I am taking a Disciple course at my church on the Gospel of John, and I am very excited. For years, I have wanted to be involved in this course that the pastor teaches, but have been either involved in, or co-leading our "Men's Fraternity" classes. This year, I wanted to sign up, but missed the sheet, and was told the class was full. It was still in our bulletin, so I emailed our Pastor, and due to demand, he created (2) class nights.
Tonight was on John Chapters 5 and 6. This includes the Man at the pool, Feeding the 5,000, Jesus declared the Son of God, and being the Bread of Life.
Part of our discussion was in John Chapter 5, Verses 1-14. Let me give you some context before I lay out the passage. Many of the Jews believed that if you had a disease, or infirmary, that you had sin in your life and were to blame. There was a belief though, that at springs or pools, an angel would come down, perhaps annually, and stir the waters. They believed that the one who was first in the pool would be healed. Our story takes place in Jerusalem, by one of the gates to the city, at a pool called "Bethesda." Here is John 5: 1-14 (NIV)
The Healing at the Pool
5 Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda[a] and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.  [b] 5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”7 “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10 and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”
11 But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ”
12 So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?”
13 The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.
14 Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”
So before tonight, here is my perspective on this story...
As the story starts, we read that there was a man there for 38 years! To me, that was a long time. I wondered how could he stay there for that long. Now, there are others there-lame, blind, etc...but Jesus goes to this man only and says "Do you want to get well?"
The question to me was one of a spiritual condition, not a human one. Do you want to be well spiritually. It is a direct question, and one that the man deflects.
The man tries to explain how he needs help to get to the water. Someone is always faster than him. It made me wonder, "Well then, move closer to the waters edge!"
I wondered why Jesus asks this question to him. If he wanted to get well, would he not have tried harder to be healed? (More on this later)
The response from Jesus is direct. "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk." Here was some action. Not pity. Just get up and go. Right into the hands of the Jewish leaders. The healing was on the Sabbath, where no work was to be done. And even carrying something, like a mat, was forbidden.
I realized here that Jesus never gave his name to the man. He did not say, "Hey there, I am Jesus and I can heal you." The man did not know who he was at the time. Later, Jesus found him at the temple and said "See you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you."
I did wonder what that meant. Stop sinning. Was he doing something wrong on the Sabbath? What worse thing could happen to him? For me, it was a healing story that spoke to our spiritual condition.
Our Class Discussion...
Then, we had our class tonight. And our mind-blowing discussion about these chapters. This is why I was excited and wanted to run home and type this out.
Jesus asked if the man wanted to be healed. We assume the question was regarding a spiritual condition of the heart. Or maybe a physical healing. The bible says he was an invalid. We don't know what his condition was. However, he was there for 38 years. He was fed, had water--and get this, had an easy life. He did not have to work hard for anything and was still fed and clothed somehow. We can say 38 years! How cold he do that. Then our Pastor said, what about us? Some of us work the same job for that long. Or have a routine that can last that long. Suddenly 38 years does not seem that long.
Asking the question then about getting well implies that if the man answers yes, then the simple life he had would change. If he were healed, he would have to leave, maybe work for a living, or change his lifestyle.
The man's response was that the water would heal him, if we could make it there before someone else. He did not know there was another way. He said there was no one to help him. He was stuck in that situation. Or perhaps, he did not want help, as he was used to his situation.
Jesus responded with a command. Get up and walk! Jesus knew it was the Sabbath. He knew that this act would rankle the Jewish leaders.
Later on Jesus was looking for the man and found him at the temple. By now, we feel that the man knew it was Jesus who healed him. We are sure that others in the temple had identified him by name, or saying he was the miracle worker, or the prophet. He tells the man not to sin anymore or worse things will happen to him. We discussed that as a group, and looked at what some bible scholars have speculated. This put the whole story into perspective and had it all make sense.
What if the man was faking it? What if his infirmary was not severe? Suppose he was getting by and not having to do much, and living rather easily. Along comes Jesus and calls him on it. He knew the man's condition, and knew if he asked the question "Do you want to be well?" it would evoke a response. Jesus tells him to pick up his mat and go. The man does that and leaves.
Later, when Jesus tells him that he is well and to sin no more. We wondered, was the man's sin lying to people that he was an invalid. Jesus told him not to do that anymore, or worse things could happen to him. We learned that the Bible was teaching that you sin is your own. That you would be judged for your own sin. The worse part would be that is he keeps sinning, he would become one of the Goats, in the Parable of the Sheep and Goats, where Jesus separates the two. The sheep go into the Master's pen, and the goats go into the fire.
Anyway, we do not know for sure, and we do not want to take away from a healing miracle that Jesus is listed as doing. This was just and interesting perspective on a story from one chapter in the Gospel of John. I am excited for the new perspectives I am gaining from the class and wanted to share that.
What are your thoughts?