Summary: Four things true of every encounter with Jesus
The Impotent Man
Sometime after Jesus healed the nobleman’s son, He headed back south to Jerusalem to observe another feast. The Bible doesn’t say what feast it was, nor does it say how much time had passed since John 4. I want us to read the first 16 verses of chapter 5, but before we do let me address those of you who aren’t using the King James or New King James Versions. If you have the NIV or some other similar version, look down at verse 3. Your Bible reads like this: “Here a great number of disabled people used to lie--the blind, the lame, the paralyzed,” then it stops and goes to verse 5, completely omitting the end of verse 3 and all of verse 4. It gives you a footnote showing those verses at the bottom of your page, explaining why they left them out. I wanted you to see that before I began reading, and I’ll speak to it more in a minute. Let’s start our reading in verse 1.
“After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the Sabbath. The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the Sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed. He answered the, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk. Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk? And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place. Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee. The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole. And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day.”
Once He’s in Jerusalem, Jesus goes to the pool of Bethesda, which is beside a city gate called the sheep gate. For many years the site of this pool was lost, covered with the debris of the centuries, but in the late 1800’s it was discovered and even into the 1990’s it was being excavated. The pool is located to the north part of the Temple Mount, near what is now called St. Stephen’s Gate, which is, in fact, the site of the Sheep Gate mentioned here. In these porches, set at various levels around the pool, during our Lord’s time it was the habit of many to gather during feast days, hoping for a healing miracle.
Now, I mentioned how part of the text is omitted from some versions, and in the footnote your Bible says something like, “In some less important manuscripts.” Yours may make reference to the age of the manuscript. Evidently, at least in my opinion (and you can take that for what it’s worth), people had just as much trouble with what to do with this pool when they were copying manuscripts as they do today. Was there something magical about the pool? They believed in a rather superstitious way that from time to time when the water was troubled -- when it would rise rapidly and then sink again -- that this was caused by an angel who visited the pool, and the first man who got into it when it was so troubled would be healed. This is like what is found in many parts of the world today. Lourdes, in southern France, has a spa which many believe has healing capacities. The shrine of Guadalupe, in Mexico City, has thousands of crutches stacked along its walls where people have been healed in this special place where they thought they could receive a blessing from God.