First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday, October 20, 2019)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
Psalm 25:1-11; John 5:1-9
Of the many miracles and healings that Jesus did, John selected only seven to include in his gospel. John called those miracles, “Signs” because they point beyond themselves. John’s selections were intended to teach important things about who Jesus is and what it means to believe in Him. This fall, we are looking at “Seven Signs” that John recorded in his gospel. We have already covered the first two signs, turning water to wine at a wedding in Cana in John 2:1-11, and the healing of the royal official’s son in John 4:43-54. Today, I am taking you to John chapter 5, to Bethesda Pool, to the House of Mercy.
In chapter 5, John takes us to Jerusalem, to a remarkable healing at the Pool of Bethesda. “Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews” John 5:1. We’re not told what feast Jesus had come to Jerusalem for, so it’s probably a minor feast.
The Pool of Bethesda
John describes the scene of this “Third Sign” as you would expect an eyewitness to do for readers who hadn’t been to Jerusalem. “Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate,” John writes in John 5:2-3, there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed, and they waited for the moving of the waters.” Bethesda means “The house of mercy.” It was near the Sheep Gate, the gate through which the sheep traveled on their way to be sacrificed in the temple, just north of the temple precincts.
The pool of Bethesda is an interesting place. For the longest time, scholars believed that this pool had never existed, because archaeologists hadn’t found any sign of it. But then, in the nineteenth century, an archaeologist discovered a pool, which he thought was the one described in John chapter five. Further excavations, in 1964, confirmed that the pool had been found, and that it was part of a collection of waterworks that included the so-called “upper pool” (Isaiah 7:3) of the Hebrew Scriptures. The Pool, as it was the case of many other pools, was used for ritual purification purposes, where Jerusalem’s pilgrims would gather to purify themselves for worship. In fact, when I visited Israel in 2017, I visited the remains of Bethesda Pool. The location is just as John described.
But pilgrims to the city were not the only ones who came to the Pool of Bethesda. It was also believed to be a center for healing. John explains in John 5:3-4 “In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed, and they waited for the moving of the waters. From time to time an angel of the Lord would come down and stir up the waters. The first one into the pool after each such disturbance would be cured of whatever disease they had.”
An Ill Man for 38 Years
In John 5:5-9, John introduces us to the subject of Jesus’ healing that day. Of all the wretched people gathered at poolside that day, Jesus chose this one man. “One who was there had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.”
We’re not told of the man’s particular problem, but we know he had been ill for 38 years. His was a hopeless situation. He was totally paralyzed. Most likely, he was brought to the pool by family or friends and picked up at the end of the day. Today and next time, we will be looking at the healing of this man and draw some practical lessons for our lives today.
First: A Story of God’s Abundant Grace
This man’s story is a story of God’s mercy and grace. There’s a very good chance that this man – with his disability – would have come to the Pool of Bethesda until his dying day. It’s very likely that, if Jesus hadn’t intervened, nothing would have changed for this man. We need to remember that this man wasn’t searching for Jesus. It seems that Jesus was the furthest thing from his mind. Truth be told, the Lord was searching for him. There’s a basic spiritual truth here. On our own, by our own reason or strength, we don’t seek the Lord. As a matter of fact, we avoid Him. On our own, His Word and His ways seem to be foolishness to us and we cannot understand them.
As He always does, Jesus took the first step. Our Lord Jesus Christ always takes the initiative. We’re not sure why Jesus choose this particular person. One thing we know, he found mercy and grace in the eyes of God. In spite of this man’s hopelessness, the Lord shows up against all hope.
Second: Our Hope is in a Person Not a Place
The man came to the Pool of Bethesda to receive healing and wholeness. This man’s focus was on the pool, rather than on Jesus, the Messiah. He put his faith in the so-called healing waters. Yet, this man’s life was transformed by a Person who arrived unexpectedly and who left just as unexpectedly. The waters of the pool, which, for so long, he believed were the key to his healing, played no part in what happened. The plans he made for himself were very different from the plans Jesus had for him. As it turned out, this man didn’t have to work for his healing. He didn’t pay for it. He didn’t deserve it. He simply obeyed the Word. At end of the day, wholeness wasn’t to be found in this pool, despite the commonly-held belief. At the end of the day, wholeness and healing was found in Christ and in Him alone.
The man’s infirmity is symbolic of sin and what sin does to people. As we’ve seen, the man had convinced himself that his healing depended on his own efforts and initiative. Friends, God salvation is offered by grace alone. It’s completely and totally undeserved. We are spiritually blind and dead and enemies of God. Without God’s intervention, we would die in our sins. “Do you want to be healed?” “Do you want to get well?” “Now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation” 2 Corinthians 6:2. I will stop here today and will say more next time. Amen.
PrayerLord Jesus, we have sensed this morning that we are here, like a great multitude lying by the pool of Bethesda, waiting to be healed; trying various ways and means, hoping somebody will help. We have not yet listened to that wonderful voice that says to us in the inner heart, “Rise, take up your bed, and walk.” Grant that we will do so from this moment. We pray in Jesus' name, Amen.