Lesson 23

The Gospel of John

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

5:1 After these things, there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 5:2 Now in Jerusalem by the sheep gate, there is a pool, which is called in Hebrew, "Bethesda," having five porches. 5:3 In these lay a great multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, or paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water; 5:4 for an angel of the Lord 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 was afflicted with. 5:5 A certain man was there, who had been sick for thirty-eight years. 5:6 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?"

5:7 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."

5:8 Jesus said to him, "Arise, take up your mat, and walk."

5:9 Immediately, the man was made well, and took up his mat and walked.

 Today's Lesson

In today's scripture Jesus performs another sign. This event takes place in Jerusalem during a feast. In yesterday's lesson I said that the healing of the nobleman's son was very similar to other healings that are recorded in the Synoptic Gospels. The miracle that is recorded in this passage is laid out in a singularly Johnian fashion. Jesus heals a man. The healing on the Sabbath brings Jesus into conflict with religious authorities. Then, Jesus has a lengthy soliloquy that explains that His actions are justified because of His identity.


And, the miracle itself is explained and presented in the unique way of the writer of this Gospel. First, Jesus goes up to a religious feast in Jerusalem. Much of the rest of this Gospel revolves around the feast days in Jerusalem. Next, a situation is detailed. The details themselves are specific and symbolic. The setting is a pool named Bethesda near the sheep gate. This pool has five porches. In the porches lay the sick, blind, lame, and paralyzed of Israel. When the waters would stir, there would be a rush to enter because it was said that the first to enter the waters would be healed.


This setting is symbolic to the writer of this Gospel. The five porches of the pool represent the five books of the Pentateuch, what we would call the first five books of the Old Testament. These books were the Torah, the books of the law written by Moses. As the author has said several times already, the people are dying, sick, blind, and lame. These people are symbolic of all of Israel. They were waiting for a miracle, waiting for God to come and heal them.


Into this situation, Jesus walks in and chooses one of the sickest people there. This man had been sick for 38 years. His chances of being healed, even by the miracle associated with the pool, were very slim. He would most likely die in his illness. Jesus speaks with him saying, "Do you want to be made well?" The man's answer is ambiguous at best. For reasons unexpressed and known only to Him, Jesus tells the man "Arise, take up your mat, and walk." Immediately the man is cured and he obeys Jesus and takes up his mat and walks.


One man is healed from all those who lay under the porches by the pool of Bethesda. He is chosen by the sovereign will of God. He does not know Jesus. He is not healed by his faith in Jesus, or for his good works or for any reason that is explained to us. God walks into a bleak and desperate situation and saves a man.


Tomorrow we will begin the passage where Jesus explains something behind why this miracle is recorded here. For today, though, let us simple dwell on what God has done. In the worst of situations, we can have hope that Christ is near. He may not respond in the ways that we would wish Him to. One of the first steps to being a child of God is accepting the sovereignty of God. God acts as He chooses. God acts to achieve His own ends. God does not have to explain to you or I why He does what He does. God does not have to justify himself to His creation.


This passage teaches us that God is sovereign. When He steps onto the stage, everything in the play changes. There is only one spotlight in the Gospel of John and it is clearly on Jesus of Nazareth.


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