Seventeenth in a series of posts examining how much the Bible has to say about God as Jehovah Rapha, God our Healer.
After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.John 5:1-6
Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?
We have talked a good deal so far about scriptural evidence of God’s unswerving willingness to heal. Indeed, for the born-again in Jesus, I am persuaded that in our spirits, now indwelt (and sealed) by the Holy Spirit, healing from sin and sickness was purchased, on our behalf by the sacrifice of Jesus, two thousand years ago. From God’s side, it is a done deal. Having given His Son, and with Him all things (Romans 8:32, 2 Peter 1:3). What more than “all things pertaining to life and Godliness” would a reasonable person expect? We are called to live in these truths by faith with thanksgiving. (If anyone needs some help with that concept please consider Habakkuk 2:4, Romans 1:17, Galatians 2:20, Galatians 3:11, and Colossians 2:7 for starters.)
Those at the pool are described as impotent by the King James version. (Which is the version I usually use here, primarily because it is in the public domain.) I can appreciate the sense of the sick being made impotent in their calling by some malady. The Greek translated “impotent” is ἀσθενούντων (asthenountōn) meaning weak or feeble, usually translated as “sick”. I mentioned the belief that healing was purchased by Jesus’ sacrifice at the cross. The healings recorded in the Gospels occurred before the cross. In my mind the answer to this puzzle is to not limit the work of the Holy Spirit in operation in the incarnate Christ by linear time. Jesus’ death on the cross and subsequent resurrection from the dead is a unique focal point in the fabric of all time. I am not surprised by a flurry of Divine activity in the temporal vicinity. And there is this:
Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.Hebrews 13:8
Jesus is now returned to the throne, seated at the right hand of the Father. As He walked physically after His incarnation, I am relying on the fact that all His mighty acts were accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit who now indwells all believers. Otherwise, the call to follow Him is an impossible command, for He is God, and I am not. If the Holy Spirit of the Sovereign of the Universe resides inside believers, then the secret to a power-filled life is to learn how to believe wholeheartedly, yield to Him, cooperate fully, and persevere. I believe Jesus’ statement that He can do nothing of Himself except what He sees the Father doing (John 5:19) is highlighting that we should follow His example (of following vs trying to do anything in our own strength).
But back to Bethesda and the multitude of sick folk. Out of all of them, Jesus singled out one man with a question, “Do you want to be made well?” Does that seem like an odd question? Do not all sick people want to be made well?
If one continues reading in John 5, the man proceeds to explain his faith in healing by stepping into the pool first after some angel-induced waves in the water and his own inability to be first. He is at least acknowledging the need for help outside himself.
One cannot pass too many years without encountering someone who honestly doesn’t want to be well. The acquaintance who comes to mind first is one who told me she didn’t want to “lose her disability”. Jesus was asking this man to expand his expectations. Things that have beset us for a long time become ingrained in our self-perception. Mustering faith for something different is a tall order. Success demands a change of attention from the problem to the Solution. Focusing on the problem is a sort of negative “prayer”, always doing more harm than good. Exactly as it was for this man at the pool.
Will all your worries add a single moment to your life?Matthew 6:27, Living Bible
I have another acquaintance who seldom passes up an opportunity to talk about his “diagnoses”. These are usually mental health related, given by some professional or other in years past. I don’t want to minimize anyone’s difficulties, but it is easy to see that continually emphasizing these issues serves to relieve this person of any sense of responsibility for growth or personal development, trapping him where he is in much the same way that the slave mentality that came out of Egypt with Israel kept them circling the wilderness instead of entering the Promised Land.
I was asking Jesus about the minimal response of the man at the pool, where his desire to be healed was only implicitly stated by his explanation about his inability to get into the water first. Jesus answered me that He works with whatever consent He can get from a person. He really does meet us where we are! That said, Jesus would never heal anyone against their will. He also told me that He doesn’t set up competitions to get in first, clamor for the head spot at the table, or anything like that.
“But many who are first will be last, and the last, first.”Matthew 19:30, Mark 10:31, Luke 13:30
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; Not of works (being first), lest any man should boast.Ephesians 2:8-9, parentheses mine
“And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.”Exodus 33:19 (speaking to Moses)
If in our born-again spirits, we are already made whole, what is to be done about the flesh which can still be sick and injured? That is what this series is about. May we all walk in the light of these scriptures and in complete faith in the goodness and mercy of God.