Understanding the healing of the handicapped in the Bethesda pool
When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?7The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. John 5:6-7
The story of the healing of the handicapped of Bethesda is a well-known story in many Christian sectors. It is an impressive story because the place of healing is a historical site, its construction goes back to the time of the restoration of the wall of Jerusalem, after the return from captivity. In it, in its restoration, was involved the High Priest Eliasib along with other priests, who by some miraculous fact of which we have no record, must have called the pool, Bethesda.
Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests, and they builded the sheep gate; they sanctified it, and set up the doors of it; even unto the tower of Meah they sanctified it, unto the tower of Hananeel. Nehemiah 3:1
The writer of the gospel presents this healing as the third sign of the seven signs that Jesus established throughout His earthly ministry, and upon which the message of salvation and eternal life is based. John understands that these signs are the work that the Father commanded him to do,
But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me. John 5:36
These signs are to show that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing, you may have life in His name (20:31).
This sign has a particularity that makes it special. It is from this healing that it is pointed out that the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him (5.16). It is therefore the sign that marks the way to the cross, and the way to salvation and eternal life for those who believe in his name. It is the turning point between the prophet who performs miracles and healings, and the Messiah to seek and to save that which was lost.
The disabled person, though not a public figure, is the person chosen by Jesus to establish in him, and by him, the reason for the mystery hidden from antiquity regarding the proclamation that God was made flesh, and dwelt among us.
Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: Colossians 1:26
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. John 1:14
John presents this healing as a sign because by the way Jesus heals the disabled, along with the conditions of the place and date, the healing process becomes a protocol for Salvation and Eternal Life.
The disabled person goes to the temple as soon as he is healed, an action that turns him into a prototype of the godly human being who seeks God by conviction, and not only by the benefits received; and it is there, in the temple, where the protocol of liberation concludes and he receives the instruction of Salvation and Eternal Life, of “sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee” (5:14).
The Words of Salvation and Eternal Life are contained in the following of Jesus’ instruction.
The process begins with a personal decision. It is the choice between staying prostrate, or moving to another place. The disabled person had experienced, we don’t know how many times, the frustration of having worked for something and seeing that someone else was taking the benefits… But he was still in the same place, he was tied to the place.
It was not faith that made him stay in the place, he himself confesses that there was no chance for him to be healed, in that place. What made him stay there?
There are ties that have to be broken by decision, and salvation and Eternal Life begins by, and with, a decision. It is the decision that chooses to heed God’s voice and disregard the voice of circumstances. The decision to renounce personal interests by following the path of humiliation to achieve the purposes of why God fixed His eyes on us. The decision to renounce free will and submit to the Lordship of Christ.
Therefore, when Jesus questions the paralytic about whether he wants to be healed, it is not in the form of sarcasm but to draw from him the true desire he had to be healed. The purpose of the question was to confront him with the reality of his state, of his situation. It was necessary for him to make a decision.
Stand up, react, respond … Get out of your state of stupor … Move.
Take up thy bed…
Wasn’t it easier to tell him, “Go away? What good would the bed do him? It’s not a good memory! What was Jesus thinking when he ordered him to take the bed?
To take the bed meant to expose oneself. Jesus knew perfectly well that it was Shabbat, and that they were going to question the handicapped as soon as they saw him carrying his bed. The purpose of entrusting him to carry his bed is for the disabled to overcome the impediment that bound him all his life.
To reach Salvation and Eternal Life you have to expose yourself. To carry the bed means, Expose! Don’t be afraid of what they will say, don’t be afraid of criticism, don’t hide from those who will want to humiliate you… Expose.
Personal testimony is the vital part of the process of Salvation and Eternal Life. God seeks men and women of decision, of commitment; men and women defined with passion and zeal for the Gospel.
Nicodemus’ presence in John’s Gospel only served to teach us about Jesus’ need to be born again, but we do not say anything about him again, why? He wanted to be an anonymous disciple.
Walk, it is the penultimate step of protocol. It means don’t remain captive to achievements, don’t live from the past, let your past move away from you along with time.
Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Isaiah 43:18
It also means not allowing failures to grow larger than God’s blessing on us,
And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: Genesis 12:2
Walk, it is the purpose of healing. It means the ability to grow, to develop, to reach other spiritual levels, to reach perfection. If Lot’s wife had known this principle, she would not have looked back at what she left behind.
And walk, it is the key to spiritual and ministerial growth.
The apostle Paul established upon the value of this process when guided by the Holy Spirit, he wrote,
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14
Finally, the closure of this protocol,
Sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee …
Sin no more, means the decision to move forward no matter how big be what wants to stop me. It is the decision to stand firm, not the ambiguity that awaits falls.
Sin no more; it is not a religious slogan. It is conviction, it is firmness, it is integrity, it is zeal for the work even if one is not part of a congregation.
He who makes the decision of fidelity to the Lord does not fear falls, because he knows that sin no longer teaches him.
He who makes the decision of fidelity to the Lord does not fear falls, because he knows that sin no longer has dominion over him.
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. 13Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. 14For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. Romans 6:12-14
An old chorus said: I have decided to follow Christ! I don’t go back, I don’t go back.
Satan has so undermined our pulpits that instead of preaching the Gospel of power of the Kingdom, moral and motivational philosophies are preached. Flee from them.
The worst fall of the man who wants to seek God is the ambiguity of his decision. The process of Salvation and Eternal Life begins with a decision, and it closes with a decision.
And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God. Luke 9:62
What is your decision?