Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes.
While we’re told little of the details about the healing waters of the Bethesda pool, we know that ‘at certain seasons’ God was healing His people here. When Jesus approaches, our attention is drawn to this afflicted man simply laying by the pool, no doubt in hopes of attending the ‘troubling of the water’, as the King James phrases, when an angel of the Lord would heal and make whole him that immediately entered in.
This poor man has been afflicted for the better part of 4 decades–since certainly before Christ’s birth–and is surely a pitiful sight to behold. The Lord knows, but inquires the man’s condition. As Matthew Poole comments:
“As man, [Christ] pitieth his case; he asketh him if he was willing to be made whole. Not that [Christ] doubted of his willingness; for what sick man was ever unwilling to be healed? besides that, he knew that the poor man lay there for that very purpose; but that he might make him declare his miserable, helpless state and condition, and draw out his faith and hope in himself…” *
The lame man, who appears to not know to whom he speaks, tells Christ that he has no one to help him, no one to get his person into the healing waters in time; what despair and utter sadness must this man have felt for so long!
My friends, this is all of us.
Does not the Christ who saves, and He alone, draw us up from our lame, downtrodden state as surely as He did this crippled man?
O how we dread our low condition, and the consequences of such, all the while failing to look outside of ourselves, our peers, this fleshly world–and to cry out for Him who alone can make us whole!
For so long this man has suffered–Charles Spurgeon asks, “What a long time to be afflicted, thirty and eight years! Have we not with us at this time some who have been afflicted with the soul-sickness of sin more than thirty and eight years?”**
Some of us, by the grace of God alone, have been healed of our infirmity–when once we were lost and dying in our unrighteousness; we now bring our alms of praise and worship to the feet of the cross, where our dear Saviour died for us; that we might finally be able to present ourselves blameless in front of the most holy Father!
“The Great Physician fixed his eye on him, for his was an extraordinary case…
[But] note that it does not say, “When the man saw Jesus,” but “when Jesus saw him.” He did not know Jesus; possibly he had not even heard of his healing power and compassionate love. He was not seeking Jesus; but Jesus was seeking him. It was so with many of us; and therefore we sing —
“Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed his precious blood.”**
It is the merciful hand of God that lifts us from our ruin, as we are utterly depraved and perverted from the undefiled image of God–in ‘knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness’ (Col. 3:10; Eph. 4:24). As our Lord made aware with this man at Bethesda, we must recognize and acknowledge our condition for what it truly is; this ought to lead us to nothing but a pleading cry!
And if it is mercy we seek, in the Almighty alone such mercy can and is to be found.
“Come then, O sinner, look to Jesus Christ, the second Adam; quit the first Adam and his covenant; come over to the Mediator and Surety of the new and better covenant; and let your hearts say, ‘Be thou our ruler, and let this breach be under thy hand’ (Lam. 3:49).”[Thomas Boston]***