The scene was pathetic; a sight which would have made any hospice, infirmary, nursing home or hospital look like a vacation home. In Jerusalem, by the sheep gate, there was a pool called Bethesda which in Hebrew meant House of Mercy. The pool had five porches and a great multitude of impotent, blind, halt and withered folk lay on those porches on mats, beds and some just on the cold stone.
The interesting thing about this is that they were not only just laying there but they were waiting for a strange phenomenon. It was believed that an angel visited the pool at a certain time and stirred the water and whoever stepped in to the pool first after the stirring of the water, was healed of whatever disease they had.
In the midst of this great multitude, there was a man who had been infirmed for thirty eight years. It is not clear if he had been at Bethesda for all of those years but he had been laying there for a long time. There is no record about this man and his background or how he got to the pool and the circumstance surrounding his crippled state. It is quite obvious that he, like the rest was waiting for the stirring of the water so that he could get an opportunity to step in and get well.
There was a Jewish Feast going on and it was also the Sabbath day. Jesus was at Jerusalem celebrating the feast and visited the pool at Bethesda. Of all the people in the crowd, this one man stood out to him. He knew he had been in his condition for a long time and that he had been trying everything possible to get healed. Jesus approached the man and asked him a question which, on the surface, did’nt makes sense. In fact it sounded very much like a cruel joke. To ask a man that is crippled if he was willing to be made whole seemed ridiculous. However, on closer examination, Jesus never asked him if he was willing to be healed for that was obvious. He asked him a deeper, far reaching question which had to do more with his total self than his physical situation.
The question then is: Are you ready for not just healing but wholeness?
Are you prepared to do whatever it takes to be whole?
Being whole involved a lot more than being healed; it was going to require a radical shift in his entire life. It meant that every part of his being was going to be touched, his belief system was going to be shattered, and he was going to experience a transformation at the very core of his being. He was more in need of wholeness than healing. It was possible that he could have been healed but not made whole but when the process of wholeness takes place, it brings total wellness to the person who receives it.
The man did not fully understand the question and thought Jesus was just talking about his cripple condition so he gave a response which to him seemed like a justified answer to his situation and lack of wholeness. Here are the reasons he gave for his dilemma:
No help – I have no man to help me
No hope – I can’t get into the pool
No strength – Others are more agile and empowered than I am
This response highlighted the man’s true condition and his need for wholeness and why Jesus’ question was so relevant and on target. He was not just crippled in his legs but he was suffering from these other things:
Dependency syndrome – Looking for a man to help
Miracle mentality – His hope was in the angel stirring the water
False security – Put me in the pool – once I get in, I’ll be okay
Mental paralysis – Inability to move or act
Competitive disadvantage – other folks were doing better than he was
Most of us suffer from one or more of these conditions and we cannot criticize this man. These are natural human weaknesses which are a result of our fallen nature. Hence the need for wholeness.
Because of the situation at the pool where there were all these people who believed in the power of the pool to heal them but couldn’t get into the pool; there were others, no doubt, who took advantage of their disability with promises to help them into the pool – at a price. Jesus never offered any assistance to this man to get him into the pool, in fact he never mentioned the angel or the pool for he knew the solution to this man’s dilemma was not in a man, it was not in an angel and certainly it was not in the pool. The answer lay in the man’s own ability to rise, take up his bed and walk.
We often hear the saying “God helps those who help themselves”. Although it is often quoted as Scripture, it is not in the Bible. However, there are many instances where it is implied as it is in this case. Jesus was not going to do for this man what he could do for himself.
The angel’s visits to the pool were seasonal and unplanned. The angel was just moving the water; he did not enable anyone to get in. His action had no direct bearing on the man and there were no guarantees. The answer was not in the angel.
The solution that Jesus gave all lay within the ability of this man to reach inside of himself and make it happen. He invited him to do 3 simple things that he had the power to do but he also had to be willing.
That seemed like a dumb thing to say to a crippled man. However, Jesus was speaking to him in from a different perspective.
Let your mind arise – The man’s condition was not just physical but mental. Jesus was urging him to think clearly, positively and independently. There were barriers that needed to be dismantled and walls that had to be torn down. The man was suffering from mental paralysis; he had a needy attitude and was looking for a quick fix.
Let your spirit arise – When you are in the same condition for 38 years, the spirit get down and it results in: hopelessness, depression, self defeating behavior, and an inferiority complex.
Let faith arise – He had to redirect his faith away from the things he had trusted in for so long and place his faith in the words of Jesus and his own ability to rise.
Take up your bed
The bed was one of the main contributing factors to his remaining in his situation. What might have seemed as an asset to his well being was actually an obstacle to his wholeness. Why rise up when it is easier and more comfortable to lie down? The bed was limiting his ability to step up and step out. It was also time for him to carry that which had been carrying him. The bed represented safety, security and ease. Jesus was asking him to step out of the comfort zone and take some risk.
By taking up his bed he was taking responsibility for his destiny. No longer was it going to be in the hands of the man who would carry him into the water or the angel who would stir the water, or the pool that possessed the healing power. It was in his hands and he had to take it up.
If you think the other commands were ridiculous. This one was off the top. The man had not walked for 38 years. The people around him had told him he would never walk again and he himself was resigned to that and believed he would not walk again but that he would die in that condition. When Jesus told him to walk he did not mean for him to take a few steps and test his ability to walk. He was saying to him:
Walk away from here – Bethesda was a place for lame, impotent and cripple folks; Jesus was saying “you are now whole; walk away not only from your old past but your old place. Bethesda is not conducive to your new consciousness and your new life”.
Walk over your obstacles – Over the years, he had been walked upon and trampled by the crowd in their mad dash to get into the pool. Now he was going to walk over all that was standing in his way of moving forward. Imagine hearing him asking people to excuse him as he stepped through the crowd.
Walk into your destiny – Keep walking and never stop until you get to your destiny. Now he was walking away from the pool and into a new place.