Christ the Healer: The Lame Man at Bethesda

Christ the Healer: The Lame Man at Bethesda

Christ the Healer: The Lame Man at Bethesda.

Please read John 5:1-15

  1. Jewish to the Core. All Jewish men, usually accompanied by their families, were required to go to Jerusalem each year to celebrate 3 holy days: Passover, Pentecost, and Shelters. Jesus was merely being faithful to His Jewish faith by being in Jerusalem at this time. He was raised in an observant home with religious parents (Luke 2:41), and He as an adult continued exercising His faith the way He was raised. Jesus was fully Jewish in both race and religion. Do you enjoy certain church or home traditions every year, celebrations that you would never want to stop going to?
  2. Bethesda. While in Jerusalem on the Sabbath, Jesus happened to stroll by a big pool of water that was a local gathering place for those with disabilities – the lame, sick, crippled, blind. This place, Bethesda, which means House of Loving Kindness, was often seen as a miraculous pool that healed the sick. It was thought that when the natural spring in the water caused a bubbling on the surface, it was a healing angel stirring the water. The disabled were desperate to touch the water during the bubbling up, and were looking for any hope they could find to be cured. Does this tradition of the healing angel stirring the water seem silly or foolish to you? Or could there have really been a spiritual power, an angel, doing actual healing at this pool?
  3. Lame Man. There was a man lying near the pool who had been lame for 38 years. We never know his name. He was hopeless, in his own mind, because no one had ever helped him touch the bubbling water for healing. There’s a good chance that being lame for this long meant that his condition had become a life style, a way of living, that he had grown accustomed to. No doubt his own identity was wrapped up in his crippled condition. Being crippled for that long probably meant that this is how he sees himself, it’s a part of how he defines himself.
  4. A Strange Question. Jesus seemed to have eyes only for this lame man as He approached him and asked him a question… “Would you like to get well?” The lame man lying there helplessly on his mat could be excused for thinking, “What?! Of course I want to get well! Why would you even ask a question like that? Do you think I like being crippled?” Jesus must have had something in mind particular to this man when He asked that question. It’s as if Jesus was asking this lame man a loaded question, just for him. Perhaps that question implied these deeper questions from Jesus that the man needs to answer for himself:
  • Your self-identity has been intimately connected to having this disability. That is how you see yourself. Your disability has probably been accepted as an essential component to how you define yourself. Are you ready to let go of that part of your identity? Are you ready to see yourself differently? Are you ready to define yourself differently?
  • Everyone has accepted you as a sad, forlorn victim. And no doubt you have accepted that status. And truth be known, you have grown to like the attention it brings. You have been accepting charity and sad looks and pity for so long, you don’t remember what it’s like not to be a victim. Are you ready to remove that victim label? Are you ready for others to look at you differently, to see you as an equal and not as a mere unfortunate? Are you ready to let go of whatever self-pity you may have been feeding on?
  • You have not had to take responsibility for your life for so long that it will be difficult for you to be healed. All these years, your friends have fed you, clothed you, and carried you from one place to another. Taking responsibility for yourself will be a foreign experience. You’ll have to work, feed and clothe yourself, and find your own way in life. Are you read to take full responsibility for your own life, and not be dependent on others? No more reasonable excuses. Are you ready for that kind of independence? Are you ready to make your own life-defining decisions?
  • You no doubt have learned to be helpless and hopeless. You have developed a lifestyle and mindset that expects the worst. That is not a life of faith. I want this healing to stimulate your spiritual faith, not merely heal your physical body. Are you ready to develop a hopeful faith in God as a result of your healing? Are you ready to acknowledge that the Lord has healed you and that He therefore deserves your trust and faith?  Are you ready to follow me? Can you remember that your healing is not the end of the story?

If you had been struggling with a disability for a long time, which of these implied questions would be the most difficult for you?

5. Healed. Seeing his hopelessness, yet sensing a Yes to His question, Jesus had mercy and healed the lame man, right where he lay. Jesus simply told him to stand up, pick up his mat, and walk. So that’s what the man did! All it took was a word. Jesus never touched him that we know of. After lying on his mat for all those years, it was a miracle that he could even stand. What words would you use to describe how this healed man must have felt? Soon after the healing, Jesus disappears into the crowd, without even telling the man His name. Why did Jesus do that? Why did He just disappear like that?

6. The Law. Sure enough, no one is better at raining on a parade than the rigid Temple leaders, the self-appointed religious police, who are all about keeping all the tiny details of Jewish tradition. They were more concerned with their petty rules, like carrying a mat on the Sabbath, that the fact that a miracle has been done in their presence! The Pharisee leaders thought that the broken rule was more important than the fact that a broken man was healed. This particular law wasn’t even in Scripture, the leaders made it up, and it was one of hundreds of laws they added to the Old Testament law. With this healing, Jesus implied that people are more important than irrelevant or empty rules. Are there any guidelines or rules, not in Scripture, that you think are pointless, and might even get in the way of helping people?

7. Interesting Comment. Jesus saw the healed man in the Temple  a little later, and He told the man to stop sinning, or something worse may happen to him. What did this mean? Perhaps his lameness was the result of a sinful decision the man had made earlier in his life? What are examples now of disease or disabilities that are the direct consequences of bad decision-making? Is this an example of what Jesus once said, that in life you reap what you sow?

8. Consider This. So the strange, rather obvious question that Jesus asked the lame man turned out not to be such an obvious question after all. And when we ask God to heal us or to help us make a major change about ourselves, Jesus is asking the same questions of us. Do you tend to define yourself by what needs to be healed? Are you ready for others to see you differently? Can you claim a complete self-identity without focusing on your deficits or challenges? Can you reject the victim label and take responsibility for your life? Will you recognize God the Healer as also Savior and Sustainer?

9. Big Question. What did we learn about Jesus in this healing story?