John 5:1-9 “Poolside Miracle”
by Elizabeth Stone
How long have you waited for your miracle? 38 years? That’s how long this man had been crippled, lying on his mat on the ground at the pool of Bethesda. It was said that an angel would come down and stir the waters every so often, and if you were the first one who got to the pool and bathed in the waters, you would be healed of whatever disease you had. So this man has been here a long time hoping that somehow he would be able to maneuver down into the water first when the waters were stirred. But his infirmity is that he cannot walk, so others who are there when this miracle happens, the blind, the deaf, the lepers, they can walk so they can get down into the waters first and he misses his opportunity. This man is alone; he has no companion who could bring him down into the pool at the perfect time to be healed.
I’ve seen this place in Israel; it is a complex of pools and walkways on many levels; very beautiful, but not handicapped accessible. And I wonder how many ill or disabled people were lying around this pool, yet Jesus singles this particular man out. What did Jesus see in him that made him remarkable?
Jesus looks at the man and sees his need. It is sort of obvious. Our Lord knows that this man has been lying there a long time. And taking everything in, the pool, the other invalids, Jesus asks him, “Do you want to be healed?” What kind of question is that? Here is this man, a 38 year invalid, unable to walk, and Jesus asks him does he want to be healed. But the man doesn’t answer His question. He goes into this long explanation about how he is a cripple, and how when the waters are stirred and the miracle happens, he can’t get to the waters first.
Hope is an incredible thing. It can make us do crazy things. You have to imagine, with this legend so firmly fixed in the mind of the people, that when there was even a breath of wind, and ripples floated across the surface of the water, there was an unholy rush to get into that water first. Desperate people, clinging to hope, pushing and shoving others away so they could plunge into that pool first, and walk away healed, leaving everyone else to the race the next time.
Notice that the author does not make any commentary about the healing waters. His concern is not whether or not they actually work, but showing the hope people had in them. Can you imagine this man, lame and hurting, trying with just his arms to pull himself painfully over the stone patio and over the edge of the pool to fall into the waters? Some days he waited as close to the edge as possible, sometimes he may have been getting his dinner, or answering a call of nature when the waters were stirred. But for a long time he had been waiting there for his miracle, and time after time others pushed ahead of him to get into the pool. A photo finish for the winner.
But Jesus isn’t interested in the pool or the waters. He is interested in the hope. He is interested in the persistence of this fellow to lie by this pool day after day, month after month, year after year, and hope that on one occasion he would be the closest to the water when the miraculous turbulence of the waters started, and he could just fall in ahead of everyone else. The man’s explanation shows that he still has hope, and that is what the Lord Jesus is looking for. And when He sees that hope He simply says, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.”
And at that moment, the man gets his miracle. After all this time, the healing does not come from the pool or the waters, it comes directly from the almighty Son of God. The man rises up, his misshapen feet become normal, his useless bones become strong, the atrophy of years falls away from his muscles, and he stands up on his legs, his own legs, and he begins to walk like a pro, like he’s been doing it all his life. He doesn’t shudder, he doesn’t stumble, he even walks while carrying his own bed. Christ saw hope in his heart and Christ commended the hope by this miracle of healing.
So as we wait for our miracle, we have to answer two questions: One, do we want to be healed? Do we want to leave behind the illness, the sorrow, the addiction, the excuses, and really give God full control to heal us in His own way? Or are we still lying around the pool in self-pity, counting on one and only one way of healing? Do we think that God is limited to our solution for our problem? And the second question, do we have hope? Can Jesus Christ see the hope in us? Can He look into our hearts and see that we trust in the One Who died for us and rose again from the grave? Our Lord Jesus Christ took our punishment upon Himself, the chastisement of our sin was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed. Even more than that, He rose from the cold tomb, made alive again by God to live forever with the power of an indestructible life. That, more than anything, should prove that God’s solutions are not our solutions, and that in that kind of power, we can surely hope.