Healing at the Pool of Bethesda
May 10, 2021, 12:12 PM

Healing at the Pool of Bethesda

John 5: 1-9

 

Rev. Jonathan W. Pannell

November 27, 2019

 


 

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction ……………………………………………………………………………………….3

            Orientation and Context …………………………………………………………………..3

                        Significance of Text ………………………………………………………………3

                        Historical and Social Setting ……………………………………………………...4

                        Literary Context …………………………………………………………………..5

            Presentation of Text ………………………………………………………………………5

                        Scripture Passage …………………………………………………………………5

                        Text Critical Notes ………………………………………………………………..6

                        Outline of Passage ………………………………………………………………...7

Jesus travels to Jerusalem ………………………………………………………………………...8

Waiting at The Pool ……………………………………………………………………………...9

Man at the Pool …………………………………………………………………………………...9

Jesus observes the man ………………………………………………………………………….10

Response to Jesus ………………………………………………………………………………..11

Conclusion ……………………………………………………………………………………. ..12

                        Summation……………………………………………………………………….12

                        Application………………………………………………………………………12

Works Cited ……………………………………………………………………………………..14

 

 

INTRODUCTION

ORIENTATION AND CONTEXT

Significance of Text

In John chapter 5 Jesus journeys in Jerusalem and finds Himself at a pool known as “Bethesda”. There are several significant points find through the text. These significant points start with Jesus from where He traveled from, and the path that He and the disciples journeyed. Other significant points from the selected passage of scripture include the “pool” in which was near the location where the man was located by Jesus. Scripture gives a brief description and location of the pool. This passage of scripture raises questions to why Jesus wanted to choose this location, why this man, and why on the Sabbath?  Other significant notes are found in the response of the man found by the pool when Jesus asks him, “Do you want to get well?” (NIV) where the response from the man doesn’t come in the form of excitement, however his response appears to be nothing more than excuses that he gives to Jesus.

Jesus’ decision to heal the man by the pool is the tipping of the hat, or the straw that breaks the camel’s back. As Jesus performs this miracle it will be the act that grabs the attention of many religious leaders, and an act that will begin the setting of Jesus’ persecution. Although feast may set the stage for historical and social setting, it appears that Jesus wasn’t as interested in the festival as He was more interested in making a statement for those that were secretly watching His actions. In the account recorded in John chapter five where Jesus heals a man who for some time cannot walk, Jesus heals him on the Sabbath, and tells this man, “Rise, take up your pallet, and walk” (RSV). Significance is found within these words from Jesus as the text states the day of Jesus’ actions are on the Sabbath. Thompson states in “John: A Commentary” that man who was healed “is charged with violating Torah’s injunctions by carrying his mat on the Sabbath” (Thompson 119). Jesus’ interaction with the man at the pool proves it is significant not only through the healing of the man, but also in the reaction of others that follows. Following Jesus’ interaction with the man emotions rise, and it appears that the man later points blame to Jesus when confronted. These simple words from Jesus instructing the man to carry his mat, appear to be a few of the words used by Jesus as a match that would start the fiery trial to his persecution.

 

Historical and Social Setting

The healing of the man at the pool called Bethesda or also referred to as the healing of the paralytic is referred to as the “third sign” in John’s Gospel signaling to Jesus’ identity (NET Bible). The location of the pool called “Bethesda” or “Bethzatha” believed to be the location “double pool of St. Anne” which has been excavated; the pools where “trapezoidal in shape” (NET Bible). According to the NET Bible, “Bethesda seems to be an accurate Greek rendition” of the name of the pool mentioned in John chapter five (NET Bible). The setting found in the healing of the paralyzed man which took place on the Sabbath recorded in John chapter five takes place in Jerusalem and is recorded by John. Mounce states that John as well went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews (Mounce). Many scholarly sources including Mounce in “The Expositor’s Bible Commentary” reflect on questions that rise to which “feast” John refers to.  Mounce states, “to know which feast John refers to would add nothing to the healing miracle Jesus is about to perform, so it is best left as an interesting item for scholarly conjecture” (Mounce). In our current situation we gain understanding of the law surrounding the Sabbath, and the tension which was raised following Jesus’ healing and instructions to the man at the pool of Bethesda on this day. 

