One day while Jesus was in Jerusalem for one of the Jewish feasts, He took a trip to the local pool (John 5:1-15). Now usually when we think of a pool, we think of recreational swimming in cool refreshing water. The pool called Bethesda was not that kind of pool. Bethesda means house of mercy. This pool might have been more aptly described as a house of misery. Instead of healthy people wearing swimsuits and catching rays, the people around this pool were physically and spiritually broken. John described them as “a multitude of sick – blind, lame and paralyzed” (John 5:3). The sick people gathered there were constantly staring at the water because they believed that the first person into the pool when the water was stirred would be healed.
Jesus walked up to one particular man and asked him if he wanted to be healed. Now that seems like a callus question, doesn’t it? Of course the man wanted to be healed; he had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. That is almost a full lifetime.
We are not told how long this man had been visiting the pool but, needless to say, he has spent many hours watching the water. He is fixated on what he believes will provide a cure to his problems. He might be described as obsessed with the pool. Jesus was trying to get the man to take his focus off of the pool. Jesus’ question was designed to cause the man to focus instead upon Jesus.
When Jesus asked the question, the invalid does not answer the question but complains about how no one will help him get into the pool. He is trying to solicit Jesus help to lower him into the pool. His answer is to get Jesus to volunteer to help him into the pool. We are often like that: trying to get Jesus to help us fulfill our plans. Jesus is not going to follow our plans – we must follow His.
Jesus is ready to visit your pool of Bethesda. This pool speaks to us of our condition of spiritual paralysis as we are stuck looking at an object of false hope. Jesus loves us enough to enter our pain and to heal us.
What is it you are focused on today? What is your pool? The thing on which you are fixated. The false hope that takes your eyes off the Lord. Are you looking to a relationship, a job, a hobby or possessions to bring fulfillment?
Jesus gave the man a threefold command: get up, pick up your mat, walk. Jesus may have discerned that he had the faith to be healed. The broken man obeyed and was healed. Jesus wants to meet us at our own Pool of Bethesda!
Jesus extended his mercy to this man by later finding the man in the temple. Perhaps this was because the man was at the right place after being healed: the temple. His vision has moved from the pool to Jesus.
Jesus told the man to stop sinning or else something worse may happen to him. Stop sinning! Sin is a doorway to the enemy. Not only must our focus be upon Jesus, we must pursue holiness.
Mercy was shown in the House of Mercy but the Jews had become so legalistic that they could not see this as a work of God. The Jews were so fixed on the Law that they could not accept the miracle of Jesus because He had healed on the Sabbath. The letter had killed their view of Jesus, the very embodiment of the Law.
Are we stuck at our own pools of Bethesda? Jesus was there but the sick man did not recognize him. He is right next to us while we are focusing on our own pools. He wants to move us from attempting to fulfill our own visions to the plans he has for us. Jesus wants to heal us and take our eyes off our own disappointing, insufficient and powerless pools that lead to nothing but more emptiness.