By Ray KonigPublished: Dec. 4, 2023
During the early part of the first century, nearly 2,000 years ago, a man arrives at the Pool of Bethesda, which was in or near Jerusalem.
He presumably was carried to the pool by friends or family as he is disabled, and had been for 38 years.
There, the man tries to get into the pool, which was believed to have healing powers. But he is unable to do so, because other more-abled people keep cutting in front of him to take whatever space had become available in the pool.
He then hears a voice of a man he did know, who asks him if he wants to be healed.
This man was Jesus of Nazareth, who traveled the towns of Israel, preaching about the Kingdom of God and performing miracles of healing. He had come to the Pool of Bethesda, where people were in need of healing.
At this point during Jesus' public ministry, people throughout the land of Israel and beyond its borders traveled to find Jesus, to hear his teachings and to be healed by him.
Even so, this man did know who Jesus was. And before he would learn of Jesus' identity, he would learn that he had instantaneously and completely healed by him.
As explained in the Gospel of John:
1 After these things, there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now in Jerusalem by the sheep gate, there is a pool, which is called in Hebrew, "Bethesda", having five porches. 3 In these lay a great multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, or paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water; 4 for an angel went down at certain times into the pool and stirred up the water. Whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was healed of whatever disease he had. 5 A certain man was there who had been sick for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had been sick for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to be made well?"
7 The sick man answered him, "Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I'm coming, another steps down before me."
8 Jesus said to him, "Arise, take up your mat, and walk."
9 Immediately, the man was made well, and took up his mat and walked.
Now it was the Sabbath on that day. 10 So the Jews said to him who was cured, "It is the Sabbath. It is not lawful for you to carry the mat."
11 He answered them, "He who made me well said to me, 'Take up your mat and walk.'"
12 Then they asked him, "Who is the man who said to you, 'Take up your mat and walk'?"
13 But he who was healed didn't know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a crowd being in the place.
14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, "Behold, you are made well. Sin no more, so that nothing worse happens to you."
15 The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. 16 For this cause the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill him, because he did these things on the Sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, "My Father is still working, so I am working, too." 18 For this cause therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the Sabbath, but also called God his own Father, making himself equal with God. (John 5:1-18, WEB)
Some English translations render the name of Bethesda as Bethzatha or Bethsaida. Today, there are many hospitals that are named for this pool.
Jesus is recorded in the Gospels as performing miracles on more than 40 occasions. In many cases, people would travel great distances to find Jesus for a miraculous healing.
But, here at the Pool of Bethesda, this man did not know that he could ask because he did not know who Jesus was.
The man later learns of Jesus' name when they meet again, at the Temple (John 5:14). The healed man's presence at the Temple is a possible sign of faith and gratitude. He now has the gift of mobility and he is using it to visit the house of God.
Jesus performs this miracle through the power of his spoken word. He tells the man to get up, pick up his mat, and walk, and the man is able to do so (John 5:8). This miracle is similar to one in which Jesus heals a paralyzed man in Capernaum (Matthew 9:1-8, Mark 2:1-12 and Luke 5:17-26).
A key difference between these two miracles, though, is that this one takes place on a Sabbath, which is to be a day of rest.
The religious leaders who confront Jesus on this occasion have the opinion that the act of carrying the mat (John 5:10), as well as Jesus' instruction for the man to carry the mat, and also the "work" that Jesus did in performing the miracle, violate the rules for keeping the Sabbath (John 5:16-18).
The Sabbath is defined by the Old Testament as a day of rest (Exodus 20:10) and it is explicitly clear that no work for commercial gain is to be done on this day (Nehemiah 13:15-22). The Sabbath is the seventh day of the Hebrew week, which begins Friday evening and ends Saturday evening.
Within the laws of Judaism regarding the Sabbath, there is no specific prohibition against carrying a mat, or for doing work that honors God, such as showing compassion, which in this case involved performing a miracle of healing.
Even so, Jesus finds himself being confronted by religious leaders and the confrontation intensifies when Jesus indicates that he, as a divine being, has divine authority over the Sabbath (John 5:17,19-20), which is a point that he reiterates more explicitly in Matthew 12:8 and Luke 6:5.
These religious leaders, who failed to recognize, acknowledge or believe in the divinity of Jesus, view his words as blasphemous and seek to have him killed (John 5:18).
The miracles that Jesus performed contributed to the rapid growth of his popularity. And his popularity was viewed as threat by many religious leaders, who often confronted him after seeing or hearing about a miracle that he performed.
© Ray Konig.
Read more in the book Jesus the Miracle Worker: The 46 miracles of Jesus explained in chronological order (The Jesus Books) -- now available at amazon.