The story behind the story in John 5: 1-18

Remember the story of the invalid man at the Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem? It is an amazing tale  which tells us about a man who had been at that pool for 38 years, but had not been able to experience the healing waters for himself. According to some manuscripts, on occasion an angel of God caused the pool’s water to be moved with the power of healing and the first person to enter the ‘troubled waters’ was healed, but the invalid man had no one to help put him into the water, and it seems he needed help to be the first one in the pool. In John 5, we read about a time when Jesus visited this pool area, which was filled with those who were ill or considered invalids.

I have an abiding interest in that story; it is a rather perplexing narrative, but worthy of prayer-filled attention. I believe that Jesus went specifically looking for that long-term invalid to ask him if he wanted to be made well. But when you read the story,  the man seems reluctant to be healed – why? I think there is a back story there, one that lies just below the surface of the obvious. According to the text, the man never does answer Jesus’s question “Do you want to be made well?” with a clear yes or no, and yet Jesus heals him, and on the Sabbath, too. Later we read that Jesus sees  the healed man at the temple. He warns him about his state of health – but this time it is the man’s spiritual health that Jesus refers to. After this meeting with Christ, the man goes to the Jewish leaders to identify Jesus as his healer. Could it be that this fellow is not a friend of the Lord’s, but an informer? Do you think he could have been an informer all those years at the Pool of Bethesda, keeping track of the ‘sinners’ who came down to the pool, so that the Jewish leaders could have the inside track on who was temple-worthy and who was not? Was he paid for his information? Could that have been how he was able to stay at the pool for 38 years, and why he might hesitate to leave his post there? And, might it be the sin-sickness that goes along with an informer’s heart that Jesus is referring to when Jesus says to him at the temple, ” See you are healed. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”

Maybe this story is not so much about a miraculous healing as it is one that causes us to see that Jesus healed those who were his enemies as well as those who appreciated Him; that He healed those with no faith as well as those with abundant faith; and that the source of our greatest illness lies not in our physical bodies, but within our own sinful hearts. Do think that this could possibly be the ‘story behind the story’ in John 5:1-18?

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