Wanting God’s Help: John 5:1-15

Focus Passage: John 5:1-15 (HCSB)

After this, a Jewish festival took place, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. By the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem there is a pool, called Bethesda in Hebrew, which has five colonnades. Within these lay a large number of the sick—blind, lame, and paralyzed [—waiting for the moving of the water, because an angel would go down into the pool from time to time and stir up the water. Then the first one who got in after the water was stirred up recovered from whatever ailment he had].

One man was there who had been sick for 38 years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew he had already been there a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to get well?”

“Sir,” the sick man answered, “I don’t have a man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I’m coming, someone goes down ahead of me.”

“Get up,” Jesus told him, “pick up your mat and walk!” Instantly the man got well, picked up his mat, and started to walk.

Now that day was the Sabbath, 10 so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “This is the Sabbath! It’s illegal for you to pick up your mat.”

11 He replied, “The man who made me well told me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’”

12 “Who is this man who told you, ‘Pick up your mat and walk’?” they asked. 13 But the man who was cured did not know who it was, because Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.

14 After this, Jesus found him in the temple complex and said to him, “See, you are well. Do not sin anymore, so that something worse doesn’t happen to you.” 15 The man went and reported to the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.

Read John 5:1-15 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Of all the miracles and healings Jesus performed, one stands out in my mind as fascinating and perplexing. The gospel of John shares this miracle with us and he describes it taking place during one of the Jewish festivals (most likely a Passover).

The thing that makes me intrigued about this miracle is that it seems as though Jesus ignores many of the others. John opens this event by saying, “After this, a Jewish festival took place, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. By the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem there is a pool, called Bethesda in Hebrew, which has five colonnades. Within these lay a large number of the sick—blind, lame, and paralyzed”. (v. 1-3)

Perhaps John simply doesn’t include the detail that Jesus began healing all those who were present there, but what John does include is Jesus’ interaction with one individual. John tells us, “One man was there who had been sick for 38 years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew he had already been there a long time, He said to him, ‘Do you want to get well?’” (v. 5-6)

While the answer to Jesus’ question seems obvious, it has profound implications. This man had been sick for almost four decades of his life, and it might seem as though it was about time. However, perhaps the man had begun to accept his disability and had resigned himself to living the rest of his life next to that pool. Perhaps seeing others healed before him had cut deep wounds and made him lose hope. After 38 years of trying without success, Jesus’ question to this man takes on a new level of significance.

The disabled man may have given up hope and decided in his heart that he couldn’t get well. When Jesus came and asked him the question, we see an interesting angle of compassion that I don’t believe I have seen anywhere else in the gospels. As far as I can tell, this is the only miracle that Jesus prompts with a question – asking the sick individual if they want to be healed.

This event tells me that Jesus, while He wants to heal and help people, will not intervene in the life of someone who is unwilling to receive help. I believe that if the man had responded that he preferred the charity and the life he had become accustomed to by the pool, then Jesus would have moved on to the next person. Jesus honors our choice and free will above His power to heal.

The theme that I learn from this miracle is that the first step to letting Jesus heal/help me is by wanting His help. No matter how much help He sends my way, if I don’t want to receive it, the help does no good. When asking God for help, if we haven’t received the answer we are looking for, perhaps He is asking, “Do you really want my help?”

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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