. His heart yearns for those who have no earthly help.
When the arm of flesh failed this lame man, Jesus healed him. Having been disappointed often, this man had begun to despair, but Christ came to the rescue. The Lord delights in desperate cases.
Many have tried in vain to find a solution to emptiness they feel inside. You may feel you have tried everything and failed. Never downgrade yourself for making attempts to find spiritual health. Forget what lies behind. Failure is no reason not to try again. Next time, try Jesus. You will not be disappointed.
Much of a seeker=s failure to find relief apart from God is caused by God Himself. He makes sure all other cures fail, so we will finally come to Him. Our restless search for peace is actually a stirring from God who seeks us. In reconciliation, Jesus always takes the initiative.
He sought out this lame man, and still seeks hurting people. Christ does not wait for us to approach Him. Humans do not initiate the search for God. They are all turned to their own way (Isaiah 53:6). Jesus has to call us to Himself.
If looking and longing for something that has eluded our grasp, hear the call of Jesus. Reach unto Him. He never fails or disappoints.
John 5:8-9a AJesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. And immediately the man was made well, and took up his bed, and walked.@
The cure was accomplished immediately. He who could not turn himself on the bed was instantly able to carry the bed.
This is how conversion is accomplished B in a second, in a moment of time. The process bringing us to a moment of decision may be long, but the choice itself is instantaneous.