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Jesus Paid a Sabbath Visit at the Pool of Bethesda
There was a feast of the Jews and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, (please read John chapter 5). The Pool of Bethesda was in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate (John 5:2), surrounded by five covered colonnades. The Sheep Gate was doubtless the gate through which the sheep travelled on their way to be sacrificed in the temple. During Jesus’ time, the Pool of Bethesda lay outside Jerusalem city walls. The name of the pool, “Bethesda,” is Aramaic. It means “House of Mercy”, “House of Grace”, or “House of Love”, and it is also a place where “a great number of disabled people used to lay; the blind, the lame, the paralyzed” (John 5:3). The Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) in Lagos Nigeria is called by many as “Arena of Liberty”, also having this same dual meaning, being regarded by some as a place where the infirm, the sick, the invalids, come seeking from Jesus. SCOAN is also a place of Grace where many receive healing, deliverance, the new life and freedom.
In the case of Bethesda legend had it that an angel would come down into the pool and “stir up the water.” According to the legend, the first person into the pool after the stirring of the water “was made well from whatever disease with which he or she was afflicted” (John 5:4). The Bible does not teach that this actually happened; rather, the superstitious belief probably arose because of the pool’s association with the nearby temple.
On the day that Jesus visited this public pool of Bethesda, there was a man there, possibly amongst scores of others, and he “had been an invalid for thirty-eight years” (John 5:5). Jesus interacted with him twice, before his physical healing at the public pool and afterwards in the temple. Jesus asked the man “Do you want to be healed?” Jesus knew that not every sick person would want to be healed, and that some could be so discouraged that they put away all hope. Jesus was dealing with a man who might have his heart withered as well as his legs. Hence Jesus started by building up the faith of this man. The man replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred, (verse 7). He was probably saying to himself, “if only I was able enough, fast enough, strong enough, have someone else to help me then I could have been healed”. Or he was basically saying, “Yes, I want to be made well, but I don’t see how this can happen”. The paralytic was in need of saving but there beside him was the Saviour of all mankind. When Jesus spoke to him, he heard the word of a mere man whilst he kept gazing at Bethesda for superstitious healing, expecting healing by work and not by faith or by grace.
Jesus swept aside all superstition and bypassed altogether the need for magic water with one command: “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk” (verse 8). The man was instantly cured, and “he picked up his mat and walked” (verse 9). The sick man limited God’s help to his own ideas and did not dare promise himself more than he conceived in his mind. We create a small God in our heads, a God who is limited by whatever box we try to put Him into, a God we limit by what we have heard, out thoughts, or what we read in the newspapers.
Amazingly, not everyone was happy about the man’s miraculous healing. The day Jesus healed the man at the poolside happened to be a Sabbath. As the man left Bethesda, the Jewish leaders saw him only carrying his mat and didn’t see him walking and healed. They stopped him. “It is the Sabbath,” they said. “The law forbids you to carry your mat” (verse 10). The man told them that he was simply obeying orders. The man who made me well said to me, “Pick up your mat and walk” (verse 11). The Jews inquired who would so brazenly promote Law-breaking, but the man who was healed had no idea who He was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd, (verse 13). The contrary men of the world see only criticism and not the healing, or the changed life, or the restored sanity. The reaction of the Jewish leaders shows that, no matter how much proof God provides, there will be some people who refuse to see the truth. Jesus was an awesome Miracle Worker, but the religious leaders couldn’t see the miracle. All they could see was that someone had violated a rule. The issue was not the breaking of God’s command, for Jesus fulfilled all the Law and was completely subject to it (Matthew 5:17). The only thing being broken was a pharisaical interpretation of one of God’s laws. Therefore, a blessing meant to increase faith only increased the blindness of those who refused to acknowledge the blessing.
Jesus knew that the man who was physically healed still needed some spiritual healing. In fact, the religious leaders would have created more confusion, doubts and more unbelief in him. Just like in our days sponsored oppositions keep discouraging many not to visit SCOAN and be healed or to come and know more about Jesus. Hence Jesus traced him to the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you” (verse 14). Jesus’ words are a rebuke of unnamed sin. The man was probably living contrary to God’s will somehow and he received a warning of “something worse.” What could be worse than thirty-eight years of paralysis? May be an eternity in hell (see Mark 9:47). Thus Jesus healed him both physically and spiritually.
The Bible listed a few of the people fortunate to have this same direct encounter with the Lord Jesus for our benefit. Jesus healed people and told them, “Your faith has made you well”. He healed 10 lepers (Luke 1:11-19), the woman with the issue of blood (Matthew 9:20-22), a blind man (Mark10: 46-52). In this particular case, it was at Jesus’ compassion. Other cases of people who encountered Jesus include the twelve apostles, Nicodemus (John 3), the woman at Jacob’s well in the town of Samaria called Sychar (John 4), Mary and Martha (John 11), the Apostle Paul on his way to Damascus, and many others. An encounter with Jesus would often not be exactly what we expect but it will bring out our true needs, revealing who we truly are, get to the true heart of the issues and sending us out to the field to tell others all about Jesus. Jesus will be known for Whom He truly is, The Son of God, The Messiah of the world, the Prophet of the world, the Spring of Living Water. This is how SCOAN is changing lives and changing nations by leading people to have an encounter with Jesus so that we are both physically and spiritually healed. Emmanuel