Literary Context 

John reflects on Jesus ministry and His journey. In the previous chapter, John chapter four, we know that Jesus spoke with a Samaritan Woman going through the land of Samaria. John 4:3 states, “So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.” (NIV) From Samaria Jesus travels to Jerusalem where we are presented the healing in which took place on the Sabbath. The account of the healing at the pool is found in the New Testament gospel of John. John’s gospel is found independent from the other three gospels also known as the “synoptic gospels”. John was referred to in John 20:2 as “the other disciple, the one Jesus loved” (NIV).

 

PRESENTATION OF TEXT

Scripture Passage

John 5:1-9 (RSV) “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 Hebrew called Beth-za′tha,[
a] which has five porticoes. 3 In these lay a multitude of invalids, blind, lame, paralyzed.[b] 5 One man was there, who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him and knew that he had been lying there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” 7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is troubled, and while I am going another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your pallet, and walk.” 9 And at once the man was healed, and he took up his pallet and walked. Now that day was the sabbath.

 

Text Critical Notes

            It is significant to note the questions raised as to which feast John refers to in verse 1. ἑορτὴ (Greek) meaning feast or festival (NET Bible). There are also a variation in the translation of the term “Beth-za’tha” found in verse 2. The Greek word Βηθζαθὰ or Bethesda according to Net Bible refers to “house of mercy” or “Flowing water”. (Net Bible) Paul Achtemeier in the “Harper Collins Bible Dictionary” defines “Bethesda” as “the Hebrew name of the pool near the “Sheep gate” in Jerusalem” (Achtemeier 116) Further according to Collins “Bethzatha” Hebrew translation refers to “house of olives” (Achtemeier 120).

 

 

Outline of Passage

  1. Jesus travels to Jerusalem (vs. 1)
    1. Festival of the Jews
    2. Pool called Bethesda
       
  2. Waiting at the pool (vs.2)
    1. The disabled People
    2. Move of the water (vs.3)
       
  3. Man at the Pool (vs.5)
    1. Man who had an infirmity
    2. Thirty-eight years
       
  4. Jesus observes the man (vs.6)
    1. Observation of the man’s condition
    2. Jesus asks, “Do you want to be made well?” (vs.6)
       
  5. The Man’s response to Jesus (vs.7)
    1. Has no one to place him in the pool
    2. Others step in before him

 

 

 

JESUS TRAVELS TO JERUSALEM

John communicates the journey of Jesus as He travels to Jerusalem. Verse 1 stating “after this” doesn’t indicate a specific time from following the incidents at Cana (NET Bible). John records the event of a Jewish feast. It is understood that there three great national festivals of the Jewish people. These three festivals include the Passover (March-April), Pentecost (fifty days later), and Tabernacles (September -October) (Mounce). There is interest in the word feast, and it raises questions to know if the “feast” played a significant role in the healing that was performed by Jesus. The word “feast” from the Greek word “ἑορτὴ” meaning a festival or a feast day (NET Bible). Many scholars share different views of which “feast” John may be discussing in this chapter and it raises discussion, and debate from biblical scholars. Through this we understand that, either knowing or not knowing which feast is being referred to would not change the significance of the healing in this miracle that Jesus performed in this account (Mounce). What is clear through John’s account is that Jesus performed a miracle at this location. This healing would also cause a clash with the Jews. Black refers to this clash, “in which death and resurrection are in the air” (Black).

