Friday 6 March 2020


God’s thoughts, His will, His purposes, His plans…We cannot understand they are too great for the humans to comprehend as long as we don’t first understand few of the countless things that He has said or done. And the little that we understand will suffice to help us know that He is God, Amen.
This blog post deals with the miracle that Jesus performed at the pool of Bethesda. The first time I realized that there was more in this miracle than met the eye was when I heard Jesus telling the man, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” I couldn’t but ask myself this question: This person was totally invalid for 38 years and was not capable of even dragging himself into the water of the pool when the angel stirred it. He was utterly incapable of taking any physical action. Then how could he commit sin? Whatever sin he was capable of committing was on mental plane which should not be deemed so serious that the man who committed it deserved to be punished for 38 years with such a disease!” One thought led me to another and soon I began to see the layers of meaning that were hidden in the brief description of the event.

Let me begin by putting the questions in the order in which they cropped up in my mind:

1.   Why it was that when the angel stirred the water of the pool, the very first sick person who got into it would get healed? What was there in the angel’s stirring the water? What did it mean?
2.   Why only the first person to get down into the water would get healed? So many people, like the person whom Jesus healed there, must be desperately seeking cure of their diseases!
3.   Why Jesus warned the invalid man not to commit sin anymore lest worst thing might happen to him?
4.   What sin he could commit in the given situation?

I tried to find out answers to these questions but got no real breakthrough. As usual, I prayed to God to give me His wisdom, knowledge and understanding, and also sought help from the Holy Spirit. After that I read the whole episode over again and the very first thing that I noticed was that it was the time when people had gathered to Jerusalem to celebrate some feast.

Also, it occurred to me to learn the meaning of the name ‘Bethesda’. Straightaway I googled to learn its meaning and learned that it was the ‘House of Grace’ or ‘House of Mercy’, and that it was located near the Sheep Gate through which the sacrificial lamb were brought into the Temple for sacrifice. That was the point that clues to grasp the whole meaning of this miracle began to come to my notice one after another. once I realized that Jesus’ coming to the House of Grace was not a coincidence but fulfillment of the divine promise, and that the angel’s stirring of the water of the pool referred to the time of the Grace of God.

I also realized that the Feast which Jesus and others had gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate might also have bearing on this miracle. I guessed it was the Feast of Passover but thought it better and safe not to depend upon assumption. So, I turned to study those Feasts. I would return to discuss my find from this study; but before that I would like to briefly tell you first about another interesting detail that the ‘House of Grace’ helped me understand. It was the sin that this man was committing.

As I was thinking about it, a very valid question arose in my mind which up till now had evaded me: Why in all the years that he was lying down in the porch of Bethesda he couldn’t find even one chance to get into the pool? This question opened my eyes to the possibility that he wasn’t actually ready to receive healing in the way that others around him were. When Jesus came to him and asked him whether he wanted to get healed, the question He posed before him was quite revealing. We may ask, “What kind of question is this? Who wouldn’t like to be rid of one’s sickness? Who’d want to remain sick for so long?” But Jesus knew the man and therefore the question He asked him was quite relevant.

We have the evidence of the peculiar mindset of this person. When Jesus asked him whether he would like to be healed, it was not the time the water was stirred but it was indeed the time that Grace had visited him in the House of Grace. And just look at him! He didn’t look at Jesus and respond to His question. Rather he indirectly told Jesus he was looking forward to the waters of Bethesda for healing, and he couldn’t receive it for the reason already given.

By this he made it amply clear that when Jesus came to him, he didn’t look up to Jesus; similarly, when the angel stirred the water of the pool, he wasn’t ready for that. For such a long time, he kept on missing the point. That was his sin. The stirring of water symbolizes the Grace of God. His mistake was the same as that of the city of Jerusalem to whom Jesus said this in Luke 19:

“If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace!” was his day!…His day for receiving the thing that would make for his peace! And he failed to grasp it. He failed to look up to Jesus who brought to him in His person the Grace of God. Isaiah 55:6 says,

“Seek the Lord while He may be found,
Call upon Him while He is near.”

This man failed to comprehend the promise contained in Bethesda was fulfilled in Jesus who was standing right in front of him. Jesus had come to him for a specific purpose which was stated thus in Isaiah 55, and which also had to do with that man:

“For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
And do not return there,
But water the earth,
And make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower
And bread to the eater,
So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”

As it is, man’s ignorance cannot render God’s plan futile. Jesus was the Word of God who was sent into the world to prosper in the thing for which He was sent. While that infirm man was looking up to the promise that Bethesda signposted, Jesus fulfilled it by healing him from his infirmity.

