“Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie – the blind, the lame, the paralysed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 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?’ ‘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.’” (John 5:1-3,5-7 NIV)
This incident gives us a glimpse into a day of Jesus’ life from which we can draw several lessons as his disciples today.
Notice, first if all, that Jesus was in the habit of attending the Jewish festivals. These, we know, were required of all Jewish men and this one would seem to be the Passover (I place this in AD 28). During these years he was teaching in Galilee, but these festivals took precedence over what he was normally doing.
This is a lesson in itself, is it not? We need to take time out of our busy lives to be with God’s people. Perhaps if nothing else the pandemic we have been living through this year has caused us to slow down and evaluate those things which are important to us. During the time we were in lockdown most have missed being with others. Most have realised have how valuable time spent with Christians really is.
We also see that Jesus spent time around those who needed him. He visited a place in Jerusalem where there were “a great number of disabled people”. He looked for people whom he could help. The man he noticed had been an invalid for 38 years. This pool would seem to have been fed by a spring and perhaps it was one that could provide some relief. But the man was unable to even get into the water on his own. The lesson for us would be that we need to seek out those to whom we can offer help, whether it be physical or spiritual.
“Then Jesus said to him, ‘Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.’ At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, ‘It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.’ But he replied, ‘The man who made me well said to me, “Pick up your mat and walk.” ’ So they asked him, ‘Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?’ The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, ‘See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.’ The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.” (John 5:8-15)
Jesus healed the man. Although we can’t provide physical healing, we can point people to the one who can heal them spiritually – the same one we see healing this man’s physical infirmity.
But Jesus didn’t just deal with the physical problem – he dealt with the spiritual problem of sin by telling the man to “stop sinning”. We don’t know what the man was involved in, but Jesus did and Jesus dealt with it.
As we bring people to Jesus, the one who can forgive sin today, it is important that they learn of the new life Jesus offers. All who wish to follow Jesus must also “stop sinning” – we have a new life in him.
May we be as concerned about people as Jesus was.
Photo by Jon Galloway: Pool of Bethesda, Jerusalem, November 2019.
Readings for next week: John 2-6