Pool of Bethseda, Old City, Jerusalem, Israel A devotion given at the Pool of Bethesda, Jerusalem, 3/22/05,
dedicated to Bob and Mary Blattner with love.
"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. 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. 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?" "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." 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 day on which this took place was a Sabbath" (John 5:2-8).
What a privilege it is to be here in the very place where Jesus healed a man who had been unable to walk for thirty-eight years. As you can see, this pool is VERY deep. It would have taken a great deal of faith to have yourself helped and/or hurled into this pool, knowing it was 50 feet deep. If you didn't get into the water first and receive your healing, you stood the chance of plummeting to the bottom and drowning. There's no record of life guards standing by, certified or otherwise.
Into this arena of suffering and pain, Jesus came by in God's perfect timing for this paralyzed man, asking him, "Do you want to get well?" Isn't that a fascinating question for the Creator of the Universe, the Lord of heaven and earth, to ask anyone? Do any of you in our group have anything wrong with you which could benefit by the touch of the Master's hand? I surely do. If Jesus were on this tour today, and of course, He IS on the tour with us, since He dwells in each of our hearts, but if He physically appeared in this hour and asked, "Do you want to get well?" How would you answer Him?
When I gave this little devotion at Medicalodge two Sunday's ago, I asked this question, and one woman piped up and said, "Immediately if not sooner." Jesus was probing for something in this man's psyche, as He often did, perhaps to help him come to himself, for the lame man was in the pigpen of pain, paralysis, and despair. One thing to consider is that a healing could rob the man of his livelihood. There was no social security, no welfare system, no food stamps, and no ERs which were compelled to treat the uninsured sick. This man no doubt had been a beggar, which was the only occupation open to one in his pitiful condition, and if he were healed, then, as the same woman at Medicalodge commented, "He'd have to go to work." Begging wasn't a glamorous occupation, but it was easy money. Perhaps he didn't want to give that up.
A perfect example of this mindset happened at the local Walmart here in Neosho, where we often see scruffy looking men standing at the entrance to the parking lot, holding a sign which reads, "Will work for food." These unfortunates usually look unbathed, hungry, and in need of this world's goods. Our friend's son Peter (not his real name), stopped his car as he was leaving and said to the man, "Come with me and I'll give you work for food. I am a logger and need to get some timber cut today in the woods." The man seemed startled by the suggestion, and blurted out, "No way." Pressing the point, Peter asked, "Why not? Your sign says you will work for food."
The man confessed, "You can't pay me as much as I make here." When Peter asked him how much he made, the man replied, "Between $100-150 dollars." Astounded, Peter then asked him how long it took to make this much money. The answer was probably three or four hours. This beggar may not have been physically ill, but he had some kind of psychological problem which caused him to choose begging rather than working. Like the lame man in John, Chapter 5, the beggar at Walmart might also have given Jesus some excuse as to why he didn't want to be healed.
Whatever the reason the man by the pool had for clinging on to his infirmity, Jesus cut right through the ties which bound him and said, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk!" Amazingly, muscle and sinew, bone and cartilage which had not moved for 38 years, were instantly restored to perfect wholeness, and he got up and walked! God does not do things half way. He presses in for the complete healing that Jesus came to bring us, body, soul, and Spirit.
God is ALWAYS interested in every aspect of us, and He made provision through the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, to provide what we need. I believe that the scriptures teach that the total price for our redemption, and our release from bondage was paid at the cross, and since then, the Holy Spirit has been engaged in what I call "the mopping up process," as He delivers us from false ideas, false doctrines, and false gods we have worshipped.
Sometimes sickness or infirmity buys a person something. It also may reflect a spiritual need, and certainly, it is always an opportunity for God's glory to be manifested in a person's life.
The lame man was one of those of whom Isaiah said, "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light. On those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned" (Isa. 9:2). I believe Jesus wept over Jerusalem during that final Passover because they were walking in darkness. Isaiah prophesied about the powerful effects of LIGHT upon the world's darkness:
"Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn" (Isa. 60:1-3).
In addition to being a reflection of God's glory and healing power, the paralyzed man by the pool was a perfect example of God's elect. There were MANY "lame, halt, and blind" lying beside the pool that day, but God through Jesus, chose to heal this particular one. He could have come in there like the Marines and healed them all, but instead, He healed only one, which confirms what He said in another verse: "You did not choose me; I chose you!" (John 15:16).
