Read John 5:1-17
What does this passage tell us about the sick man?
Why do you think Jesus asked him, “Do you want to get well?” (vs6)
How would you describe this guy to someone else?
What did this miracle stir up in the Jews?
Jesus heads south and up to Jerusalem for this feast of the Jews. Something to keep in mind when reading your Bible is that up does not necessarily mean north, it just means up in elevation. Jerusalem is located on top of a mountain range and is at one of the highest places of elevation in the area. Jesus arrives at the Feast of the Jews and makes His way to a place just outside the wall called Bethesda, close to the Sheep Gate, where there was a multitude of sick people laying around. How many did Jesus heal? One– that’s all! A common misconception is that Jesus healed everyone. He did not. We may even picture Jesus walking over and past many in order to get to this one! He only healed those the Father told Him to heal (John 14:10). Each person was healed for one purpose: to glorify the Father (John 17:4). Jesus’ passion in life was to glorify His father by obeying Him and living a life of faith.
This whole story is fascinating to me, starting with Jesus’ strange question to a man who had been an invalid for 38 years. Jesus asked him, “Do you want to get well?”. What kind of question is that? Or what about the fact that so many versions of the Bible eliminate or call into question verse 4? Look back and see, maybe your version of the Bible has verse 4 as a footnote or says that many manuscripts do not contain this verse. Strange huh? (Thats a fun study for another day! Rest assured, there are good reasons for it being presented as it is. Take the tin foil off your head, there's no conspiracy here!)
Most people hold the view that Jesus was moved with compassion when he saw this needy man. Walking past many others, He listened to His Fathers voice and chose to heal this crippled man. This man then became the catalyst for the encounter with the Jews in the following verses. This may be the correct version of what happened.
However, there is a different view and I believe it has some substance. What if this whole story, about the angel coming and stirring the water was a lie, hatched by a man who had been there for 38 years (or someone like him)? What if, as a crusty old con man, he had made up the story and was benefiting from he pains of other people, by gathering them together at the pool to increase the likelihood of receiving donations? Could this by why Jesus asked him such a direct question about if he wanted to get well? After healing this man, there seems to be no repentance of any kind, no gratitude shown and no faith in Jesus expressed. And when he reports that he doesn't know who healed him, we see Jesus tracking him down and telling him, “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” (John 5:14). Then the man goes to the Jews and basically turns in Jesus to the leaders, setting up the confrontation where Jesus so passionately seeks to persuade the leaders of who He is. They then would try even harder to kill him.
Whichever view you hold, it doesn't change the flow of the story. Either this man was a needy person on whom Jesus had compassion or a hard man that seemingly did not respond with faith or gratitude and then turns Jesus in to the Jews. You find this event setting up the opportunity to preach the truth in the temple area, much like what Peter experienced in Acts 3. The father’s definite plan was the healing of this man for a truth encounter with the religious leaders during the Jew’s festival.
Perhaps I see this story differently than most, But I seem to identify with this man a lot. His characteristics are often like mine: struggles to tell the truth, no gratitude, no expressed faith and a tendency to keep on sinning. It sounds a lot like me… maybe you can identify with my struggle?
I am so glad that when Jesus saved me, He put His truth in me and His truth set me free. Lying is a tough thing to talk about with another person. It is at our core and is something we find hard to admit to and talk about. I am going to ask you to do a hard thing today and share with a friend about your struggle to tell the truth.
If you do not feel you have a struggle in this area, maybe you can share some secrets you have discovered to being a truth-teller.
Regardless of where you are at, learning to tell the truth is foundational in our ministry training! Sometimes its hard to tell the truth. Sometimes telling the truth costs us more than we'd like.
According to our culture today, telling to truth is "rude" or "unloving". Maybe even, at times, "hate speech".
Even in the face of opposition, we must be disciples who tell the truth- to ourselves and the world around us.
Think about and answer to yourself:
In what ways do you lie to yourself?
In what ways do you actively lie to others?
In what ways do you passively lie to others?
In the comments below, share anything you find helpful or beneficial to share!
First of all Jesus’ purpose in healing was primarily to prove he was who he claimed to be. Everyone he healed still eventually experienced death.
