Today’s verses cause me to be sad for two reasons. The first is that there was a place where so many with physical needs gathered together for a sliver of hope but seemingly without help from able-bodied folks around them. The second is that this sliver of hope was based on circumstance not on anything biblical.
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. 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. – John 5:1-3, 5-9, ESV
Note that we see the word multitude. This is the first reason. A lot of invalids gathered around this pool. Society back then wasn’t overly kind to invalids. So they gathered around this pool, hoping for healing. One of the reasons this set of verses makes me sad is that we aren’t a whole lot better as a society today. We have a tendency to forget about folks. Most of us make excuses, myself included, but the reality is that we aren’t aware and active and assisting like we should be. This verse reminds me I need to do a whole lot better.
Moving on the second reason, verse 4 wasn’t found in the earliest manuscripts of the Gospel of John which we have. Also, it contains words that we don’t find anywhere else in John’s Gospel. Therefore, most modern translations don’t include that verse because it seems to have been added later. It wasn’t part of the original Gospel. Why is this all important? It’s because verse 4 is the one which said an angel came down and stirred the water. It’s part of the same superstition which characterized everyone who gathered around the pool.
Likely there had been cases where folks felt better when the water rippled. Think about how often that the water would be stirred because of simple causes like the wind blowing. So why did people believe? They believed for the same reason folks continue to pull the lever on the slot machine or play the lottery. Any success reinforces this idea that you have a good chance of winning, even though it’s not true. So they were gathered around, saying to themselves that the water stirring was due to an angel and that they could be healed. What other hope did they have?
This hope wasn’t biblical. We don’t see angels acting in such a haphazard way. The folks gathered around that pool had placed their hope in something that wasn’t true. We see this a lot in society, even in our churches. We must share the truth of Scripture and dispel the myths that have cropped up. By the way, part of these myths is what the Jews had classified what could and couldn’t be done on the Sabbath.
But these verses also give me hope. They give me hope because of how Jesus acted. He chose a man who had suffered for years, 38 to be exact.Though it was the Sabbath, Jesus didn’t stop from healing the man. The Jewish people at that time would have Jesus was sinning because He did this action on the Sabbath. But that’s not biblical. The prohibition was against work, not helping one another. Jesus stepped in when no one else would. And He responded according to Scripture, not superstition. Jesus answered my two concerns.
He was the example then and He expects us to be the example now. Our willingness to help, to be there, to be the support line for those in need. In a tangible way, we became God’s miracle. Now we should respond according to Scripture. To be God’s instrument, we would best be useful if we are being obedient. God uses sinners and saints alike. However, if we are saints, we are to be obedient. Obedient not just in responding to the need, but in how we respond. Let us be God’s miracles to the people around us.