Near the sheep gate of the Temple in Jerusalem multitudes would lie near the pool waiting for the right time to step in. God the Father sent His Son to redeem us from the clutches of sin and its effects. We try to get out of our sinful nature on our own but fail and Immanuel comes looking for us to fellowship with us, knocking on the door of our hearts to heal us of our infirmities, both of the body and the soul. But the only condition of receiving His blessings is our consent and surrender to His authority and power. He always raises the question – “Do you want to be made well?”
But why did the Lord come to the Sheep Gate? – Lord Jesus repeatedly said “I only do My Father’s will” and the Father’s will is reflected in the coming of the Son. God is love (1 John 4:8) and Lord Jesus is the expression of that love of God for all of humanity and all of creation, for God’s love is immeasurable (John 3:16). The Messiah summed up the art of living in two commandments – to love God and the neighbor. Through the parable of the Good Samaritan, He then defined the neighbor as anyone – friend or enemy – who is in need of help for the care of his body, soul or spirit (Luke 10:30-37). He had been visiting the temple in Jerusalem from His childhood and was well aware of the location where “neighbors” would be found. Apostle John was given the revelation of Lord Jesus’ mission for mankind “Here I am, I knock at the door, whoever opens the door” (Revelation 3:20. He comes looking for us to bless us and to provide the Spiritual Manna to rejuvenate us back into life – a new life in Him. He takes the first step for He knows our weakness of indecisiveness for He has chosen us (John 15:16).
Secondly, the Sheep Gate was used to bring in the sacrificial animals by the shepherds and there was a separate place for the sheep to be washed and prepared for sale to those who wanted to offer a sacrifice. Lord Jesus is the Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world (John 1:29) and the sacrificial Lamb has to someday enter through the specified gate to be offered on the altar. Thirdly, Abraham was commanded by God to offer his son Isaac as a sacrificial offering and Abraham in faith told Isaac “Yehovah Yireh will provide the ram”. The Hebrew word Yireh actually means – to see, assess and then arrange. Lord Jesus is God and as Yehovah Yireh first saw the need of the crippled man who was waiting with others for “moving of the waters” and then became Yehovah Rapha to heal him. Immanuel came to be with the people to provide the miracle that was required by them.
Why was this specific man chosen by Lord Jesus for a miraculous healing? – God searches the heart of man (Jeremiah 17:10) and Yehovah Yireh saw the need and the attitude of this specific man though there was a great multitude of sick people by the Bethseda pool. This individual had been suffering for the past 38 years and probably his father, brothers or relatives came with him to wait by his side to help. But after a while they left him at the pool in the morning alone to wait for the stirring of the water and step in. He was alone, weak, feeble in the body and limbs, abandoned and helpless waiting for a miracle to get healed.
Lord Jesus revealed in Himself not only the traits of God the Father, but also His way of dealing with humanity’s weakness and helplessness. We are all weak, lost, paralyzed to act out of fear and helplessness, for we want to do something good but cannot (Romans 7:15-19). God has promised to “level the crooked paths, to break open the doors of brass and to break the bars of iron” (Isaiah 45:2). The first two about the paths and gates of brass are external and in front of us as opportunities and hindrances while the third – bars of iron are restrainers that hold us back. These bars are the prisons holding us captive, for Satan hinders our movement to receive our blessings. These bars are our fears, reminder of our past sins that deem us undeserving of anything good, past failures in getting answers to prayers due to any reason – our spiritual blindness caused by Satan. The Savior Messiah comes knocking to save us from ourselves by leading us out to freedom through forgiveness of sins through repentance and thus breaks our bonds.
Why did Lord Jesus ask a suffering sick man “Do you want to be made well?” – Apparently the question in itself appears to be funny or rather foolish when asked in the referred scenario. But Lord Jesus is God and nothing that He ever did or ask someone could be without a specific purpose even though the man was suffering for a long time – 38 years and was at the Bethseda pool for a miracle. Firstly, our Lord does not force His will on anyone and He desires a specific answer to His question for He knows what is in the heart of every individual. Many are quite happy in their present situation of weakness and infirmity with their dependence on others for they do not want to take responsibility for their lives. For them their weakness is to a ‘Badge of Honor’ to seek others help through their utter helplessness and the near and dear ones are exploited through psychological blackmail. Such people are attention seekers and use sickness as a tool to exploit the loving kindness of others. If this man had answered ‘no or not yet’ Lord Jesus would have moved on to someone else.
