Friday 29 April 2016

John 5

This story is about the healing of a man in the pool at Bethesda.
The bible refers to it taking place in Jerusalem at a feast of the Jews, but we do not know which particular feast it was.

Jesus was attending the feast, one in the Jewish calendar which all male Jews were expected to attend in Jerusalem. Near to the sheep market there was a pool around which all kinds of men gathered hoping for a miracle to happen. There were five porches situated around the pool where the weak and infirm would shelter. The name of the pool was Bethesda, which means house of mercy, and it was where desperate people gathered in the hope of being healed by a miraculous cure. There are many Independent chapels with that name today, often also in the Baptist Churches.

It was believed that on occasions an angel would visit and disturb the water and when this happened the first person into the water would be healed This is similar to what happens at the Catholic shrine in Lourdes, where spas are thought to have healing powers and to which many desperate for healing visit hopefully. What actually occurred was not the work of an angel but due to there being an intermittent spring, this happened when a surge from the waters from a hill reservoir caused the spring to rise and fall

Healings may well have taken place just as to-day healings occur at well known places. Some Churches have healing services where dramatic results occur, but often there are psychological explanations; some people can even feel better just by association.
I remember once apologising for the heating boiler not functioning in the Church, and almost immediately some people started shivering, yet until then had never noticed.

We are told of this man who had been ill for 38 years and was unable to stand; this is like someone suffering since 1978. But although there were plenty of others with all kinds of infirmities, when Jesus went there He chose this man. This suggests Jesus had divine knowledge of the man’s condition.

Jesus asked the man, ‘do you want to be healed?’ This may seem a strange question to ask a man who had been ill for so long, but Jesus would not have asked this without cause, He wanted the man to answer. There are people who like to be or feel unwell. We have heard plenty of stories of people who are falsely claiming disability benefits and so cheating the government when in fact they are perfectly able to work; some have been found taking part in sporting activities.

I had a man in one of my congregations who loved to tell how ill he was. One lady said I never ask Mr X how he is in fear he may tell me. The man would walk jauntily down the street until he saw someone he knew and then start limping. A lot of people want to feel ill just to get attention.

Some people just don’t want to make the effort, but this man really did want to be healed, but was always beaten in the rush to get into the water and had given up hope. In such situations people are tempted to give up and feel they must just accept things. Often people suffer from alcohol addiction, which seems to get the better of a lot, they try but the pull is too strong. I have seen some tragic cases of otherwise fine people drinking themselves literally to death. We face many difficulties in life and we just need the desire and determination to overcome them.

Jesus responded to the man by saying ‘get up’. At once the man did so feeling he had better do what Jesus had said, and was told to throw away his bed as he would not need it any more.

Jesus was giving a message so vital to those who feel like giving up, don’t accept failure, and don’t feel you are helpless and need assistance all the time. Some people do expect a lot of attention and everybody to give them help. But care has to be taken in receiving advice also. I had a lady who felt she had healing powers and told an elderly lady who suffered with arthritis badly that she would lay hands on her and pray for healing and medication could be thrown away as she would be healed. The elderly lady did so in great faith, and became quite ill.

John tells that Jesus went on to face the wrath of the Jews because the man who He had healed was seen carrying his mat and the priests told him he should not do so for it was the Sabbath day.

There was nothing in the Old Testament which prohibited a man from carrying his bedroll on the Sabbath, but Jewish tradition forbade a man carrying something from one place to another on that day. Jesus did not enter into a discussion on that point, but pointed out that God and Himself put love and compassion first and did not stop working on the Sabbath, (something our junior doctors now striking should learn from who seem to object to working on the weekend.)

Jesus met the man again the Temple complex a short distance from where the healing took place. He told the man to sin no more, without implying that the cure recently made was the cause of sin. Jews saw suffering as a consequence of sinning.

Jesus faced the wrath of the Jewish authorities for breaking a Sabbath rule, but also because He said God was His Father making himself equal to God. Jesus was saying He was the Son of God not in the sense that we are all sons of God, but that He was the Son of God equal in every way and manner.

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