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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder


John 5:1-4 After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. (Also see John 5:5-9)

It is evident that Jesus returned from His Galilean ministry to Jerusalem after those things recorded earlier by Matthew, Mark, and Luke, thingsthat occurred in Capernaum and other cities around the Sea of Galilee. Although not recorded by these three gospel writers, this lesson seems to be an event in Christ's earthly ministry recorded only in the inspired Gospel of John. These are the words that begin the lesson text: After this there was a feast of the Jews. After what? After Jesus' sojourn in Samaria, in which he taught the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well, and those of her city, and after He healed the nobleman's son in Galilee.

It was after this that Jesus went up to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast noted in this text. John mentions two feasts of the Passover in John 2:13 and 6:4. The final Passover attended by Jesus is recorded in John 12:1-2, 12, 13:1-2. These three Passover feasts were specifically mentioned. Since we are sure that Jesus celebrated four Passovers during His earthly ministry, the feast of the Jews, mentioned in the lesson text, although not specifically named, must have been the second Passover, which He celebrated in Jerusalem.

Jesus entered into Jerusalem at a gate by the sheep market, which was probably the one built and sanctified by Eliashib, the High Priest, as recorded in Nehemiah 3:1, known as the Sheep Gate. Regardless, the entry gate was located near, what is known as, the Pool of Bethesda. We are told that this was a spring-fed pool having five porches. The lesson text tells us that a great multitude of impotent folk, including those that were sightless, crippled, and having various body deformities, came to this pool to be healed. It is said that at certain times an angel went down, ...and troubled the water - that is, the angel agitated or stirred the water so that it started moving or was possibly aerated, which produced a bubbly action. Exactly how the water was "troubled" is not known, but the action that was produced could be noticed by all present.

As the text continues, we find that, immediately after the water was stirred, the impotent people that had gathered would hurry toward the pool, and whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. Some bible scholars contend that the words telling of the healing power of the moving water brought about by an angel has been added after this gospel was written by John. Others say that the waters contained natural healing qualities and do not attribute them to the miraculous power of God. I cannot imagine a great multitude of impotent folk continuing to gather at this pool of water unless visible healing took place. It is also hard to understand that bodily impotency, such as blindness, lameness, and malformations being cured by some medicinal quality found in certain waters. Therefore, I take these verses for their face value, believing that an angel from God transmitted His miraculous healing power to the waters of the Pool of Bethesda, and certain impotent folk were cured of their diseased conditions. I also think that the lesson text indicates that the pool contained its healing power only while it was troubled by the angel, and as soon as the agitation of the water ended, its healing qualities ceased. This seems to explain the urgency of getting to the pool and entering it while it was still stirring. The one entering first, before the waters ceased moving, was healed of their malady. Just when the miraculous qualities of this pool began and when they ceased is not biblically or historically known.

That being the history of the Pool of Bethesda, John continues by saying that a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years (Vs. 5). We do not know the exact nature of this man's infirmity, but in verse 7 we learn that he could not walk, and needed the assistance of others to move. Not only was he lame, but also this infirmity had been his lot for thirty-eight years. Jesus asked the man, Wilt thou be made whole? His answer was that there was no one to help him to the pool before the troubled waters ceased, and others kept going before him without first assisting him.

Realizing the number of years this man had been infirmed, and noting the inability he had reaching the healing waters of the pool, Jesus' human compassion for those that were impotent and diseased once again manifested itself. Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk (Vs. 8). Not only was the man cured of his malady, but also others that were present witnessed the healing power of Jesus when immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked (Vs. 9). An angel stirred the waters of the Pool of Bethesda, which contained God's miraculous healing power. But in the case of this impotent man, the power of God was demonstrated by the voice command of Jesus, which served as infallible proof that He was the promised Messiah sent by the Heavenly Father to save the world from sin. Never before, or at this specific time, or in the years thereafter, has their been an earthly being that had the power over sin, sickness, and death. God never promised to send anyone to earth capable of such miraculous powers other than His Son, Jesus Christ, the Savior. No one but Jesus could heal this impotent man. And John writes that He did so on the Jewish Sabbath Day.