Who Is This Man?
1 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, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. 3 In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. 4 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. 5 Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. 6 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?”
7 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.”
8 Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” 9 And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked.
And that day was the Sabbath. 10 The Jews, therefore, said to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.”
11 He answered them, “He who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your bed and walk.’”
12 Then they asked him, “Who is the Man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place. 14 Afterward, Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” (John 5:1-14, NKJV)
5:1 A Feast Of The Jews
Although there were actually seven feasts, this was one of three feasts that all able-bodied Jewish males were required to attend. We learned about them in Exodus 23; they were the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which began with Passover; the Feast of Firstfruits (or Pentecost), and the Feast of the Ingathering, also called the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths.
As we’ve talked about a number of times, Jesus had no regard for the religious rules, regulations, and rituals of men. But He always obeyed the Law of God.
In our zeal to not be religious, and to resist the extra-biblical traditions of men, we must be very careful, like Jesus was, not to be disregarding the commandments of God.
In Jerusalem was a pool called Bethesda, which means in Hebrew “House of Mercy.” It has five arches surrounding the pool, with porch or deck areas under each arch. Archeologists unearthed it in 1888, and if you take a trip to Israel, you can see it today. There was a tradition regarding the pool that led many sick, blind, lame, and withered people to stay by it.
The Stirring Of The Waters
It is unclear whether the last half of verse 3 and all of verse 4 was written by John or added in later by a copyist. What we do know is that occasionally, the waters would be agitated; be it naturally by an underground spring, or tectonic or geothermal activity, or supernaturally; as the tradition of the day said; an angel stirring up the waters.
Whichever it was, people often had a release of faith as they entered the waters and were miraculously healed.
Often, God will use something powerless in and of itself as a point of contact to release someone’s faith. Remember the woman with the issue of blood, who:
When she heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment. For she said, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well.”
Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction. (Mark 5:27-29)
Or the strange account we have in the book of Acts:
Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them. (Acts 19:11-12)
There was nothing magical or mystical about Jesus’ garments or Paul’s sweaty handkerchiefs, but people believed that as they touched these things, that the Lord was going to heal them.
5:5-7 Do You Wish To Get Well?
Jesus sees this man who had been in this condition for 38 years. He walks up to him and asks:
“Do you want to be made well?” (John 5:6)
“What kind of question is that?” you might ask in his place. “Of course I want to get well!” But maybe, if you really think about it, you don’t want to get well. Maybe you’re just enjoying your malady or your addiction too much to desire to be healed.
Forget the man for a minute – what do you need healing from? What has left you in a sinful, sickened state for years? Alcohol, tobacco, drugs, pornography, television, unforgiveness? Before Jesus is going to deliver and heal you, He’s asking you one thing: “Do you wish to get well?”
I Have No Man
The man reveals his thinking in his answer: “Wanting to get well isn’t my problem. My problem is that there’s no one to help me. Everyone’s abandoned me; it’s all their fault. There’s nothing I can do. I’m a victim.” Sound familiar?
In recent years, this victim mentality has become an epidemic. Everyone is blaming their condition on someone or something besides themselves. “I’m abusive because my parents abused me.” “I’m an alcoholic because I grew up in a dysfunctional family.” “No on ever affirmed my self-esteem, so I’ve never been able to be successful.”
This has actually been going on since the beginning of humankind. “Adam, why did you eat from the tree?” “It’s not my fault! YOU gave me this woman, and SHE gave me the fruit!” “Hey, Hubby, it’s not MY fault; the serpent deceived me!”
But the Scriptures tell us:
I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I have not hidden.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
And You forgave the iniquity of my sin. (Psalms 32:5)
The man was saying that wanting to get well was not his problem. But on the contrary; that was exactly the problem. And that is exactly the problem with the sin that you’ve got in your life as well. “I could conquer this if I wasn’t a victim. I could overcome this if it weren’t for this or that person.” No, the truth is that you could conquer this if you wanted to be healed.
Jesus tells him that it doesn’t have anything to do with having someone drag him into the pool first. He tells the man to do three things: arise, take up your pallet, and walk.
“Arise? But I can’t get up! Don’t you know that I’ve been like this for too long? There’s no way I could do this!”
Jesus is asking him to do something he knows is impossible. For your healing or deliverance, Jesus is doing the same thing. Are you addicted to something? Jesus is saying, “Rise above it. Stop it. Don’t do it anymore.” Are you tied up in bitterness and unforgiveness? Jesus is saying, “Rise above it. Forgive that person. Let it go.”
Yes, it is impossible in your flesh. But if you want to be healed, step out and obey what Jesus is telling you to do. Remember that:
“The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” (Luke 18:27)
He’s not asking you to do anything that He isn’t willing to give you the power to do:
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)
With the commandment to arise there is the empowerment to arise.
Take Up Your Pallet
The next thing He tells the man is to take up his pallet. In other words, “Don’t leave your mat here. You’re not going to need it anymore.” “But what if the healing isn’t complete? What if it doesn’t take? What if it doesn’t last? I should leave this here to save my spot.”
Jesus tells us to take up the pallet because He doesn’t want us to be making provision for failure. I was in a prayer meeting with a guy who was begging the Lord, “Please heal me from my addiction to cigarettes. I don’t want to smoke anymore. Please deliver me and save me.”
After the prayer meeting as he was leaving, I said, “Brother, let me have that pack of cigarettes. I’ll throw them away for you.” He said, “If I give these to you, then I’ll just have to buy another pack in the morning. That’d be a waste of money.”
You see, he had already planned to fail. He had left his pallet set up for the next morning.
Finally, Jesus tells him to walk. He doesn’t need someone to take him down to the pool, he doesn’t need anyone to hold his hand and guide him along the way. He’s just supposed to walk.
In this day and age, we’ve been deceived into believing that we need psychology and Christian counseling. We need support groups and meetings. Nonsense. Jesus has told you to walk – you don’t need anyone to carry you. It comes down to just you and God – are you going to walk with Him?
I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another so that you do not do the things that you wish. (Galatians 5:16-17)
If you’re walking with God, then you’re not carrying out the desires of the flesh, and you won’t need anyone to carry you. But if you’re not walking with God, then you are walking in the flesh, and in that case, no support group, psychologist, or counselor is going to be able to heal you anyway.
5:9 The Man Became Well
Here is the deliverance, the healing. As soon as he agreed to obey, he was made well. People, do you want to be healed? Then rise above the mud and the muck of your sin, don’t leave anything left over in case you might fail, and walk the walk.
5:10-13 It Is The Sabbath
Remember that working on the Sabbath was forbidden by the Law of God. But the Jewish leaders had expounded on the law, defining what exactly was and was not work. They had ruined the spirit of the Law and created a big burden for the people. You couldn’t spit in the dirt on the sabbath, for that would be making mortar. You couldn’t wear a wooden leg on the sabbath, for that would be carrying a burden.
5:14 Do Not Sin Anymore
This is a scene that many people don’t think of. Often, we think of the healing as the end of the story. When Jesus cleansed ten lepers, nine of them thought that was the end of the story:
And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan.
So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:15-18)
After healing should be a stronger walk; a thankfulness, a desire to abstain from sin. Jesus tells this guy:
“See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” (John 5:14)
When God delivers us from something, we need to make sure that we give that part of our lives to Him. There is the example of the casting out of a demon that Jesus told us about in Luke 11:
“When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that man is worse than the first.” (Luke 11:24-26)
The last state of that man becomes worse than the first. If God has healed you, if God has delivered you, make sure that you don’t replace what is gone with something that’s even worse. Live in repentance, live in thankfulness and devotedness to God.