Summary: The Man Who Enjoyed Bad Health! PowerPoint slides to accompany this talk are available on request – email:


A place of sickness (vs 1-3):

A place of superstition (vs 4-7):

A place of self-pity (vs 5-7):

It was a place of salvation (vs 8-9a):

It was a place of solitude (vs 13-14)



• Because there was no evidence outside of John’s Gospel;

• For the existence of the pool of Bethesda;

• The critics of the Bible had a field day;

• They argued that the gospel was written much later than what we believe it to be.

• They also argued that the writer of this gospel;

• Was someone without first-hand knowledge of the city of Jerusalem.

• They argued that the ‘pool’ had only a metaphorical,

• Rather than a historical, significance

• Then in the year 1888 that some people decided to renovate a very ancient Church;

• In the north-east corner of the city of Jerusalem.

• As they were scrubbing the whitewash off one of the walls;

• They discovered a fading fresco or painting.

• It showed a pool of water and an angel standing in the water;

• And sick people scrambling into the pool.

• Those who discovered the fresco realised that this picture;

• Links up with the story in John’s gospel chapter 5.

• The discovery caused them to ask the question;

• Was the Pool of Bethesda (which no-one had seen for centuries);

• Was somewhere near this ancient Church

• So they began to excavate the Church yard.

• And they had to dig down 40 feet of rubble to discover it!

• But if you go there today, then you can gaze down a hole 40ft deep;

• And see the pool of Bethesda.

• They found it;

• And they found the five porches that John speaks about!

• It had been hidden for two thousand years but now it has been revealed.

• TRANSITION: Today it is a place of beautiful archaeological ruins;

• Two thousand years ago it was a place of disease and hopelessness.

There are five points that make up this story:

(1). A place of sickness (vs 1-3):

“Some time later...”

• John’s gospel is built around seven key events, seven signs, seven miracles;

• 12 months have passed between the second sign (healing the officials son) and this sign.

“Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. 2Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3Here a great number of disabled people used to lie - the blind, the lame, the paralysed”.

As I have already mentioned - if you visit Jerusalem today:

• You can go to St Anne's Church in Jerusalem,

• There they will show you the deep excavation that has revealed the ancient Pool of Bethesda.

• The pool is situated near the northeast corner of the Old City, close to the Sheep Gate.

• It is one of the few achelogical sites that we can be absolutely certain of.

The Hebrew name Bethesda has been spelled various ways and given differing meanings:

• Some say it means "house of mercy" or "house of grace,"

• But others say it means "place of the two outpourings ".

• And there is much historical and archaeological evidence;

• To show that two adjacent pools of water served this area in ancient times.

The reason this pool is brought to our attention by John in his gospel:

• Is not the historic or archaeological beauty of the place;

• But rather because of what it was known for - it was a place of sickness.

• Both Jewish and also Pagans regarded it as a sacred site;

• At one stage it was dedicated to the healing god Asclepius (As-le-pi-us).

• So both Jewish & Gentiles came in great numbers hoping for some wonder cure.

• And notice there is not a doctor anywhere in sight.


• That’s because most of these people were beyond medical help;

• They needed the miraculous – not the commonplace cures and remedies.

• Talking of doctors I came across a script of;

• ‘What Doctors Say and What They Mean’:

• What they say: “It could be one of several things.”

What they mean: “I haven’t the foggiest idea what’s wrong with you.”

• What they say: “I’d like to run that test again.”

What they mean: “We have lost your blood sample.”

• What they say: “These pills have very few side effects.”

What they mean: “You may experience sudden hair growth on the palms of your hands.”

• What they say: “There’s a lot of this going around.”

• What they mean: “We’ll give it a name as soon as we figure out what it is.”

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