Pool of Bethesda: Lost and Found

John 5:1-19  Photo: Recently discovered Pool of Bethesda

The Pool of Bethesda is where Jesus healed a man that had been a cripple for 38 years. The Gospel of John describes the pool as being in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate and surrounded by five colonnades. Because the pool could not be found many modern scholars doubted the authenticity of John’s Gospel saying it was written by someone other than John who didn’t know Jerusalem. But recently the pool was discovered and excavated, and now most consider John’s descriptions to be both authentic and accurate. But the Pool of Bethesda doesn’t just represent a place that was lost and found; it also represents a teaching that was lost and found. Here I am referring to divinely determined healing. It is something Jesus modelled that the church needs to be reminded of.
According to John, the Pool of Bethesda had a ‘great number of disabled people’ lying around it; the blind, the lame, and the paralyzed (3). But Jesus only healed one man. Why did Jesus only heal one when the place was full of disabled people? It certainly had nothing to do with the crippled man’s faith because he had no idea who Jesus was (13), and though he hoped for healing at the pool, so did all the others . Fortunately we don’t need to look far to find the answer. Jesus said concerning this healing, “The Son can do nothing by himself, the Son can do only what he sees his Father doing” (19). Jesus healed one man because it was the only man his Father was healing. This is an important lesson for all who pray for healing. Faith is important, but it’s not the main thing; knowing who the Father is healing is the main thing. Once we know who God is touching we can believe Him for a miracle. There’s no point in believing God is going to do something if he hasn’t said he is.
Later, at Pentecost, Jesus poured the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ, the Church, so that we could be his hands and feet in reaching a lost world. The same power that was in Jesus was poured into us. The gifts of the Spirit were given so we would continue to do the works of Christ. Speaking of the various gifts Paul says, “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines” (1 Co 12.11). Here again we see divinely determined healing. Healing is one of the gifts of the Spirit (9) and the Spirit is the one who determines when and where healing takes place. He knows the thoughts of the Father (1 Co 2.11) and does His will.
Jesus’ healing ministry was successful because he knew what the Father was doing and did it with him. This is the key for us too. It’s vital that we learn to hear God so we know his movements. We sometimes wonder where Jesus got the confidence to say “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk” (8), but we can have that confidence if we know what the Father is doing. Operating in the gifts is all about knowing what the Father is saying and doing through the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit communicates in many different ways, but some of the most common ways are strong urges (Lk 2.27, Ac 20.22), pictures in the mind (Jer 1.11-14, Ac 16.9-10) or inspired thoughts (Eph 1.17, 2 Pe 1.21). Most of the gifts of the Spirit operate through these means. People sometimes think they don’t hear God because they are expecting to hear him in a spectacular way, but his voice usually comes in still, small ways (1 Ki 19.11-13). And at Bethesda something drew Jesus’ attention to this man before he inquired about his history (6); something made Jesus single this man out. Later Jesus reveals it was his Father that pointed the man out (19).
Knowing that healing is divinely determined is important. It explains why Paul sometimes healed (Ac 19.11-12) and at other times didn’t (2 Ti 4.20); or why Jesus raised only Lazarus from the dead when he could have raised many more. Like Jesus and Paul, we must only do what God is doing. When we promise someone that they will be healed and God hasn’t said he is doing it, we give the individual a false expectation which may damage their faith when nothing happens. In some situations false promises have led to ministers blaming the patient for not having enough faith when the healing does not occur. It is dangerous to presume when God has not spoken.
Jesus taught us to pray “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt 6.10). The fact that we have to ask for God’s kingdom to come shows that its coming is not automatic; and that God is in charge of dishing it out. Whenever someone is saved, healed, delivered, or raised from the dead, we are seeing God’s kingdom breaking in to this world. Only when Jesus returns and ushers in a new heaven and new earth (Rev 21.1) will his kingdom be here in all its fullness. Until then we “know in part and we prophecy in part” (1 Co 13.9) and along with those gifts, we also heal in part.
Did Jesus have the faith to heal everyone at the Pool of Bethesda? I am sure he did. But faith was not the issue; what the Father was doing was. Let’s factor this in when we pray for healing. Now that the Pool has been found, let us proclaim its message. It doesn’t just heal bodies, it also heals beliefs.

Illustrations: Bethesda Found (photo), The Healing Showdown, Cripples of Faith (2 photos), Kingdom Breakthrough Diagram, Football Coach Alongside.

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