We read of the pool of Bethesda in John 5:1-9. Let’s start out by reading verses 1-4 from the New King James Version: “After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a POOL, which is called in Hebrew, BETHESDA, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. 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.”

Here we learn the main significance of the pool of Bethesda. The pool was a place where God would show mercy to the sick by healing them of their malady. The word “Bethesda” means “house of mercy” and thus it is fitting that God would display His mercy in this pool. There are those who believe this was an “urban legend” and that no one was actually healed in the pool (they base this on certain translations which omit the latter part of 3 and all of verse 4) but others believe that miracles did indeed occur here (they base this on other reliable translations that include these verses). As we read, at certain times (in this instance it was on a Feast Day) an angel would stir the waters and the first person who stepped in would be instantly healed. No wonder there was a “great multitude of people” assembled there with hopes of experiencing God’s mercy! They would take shelter under the five porches with their eyes riveted on the still waters of the pool and as soon as they saw the slightest movement of the water there was no doubt a mad dash to be the first one in.

Now let’s read verses 5-9: “Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in the condition a long time, He said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?’ The sick man answer 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.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk.’ And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath.”

Does not our heart go out to this poor man who had been a cripple for 38 years! Perhaps he had been brought to the pool of Bethesda many times, only to be disappointed time and time again. He was absolutely helpless and unable to walk, and for whatever reason no one would help him into the pool once the waters stirred. It is reasonable to assume he had lost all hope, yet “hoping beyond hope” he kept going back to the “house of mercy,” On this particular day he heard a “voice of mercy” saying to him, “Do you want to be made whole” (verse 6)? This might seem like a strange question, for the invalid was at the pool of Bethesda for that very reason. I believe the Lord asked this question because He was seeking to draw his heart out to Him so he would “take his eyes off from the pool” and to “focus them on Himself, the true Healer of men.” The Lord’s next words, “Rise, take up your bed and walk” came home to his heart with “divine authority and with enabling power.” He surely wanted to be healed and in hearing those words he believed them!  He thus became “an object of Divine MERCY and HEALING” without having to step into the pool of Bethesda, the “house of mercy.”

This account illustrates beautifully man’s deepest need of healing, for all men are cursed with the “malady of sin.” Romans 3:23 declares, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Like this poor invalid, we are helpless to save ourselves and no one else can help us. “For when we were still WITHOUT STRENGTH, in due time Christ died for the ungodly….NONE OF THEM CAN by any means REDEEM HIS BROTHER, nor give to God a ransom for him” (Romans 5:5 & Psalm 49:7). Yet when God speaks to us of His healing mercy displayed in the gospel and we believe it, we will be healed! “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, had eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24). “But He (Jesus) was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and BY HIS STRIPES WE ARE HEALED.” Has my reader confessed to God that you are a lost and helpless sinner and then believed that Christ took your place in death and judgment on the cross so you could be healed from your malady of sin? If not, I would plead with you to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” for salvation (Acts 16:31) before it is forever too late to do so. (397.5)  (DO)