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Who He Really Is

John 5:1-18
13th March 2004

Mankind has always been fascinated with the healing properties of water. Natural hot springs, bubbling water pools, salt water baths, and thermal springs with unusual odours are found writings dating back 3000 years. References are found in Jewish writings in Leviticus (16,17) and Numbers (19). There are archaeological remains of Greek baths 3000 years old. The Romans built heated public baths with mosaic decorations wherever their soldiers conquered in the empire.

In Medieval times, the barber was also the town’s keeper of the public baths. People went to natural springs, hot springs and spas for relief of bodily ailments. The treatment in water was called hydrotherapy. Some towns were built round a pump room, such as Bath in England, where fashionable Londoners lived in the magnificent Georgian terraces, and spent their days, “taking the waters”. Those who couldn’t afford the town baths plunged into the sea or in lakes, where, in more recent times, the use of soap has been discouraged! In Victorian England, people were considered hygienic because they had a regular Saturday night bath. Some still do!

One hundred years ago people desired the water inside, and so a metal bath-tub was used usually in front of the kitchen fire. Today, no house is built without a bath room, and many houses have their own spas and outside a private pool. People believe that special water, carbonated water, flowing water, salt water, sprayed water, mineral water, have healing properties. Certainly plunging into cold waters, and lying in warm waters seems to cleanse and re-invigorate the skin.

Warm water relaxes the muscles, helps rheumatic disorders, aids the recovery after strokes or disabilities, and counteracts exhaustion of the muscular and nervous system. Drinking such water also is seen to hold healing properties. Every day vehicles stop on the Wakehurst Parkway at French’s Forest, and passengers fill boxes of bottles from the free flowing spring by the side of the road. It has become fashionable in restaurants for people to drink high priced bottled water. A generation of people now carry plastic bottles of water lest they die of thirst crossing Hyde Park.

Jerusalem had its public pool of healing water. Hundreds of people would take the waters, and in the porticos built around the pool lay disabled people hoping for a cure. v2 The traditional location of the pool is beneath the present site of the Church of Saint Anne, on the northwest corner of Jerusalem and near the gate by the sheep market. Excavations have shown that it was surrounded by a colonnade on all four sides and down the middle of the pool, making five “porticos”. The locals called it Bethesda, meaning house of mercy. V3-4 John explains the intermittent agitation of the water, bubbling from the underground spring, gave rise to a general belief that this was the moment for healing. So people congregated at the pool, hoping to be cured of their ailments. v5-6 One such man had been confined to a bed for thirty-eight years. That would have left the sufferer so weak he would be unable to walk or even stand for any length of time. His case was hopeless. Jesus selected the person who seemed most needy. Since he had been afflicted for thirty-eight years, he must have been well on in years. Jesus’ question must have seemed rather naive to him.

Who would not want to be healed from utter helplessness? V7 The invalid’s reply shows that he had lost his independent determination. He was waiting for somebody to assist him. Such efforts as he had been able to make had proved futile, and he was despairing of success. Yet the question also implies an appeal to the will, which the long years of discouragement may have paralyzed. Jesus thus challenged the man’s will to be cured.

v8 The healing was not a response to a request, nor did it presuppose an expression of faith on the part of the man. Jesus asked him to do the impossible, to stand on his feet, pick up his bedroll, and go his way. Renewed by the miraculous influx of new power, the man responded at once and did so. Jesus supplied even the will to be cured! v9-10 The outcome of the miracle was twofold: the paralytic was healed and a controversy was precipitated. Since the healing took place on the Sabbath, it brought Jesus directly into conflict with the religious authorities. It is interesting to note, v11-12 the paralytic expressed no particular gratitude to Jesus for his healing. v13 Jesus just quietly withdrew from a scene of controversy. v14-15 Yet Jesus’ interest in the man is implied in the word “find.” Apparently Jesus searched for him because He was prompted by concern for his spiritual state as well as for his physical illness. The command “Stop sinning” presupposes the possibility that the man’s affliction may have been caused by his own sin. There is no indication that this encounter strengthened the man’s faith and attachment to Jesus; but he did confess Jesus as his healer. Jesus used confrontation in healing that frustrated man at the pool of Bethesda.

The man had been lying there for 38 years yet Jesus asked: “ Do you want to get well?” And when the man answered with bitterness and resentment: “Sir, I don’t have anyone here to put me in the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am trying to get in, somebody else gets there first.” Jesus confronted him: “Get up, pick up your mat, and walk!” 5:6-8.

