Healing on the Sabbath (Part 1)
John 5 begins as follows - "After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had. Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, 'Do you want to be made well?' The sick man answered Him, 'Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.' Jesus said to him, 'Rise, take up your bed and walk.' And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath" (5:1-9).

Although it is not specified, this "feast of the Jews" (5:1) was likely the Passover (cf. 4:35, which can be dated to approximately two months before the Passover. If this is correct, then it can be deduced that Jesus' ministry lasted over three years (cf. 2:13; 6:4; 13:1). If this is not correct, then it is possible that Jesus' earthly ministry was not even three years in length.

It should be noted that the end of 5:3 and all of verse 4 are in question as to whether or not they belong in the inspired text. Some ancient manuscripts contain the words about an angel stirring up the water for healing purposes, but others manuscripts do not. It is believed by many that these words were probably inserted by a transcriber to explain two things: (1) the reason why so many ill people gathered at the pool, and (2) the cause for the stirring up of the water mentioned in 5:7. These comments may have first appeared as a marginal explanatory note and later gradually began to be incorporated into the text itself. In any case, there is no doubt these two verses are an accurate description of what the people believed about the pool, even though their belief was likely mistaken.

In 5:5, we are introduced to a man "who had an infirmity thirty-eight years." Although he had suffered for decades, it is unknown as to how long he had been at the pool waiting. The duration of his infirmity was likely mentioned to show that his case was truly helpless. Obviously, after this many years there was no known means of relief for him. There was no deception in the miracle about to be performed. The man considered this pool to be his only means of healing.

Jesus asked the man in 5:6 - "Do you want to be made well?" To some, this appears to be a foolish question. However, I don't believe that Jesus would heal a person who did not desire such. We understand that it would have been foolish for this man to say "No" to Jesus. Likewise, it is just as foolish for one to reject Christ's spiritual healing today, yet many do.

This man's failure to be healed was not because he lacked desire, rather he needed help (5:7). Others, who had more mobility than him or friends to assist them, were always able to get to the water first when it was "stirred up." Although there is no reason to believe that this water contained miraculous power, it may indeed have had therapeutic or medicinal powers. Evidently, an intermittent spring was responsible for this stirring up of the water. There were many sick people--people without any real hope of recovery--who placed all their trust in the stirred up waters. They believed in the power of the water with all their heart even though the text itself implies that not many people were healed at this pool (otherwise why would a "great multitude" of people still be present, waiting and hoping?).

We will continue studying this narrative tomorrow.