Jesus Visits a Healing Service (John 5:1–18)

Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.

—John 5:2–5

Jesus, unlike modern faith healers, visited the sick ward. Joni Erickson Tada, after becoming a quadriplegic at 17, went to a Kathryn Kuhlman healing service where she was taken to the wheelchair section. The spotlight shone over the crowd, highlighting the many attesting to be healed, but Joni said the spotlight never shone on the wheelchair section. Kuhlman never visited the wheelchair section. Justin Peters, who has cerebral palsy, also went to faith healers at a young age and has a similar testimony. Jesus, unlike Benny Hinn, Todd White, or Bill Johnson, often went to the sick ward. He wasn’t afraid of being discredited or exposed as a fraud.

From this multitude, John singles out one man in particular. John singles him out because Jesus singled him out, (v. 5). This is no easy case. Here is a man who has been an invalid, suffering likely from some form of paralysis or extreme weakness, for 38 years. Jesus, seeing this man and knowing that he had been there a long time, doesn’t pass him by, but engages him, (v. 6). The Son shines a spotlight on this man in the wheelchair section.

Some manuscripts explain that an angel would visit the pool and something supernatural would follow (see vv. 3b–4 in the KJV). Instead of “Last one in is a rotten egg!” it was a game of “First one in gets a healed leg.” This explanation appears to be a later editorial gloss as it is only in some manuscripts and varies markedly among those that do contain it. I don’t believe it tells us why the pool was stirred so much as it tells us why they believed the pool was stirred. These poor souls had gathered for a healing service, and Jesus visited the wheelchair section. The multitude gathered here says the pool is inefficient at best or, more likely, that it is ineffective all together.

Jesus singled this man out. This man who has his poor-man’s pallet with him. He heals him and tells him not simply to rise and walk, but to “get up, take up your bed, and walk.” The seemingly benign phrase “take up your bed” would stir the pool of Jewish leadership. This would lead to Jesus stirring things up more by explaining that the reason He is working is because His Father is working. This work doesn’t count as work because it is a divine work. When Jesus cleansed the temple, they demanded a sign. Now, they have one, and they want to kill Him for it.

These signs were written so that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (John 20:30–31). The spotlight fell on this man so that the spotlight might fall on Christ. He is the Christ, the one who can deal with the curse of sin because He will deal with the sin of the curse. He is the Son of God, the only begotten, the eternally begotten, who was in the beginning with God and was God, and remaining what He was, became flesh.

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