Summary: You may appear as if you have it all together but inside be disabled spiritually. Jesus meets two people and shares with them how to become abled. Which group are you in?
Disabled (adj) crippled; injured; incapacitated.
1. to make unable or unfit; weaken or destroy the capability of; cripple; incapacitate:
2. to make legally incapable; disqualify.
When we use the word "disabled" we normally think of someone who has a physical weakness. And in John 5 we meet someone who meets that criteria. But the real story here isn’t the physical disability of one man, it is the spiritual disability of all humanity. You may have a disability but are unaware of your real infirmity, or you may think you are not disabled in any way but are hopelessly unable.
1 - 5
Here we see the next encounter Jesus has with a distinct individual. This time it’s the person who is outcast because of a physical infirmity. The Bethesda Pool has been found near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem. It was a two level spring-fed pool that was surrounded by colonnades. These little roofs would protect the disabled from the weather, a little bit.
An urban myth said that when the waters were troubled that if someone went in they would be healed. Today we have hordes of people go to Lourdes where they think the water there has magical properties and can heal. Most likely the myth rose from coincidence, or was simply made up. By the way, some scholars think this section about the angels was added later to explain why people went into the waters. That verse 4 is in the KJV and the NASB, but not in the NIV or the ESV.
There were no social services in those days. There was no safety net for the disabled. If you didn’t have someone to care for you then you were simply on your own to beg or die-and many did both.
Here out of the multitudes of disabled was one man who had been there for 38 years. Perhaps it was an injury or an illness, but imagine you are this guy: probably you are always on the verge of starvation and certainly depression and anxiety all the time as you see others get help and you are simply unable to get to the water or have no one to help you.
6 - 9
How did Jesus know that the man had been there a long time? Perhaps he recognized him from a past visit to Jerusalem or perhaps the Holy Spirit revealed it to him. Notice what He does, though. He asks the man if he wants to be healed. I don’t know about you but I find that kind of odd. Of course he wants to be healed. But maybe not. Some people would rather stay in a disabled state either because the known pain is better than the unknown risk of being healed or maybe they somehow enjoy being the victim.
Jesus does this a lot. "What do you seek?" "What do you want me to do for you?" Having Jesus touch your life connects you to Him. If you cry out to Him to help you then be prepared for Him to move and do much more than just fill what you see as your immediate need, as He does in this case.
As Jesus spoke and 20 miles away a boy was healed in chapter 4, here is simply tells the man to get up, take his bed and walk. All things obey Jesus, the Word. But there was a problem, not for the man, but for the religious leaders-Jesus did this healing purposefully on a Sabbath.
10 - 13
Surely the Jews knew this man had been disabled. Instead of rejoicing in the healing they got upset because he was breaking their interpretation of the Law that said they were not to work on the Sabbath. Note: it was not a violation of the Law to carry your bed on the Sabbath, only a violation of the rules of the Pharisees, who had hundreds of such rules governing behavior.
Sometimes we can overlook the major miracle that God is doing in someone’s life because they don’t fall into a pre-supposed template like dressing a certain way or not doing certain activities that culturally in that setting or group or considered "good Christian behavior." We need to be careful that we miss the real miracle of healing the soul that Jesus does.
14 - 18
Basically Jesus was telling the man that physical healing was one thing, but spiritual healing was much more important. Like all of us, this man needed the salvation of his soul in order to avoid the real problems from sin-eternal separation from God.
The Jewish leaders were threatened by Jesus actions so they began to persecute him. When he said "my Father" the Jews knew he was claiming a special relationship with God. To claim that a person was equal with God was blaspheme, if it wasn’t true.