5 Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 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?”
7 “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10 and so the Jewish leaderssaid to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”
11 But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ”
12 So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?”
13 The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.
14 Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.John 5:1-15
This record of Jesus healing at the pool always tugs at my heart strings. That pool at the Sheep Gate must have been quite a heart wrenching sight. The desperate situation of those crippled people left alone and – I can imagine – rejected by most people, so that they felt their only hope was to throw themselves into this pool when the water was stirred. The invalid that caught Jesus’ attention was probably the most desperate. Even if this pool could somehow magically heal him, he was stuck on the side, completely unable to get himself to the pool. For 38 years, we are told, he has had a front row seat to what he believed could save him, but was never helped by anyone to access it himself. This account of the miracle performed by Jesus is one of many in the gospels. It points to Jesus as God, particularly here as the Son of God who has the authority to show compassion and work on the Sabbath. But when I read this passage I am also struck at the person of Jesus, the compassion He shows, and the challenge it is to us as His followers.
I wonder what we would see and feel if we walked past that pool daily. Would we have become numb to the plight of these people, excusing ourselves from any responsibility for them? Or would we be in amongst these people, helping them when we can?
I think John wants us as his readers to feel the depth of this invalid’s desperation, and we are supposed to be sitting on the edge of our seats when we see Jesus walking into this situation. Knowing what Jesus is capable of and He has done up to this point in John’s gospel, we anticipate that He is the only person that can take this invalid out of this desperate situation. And Jesus does. Jesus speaks and the man is cured. Again we see Jesus show compassion to the desperate and do what only God could do.
Our Lord and Saviour models a compassion that often we as His followers lack. We often, in an effort of emotional self-preservation, numb ourselves or choose to ignore the plight of those around us. Seeing Jesus’ compassion in action in this passage, reminds me that we are called to be like Jesus to live with the same compassion, being His hands and feet in this broken world. Each of us can only discern for ourselves how we do in this area or what it could look like in our own lives. I hope that being reminded of our beautiful Saviour’s compassion, will encourage our hearts to be more compassionate.