Do not be intimidated by the principal of election. The Bible is full of examples of God choosing one man in order to bless many people. We've talked on this trip about Abraham, Gideon, David, and Joshua, all members of God's elect, who were chosen for the good of Israel. In each case, because they were just ordinary men, they reflected God's mercy, not man's efforts. Abraham, for instance, was no better or worse than any of his peers. Actually, he was a liar, a coward, and an idol worshipper before God stepped into his life (Josh. 24:14-15). None of his character flaws deterred our Father's plan, because He knew what He was going to do for the whole world through this one man! Accordingly, the Creator of Heaven and Earth tapped Abraham on the shoulder, and said, "Come with me to a land I will show you and I will bless all nations through your seed" (Gen. 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; Gal. 3:8).
The Apostle Paul tells us in Gal. 3:16, that Abraham's seed was Christ. Therefore, those of us in Christ are Abraham's seed, heirs to the promise God made to the Patriarch. We are "spiritual Israel," meaning that we ARE God's holy land, for He dwells in us! This pilgrimage was billed as a "Holy Land" trip, but in actual fact, WE ARE the Holy Land!
The elect are also referred to as "the remnant." Paul explains it well: "So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace. What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened, as it is written: "God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day" (Rom. 11:5-8). Notice that it was NOT the devil, the carnal nature, or free will which consigned them to disobedience, but rather it was God who blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so He could have mercy upon ALL! (Rom. 11:32). For those who ask if this is unfair, Paul answers, "What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." IT DOES NOT, THEREFORE, DEPEND ON MAN'S DESIRE OR EFFORT, BUT ON GOD'S MERCY" (Rom. 9:14-16). Oh, glory to God! The final reconciliation of all things does not depend on me or upon you, but only upon God!
If you are still feeling insecure about whether or not you are among the elect, let me assure you that you ARE the elect! How do I know? Because you are here. When God called, you answered. You are here today because God called you before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in Him (Eph. 1:4). He seated you with Christ in heavenly places (Eph. 2:6); He saved you by grace, NOT by your own works, lest any man should boast (Eph. 2:8-9). You ARE the righteousness of God in Christ (II Cor. 5:21). He predestined you to be conformed to the image and likeness of His firstborn son, a brother of Christ! (Rom. 8:29). You ARE the temple of God! (I Cor. 3:16-17; I Cor. 6:19). You are "holy and blameless and irreproachable before him" (Col. 1:22).
The saints of God are enduring many trials and tribulations in this hour, but remember that there is Good News in all of God's judgments, for as Isaiah said, "When your (God's ) judgments come upon the earth, the people of the world learn righteousness" (Isa. 26:9). Through the prophet, God said, "I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line; hail will sweep away your refuge, the lie, and water will overflow your hiding place. your covenant with death will be annulled; your agreement with the grave will not stand" (Isa. 28:16-18, NIV).
The man by the pool of Bethesda had made a covenant with death, and like some of us at various times, he had his own reasons for not seeking life and wholeness. He clung to his illness, his disability like some people hang on to bad habits that will eventually kill them. Jesus cut through the ties which bind, as He said He would. He came to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty the oppressed. (Luke 4:18-19). There are many who are oppressed, spiritually blind and enslaved by the doctrines of men in the land of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and indeed in the rest of the world. Christ is here today, doing what He ever did, healing the sick, raising the dead, spiritually and physically, and setting the captives free. Our hearts cry out for the remnant, the sons of God to be completely and ultimately manifested, for the benefit of all creation!
Jesus said that He was the Light of the world, and then He said to us that WE are the Light of the world! (John 8:12; 9:5; Matt. 5:14). When the Light is fully manifested, we'll see the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy: "Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken" (Isa. 40:4-5).
Father, we thank You that Your hand is not shortened, nor Your might lessened by time, tide, or the machinations of men. You are today what You ever were, and we ask a special blessing on the lost sheep of the house of Israel, wherever they may be found, that the eternal blessing You gave to the seed of Abraham, which we all are in Christ, will be manifested right now, in this place today! Make us light bearers, and good news bringers to a lost and darkened world, healing to the sick of body and soul, and God's unconditional love to the oppressed and dying. With all the Saints, we say, "Come now, Lord Jesus." In the Name above all names, we ask it. Amen. Jan Antonsson.
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
The Glory Road
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This page was uploaded to the web on 3/26/05
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/13/08.