Today, we’re looking at our last miracle that Jesus performed in the series: Miraculous! The Miracles of Jesus! I’ve had such a great time diving into these stories with you as we have seen the power, authority, compassion and love of Jesus.
This final miracle that we will visit is “Jesus Heals the Man at the Pool.” I love how this story has some recurring themes but also introduces a bit of a new perspective as well.
As I was researching the backstory of this miracle, I found some interesting opinions on the interpretation of several Scripture passages and the details that they contained. As I read both sides and prayed about it, I felt like God was telling me that those debated details weren’t what was important and not to miss the bigger picture in this miracle.
Let’s just jump right in and look at this wonderful story, which highlights Jesus’ compassion, power and perspective on healing.
This story picks up shortly after Jesus was in Galilee and had healed the royal official’s son. He then traveled to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals (Jn 5:1 NIV) in which we see Jesus stop at a pool of water called “Bethesda.”
Now, I love how Dictionary.com defines “Bethesda” as an Aramaic word meaning “a house of mercy” or “a place of flowing water.” According to the Biblical Archaeology Society, this specific pool was “excavated in the late 19th century, but it has taken more than 100 years for archaeologists to accurately identify and interpret the site.”
Author Urban C. Von Wahlde suggests that this pool was also a “mikveh (or ritual bathing place).” Back in Biblical times, the Jewish people would travel to these mikvehs in order to ceremonially wash and be cleansed. The Jewish people believed that, by cleansing themselves in this way, they would be able to stand before God as holy and clean.
Scripture tells us that the pool in this miracle was “surrounded by five covered colonnades” (Jn 5:2 NIV). Now, a little bit of an architectural tidbit in case you didn’t know, a colonnade was a long row of columns that usually supported a roof structure of some kind.
Enter in some of the dissension among scholars. Many of them question whether this architectural information is true, because a five-sided pool (think pentagon) was not something that was a design standard back in Biblical times.
This then led them to question the details laid out in John 5:7 as well. This verse basically talks about the healing waters at Bethesda being stirred by an Angel of the Lord. Some discount this interpretation since it apparently was not included in the original text of the Bible. It isn’t included in many versions at all.
But honestly, we know that the Bible is the inspired Word of God and isn’t an all-inclusive account of everything that happened back in Biblical times.
So, I might suggest that since we know archaeologically that this was known as a mikveh (ritual bathing place) and there is additional architectural evidence that points to Bethesda being a rectangular pool that contained two basins that were separated by a wall, making it a five-sided pool (Biblical Archaeology Society). That would make it four sided with a fifth side coming from the dividing wall in between the two basins. This is exactly how it was described in Scripture.
So, knowing that there is physical proof that this location existed and was described in the Bible, doesn’t it seem likely (or at least probable) that God would send an angel down to stir these waters for physical and spiritual healing?
We serve a good and merciful God, so why would we not believe that He could and would do this?
Just my take on this topic.
But let’s get back to the story and hear what Scripture has to say in John 5:3 (NIV):
Here a great number of disabled people used to lie – the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.”
We see that those most in need came to Bethesda searching for healing and miracles.
The blind. The lame. The paralyzed.
And Scripture goes on to tell us about one specific man who came to Bethesda for healing:
One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.” Jn 5:5 (NIV)
Wow! Let’s think about that for a moment.
Thirty-eight years is a long time to suffer and yearn for healing. I picture this man lying near the pool, filled with despair and hopelessness. What a sad state of emotions for him to live in.
Can you think of a time when you’ve felt the same way? Hopeless and full of despair? Wondering if things will ever get better?
JESUS HAS COMPASSION
We’ve seen Jesus’ care and compassion for the sick as a recurring theme throughout Scripture. He sees those who hurt. Those who are sick. The ones who mourn and are heavily burdened.
And His heart breaks for them.
His compassion flows and we see God’s great love for us poured out time and time again.
Just like in this story as Jesus approached the pool in John 5:6 (NIV):
When 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?”
I can picture Jesus standing there, His heart just breaking for this poor man who had known such suffering and pain for so long. I can just see the compassion and mercy flowing from Jesus, can’t you?
Now, this is important and often overlooked because Jesus already knew the obvious answer. Of course, he wanted to be healed.
He wouldn’t be continuing to come to Bethesda otherwise, right? So, if Jesus already knew His answer, why would He ask the question?
We’ll get more into that later in the story because it goes much deeper than what we see on the surface. Just trust me, friends.
Back to Bethesda.
Jesus had asked the man if he wanted to get well, but the man’s response showed his continued state of hopelessness and despair.
In John 5:7 (NIV), the man says to Jesus:
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.”
Let’s stop there for a minute.
Can you hear the sadness in his voice? Can you hear how he’s let self-pity and shame creep in?
That’s what happens in our lives, too. When we don’t keep our eyes focused on Jesus, looking to Him alone for our hope. Self-pity creeps in and, honestly, then it settles into our daily lives.
Just like the man at the pool. Not to say he didn’t have it hard. He surely did. But you see friends, we have an advantage over this man at the pool. And it’s not a physical one. We know and claim Jesus as our Savior while this man did not.
And Jesus came to change that!
I love what happens next. And change it, Jesus does!
Jesus had great compassion for the man’s situation and that’s one thing I love about being a follower of Jesus. He has so much compassion for us, too.
Enough compassion that He meets us just where we are at, like He did with the man at the pool. He met him in his sorrow and state of hopelessness, but Jesus doesn’t stop there with him or us. He meets us where we are but refuses to let us stay there. He wants more for us!
We see this as Jesus tells the man:
Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.” Jn 5:8-9 (NIV)
Jesus instantly healed this man after 38 years of suffering. He spoke words of life and healing into him and He was healed. Jesus had compassion, meeting him in his darkest hour but not leaving him there.
We see the power of a God who can bring instantaneous healing with only a few words. What a beautiful display of authority!
The man didn’t know Jesus prior to his healing. He was not a follower of Jesus. He didn’t do anything to earn healing, nor did he do anything special to deserve it.
It was a gift of grace from Jesus.
Jesus sought him out… He chose him. There were many invalids waiting at the pool for healing that day, but Jesus chose to heal this one specific man. And then He began to heal him on the inside.
Isn’t that what God does for us?
Heals our hearts and our minds, changing us from the inside out? Getting rid of hopelessness. Anger. Bitterness. Jealousy. Pride.
And while He’s stripping away these layers, He slowly reveals who He is to us. Revealing His love and compassion, His power and glory in it all.
And so, when He initially asked the man, “Do you want to get well?”… YES Jesus was suggesting physical healing, but what He was really after was his heart.
What He really meant was: “Do you want to know me? Do you believe in me? Do you believe I can heal you? Do you want to find salvation in me?”
So, Jesus took this simple man who had lost all hope and healed him. Not because he deserved it, but because He wanted to open the door for him to know God.
When Jesus returned to the location where the man was healed, He said:
See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” Jn 5:14 (NIV)
We see Jesus giving the gift of grace through healing, both physical and spiritual. And Jesus wanted to make sure the man remembered the value of that gift of salvation.
What a beautiful story, reminding us not only of the compassion and power of Jesus, but also of the sweet gift of grace and spiritual redemption!
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for having compassion on us. Thank you for seeing us at our worst and meeting us there. Never letting us stay there, but challenging us to more. Help us to remember that there is power in your name. Open our hearts to receive your grace and healing in our lives. Show us the areas that we need to shed away to be more like you. Thank you for the gift of salvation when we choose to chase after you! In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Do you need to catch up on previous parts of this Bible Study?
You can find all of the posts below.