The Healing at the Pool (John 5: 1-8)
1Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. 2Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda[a] and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.[b] 5One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6When 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?”
7“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
8Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
I was listening to an online sermon a short while back that was about this incident (an Aussie evangelist named Tim Hall), and it made me think a lot. The story goes that every once in a while, an angel would stir the waters of this pool, near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem. If you were fortunate enough to be the first person in the water after it was stirred, you would be healed. John does not specifically mention other instances of healing, but considering how many people would hang out around the pool waiting for the water to stir, having no idea when that might be, suggests it had to have happened at least a few times.
On the other hand, the word also could have spread through a sort of middle-eastern grapevine, and not actually ever have happened. Maybe it was some sort of mineral spring, and the stirring of the water was brought about through some sort of underground venting of air, or water of a different temperature that would cause the water to be disturbed. In any case, John only relates the point of view of the invalid.
I just love how Jesus asks him “Do you want to get well?”
The invalid doesn’t know who Jesus is at this point, and as far as John relates, Jesus does not identify himself–he probably just stepped carefully over and around the other sick and injured people and made his way this particular man. Think about what that must have been like for a minute. Here is a pool, surrounded by men, women and children in varying stages of illness, and probably dying in many cases. There would have been a lot of people, on a lot of mats. There would have probably been moaning, and crying. Praying, too. Probably lots of that. And all these sick, diseased, and dying people waiting for something to maybe happen.
I would imagine no one would want to be anywhere near this place–it had to have been like a leper colony (and I would hazard a guess there would have been a few lepers there, too). Yet here comes Jesus, walking right into this place of sickness, right to this particular man. And asking him if he wants to get well.
Tim Hall mentions that a lot of times, we’re like that invalid, waiting most of our lives for the water to be stirred.
I think that’s so true. Of course I can only speak for myself, but in thinking about it, of course I’ve done that. I’ve certainly felt like an invalid for a large portion of my life, at least, a spiritual invalid of sorts. I’ve sat back and watched as things happened in other people’s lives and wondered why they hadn’t happened in mine. Wondered why every time things got stirred up, I was always the last one into the water.
I guess the question is: Did I want to be well?
The answer is that sometimes I didn’t. I was comfortable in my sickness, because I knew it, and knew what to expect of it. I knew all too well what life was like as an invalid, and was truthfully not that interested in the alternative. What would happen if the water was stirred and I got into the pool? How would my life change? What would healing feel like?
And how would I stir the water? Somehow I always knew it was wrong to simply sit there and wait for it to happen. Yet that is what I did.
People say that God helps those who help themselves. I’m not really even sure how true that is, but I think it’s true that Jesus wants us to be active participants in our own healings. He will not arbitrarily step in and just go “Bam!,” like Emeril. And while he will kick things up a notch, he won’t do it unless we ask him to. I think one of the greatest gifts we receive from Jesus is the opportunity to choose Him over ourselves, to “lean not on our own understanding,” as proverbs says. And he desperately wants us to lean on His. Every time I wonder if that’s true, I try and think about Calvary.
Who would do that for anyone? I wouldn’t. And who’s water would I stir? The truth of that is I’m too concerned with watching the damn pool for myself. I suppose the question of the day is how do I get around that?
I ask Jesus to stir the water of my pool. I ask Him to take my hand and help me get off my mat. And if I don’t get the answer I want right away, I ask again.
Jesus rewards perseverance. You find that everywhere in the bible.
So, comfortable as I am on my mat, waiting for waters to stir, I can’t spend the rest of my life there–I’ve already been doing that for more than 38 years.
So do I want to get well?
Yes. Yes. And yes.
Stir my water, Lord.