Secondly, and most importantly he healed to teach his something - in this case the question “do you want to get well” refers to the fact that we must be willing to live with the responsibility to hat comes with being well! This man’s wallowing, begging, dependency on others would no longer be his way of life, he would now have to go to work - no excuses! Unfortunately many of us would rather make excuses for why we can’t serve him rather than accept the challenge of doing it - thus the lie…
In reading the scripture and reading the lesson, I do think that Jesus healed this man on purpose and for a purpose.. Jesus, being God in the flesh, knew everything. Walking into the area where all these ill people were lying waiting for the water to ripple he knew what was in all their hearts. Jesus also knows he is on this earth for a purpose. I feel Jesus knew this man would do just what he did. Pick up his mat and walk - on the sabbath. The guy would be seen by the Jewish leaders. And, the guy would tell the jews who healed him. This would lead to a confrontation with the jews and give Jesus the chance to teach. And, the jews would get mad(der) and want to kill Jesus even more.
All this is part of God's plan. Jesus was going to first witness to the Jews. He was spreading the gospel to them first. God used different people fort his purpose. The man at the pool was one person in many who was used to further this plan that led to the ultimate sacrifice on the cross.
I know I lie to myself constantly about how “good” I am!
I like to think of myself as a good person because I try to live my life the best I can based on the Word… but I am constantly failing. Sometimes it is hard to admit.
I’m not sure if I actively lie to others… I will have to consider that a bit deeper today.
Lying is huge! Whether to yourself or others. I think we look passed it as a sin. People lie so much that they believe themselves.
It use to be so easy to lie and not think anything about it. Even though the lie was just to keep someone out of drama or making someone feel good, it’s a lie. Or even exaggerating a story! It’s a lie!
Once I started listening to the Holy Spirit, it’s a lot harder to lie. That voice telling you, no don’t lie. Pray about it before you respond or answer a question. Crazy how much my mind has changed and I never want to lie. So thankful for that.
No one wants to listen to someone they don’t know if what they are saying is true.
Studying God’s helps us not tell or believe lies about ourselves, especially women. We can be so critical of ourselves but reading the Word, tells who we are and whose we are.
The pool was actually occasionally stirred by water rushing in through an underground channel. An angel of the Lord causing this phenomenon would have been the explanation the people of the time created for it, given their limited understanding of what was happening. It’s also reasonable to assume that the belief that the waters had healing powers was to do with the placebo effect. Of the sick people waiting for healing by the water’s edge, those who could get into the water first would have been the most able-bodied. Perhaps they had minor ailments that would have healed naturally, and the correlation between entering the water and getting better may have lead them to believe the water cured them. The man also tells Jesus that he has no-one to help him into the pool. This implies that others had family, friends, support systems, etc. to care for them in their sickness, while this man seems to have had none of that.
I am cautious to view this man as an excuse maker. While his response to Jesus’s “Do you want to get well” may indeed be deflective or defensive, I want to empathise with why he may have responded this way. The cultural understanding at the time was that physical ailments were a punishment for sin, either your own, or that of your ancestors. We see this thinking in the account of the man who was born blind. Having spent 38 years with this accusatory thinking directed at him, the man at the pool likely misinterpreted Jesus’s simple and compassionate offer as an attack. “Do you even want to get better?” “If you really wanted to get better, you would try harder to get in the pool!” “Why can’t you get it together?”
I really like what Sammy pointed out about the challenging realities that would lie on the other side of healing, and in this as well, I try to have as much empathy as possible. I’m uncomfortable with any framing that implies 40 years of suffering, dependence and begging was somehow freeloading, or the easy way out. I want to appreciate how genuinely difficult it would be to have no life skills, and likely no support system, and somehow have to start making a living in middle age. Change, even change for the better, can often feel overwhelming, and my prayer is that when I see people shrinking away from it, that I would meet them with compassion and support rather than disdain.
This is what I believe shines through about Jesus in these verses. The motives, the backstory, how well or poorly the man received healing and adapted to his new life, none of this changed the fact that Jesus saw him, and had compassion on him, and healed him. When we speak of miracles glorifying God, I believe this is what that means. God was made known through Jesus’s compassion.