It was probably Passover. Maybe it was another one of the Nation’s annual feasts. I can’t be sure. Regardless, the city of Jerusalem was teaming with pilgrims. From the four corners of the globe, worshippers gathered there in the great city for the “Jewish festival” (John 5:1).
It seems that the first place Jesus visited was the pool “called “Bethesda in Aramaic” (John 5:2), meaning “house of mercy” or “house of pity.” The pool had “five colonnades” (John 5:2) or covered porches. “Within these lay a large number of the disabled—blind, lame, and paralyzed” (John 5:3).
There was a superstitious belief that when the waters of the pool stirred, the first one to enter the pool would be healed. The pool, which was spring-fed, apparently gurgled or rippled periodically, and the disabled throngs gathered at the pool hoping that they might win the lottery.
Imagine it. Jesus stands at the back edge of one of the porches. He scans the crowd, seeing and knowing their pain and hopelessness. But Jesus is unseen. The victims of disease and distress, the handicapped helpless and hopeless, they have their attention on the silent and still waters. They are waiting, not noticing that the All-Powerful Healer stands among them.
Isn’t that a picture of dead religion, of superstitious people who believe a lie, of the gullible multitudes who are trying to propel themselves, by their own efforts, into the pool that never changes. Though Jesus has invited all, though He has beckoned all the weary and weak, the lost and lonely, the spiritually blind haven’t taken notice. Though He has come near, they’ve turned their backs and refuse to see the Savior.
By grace, Jesus chose one. From the “large number of the disabled—blind, lame, and paralyzed,” Jesus selected one, a man “who had been disabled for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and realized he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to get well?’ ” (John 5:5-6). Jesus could have healed the whole crowd, but Jesus picked a guy in the crowd, a shell-of-a-man who had been crippled for thirty-eight years, and asked, “Do you want to get well?”
“Pardon me? Do I want to be healed? Why do you think that I’m laying here beside this pool? Of course, I want to be healed! Besides, I don’t have anywhere else to go.” But, the man continued, “I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I’m coming, someone goes down ahead of me” (John 5:7). In other words. “I’d like to be healed, but it will never happen.” He’d lost hope.
“ ‘Get up,’ Jesus told him, ‘pick up your mat and walk’ ” (John 5:8). Notice what Jesus didn’t say. He didn’t say, “If you’ll do this and do that...” He didn’t ask about the man’s qualifications or his Jewish pedigree... He didn’t demand that he join a Sunday School. He didn’t require him to recite a pledge. The poor man didn’t have to be good enough! Jesus simply said, “Get up.” In other words, “will you believe Me? Will you place you trust in Me? If so, you will be free!”
“Instantly the man got well, picked up his mat, and started to walk” (John 5:9). That is grace!
All Scripture quotations, except as otherwise noted, are from
Holman Bible Publishers’ Christian Standard Bible.