Healing at the Pool of Bethesda
(Sermon text: John 5:1-16)
(Please read verse 1)
Often times in the New Testament we find Jesus attending the worship services of God. His custom and manner of life was to assemble with His people and worship in God's prescribed way. He attended special services such as the one in our text, which was probably the feast of the Passover.
We would do well to follow Jesus’ example and participate in all the services in His house “…not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching" (Hebrews 10:25). Coming to the house of the Lord gives strength and encouragement to the children of God. We need to be uplifted and to receive spiritual instruction from the Lord. Although our bodies may not always feel like going to church, the health of our souls depends on it! We need to realize that the Lord tries our faith and our faithfulness by allowing infirmities in our lives. We must remain faithful in times of trial and not quit the Lord! We need to persevere in faith!
We see also that Jesus took the opportunities, and made opportunities to do His Father's work. He did this by going out into the midst of the people, into the midst of their lives with all their situations and circumstances, and all their trials and afflictions. Where people were in need of mercy and help, there was Jesus in their midst! We cannot do the great work of the Lord from the comforts of our homes. We must go out into the highways and hedges of life and meet with people where they are. We must help share their burdens, and show them Jesus in our lives, and tell them about a Savior Who is mighty to save! This is our work given to us by our Lord. It is not an easy work, going out to people and ministering to their spiritual needs. But there are great blessings and rewards for our labors, the greatest of which is to see poor lost sinners saved by the grace of God.
(Please read verses 2-6)
The pool of Bethesda, which means "house of mercy", is a very mysterious place. There is no certain documented history of it in either secular or Jewish writings. All we have is this record in John’s gospel. In any event, great multitudes of folk with every imaginable infirmity would gather at that pool in hopes of being healed. I am reminded of hospitals and nursing homes, where so many people lay afflicted and even forgotten. But so often we find Jesus ministering in the homes of the poor and needy, or in the fringes of life such as this place of affliction.
What a picture we have here of the spiritual condition of mankind– blind, halt, impotent, and withered. Men are by nature spiritually blind. Just as the physically blind have never experienced the light of this world or the beauties of God's creation, all men spiritually come into this world blind to spiritual things. We cannot perceive or comprehend the glory of God! Mankind by nature is halt. We cannot come to the healing waters, though they be only a few short steps away. Lost sinners don't have the strength to make the slightest spiritual movement toward the healing they so desperately need. So we are by nature spiritually impotent, or without spiritual power. When Adam fell into sin, mankind lost all spiritual strength to approach God. Men are by nature spiritually withered. The image of God and the glory of God that mankind was created in, is withered away because of sin. We look at mankind and behold a withered image, that has lost its glory and beauty of holiness because of the awful effects of sin.
Here we see that at a certain season (how often this was no one knows for sure) an angel would come down and stir the water in the pool. The first person who stepped into the pool after the waters were stirred, would be completely healed of all his infirmities. The problem was, many of the infirmed people were unable to move themselves to the water, or else someone healthier than they would make it to the water first. And so these helpless people would lie there in their miserable condition for many years.
We are put in mind of the law, and how it shows us our spiritual infirmities and points us to the healing waters of the Gospel. Yet the law doesn't have the power to transport us into the water. So men who would be healed by the power of the law and the works of the law are never able to obtain it. Those who were able to reach the waters of Bethesda in their own strength, were those who needed healing the least. Men who reform their lives by the works of the law don’t see their great need of grace. They don't see themselves very sinful, and therefore their healing is as shallow as their perceived spiritual need. In fact, the doctoring they receive by the works of the law only makes them appear as though they are healed, when in reality their healing is only superficial, and they are still in their sins.
As I consider the stirring of the waters, how wonderful it would be if the Holy Spirit of God would come down on our churches, and upon our communities and stir the waters of salvation. That the Holy Spirit would be pleased to heal lost sinners of their spiritual infirmities in the fountain filled with Jesus' blood. That lost sinners would be brought by the Spirit of God to see themselves as vile sinners before a Holy and Righteous God, and to believe in Jesus Christ as their only hope of eternal salvation! How wonderful it would be for lost sinners from miles around to hear about the healing power of God displayed in and through His Churches. How we long for and pray for the salvation of the Lord to come to our lost friends and loved ones. Perhaps on a day not expected, as it was on this day, the Lord will come down upon us with healing and salvation in His wings!
There at the pool of Bethesda lay a man with an infirmity for 38 long years, longer than Jesus had been alive in the flesh. But Jesus knew this man, and to heal him and to save his soul was why he came to the pool that day. Jesus knows every one of His people even long before they are even born. Though they lay on their beds of infirmity, physical or spiritual, Jesus is watching over them and protecting them. And at the appointed time known only to the Lord Himself, Jesus comes down to the impotent sinner where he lay and heals his sin sick soul. So it was this day when Jesus came to this man and asked him "wilt thou be made whole?" What a worthy question to ask every lost sinner!
(Please read verses 7-9)
The man responded that he had no man to help him to the pool and that someone else always stepped in the water before him. This is typical of man's sinful cruelty, that such a lesser infirmed person would not yield the healing power to one in a far worse condition. Likewise healthy persons would not help this man to be healed when it was within their power to do so. We ought to learn from this example to assist the infirmed, whether physically or spiritually. Though we cannot heal their physically infirmities, we can be a help and comfort to them. Although we have no power within ourselves to save sinners, we can lead them to the One Who can.
This man saw and admitted his own inability and acknowledged that men were of no help to him. How that lost sinners need to see their sinfulness and admit to their inability to save themselves from out of their sinful condition. Lost sinners need to see that they cannot help themselves, and that no other man can give them grace to save their souls. No man has power on earth to forgive sins and to heal our spiritual infirmities– no man has power to save sinners- except Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone!
Jesus commanded the infirmed man to rise up and walk. How can it be, that a man so infirmed should be commanded to do that which he was unable. But along with the command also came the ability from God to obey. When Jesus speaks the word, the sick are healed. And when Jesus speaks the word, lost sinners receive power to repent and believe in Him as their personal Savior. Today the Holy Spirit speaks to sinners through the Gospel of Christ. Christians need to go tell the world about Jesus, because the Gospel of Jesus is "the power of God unto Salvation to every one who believeth…".
The man was made perfectly whole. He was completely and instantaneously healed from his infirmity. It was not a process that happened over time, but a supernatural work by the power and grace of God! He could not only walk, but he had the strength and agility to take up his bed, showing forth the completeness of his healing. So it is when a man is healed spiritually, he is completely and instantly healed of his spiritual infirmities through faith in Jesus Christ. When the Holy Spirit speaks to the heart of an infirmed sinner, that one will rise up in repentance and faith in Christ, and begin his walk with God. He will take up his cross and follow Christ in obedience to his Lord's command.
(Please read verses 10-16)
Finally, the man obeyed Jesus and testified of Jesus' healing power, even though he knew he would be persecuted by the religious world. Those who are truly healed of their spiritual infirmity of sin are ready and willing to obey the Lord, to own His cause, and to be associated with the Lord and his people. Yes, the children of God will be persecuted by this world, especially by the self-righteous Pharisees. Jesus said: "The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you…". Come what may, with the help of God’s grace we will follow the Lord and serve Him faithfully. After all that He has done for us who are saved, there is nothing too great or too menial that we should not be willing to do for Him.
In closing, have you heard the voice of Jesus? If not, “Wilt thou be make whole? We beseech you repent and believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ and be eternally saved. May God bless you!
(Sermon preached by Pastor Burke at the Faith Baptist Church of Lawtey, Florida)