1 After this, there was a Jewish festival, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem there is a pool, called Bethesda in Aramaic, which has five colonnades. 3 Within these lay a large number of sick people—blind, lame, or paralyzed—who were waiting for the movement of the water. 4 For an angel would go down at certain times into the pool and stir up the water. Whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was healed of whatever disease he had. 5 One man was there who had been sick for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew he had already been sick a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” 7 “Sir,” the sick man answered, “I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up. While I’m going, someone else goes down ahead of me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 Instantly the man was healed. He picked up his mat and walked. That day was the Sabbath. 10 So the Jews told the man who had been healed, “This is the Sabbath! You are not permitted to carry your mat.” 11 He answered them, “The one who made me well told me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’” 12 Then they asked him, “Who is the man who told you, ‘Pick it up and walk’?” 13 But the man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. 14 Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “Look, you are well now. Do not sin anymore so that nothing worse happens to you.” 15 The man went back and reported to the Jews that it was Jesus who made him well.
Imagine what it must have been like for the man Jesus encountered in Jerusalem in our lesson today. Some unnamed illness had plagued him for the past 38 years. One of the effects of the disease was that he wasn’t able to walk. There was no medical treatment at the time to heal his affliction. The Bible tells us that Jesus found him by the pool of Bethesda. According to Scripture an angel would stir up the water of the pool. The first one in the water after this happened would be healed. We don’t know any further details. Our Lord has chosen to give us only limited information on this subject in his Word. There are many questions about the pool of Bethesda and healings that occurred there that will have to remain unanswered.
Whenever the Bible leaves us with unanswered questions we remember that our Lord has told us everything we need to know. The purpose of the Gospel of John is that we may believe that Jesus is the Christ the true Son of God and that through faith in him we have eternal life. (John 20:31) Jesus once again proved who he is by instantly healing the man who was unable to walk for so many years. No medicines or physical therapy were required. Jesus gave the command “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk” and the man was fully healed. Only God has the power to provide such an instant miracle healing.
Sadly, another wonderful sign from the Son of God was rejected. The Jewish leaders didn’t seem the least bit interested in the special mercy God had shown this man. They didn’t seem the least bit amazed by the fact that a man who couldn’t walk for 38 years suddenly could walk. They only cared about strict adherence to the rules and regulations they added to God’s Law. We’ll talk more about that in our next study.
But Jesus wasn’t finished with the man he healed at the pool of Bethesda. He sought out the man and gave him a stern command. “Look, you are well now. Do not sin anymore so that nothing worse happens to you.” But this was unlike the command the Jewish leaders gave to this man. Jesus, who healed his physical body now wanted to heal his soul. Obviously, Jesus was not saying that this man could stop sinning completely. We remain sinful human beings as long as we remain in the world. Instead Jesus wanted this man to live a life of repentance and trusting in God’s mercy. Thirty eight years of not being able to walk must have caused much suffering. But a lifetime of sin leads to an eternity of suffering, separated from God. Jesus’ warning was filled with love and the desire that the man he healed would enjoy eternal life with his Lord in heaven.
Consider how often our Lord has healed each of us from physical ailments. We thank God for his mercy in providing such healing. But we thank him all the more for healing us from the ailment of sin. Let us hear Jesus’ call to turn away from our sins by daily repentance, knowing that our sins are fully forgiven in him.
1 – What are some ways in which Jesus showed mercy to the man who was unable to walk for 38 years?
Jesus showed his mercy in fully healing the man from his physical condition. More importantly, he used this miracle healing as a way to later confront the man about his sins and call him to repent and trust in God’s mercy.
2 – Some people say that Jesus answers our prayers and performs miracles – only if our faith is strong enough. How would you answer them?
God’s mercy is not dependent on us. God said to Moses in Exodus 33:19 “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will show mercy to whom I will show mercy.” Scripture doesn’t mention that the man Jesus healed at Bethesda had a strong faith. In fact, it seems he didn’t know who Jesus was at the time. God showed mercy to him because it was God’s choice to do so. We thank God that he blesses us many times daily, not because we have earned or deserved it, but rather, because it is his good and gracious will to do so.
3 – Why did the Jews confront the man Jesus healed?
He followed Jesus’ command to pick his mat and walk home. The day this happened was the Sabbath Day. When God gave the Law in Exodus 20 he did say “Six days you are to serve and do all your regular work, but the seventh day shall be a Sabbath rest to the Lord your God.” This Sabbath day was supposed to be a time dedicated to worshiping the Lord. This didn’t mean a complete restriction on all physical activities. As Jesus said “Who among you, if you have one sheep that falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out?” God’s commands were given in part as a means by which we can show our thanks to God for all he has done for us. The Jews tried to use the Law as a means to save ourselves. Therefore, they demanded strict adherence to the Law, believing they could make themselves right with God by doing so.
4 – Why did Jesus give such a stern warning to the man he just finished healing?
Jesus wanted to provide an even greater healing. The man could walk again. But he was still a sinner, deserving to be separated from God for eternity. Jesus warned the man to stop sinning. Jesus wanted the man to repent of his sins and to trust that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. (John 1:29)
If you have any questions about the Word of God we studied in this
lesson please contact Pastor Greg Tobison. You can send your questions to