This miracle proves to be significant in the fact that it took place on the Sabbath. This raises the thought between a “miracle” and a “sign”. Kruse states that, “the word ‘sign’, meaning ‘miracle’, is used most often in contexts where the Jews demand a sign from Jesus to prove his claims” (Kruse 101). It does not appear that Jesus was attempting to make a “political statement” and the attention from the Jew’s wasn’t initially directed towards Jesus however towards the man in which was healed by Jesus.  John does state in verse 9 that Jesus’ healing of the man near the pool took place on the Sabbath, which is critical due to Jesus giving the man who was healed instructions to “rise, take up your pallet, and walk” (RSV).

John gives light that the healing took place at a “pool” and referred to the pool as “Bethesda”. Neander in The Life of Jesus Christ in Its Historical Connexion states, “the healing-spring itself was called Bethesda” and states in its meaning is referred to as a “place of mercy” (Neander 218). Some may find interest in the meaning referring to “place of mercy” seeing that John does refer to “many” being at this pool. It appears that the people at this pool who are pool in health, and disabled came to this location to seek mercy, and to have hope for a healing.

 

WAITING AT THE POOL

The pool called Bethesda or “place of mercy”, and it was at this location of what has appeared to be a place of hope as these people waited patiently. John gives illustration to there being a “great number of disabled people” (NIV). John refers to those who lie near the pool as blind, the lame, and the paralyzed (NIV). Mounce states of the disabled people “used to lie” in terms of “katekeito as a customary imperfect” (Mounce). This hope of healing is reflected in the scripture where they appeared to wait for a “stir” or “troubling” of the water. It is interesting that some translations omit the reference to an “angel” coming down to stir the water at the pool. Regardless it appears that there is something happening at this pool, and the people found themselves there and waiting with hope.

 

MAN AT THE POOL

Within the crowd there laid a man who had an infirmity. John refers to the man as being “invalid for thirty-eight years” (NIV). Other translations state that the man was disabled for “a long time” (RSV). Significance is found in the fact that not only has this man been disabled and probably waiting for most of his life. But also, that John gives some reflection of the length of this man’s disability. The reference to the number “thirty-eight” is only found in one other place in our Bible, and that is in Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy 2:14 says, by then, that entire generation of fighting men had perished from the camp” (NIV). The words an “entire generation” echo in reading this passage from Deuteronomy and reflecting on the man who was “disabled for thirty-eight years”. Mounce states this would have been “longer than many people in ancient times lived” (Mounce).

It is evident that Jesus in the light of “many disabled people” being in this area chose this man to grant healing as he probably had waited the longest and had an infirmity longer than many would have lived. Jesus seemingly wanted to ensure to press on the minds of many to never give up on hope and faith. This would have been a strong statement to make to those who were lacking faith.

 

JESUS OBSERVES THE MAN

 It is unclear how Jesus sought the man out of the crowd of people. How He knew His condition, or how long he was disabled. What is clear is that Jesus knew that this was the man who would receive healing at this location. It is interesting how not only did Jesus first observe the man, Jesus also made the first move. The man never asked for healing, however Jesus sought him out in a crowded area. Jesus saying the first words in their encounter asks the man, “do you want to be healed?” (RSV). There are other accounts in Jesus’ ministry where those who desired a touch sought out Jesus for healing. One of these accounts would be the woman with the issue of blood in Luke 8:43. As Jesus came into the area, she made her way to Jesus touching His garment before being noticed by Jesus. Luke records this account stating that she “came behind him and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of book stanched” (KJV). It is interesting how some seek Jesus, and how Jesus sought this man.

 

THE MAN RESPONDS TO JESUS

 Following Jesus’ question to the man in asking him if he desired to be healed. It can be observed as an interesting response from the man. Jesus asks the man if he wants to be healed, but the man doesn’t answer Jesus’ question directly. Instead he gives Jesus reasons why he has not found healing in the past. It was apparent that “his will was a paralyzed as his body” (Wiersbe 304). The man that Jesus sought out gives evidence in his response that his faith was running dry in the hope of healing. Wiersbe states, that Jesus had a spiritual lesson in mind” (Wiersbe 304). This man was the representation of the nation in this account recorded by John, his spiritual state reflected the spiritual state of the nation (Wiersbe 304). As Jesus asks the man “if he wanted to be healed” his response was that he didn’t have anyone to place him in the water. It is apparent that the man had no knowledge of who Jesus was or the powers that He posed. It’s almost that the man was misreading Jesus’ questions, and thinking that Jesus was asking him why he hadn’t yet got to the water.

