John 5:1-18- An Appointment at the Pool
Explanation- The pool of Bethesda (or Bethsaida) is one clouded in mystery. At a certain time, when the pool was stirred, a person would enter into this pool and receive divine healing of whatever ailment they had. It is no wonder that multitudes of invalids were lined up at this place. Imagine the commotion that this event would have caused amongst these bystanders! The man in this passages’ focus is a man who was unable to reach these miraculous, stirring waters. We do not know how long this man sat in line at the pool, but we are informed that he had been an been with this disablement for 38 years. However long he had been waiting by the pool, it is safe to say that many had passed him by on their way to receive a healing. This man was broken, both physically and spiritually, and in need of healing in more ways than one. As Christ approaches, notice that He is the initiator of this particular encounter. This man was so pre-occupied with the blessed pool that he hadn’t seemed to notice the blessed Savior cross his path. Yet Christ noticed him.
He asks the man a simple question, ‘Do you want to be healed?’. If only the man would have realized who it is who spoke to him he would have indeed provided a much different response. At this time, the man’s entire hope rests in this pool. He had put his faith in this ‘savior’, yet it in itself was unable to thoroughly provide for this man’s need. Not only must this man believe that the pool was able to save, but he must do the impossible in reaching it in his own strength. Is not this a proper representation of the Gospel of grace verses the gospel of works? A man may believe that there is remedy for his sin-sickness, yet by carnal means he seeks the waters of eternal life. We are unable to even reach the fountain of living waters, let alone gather them for ourselves. Healing exists, but it is far beyond our reach. Contrast this with the Gospel of free grace. Not only does this healing and restoration exist, but it comes to us! In our weakness and inability, Christ pursues us. He asks not what we may do to receive this gift, but simply calls us to believe! He in Himself is the fountain of living water. The tragic reality is that many men and women still wait by the Pool of Bethesda for a healing that will never come. Their hope is misplaced, and they have missed the Savior’s passing while hoping in a broken cistern which truly holds no water.
In this event we once again see the power of Christ unveiled. To this man he says, ‘Get up, take up your bed, and walk’. There is no more need for the pool for this man has found the fountain! Christ, with but a word, has healed 38 years of disablement in a single spoken sentence!
As this man goes on his way, he is confronted by the local Jews. They question him as to why he is walking with hid bed on the Sabbath. The man, not knowing of whom he had received this healing, answered in the best way he knew how. He testified to his miraculous healing! By this time, Christ had hidden Himself. What humility this displayed! Rather than wait around to receive the praise of the crowds, Christ retreats and waits for the opportune moment to speak with this man one-on-one. He did not to be flattered, but He did still have business to attend to with this man.
Upon this next encounter, Jesus once again searches the man out. He now speaks to the man about abstaining from sin lest he end up in worse shape than before. Certainly, this could have to do with final judgement. What good does it do a man to receive physical healing in this life, only to receive eternal suffering in the next? This also stirs the question of whether this man’s ailment was brought on by a particular sin in his life. The words of Christ are always very precise and cut straight to the point. If He spoke of ‘sinning no more’ to this man, then He had good reason. Looking forward to John chapter eight, we see similar language used with the woman caught in adultery. In the case of the woman, she was tried for being caught in the act of adultery and sentenced to death. At this time, Jesus steps in and intercedes for the woman and saves her from the sentence of stoning. After the crowd departed, He says to her, ‘sin no more’. In this specific case ‘sin no more’ can only refer to a specific sin. Namely, the sin of adultery that the woman was caught in. As we notice the similar language used in both accounts, it may be that when Jesus spoke to the man in chapter five He was speaking in reference to a particular sin in similar fashion to the woman in chapter eight. Of course, this is pure conjecture, but it may do us well to consider the possibility that this may be the case.
Christ’s work took no rest. He worked as He saw His Father work. Whether this was on the Sabbath or not, He knew what He was sent to do and would not cease until His work was finished. For this reason, the Jews sought His death. They viewed the Sabbath through the lens of men’s traditions, rather than God’s intended purpose. Not only this, but Jesus was equal to God the Father and this equality was placed on full display before their eyes. We must remember that Christ performed no acts that could be considered unlawful. He came to perfectly fulfill every demand that the law put forth. In His obedience, we who are disobedient find atonement and salvation. Any accusation made of Christ’s conduct in regard to the law were misinformed by men’s interpretation of the law’s demands. Christ set the terms of the law to begin with and knew how to follow them completely.
Application- Would we receive Christ’s healing? Would we know fullness of joy and eternal peace? If so, let us remember that the gift of salvation and true healing comes from Jesus Christ along! There is no thing in this world that will provide for us what He has already accomplished. We may sit near the metaphoric pool of Bethesda our entire lives awaiting a healing that, in the end, will amount to nothing. Jeremiah speaks of men who dig for themselves wells, wells that can hold no water (Jer. 2:13). Yet Christ in the abundance of His own nature offers springs of eternal life. Why would we go on spending our money on that which will never truly satisfy when the Savior beckons us, ‘come to me and drink’? (Jn. 7:37). It is Christ alone who will provide the peace, security, love, joy, rest, and comfort that our souls so desperately long for. With this in mind, ‘let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…’ (Heb. 12:1).