“When Jesus saw him lying, and knowing that he had spent much time, He said to him, Do you desire to be made whole?” (John 5:6 MKJV)
The miraculous healing of a certain man who had an infirmity for thirty-eight years by the pool of Bethesda was one of the great signs Jesus chose to unveil Himself and His mission in the world to the Jews (John 5:1-16).
Sadly, the Jews did not discern or understand the sign. Beyond the miracle, the miraculous sign was intended to proclaim to the Jews the arrival of a new dispensation entirely different from that of the Law, the dispensation of Grace.
The miraculous sign was also intended to turn the eyes of the Jews away from Moses and the Old Covenant so that they may be fixated on the Lord Jesus, the embodiment and dispenser of grace and the mediator of the New Covenant (John 1:17, Tit. 2:11).
Sadly, like many believers today, the Jews saw only the miracle, but they were blind to its spiritual significance or implications.
Let us consider what they missed or failed to see!
First, the timing of the miracle or sign was very significant.
Jesus chose to show them the sign at the most celebrated feast of all the feasts of the Jews in Jerusalem, the Feast of Passover (John 1:5).
Moreover, the sign was performed on the Sabbath Day (John 5:9). The Sabbath governed the whole life of the Jews. It represented everything in the life of Israel. That explains why the man was scolded and Jesus persecuted after the miracle.
John reports, “The Jews, therefore, said to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.” (John 5:10 NKJV).
“The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. For this reason, the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath.” (John 5:15-16 NKJV).
Second, the setting or place where Jesus chose to perform the sign was very significant.
The sign was performed in Jerusalem, at the pool of Bethesda, at the very center of Israel (John 5:2).
This was very symbolic!
Bethesda means “the house of mercy; for therein appeared much of the mercy of God to the sick and diseased” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary).
John 5:2-4 – NKJV
2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches.
3 In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water.
4 For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had.
What a perfect place for Jesus to unveil Himself as the embodiment and dispenser of God’s grace and mercy!
Third, the man on whom Jesus chose to perform the sign was also very significant.
Although there was a great multitude of sick people by the pool of Bethesda, Jesus chose to heal a certain man who had an infirmity for thirty-eight years and who had always struggled or made several personal efforts to obtain God’s mercy by stepping into the pool first after the angel had stirred up the water. But sadly, all his efforts had been in vain, and he also needed a man to help him.
That is why when Jesus asked him, “Wilt thou be made whole?” The sick man chose the opportunity to explain his helplessness to Jesus.
“The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” (John 5:7 NKJV).
What a helpless condition to be!
This sick man is an accurate and perfect picture and representation of the children of Israel in the wilderness for thirty-eight years when their sins bound them from entering the rest God had prepared for them.
The Scripture records, “And the time we took to come from Kadesh Barnea until we crossed over the Valley of the Zered was thirty-eight years, until all the generation of the men of war was consumed from the midst of the camp, just as the LORD had sworn to them.” (Deut. 2:14 NKJV).
Although this sick man was very close to having rest from his infirmity, he could not enter into it. Likewise, although very close to the rest God had prepared for them, the people of Israel couldn’t enter into it, and no man could help them.
The Scripture testifies, “And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” (Heb. 3:18-19 NKJV).
Therefore, they wandered and wasted away in the wilderness for thirty-eight years in their helpless condition under the law.
Although now settled in their Promised Land, the Jews were yet to experience the proper and divine rest God intended for them. Such a rest is impossible under the Mosaic Law, for only the Lord Jesus can give such a rest.
That is why Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28 NKJV).
The Jews were heavily laden with the Mosaic Law when Jesus came. The Mosaic Law had become a heavy burden upon the people.
The Pharisees had given them more than 2000 regulations for their lives as their interpretations of the Law of Moses. No man could keep such rules, not even the Pharisees themselves.
The Lord Jesus reprimanded them, saying, “For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.” (Matt. 23:4 NKJV).
What a bunch of hypocrites!
Like the Jews, all men are transgressors of the law, laboring and struggling under the bondage of the law. It is not sin that binds men but the law. Without the law, sin is powerless!
Paul reveals, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.” (1 Cor. 15:56 RSV).
“(For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.” (Rom. 5:13 NKJV).
Sin only has dominion over man under the law (Rom. 6:14). Therefore, man’s real problem is with the law. God gave us the law, and we could not keep it. So, we became transgressors of the law and thus separated from the Holy God and disqualified from His blessings.
It was indeed a helpless condition! No man could help us. But because of His selfless love for us, God came down in the person of Jesus to help us.
Beloved, Jesus came to free you from the bondage of the Mosaic Law and sin so that you may arise and walk in perfect liberty as a son of God.
Paul aptly states this truth in his epistle.
Galatians 4:4-7 – NKJV
4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law,
5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!”
7 Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
Therefore, anyone who rejects the Lord Jesus as his personal Saviour and Lord has rejected true freedom and thus chosen to remain under the bondage of law and sin.
You can never be free from sin until you receive by faith the Lord Jesus (God’s grace personified) and surrender unreservedly to His Lordship.
Until you begin to live under grace, sin will continue to have dominion over you, and you will continue to struggle in vain to be free, for sin only has power over people living under the law.
Paul states, “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” (Rom. 6:14 NKJV).
Today, Jesus asks you, “Do you desire to be made whole?”
Friend, you must quit struggling and trying on your own to free or save yourself from your sins. Just say, ‘Yes, Lord’ to Jesus, and He will make you completely whole and free, even as He did to the man by the pool of Bethesda.
Prayer: My Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for sending me grace and truth in the person of Jesus Christ. I choose to stand firm and constantly walk in the liberty by which Christ has made me free. I refuse to be entangled again with any yoke of bondage, in Jesus’ name. Amen.