John 5:1-8: The Healing at the Pool
5 After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic[a] called Bethesda,[b] which has five roofed colonnades. 3 In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed.[c] 5 One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 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?” 7 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.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.”
There are times when a question is so obvious that it almost should not be asked; this story told in John 5 is one of those times. John tells of a man who has been physically impaired for 38 years and Jesus asks him: “Do you want to be healed?”
Let me give some context to this story: In the time of Jesus this man would have been considered “unclean”: physical impairment suggested that he had been cursed by God: his physical limitation was thought to be a sign of God’s anger.
This had profound implications for him: it meant that he would have to call out to people not to come too close to him in case they too became unclean. Because of this he could not work. Anything he touched would be unclean. It also meant that he could not enter the temple in Jerusalem – or even the local synagogue. Unclean people were not welcomed into the perfect presence of God.
Here is a man on the margins of society. This was a man who depended on family and friends for food, and for assistance in anything he needed.
This man is found by Jesus lying at the pool of Bethesda – which John tells us is near the Sheep Gate in the wall of Jerusalem. The belief of that time was that an angel touched the water, and if you could get yourself into the water in time you would be healed.
Which brings us back to the question asked by Jesus. “Do you want to be healed?” Here is a man at the margins of society – with no work prospects, no social standing, living in a twisted body – and he is asked if he wants to be healed? What a stupid question – of course he wants to be healed – why else was he desperately lying at this pool?
But there is a purpose behind the question. Healing means that your life will be changed. There is no going back – you will have a “before” and an “after” . And this requires thought and decision making. As I read this story it struck me that all of us could find ourselves in such a space as this man:
Let me explain: we all are aware of broken places in our lives
• Sometimes there are broken places in our bodies that we should pay attention to, but we would rather not think about this. Sometimes these are broken emotions inside of us because of things that have happened in our past, and we try to bury our emotions
• Sometimes there are broken relationships with other people. We had a difficult moment, and no longer speak to a family member, or a friend.
• and Sometimes we know of places where we are spiritually broken in our relationship with our Creator. We have given up on praying, or we have stopped meeting for worship.
This is the moment that the question of Jesus can be heard echoing through history: “Do you want to be healed?”
This is a serious question – that asks if we are willing to do what it takes to become whole. And we know that this is not easy to answer: because healing might mean that we must change our lives in order to be healed:
Healing in our bodies might mean changing our diet, or doing some exercise, or going to see a doctor. “Do you want to be healed?”
Healing relationships might mean making the decision to mend the broken relationship : “Do you want to be healed?”
Healing of our Spirits can mean admitting that our emotions are broken, or that our relationship with God needs mending. “Do you want to be healed?”
Today I offer you the opportunity to learn from the man at the Pool of Bethesda: a man who chose to be healed. His answer is interesting – he did not just say “Yes, I want to be healed”.
He said: “I have no one to help me.”
Getting better is not simply deciding to turn over a new leaf. It is not just gritting our teeth and doing better. Most often getting better involves the help of others:
• Our physical well-being can mean visiting a doctor, or asking for the help of a personal trainer.
• Our relational health often means asking for mediation from a third party, or going for counseling to understand how a relationship breaks down
• And our spiritual health is greatly assisted by therapy, or by praying with a pastor or a spiritual companion.
Like the man at the Pool of Bethesda – can you hear Jesus saying to us: “Do you want to be healed?’ I am suggesting this begins with the decision to become better.
Do not become comfortable with your broken-ness. Choose instead to begin the process – why not begin today:
I am going to pray for you: that you might have the courage to find healing. But this is often the beginning point. We might also need to pray that God will send people who can assist us in our healing.
O Lord God, you seek wholeness of every aspect of my life. I come to you with my broken and battered life. I have stumbled many times, and I carry the scars of my mistakes. I surrender to you my past brokenness, my present struggles, and my fears for the future. I ask You to take hold over every aspect of my life. I surrender to You all my hurt, pain, worry, doubt, fear, and anxiety, and I ask You to hold my life in your Grace. I release everything into Your compassionate care.
I surrender to you everything that I am and everything that I'm striving to be. I offer you my life, heart, mind, body, soul, and spirit.
Speak to me clearly, O Lord. Open my ears to hear Your voice. Open my heart to the prompting of your Holy Spirit. Allow me to experience Your loving embrace. Open the doors that need to be opened and close the doors that need to be closed. Please send people across my path who can direct me in your ways. And begin the healing of my life today.
These prayers I ask in the name of Jesus – the great healer