After my series on the parables, I found I was drawn to look into the miracles of Jesus in the Gospels. I have never studies the mighty works of Jesus as a focused effort before and am looking forward to finding nuggets of truth that we can be encouraged by.
I have provided a general introduction, with an opportunity to download two files for your reference in my initial post Signs and Mighty Works of Jesus – Introduction. I found that the format I used for the parable posts were useful to keep me on track, and will continue to use them for this series, with some minor tweaks. With that said, let’s take a look at
Jesus Heals an Invalid at Bethesda
After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids–blind, lame, and paralyzed. waiting for the moving of the water; for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and stirred the water: whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was healed of whatever disease he had One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.'” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”
Five roofed colonnades over the pool? Is it not curious that John speaks of five covered areas? In my research, I found an explanation at www.biblicalarchaeology.org
This detail is one that has been used to attack the accuracy of the Scriptures over the ages. You see, no archeologist had identified this pool of Bethesda until the early 19th century. Critics assumed that someone other than John wrote the gospel centuries after the destruction of Jerusalem, supposedly describing the surroundings without ever seeing them. Once again, the critic is proven wrong! Truly, the Scriptures are constantly being verified by archeology, and provides us with a constant reminder of the fact of Jesus and His disciples walked amongst the citizens of Israel, even amongst the poorest and weakest.
This pool was called Bethesda, which means a house of mercy, or a house of kindness. With the pool designated as a “house of mercy” so close to the temple, it may speak of the spiritual temperature of the city of Jerusalem. So much suffering so close to God’s house. Many of the most religious adherents attending the temple, along with those ministering in the temple, must surely have known of this pool, and of those in need.
Questions to Consider
Who were the audience?
Every sick person in the pool witnessed this miracle. The audience was the many who had come to the pool for relief, for healing, who needed a miracle. Yet only the invalid in our passage received assistance, and not because of any great faith or virtue, but simply out of mercy. Simply out of compassion.
Verse 10 tells us that “the Jews” were present. Were they there to minister to the sick, elderly and infirmed? Did they bring hot meals to them during lunchtime? Nothing is stated regarding these acts of mercy, but they were keen to inform this newly walking un-invalid that he was breaking the Sabbath.
How utterly amazing to see a religious person ignore the work of God in order to enforce the word of man. Carrying a bed as an affront to God? How could anyone justify this as wrong? Yet the guardians of God and His temple found a way to exercise power over their flock by providing rules rules rules.
But I am getting ahead of myself!
When did the Lord perform this mighty work?
Recently, I published a post on this miracle from the standpoint of the timing of the miracle. Jesus on the Sabbath – Part 15 – Equal with God. It may be of interest for those who want to consider this miracle as it relates to the Sabbath.
Where did the Lord perform this mighty work?
See Signs and Mighty Works of Jesus – Introduction for downloadable reference file.
The pool was located north of the temple, and it’s association with the sheep gate provides a hint as to it’s purpose for the temple. Could it have been a source of water to purify sacrificial sheep, prior to being offered in the temple? Some archeologists and Bible scholars believe this pool was a Jewish bath for worshippers to achieve ritual purity, but with the rumor of healings being available at the pool, all those who were in need of a miracle flocked to the pool.
Why did the Lord perform this mighty work?
Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time. Jesus determined this man would be healed, simply based out of compassion for this man who had been crippled for almost four decades. Four decades!
Jesus asked what seemed to be a foolish question. Do you want to be healed? Considering that the man was waiting for the stirring of the water and that legend spoke of the healing of the waters, it seemed to be obvious that the man wanted to be healed, but was simply unable to get to the pool.
As we read the passage, we find that this simple question was not answered directly. The man did not answer the question, request any assistance from Jesus, but simply provided the Master a reason he had not experienced any healing. He was at the pool, but had no ability to take advantage of any possible healing.
John 5:8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.”
Am I right in thinking that Jesus’ response indicates a bit of impatience, a bit of frustration with this invalid? Is that fair? Jesus had been performing miracles throughout Israel, and often we hear of those witnessing the Lord’s works as spreading the news of this miracle worker far and wide. This miracle alone was not the first in Jerusalem, and His fame was spreading like wildfire. I will leave it to the reader to consider the situation, and of Jesus’ tone of voice as He responds to the invalid.
In defense of the invalid, we have to remember that he had been an invalid for close to forty years, and we don’t know how long he had visited the pool. Sure there was a miracle worker in Israel, yet why would anyone care for an old invalid man who had been forgotten by so many?
What was the message for the original audience?
For the invalid, the message was simple. Get up. Pick up your bed. Walk. All three commands were obeyed and the invalid received his miracle.
For those at the pool who were still in need, they had seen the Messiah perform a healing which indicated the Hope of Israel had arrived. The physical healing was a signpost for others to understand Who had arrived. Healing everyone would not have accomplished anything greater than what occurred that day. As a matter of fact, it may have simply redirected the focus from Him. This was a constant concern of the Messiah, that those who came to Him simply wanted their immediate needs addressed.
For those Jews who had been watching Jesus, this miracle sparked active persecution towards Jesus.
John 5:16 And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath.
For the Jewish leadership, directing the invalid to carry his bed on the Sabbath became the straw that broke the camels back. This was too much for them. Could Jesus have simply told the invalid to get up and walk away? Sure. But He didn’t. Would this have created an equal reaction from the Jewish leadership? We may never know, but I think you can know what I think!
The miracle should have been understood differently. Jesus directed an invalid, whom He healed, to carry his bed on the Sabbath. The miracle of healing should have indicated to the Jews that Jesus was from God, but they had already determined that His source of authority came from the enemy. (See the previous post – Signs and Mighty Works of Jesus #17 – Jesus Heals a Man Unable to Speak)
Now, in their minds, He was openly disobeying the rules set up by men in order to properly obey God. A rebel, an enemy of the establishment, a preacher that would not conform to their demands. But why should He conform to their demand, for He is Lord of the Sabbath, the One who established the nation of Israel and provided the ordinances, laws and ceremonies they lived by.
He is the Authority that is greater than any law they sought to obey.
What is the message for us today?
Jesus healed this invalid, though the invalid did not express any faith in Him, request any assistance or even acknowledge who He was. The invalid couldn’t even identify the One who healed him to the Jewish authorities. Jesus actually withdrew into the crowd (vs 13) after the healing. If there is ever a miracle that would satisfy our modern need for instantaneous satisfaction, this is the one.
In this miracle, this quick, instantaneous and sudden miracle working on this unknown invalid, Jesus exhibited Himself as Lord. We must allow Him to be who He is. He may, at His discretion, have compassion on any sinner or saint, whether famous or unknown, rich or poor, wise or foolish, young or old, full of faith or without belief, at any time, for any reason, without warning, and without hesitation.
His miracles, if understood properly, point to His person, to His relation to the Father and His authority over all of creation. Some miracles may occur during your walk with the Lord, and may I suggest that a proper understanding of them is critical to appreciate the wonder of the One providing the miracle.
Acts of mercy are, by their very nature undeserved, and if you are blessed in receiving a miracle in this life, consider Who it is that touched your life. Focus on the miracle provider and not on the miracle provided. Filter the fact of the miracle through the character of our Messiah.
For He is good, all the time.
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