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Gene’s Daily Scriptural Postings

Reflective Bible Study.


Standing up in Faith: John 5:1-15

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Year in John – Episode 10: When Jesus comes to a pool surrounded by sick people, discover in one man’s healing a powerful truth we can apply into our own lives over 2,000 years later.

Read the transcript:

As we continue moving through John’s gospel, and the events John shares with us about Jesus’ ministry, we come to a miracle that is unique to John’s gospel, and one that seems to prompt more questions about Jesus than answers. When reading the gospels, the miracle John includes here, while it is unique, is not a very unique miracle when compared with all the different types of miracles Jesus performed.

However, I wonder if John is building up Jesus’ miracle working ability by including one notable miracle of each type in his gospel, rather than lots of different but similar miracles. If this is the case, then John must see something in this miracle that is worth us paying attention to.

With that said, let’s read about what happened, and discover what we can learn from this event. Our passage is found in John’s gospel, chapter 5, and we will read it from the Holman Christian Standard Bible. Starting in verse 1, John tells us that:

1 After this, a Jewish festival took place, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 By the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem there is a pool, called Bethesda in Hebrew, which has five colonnades. 3 Within these lay a large number of the sick—blind, lame, and paralyzed [then some Bible manuscripts add that these people were] [—waiting for the moving of the water, 4 because an angel would go down into the pool from time to time and stir up the water. Then the first one who got in after the water was stirred up recovered from whatever ailment he had].

5 One man was there who had been sick for 38 years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew he had already been there a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to get well?”

7 “Sir,” the sick man answered, “I don’t have a man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I’m coming, someone goes down ahead of me.”

8 “Get up,” Jesus told him, “pick up your mat and walk!” 9a Instantly the man got well, picked up his mat, and started to walk.

Let’s pause reading for a moment, because I want to draw our attention onto some things that stood out to me as we read this event.

The first detail that stood out to me is Jesus walking by this pool that was surrounded by a large number of sick and disabled people. This details stands out in my mind because we only see Jesus interact with one man, someone who may have been there the longest of any other. From the way this event is framed, we are left to conclude that this man had been abandoned at this pool and left alone. It seems logical to believe that there were people who took compassion on him and gave him food to eat and water to drink, but there was no one present to help him into the water when the time was ideal.

This is significant, because I would have expected Jesus to have interacted with more than one sick or ill person. In other gospels, we read about Jesus entering cities or towns and healing everyone in that place. This event leads us to a big question, “Why heal only this man?” or perhaps we could ask it a different way, “Why only record Jesus healing this man?”

One possible answer is the next detail that stood out to me in this passage. When seeing this man and realizing he had been at that pool for a very long time, Jesus first asks that man if he wants to get well. This is significant because not everyone would want to be healed.

While it sounds crazy to think about, some people in that situation could grow comfortable in their less-than-ideal circumstances, and being healed would mean stepping back into society, needing to find work, and rebuilding a life. When faced with certain, less-than-ideal situations verses the fear of a difficult unknown that could ultimately be better, a certain percentage of people are likely to choose to stay in the less than ideal, but familiar situation.

Jesus does not want to heal someone who does not want to be healed. That would be cruel. It’s the same way with heaven. God would be cruel if He forced eternity in heaven, or eternal life, onto someone who truly didn’t want it.

When the man replies about not being able to get to the pool, this tells us two things. First, it tells us that the man wants to be healed, which is a direct answer to Jesus’ question, and second, this tells us that those present at this pool had placed their faith in the pool for their healing. This second detail is interesting because while God may be behind the pool’s miraculous properties, I wonder how much glory went to God from those who were healed there.

Perhaps, if this had been going on for some time, God received glory early on, but later, after many people had been headed, the pool may have been the greater recipient of praise. This man’s faith was less on God or Jesus and more focused on the pool.

However, when Jesus tells the man to get up, pick up his mat, and walk, the man doesn’t hesitate taking Jesus at His word. The old focus on the pool wasn’t working out so well, so this man decides to shift his focus and faith onto Jesus and Jesus’ promise.

If we were to stop reading here, this miracle would be amazing in itself. However, what comes next is even more amazing. Continuing reading in the second portion of verse 9, John tells us:

9b Now that day was the Sabbath, 10 so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “This is the Sabbath! It’s illegal for you to pick up your mat.”

11 He replied, “The man who made me well told me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’”

12 “Who is this man who told you, ‘Pick up your mat and walk’?” they asked. 13 But the man who was cured did not know who it was, because Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.

14 After this, Jesus found him in the temple complex and said to him, “See, you are well. Do not sin anymore, so that something worse doesn’t happen to you.” 15 The man went and reported to the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.

In this event, we discover after the miracle that this was done on the Sabbath day. This is significant because the religious leaders had set up a complex series of rules about what was allowed and not allowed on the Sabbath day in order to keep people from even coming close to breaking God’s Sabbath commandment.

These religious leaders realized that breaking the Sabbath was the catalyst that ultimately led to their ancestors being exiled out of the Promised Land, and when God brought them back, they promptly set up a strict set of rules to keep people from coming close to breaking this commandment again.

However their rules had overshadowed God’s law, and they failed to offer grace when people broke their rules while not truly breaking one of God’s laws. They had lost the reason for their rules and had become prideful that they were the rule makers and rule enforcers.

It is humoring to me that the man does not know who healed him until after being challenged about carrying his mat. If Jesus had not met up with him later, this man would have never known until much later who had healed him.

In this event, while there is more we could focus in on, let’s conclude this podcast looking at one big idea that we see present in this miracle. When God is our last hope, it is easy to look to Him. However, when God is not our first hope, we might not experience many miracles in our lives. When this man gave up hope in reaching the pool, which is something the other people present may not have been ready to do, he was ready to experience the healing Jesus offered him. When we give up hope in the things of this world, and focus our faith on Jesus and what He accomplished for us, we are ready to receive miracles in our lives as well!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always open these challenges by saying, continue to intentionally seek God first in your life and look to God first, rather than use Him as your last resort. While God sometimes works miraculously, other times God draws our attention to the answer without using anything miraculous. Choose to have faith in God and look to Him first when challenges, problems, or trials come into your life for the strength and guidance to face whatever you are facing.

Also, as I always challenge you to do, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself to learn and grow closer to God each and every day. While other people have ideas they want you to focus on, filter what you see, read, and hear through the pages of God’s word to discern its eternal value. Let the Bible teach you what is truly valuable within God’s eyes.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or walk away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

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