Summary: Jesus asked the man at the Pool of Bethesda if he would be healed and is now asking us the same.
Visualize, if you will, a large city teeming with life. There is a constant stream of activity at the gates of this large city.
Traders bringing in goods.
Farmers bringing to market their fruits and vegetables.
Craftsmen carrying the results of hours of painstaking work to trade.
Similarly, leaving the city are those folks carrying home the food, clothing and other products which were the result of careful bargaining or bartering.
Watching over the ebb and flow at the city gates are the guards. Some standing tall and self-importantly apparently watching all, but seeing nothing. Others, leaning against the walls of the city, bored to tears and caring for nothing except the soon end of their watch. Still others being mindful of their responsibility carefully watching who enters and leaves ensuring that nothing is coming in or leaving that shouldn’t be there.
As you make your way into the city, you see all manner of humanity. The poor limping along in worn sandals and wearing tattered clothing. The rich sitting in their sedans which are being carried by four strong men with poles on their shoulders. Perhaps, even the rich man holding a scented cloth next to his face as he walks so he won’t have to smell the teeming humanity nearby.
Along the side of the roadway will be merchants hawking their wares, hoping for a quick sell. Occasionally, you might see a tavern-keeper standing in the doorway trying to entice someone to enter and have a drink or two.
The further you go into the city you notice that many folk appear headed in a particular direction. They appear to be headed towards the center of town. As you follow along you notice that the ground appears to be rising towards a mound. Closer scrutiny reveals a large building on top of the mound with many surrounding structures and a wall.
A few well placed questions and you learn that the hill is called the temple mount and the building is the Temple itself. Surrounding the temple is a protective wall which has four gates. The main gate is the Eastern gate where the pilgrims or petitioners would enter. At the foot of that gate is the Kidron Valley and the Mount of Olives. On the north side is the Sheep Gate. This is where the sacrificial animals are brought to the temple and where a market has sprung up to sell the animals to those that did not bring their own. Also, along the outer porch of the gate is the Pool of Bethesda (which in Hebrew means house of mercy).
As you come near the Sheep Gate you notice that it seems to have attracted many people including the poor and destitute . . .
The sick and the lame. . .
The impotent and the hopeless.
To these powerless and hopeless people, this gate, this porch is as close to the temple as they will ever get. Or so they believe. For it is believed by many that God has rejected them in their infirmities. So, the Pool of Bethesda and its porches has become their home away from home. It is hoped that God in His infinite mercy might eventually take pity upon them.
It is also said that once in awhile God will send an angel to stir the water in the pool. When that happens if one can get in the water in time they would be healed. So, many have spent hours if not days and in some cases, years sitting right on the edge of the pool waiting for the angel.
It is this that you come upon. It is these people, the hopeless waiting with hope for the pool to be stirred. Waiting for the God that rejected them to take mercy upon them. In the midst of these destitute people you meet Simeon.
Simeon tells you his story. For 38 years he has sat here on his mat. He claims to once having been a trader. He owned several camels and traveled in convoy from one town to another buying and selling goods. Until one day a rival trader ambushed him, killed his camels and broke Simeon’s back. Since then, he has sat near the pool waiting for his opportunity to be healed.
During your conversation you learn a little about Simeon’s observations of people and his philosophy on life. You can tell rather quickly that he is a cynical individual and held little hope for mankind.
He tells you about the poor rural folk that come to the Temple Mount seeking relief from the sins and walking away fleeced by the avaricious priests who sold second hand animals for slaughter upon the altar. Sometimes, a more prosperous pilgrim walked for many days leading the best of his sheep to the Temple Mount only to be told by the priest the animal wasn’t good enough. Then the priest would sell the farmer a sacrificial animal which the farmer would duly have slaughtered. Then the farmer would leave without the lamb he brought having sold it to one of the priests for a few shekels. Days later the priest would sell that lamb to another unsuspecting farmer. Oh, the stories Simeon could tell you.