Secondly, a person in need of a miraculous change in his/her state must reach a stage of desperation and self realization. This man had understood that on his own he could do nothing to get healed and help was needed. His answer reveals his mind and his assessment of his situation. His admission ‘I have no one help me and someone else always moves ahead of me to get into the pool’ (John 5:7). In a similar manner the woman afflicted with blood flow for twelve years had understood her position and decided to act to reach the source of her healing. Lord Jesus was surrounded and followed by a large crowd; she was physically and emotionally very weak after visiting many physicians, “spending all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse”. As a ceremonially unclean person she was separated from her husband and family but none of this deterred her from reaching Lord Jesus once she had realized that He was the answer to her problem (Mark 5:24-27). She was desperate and desired to be healed by the Lord for there was no other way left for her.
Many of us are in that situation, suffering from sickness of the body and the soul with no hope of relief from anywhere else. A viewer wanted me to help him in getting his son freed from his alcohol and gambling addiction which was ruining his family. He had tried all possible options and through prayer not only surrendered before Lord Jesus’ throne of grace and mercy but also sought His hand to intervene. Presently the young man is almost free from his addiction to alcohol while having fully overcome his habit of gambling. The problems faced by many of us are of financial, physical sickness, failure in marriage or getting a child married or addiction and many more. Many keep on trying with this belief that their efforts will bear fruit and they shall be able to manage their affairs without any outside help. The desperation of the sick man by the pool of Bethesda who was abandoned by his family with no one to help, had not reached. The question that Lord Jesus asked was actually “Do you REALLY want to be made well?”
Lord Jesus’ command to all believers through this – The sick man had understood that the day of his miracle had come and he did not want to miss this. The Savior Lord also did not tell him to keep coming to the pool; or that He will help him get into the pool; or that He would make him more comfortable by arranging a new mattress or daily food for him. Lord Jesus did not come to give assurances of salvation but to take mankind out of the clutches of their sinful life into God’s presence and ‘abundant life’. The sick man is given three commands for healing and an additional one for staying healthy thereafter “Rise, take up your bed, walk and finally sin no more”.
First, ‘Rise’ was an impossible task for the infirm person who had been bed ridden for 38 years. But our Lord is God who helps us do the impossible in His power. All along the dialogue the sick man must have been thinking, ‘This Man is going to help me be well and I shall do whatever He says’. In this he shifted his faith from himself to the Lord and this is the often missed critical clue. God wants us to act in faith by aligning our will with His Divine will for us and then His power operates in and through us to help achieve the impossible. The sick man felt the strengthening of his body and he knew that he could get up and he did.
Second, ‘Take up your bed’ – Once the first step was taken the rest was easy to follow. Lord Jesus does not want us to keep the option of returning to the same life of helplessness again. There is no turning back in the newness of life given by Him and one has to burn the bridges of returning back. No thoughts of a later need – destroy the alcohol, or the books and films of pornography stored up at home; break all links with old friends who led us on the path of destruction. Take up your bed and leave that position with no chance of ever returning back. After retirement from the army I was employed with a hospital in Jalandhar as Chief Administrator while my wife and daughters were in Chandigarh about 200 kms away. Just before starting the TV program we decided to close up the Jalandhar place, gave away all that was there and not required at Chandigarh and shifted – no looking back again.
Third, ‘Walk’ – The last step from there is to walk out of the place into the new life of abundance that the Lord promises to the believers – a life as a child of God living in obedience to His way. No help to be expected or needed and to continue, to just “look at Lord Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).
Fourth, additional command – Lord Jesus was well aware of the Law of Moses that the sick after healing would go into the temple offer a sacrificial offer of thanksgiving. Lord ‘found him’ to affirm again “see you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you” (John 5:14). The cause of infirmity was some sin and he was warned to lead a righteous life in future to avoid something worse to happen to him. The Messiah liberates us from the clutches of sin and we have to then seek His help in living a sinless life.
Others reaction – The Pharisees had created 39 ways by which Sabbath law could be broken to “Not bring any burden out of your houses” on the day of Sabbath (Jeremiah 17:22). God desires that we lay aside all family problems, worries and unfinished works and worship God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. The Pharisees first targeted the sick man for carrying his bed and on learning about Lord Jesus being the source of his healing, “sought all the more to kill Him” (John 5:18).
Lord Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees was “My Father has been working and so do I”. God is at work looking at and assessing the needs of all and providing the necessary help where required. As His children we are also required to be on the lookout for doing good to others in need by becoming His instruments on earth. Yehovah Yireh holds each one of us under His special gaze to ensure our well being and abundant life in Him. But the question remains the same “Do you want to be made well?”
He knocks at the door and the moment we welcome Him as our Sovereign Lord, He empowers us to do the impossible!