Most healing today is through doctors and nurses who use conventional medicine and who demonstrate Christian faith in their caring and praying for patients. Most healing in the modern church comes about not in tent crusades or Pentecostal Churches, but in hospitals like St Vincent’s, St John of God, St Joseph’s, St Luke’s, St Andrew’s, Bethesda, Epworth, Wesley, Wandene and Lottie Stewart, and in surgeries and consulting rooms in Macquarie St., Milton Street, or Help Street. Wesley Mission believes in the healing of the whole person: emotional, spiritual, psychological and physical health are all essential. I know of no other church in the world that employs more than 700 full-time staff dedicated to caring for the sick and seeking to make people whole. Wesley Mission is a centre of complementary healing. In our ministry we have health professionals: professors, doctors, psychiatrists, nurses, radiologists, pharmacists, therapists; health administrators: CEO’S, treasurers, chairmen, Board Members; health workers: counselors, elders, chaplains, prayer groups, crisis intervention teams, and health centres: hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, rehabilitation and therapy centres, medical suites and counseling centres; as well as therapeutic activities: worship services, physio units, hydro-therapy pools, supportive groups and healing services.

We employ Christian people to enable the total task of healing to be completed. Wesley Mission is a multi-faceted ministry, a centre of complementary healing of the body, mind and spirit, by all of the means at our disposal through the skills of faithful Christians. Jesus did three things for him and for you:


“One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 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?” Could you imagine him replying: “Want to get well? Want to? What do you think? Why have I been here all these years?” Jesus respected the patient to present his own views. Patients must desire recovery. I have heard older people say, “Don’t let them try anything else. I am happy for God to take me home.” After years as an invalid, they do not want healing because of the problems that creates. This man, if healed, would have to get a job, learn to keep himself and his family instead of depending upon the charity of those who pitied his suffering. I have known people who prefer to have the pity of others for their invalidism rather than get a job and keep themselves. Some would keep their suffering and refuse treatment that could heal them. The pain of being well and independent is greater than the pain of being an invalid and dependent. Jesus selected an older person who was needy. So why Jesus’ question? Who does not want to be healed from invalidism? Yet the question also implies an appeal to his will, which may also have become paralyzed. Jesus challenged the man’s will to be cured.


The real problem was not with what the man suffered, but with his hidden problems. Illness is frequently a symptom not a cause. The real cause lies deeper. Note what he replied to Jesus: v7 “Sir, 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.” There was the problem: “someone else goes down ahead of me.” Someone who had not been there nearly so long. Someone who pushed in ahead of his turn. The invalid’s reply shows that he had lost his independent determination. He was waiting for somebody to assist him. Such efforts as he had been able to make had proved futile. He was despairing of success and full of resentment at these others who pushed in. Resentment. Bitterness. Frustration. Negative forces that can caused deep psychological problems, and certainly enough to prevent healing. Just ask any of our 69 doctors and psychiatrists working at Wesley or Wandene Hospitals about the physical impact of negative forces.


“Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.” The frustrated invalid wanted someone to put him in the water so he could have a hope of being cured. Jesus challenged him to do something entirely new. The man wanted hydrotherapy, but Jesus was giving him psychotherapy! The healing was not a response to a request, nor did it presuppose an expression of faith on the part of the man. Jesus asked him to do the impossible, to stand on his feet, pick up his bedroll, and go his way.

Renewed by the miraculous influx of new power, the man responded at once and did so. Jesus supplied even the will to be cured! Sometimes the challenge of Jesus is to a new experience. This man was given two commands: Rise! Walk! Both were beyond his expectation and capacity. Sometimes the challenge is to live creatively within our limitations. The healing is of our attitudes and outlook. Jesus makes us new on the inside but the outside may still have the same handicap. Many people learn that their illness is not healed; the paralysis remains; the disability is still there. But they have been renewed on the inside. They can live a totally different life because within they are brand new people. Sometimes the challenge of healing is to see the healing does not take place in this life, but only in heaven. Completeness is not made here on earth, but only in eternity.

So Jesus encourages us to accept whatever new challenge He has for us. Jesus calls people to come to Him and find wholeness. We invite you to receive Him as Saviour and Lord. Trust Him to heal your frustration and disability, then obey His call for you to follow Him. Trust Him and do whatever He commands you to do. Trust Him and then obey! Trust, then obey!


Wesley Mission, Sydney.