John 5:1-9 : After these things, there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now in Jerusalem by the sheep gate, there is a pool, which is called in Hebrew, “Bethesda,” having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, or paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water; 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 made whole of whatever disease he had. A certain man was there, who had been sick for thirty-eight years. 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?” 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.” Jesus said to him, “Arise, take up your mat, and walk.” Immediately, the man was made well, and took up his mat and walked. Now it was the Sabbath on that day.
In Jerusalem at that time, there was a pool of water that had healing powers when an angel agitated the waters. This sounds strange to me today because I have never seen anything like it before. I am very aware of miraculous healings in my lifetime, however. Here we have a man who, evidently, had tried and tried for many years to be healed, but, being unable to walk, could not get down to the pool in time.
It is even stranger that Jesus asked this man if he wanted to be made well when He knew that the man had been sick for a long time. We know that Jesus knew the answer. This is another time when Jesus wanted someone to express their need to Him. Prayer is like this. God already knows what we want before we ask Him, but He expects us to ask.
It is interesting to me that the man didn’t really answer the question. It’s almost as if he assumed that Jesus was saying, “Why don’t you ever go down and get healed in that water?” But, that isn’t what Jesus asked. Jesus was asking if He wanted someone else to heal him. He was clearly focused on what he had to do to get to the water. Sometimes, we get distracted by the work we think we must do to get to God. God’s grace is all about God’s work in getting to us. The new rules that Jesus was bringing with Him were that if a person wants to do God’s work, they must simply believe Him. No walking to a pool was first necessary. Trusting in Him was the first thing necessary.
So Jesus tells him to stand up, pick up his mat, and walk. I wonder what would have happened if the man would have been following the stories of Jesus, was ready when He came and had just said “Yes” to His question. You see, it was illegal according to the Jewish leadership to pick up a mat on the Sabbath. Jesus told him to break this rule. As we see next time, the man gets caught.
Jesus did this Sabbath breaking act right under the noses of the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem. Clearly, Jesus was, again, taking bold action in opposition of the leadership. Jesus was always having to fight for people who were hurting and He was quite willing to do so. He was not afraid to stand up to “power” because He was the real power.