Following this Jesus provided healing to the man instructing him to “rise, take up your pallet, and walk” (RSV). Jesus gave the man simple instructions in reference to his healing, however the instructions given to the man would cause him to violate the law. Being that this incident took place on the Sabbath, it would be unlawful for the man who was just healed to carry his pallet which would indicate that he was working on the Sabbath. For a man just healed of a lifelong disability, his penalty would result in death by stoning.  It doesn’t appear that you can simply blame the man for pointing the finger to Jesus, pushing the blame back to Him for his actions of carrying his bed. Afterall it was Jesus who instructed him to do so.

 


CONCLUSION

Summation

During Jesus’ ministry He has made it clear that He has a heart for the people. Jesus is the illustration of God’s love, and through Jesus’ ministry God’s love and mercy has been reflected to His people. It is not unlike Jesus to travel out of His way or to an unusual place to meet someone in need. The scripture found in John chapter five reveals Jesus as he sought out a man with a life long illness, who appears to have some faith left but lacks hope. There is much debate about the “feast” or festival that is referred to in this passage however the fact remains clear that no matter the day, nor the opinion of others Jesus saw a need and provided a healing touch.

This example of God’s grace and the mercy showed by our Lord significantly took place at a location known as a place of mercy.

 

Application

It can be stated that “God’s love never fails”. In John five we read of a man who all of his life was in a state of disability. This man who we know has had an illness more than some may have even lived but continued to stay in an area known as a “place of mercy”. The faith an hope of many may be tried and run low from time to time, however it is evident that when we maintain faith in our Lord that He is an on time God and shows up just in time. The significance in application from this passage can be found is the hope of the man with a disability and the compassion that Jesus showed to this man when the scripture states that there were “many” present.

If we were to be in this man’s shoes for the length of time that he was ill, would we still have a hope of healing? Remaining in an area where healing could be possible but has not be received over a life-time of illness. Could hope be held on to for such a period of time in patiently waiting for a miracle to happen before death would be certain.

Many have needs, illnesses, even terminal conditions and loosing hope and faith can be easy. The application for this passage should remind us in our take away that we must remain in a “place of mercy” for our determination will not go unnoticed. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WORKS CITED

Achtemeier Paul J., Harper Collins Bible Dictionary, Rev. ed., Harper Collins Pub., 1985

 

C, Clifton Black. "Signs and Shadows: Reading John 5-12." The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 60.1 (1998): 167-9. ProQuest. Web. 13 Dec. 2019.

 

"Commentary on John." In The Oxford Bible Commentary. Oxford Biblical Studies Online. 12-Dec-2019. <http://proxy.dcourseweb.com:2080/article/book/obso-9780198755005/obso-9780198755005-div1-837>.

 

Kruse, Colin G. John. Vol. Revised edition, IVP Academic, 2017. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=1688557&site=ehost-live.

 

Mounce, Robert H., et al. John. Vol. Rev. ed, Zondervan Academic, 2007. EBSCOhost,
search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=1781155&site=ehost-live

 

NEANDER, AUGUSTUS, and August Neander. “The Life of Jesus Christ in Its Historical Connexion and Historical Development.” Life of Jesus Christ in Its Historical Connexion & Historical Development, 1870, pp. 1–491. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=h7h&AN=35539585&site=ehost-live.

 


Thompson, Marianne Meye. John: A Commentary. Vol. First edition, Westminster John Knox Press, 2015. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=1172027&site=ehost-live.

 

Wiersbe, Warren W. “The Bible Exposition Commentary” New Testament. Vol. 1, Victor Books, 1989.

Contents © 2021 Emmanuel Church of the Nazarene • Church Website Builder by mychurchwebsite.netPrivacy Policy