Pastor John’s Bible Stories For Grown-ups
10/06/16 – 585 – Jesus Works on the Sabbath!
In the story we just completed Jesus publicly declared for the first time that He was the promised Messiah – but not for the last time. I think it’s also critical to note that he did not just make the claim, He proved it over and over by His miraculous works and sinless life. In fact, in many ways I would be hard pressed to say which was more important.
What I mean by that is that at least some of His works can at least be mimicked by magicians, and there were/are plenty of ‘faith healers’ both then and now. But no matter how well they craft their illusions, not one can claim a life without sin. If you doubt me just Google the name of your favorite TV faith healer.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This is where our new story begins:
Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. 2 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. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie — the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. 5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 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?”
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.”
8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. NIV
The pool at Bethesda was a beautiful place. It was surrounded not only by the collonades (fancy columns), but with a large area around it paved with stone so there’s not just a big muddy area around it. It was likely a ritual bath, or mikvah. It’s ruins were discovered sometime in the 1800’s in what is now the Muslim held area of Jerusalem. There is one other such bath mentioned in scripture both in Isaiah and in John 9:6-9. This was the pool of Siloam, where Jesus healed a blind man.
Interestingly, both of these pools were also similar in that people held a common superstition about them. The belief was that an angel would come to agitate (stir) the water, and “when the waters were stirred” the first person to enter the water would be healed of whatever physical ailment they had.
This is what the paralytic was talking about when he said he had no one to help him. Every day, there would be a crowd of people around the pool waiting for the water to swirl or bubble. What exactly caused this? We don’t know for certain, but these were spring fed pools, and there were gas deposits below ground as well. This man was simply too slow to be the first one in, so his life had become one of simply lying as close as he could to the pool each day, hoping in the superstition and living on the few coins people might have tossed him as they walked past.
I can’t help but think of so many people today who put their hope in things other than God. People who live on welfare or other low income, yet spend a ton every month on lottery tickets hoping they’ll strike it rich. It seems like people will do just about anything to have all their problems solved in one fell swoop, when the reality is there is a God Who would help them through if they would just let Him do it His way rather than theirs. But then, His way may not be to give you the winning Powerball ticket.
Let’s pray today that the Holy Spirit would help us to open our hearts and minds, to see if and where we are placing our trust and hope in things other than Christ. Let’s ask Him to help us to focus all our hope on Him.
By the way, did you notice anything missing in today’s passage? Gold star for you if you did!