Nevertheless He warned him not to remain in sin lest worst thing might happen to him. I could not have understood the meaning of Jesus’ warning had my focus not shifted from the physical condition of that man to the spiritual. It suggested that he could not but know that God’s grace did not come cheap. That, exactly, was the reason why only the first person to get down into the pool was healed. That is the reason why Jacob strove so hard with God for his blessing. He knew the importance of God’s blessing. Esau slighted his right as the firstborn, which included Isaac’s blessing which ultimately was to come from God, counting it worth no more than one-off serving of a stew. to the particular timing of this miracle that Jesus performed at Bethesda, it is important that we know it; because it reveals to us another layer of meaning that it contains. Having gone through the entire Gospel according to St. John, I learned that the feast for which Jesus and Israel had gathered in Jerusalem to observe was either the Feast of the Firstfruits or the Feast of Ingathering, which is also called the Feast of Tabernacles. There are reasons why I believe it was the Feast of the Firstfruits. Here are they:

Moving backward from this particular feast mentioned in John 5, I started looking for the feast which immediately preceded it. My search led me first to John 4:45 which referred to a feast Jesus attended in Jerusalem. But it did not clearly name that feast. So I kept tracing my way back through John 3 to John 2 where I read about the miracle Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee. According to John 2:11, it was the first miracle with which Jesus began His ministry. From there I saw Him moving to Capernaum where He did not stay for many days. His next destination was Jerusalem because, it is stated there, the Passover was near. This was the first of the three Passovers that Jesus observed in Jerusalem during His approximately 3-year long ministry. And, it was during this Passover that He performed many miracles.

Therefore, it stands to logic that John 4:45 talks about the Feast of Passover that is mentioned in John 2. This makes it clear that the feast during which the miracle of Bethesda took place was surely not the Feast of Passover. It, therefore, stands to logic that the feast mentioned in John 5 is either the Feast of the Firstfruits or the Feast of the Ingathering. In order to ascertain whether it was the Feast of the Firstfruits or the Feast of the Ingathering, we must of necessity turn back to John 4.

It is very much possible that John 4:35-38 fits in the context of the Feast of the Firstfruits. It says,

“Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest?’ Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.”

These verses work on two levels, one physical and another spiritual. On physical level, Jesus indicated the first seasonal harvest which was approaching in the next four months; on spiritual level He was indicating the fact that the world was now ready to receive Him and be saved to eternal life. If we draw upon the physical level, it brings us to the month of Av, the fourth month according to the Hebrew calendar. It is the month in which the Feast of the Firstfruits is celebrated in Jerusalem., we may safely conclude from these references to the harvest festival that it was the Feast of Firstfruits during which Jesus healed the man at Bethesda. And if it was exactly this feast during which Jesus healed him, then it makes clear the meaning of why only the first person to get down into the pool of Bethesda got healed.

The Feast of Firstfruits indicated Jesus’ resurrection, the event which showed Jesus to be the Firstfruits of all who were dead. In Him was fulfilled the promise of resurrection of all who were already dead and all who would die after Him. Getting healed from a disease was a physical manifestation of forgiveness of sin, a spiritual sickness that brought salvation to the sinners of the world. Getting down into the pool may be indicative of baptism into Christ’s death.

Christ’s healing the invalid man and afterwards asking him not to commit sin perfectly fits with what St. Paul has to say in Romans 6:3-4:

“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”

Jesus’ warning that man against committing sin also has to do with what He has to say in John 5:26-27:

“For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.”

Jesus’ telling him worse thing might happen to him unless he stops sinning shows Him in the position of the Judge. The authority to judge was given to Him by God the Father just as He received the authority to have life in Himself from Him, and He underlined this fact by His warning.

Finally, we cannot close this discussion without dealing with the angel who stirred the water of the pool of Bethesda. The water of this pool did not have curative properties at all times. Only when the angel would stir its water did it acquire them. Upon closely reading this episode from John 5 with Exodus 23:25-26, the connection between the angel of John 5:4, the Angel of Exodus 23 and Jesus becomes clear.

Please note that Exodus 23 also deals with the three annual Feasts in detail. And immediately after dealing with them appears God’s instructions to Moses concerning how he and Israel were to treat an Angel that He would send to them. Interestingly, there are promises attached to following God’s instructions regarding this Angel. This is so very significant that I must quote Exodus 23:20-23:

“Behold, I send an Angel before you to keep you in the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. Beware of Him and obey His voice; do not provoke Him, for He will not pardon your transgressions; for My name is in Him. But if you indeed obey His voice and do all that I speak, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. For My Angel will go before you and bring you in to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites and the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will cut them off.”

If Israel would follow God’s instructions without fail, this is what God promised to them: “So you shall serve the Lord your God, and He will bless your bread and your water. And I will take sickness away from the midst of you. No one shall suffer miscarriage or be barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days.” have emboldened the phrases and sentences in the passages quoted above in order to draw your attention to their implications. God had put His name in this Angel. Now, whoever is there in whom God has put His name if it is not Jesus, His Son? And He is given the authority to judge them. Judge cannot pardon transgressions. Therefore, Jesus will not pardon transgressions when He sits in the seat of a Judge.

Another thing, God explicitly says that if Israel would serve ‘the Lord your God’ in the way that He demanded of them, He would bless their bread and their water. And He will also take away sickness from the midst of them. This exactly is what Jesus does at the pool of Bethesda.

We have a fair reason to believe that the angel who stirred the water of the pool was no other than Jesus Himself, and at this time Jesus changed the pattern of healing at the pool of Bethesda. He Himself directly chose the firstfruit from among the sick who were there! In the form of healing Jesus restored life to that man through His grace. Now if he would continue in sin, it would tantamount to disregard for God’s grace, the sin that would inevitably entail His judgment. It would expose him to something worse than what he had already endured. It may mean either death or damnation of spirit.

So, this is what exactly happened at Bethesda: Jesus came as the One who held the right from God the Father to have life in Himself; and when He left the scene, He left it as the One who held the right from God the Father to judge and to punish. The miracles He performed weren’t just miracles; they were also signs which we cannot afford to overlook.


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