Read: John 5:1-15
Consider: When Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals he passed a pool where people went to be healed. The pool was called Bethesda, meaning ‘house of mercy’ or ‘house of grace’. Commentators think the Aramaic word Bethesda could also mean ‘shame’ or ‘disgrace’, adding another layer of meaning to the pool’s name. This was a place where God revealed his mercy and grace, but the people who came there were often seen as the outcasts of society. At the time of Jesus, the common view was that sickness and disease were a sign of God’s displeasure and indicated a person’s sinfulness. Thankfully this was not the view Jesus held himself; this is obvious from his reply to the disciples’ question in John 9:2-3.
We are told in John 5:3 that those who came to the pool to be healed were ‘… the blind, the lame and the paralysed’. Only when the waters of the pool were stirred up could those seeking healing attempt to get into the pool. It is clear that the blind couldn’t see the waters of the pool to know when they were stirred up, the lame would find it difficult to move quickly and the paralysed probably had very limited mobility. Does this mean that they would have depended on others to help them get into the pool at the right time? We aren’t told this in the Bible account, but it does make sense (the invalid says that he has no-one to help him)..
One of the people at the pool on the day Jesus passed, had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. Have you ever wondered why Jesus would ask him the question he did? Doesn’t it seem strange to ask a man who has been an invalid for thirty-eight years if he wants to get well? This reminded me of two other incidents when Jesus healed some blind men; the first incident is recorded in Matthew 20:29-34, the second in Luke 18:35-43. In both incidents Jesus asks the same question he asked the invalid at the polo Bethesda. In the Matthew account, involving two men, they were healed and followed Jesus. In the Luke account, involving one person, healing also took place and we are told he also followed Jesus. However, in Luke 18:43 we read: Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.
Let’s look again at the John account of the healing of the invalid man. We read: The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, ‘It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat’ (John 5:9b-10). It wasn’t the law that forbade the man to carry his mat, it was the Jewish religious leaders interpretation of the law that was regarded by them as of equal merit to the law. Jesus wasn’t trying to be confrontational or controversial; he was seeking to show the religious leaders that man-made rules were not equivalent to the law as recorded in the Old Testament.
We all have things that we interpret differently to others. In Romans 14:1 we are told not to quarrel ‘… over disputable matters’. There are many matters in everyday life that are not specifically mentioned in the Bible; these are left to the individual to decide how to deal with these ‘matters of conscience’
Pray: Father, help us to be careful that we do not make man-made rules of equal importance to those things that are clearly stated in the Bible. When we meet needy people prevent us presuming how we might help them, but ask them to share with us what their needs are. Amen