9 May 2010

John 5:1-9

"When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, 'Do you want to be made well?'" (v.6)


Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a festival. This may have been the Passover or it may have been Pentecost. Passover is when Jews celebrate their freedom from slavery in Egypt (see Exodus chapters 11 and 12). Pentecost is a Jewish harvest festival and also commemorates the giving of the Ten Commandments to Moses (Exodus 20:2-17). But for Christians, it is a celebration of the Holy Spirit, as it was on the day of Pentecost that the disciples received this empowering gift from God (Acts 2:1-4).

In Jerusalem there was a 'sheep gate'. The sheep which would be offered as a sacrifice for sin were herded into the Temple through this gate. Near the sheep gate was a pool called Beth-zatha which was renowned for its healing properties. It had five alcoves which provided shelter for the sick people who would gather there. Every so often the water would start bubbling up and the first person to get into the pool at that time would be healed.

Jesus came to this pool and asked a man who had been lying there for a long time, "Do you want to be made well?" The man does not directly answer the question but explains that he has not been healed because there has been no one to help him get into the pool quickly enough.

Today we begin Christian Aid Week. The images we see on our television screens of people desperately scrambling for aid when a convoy arrives are probably not dissimilar to the scene at Beth-zatha when the water started stirring. The sick people who had been waiting so long for this moment began to compete with one another to get into the pool first.

The man who had been ill for 38 years longed to be healed. He had not given up hope but was still waiting by the pool. However, without someone to help him, he would never be able to receive what he was longing and hoping and waiting for.

To Ponder

There were "many invalids" lying by the pool. Why do you think Jesus chose to heal only this particular man?

Who is longing and waiting and hoping for your help?

What are you longing and waiting and hoping for?

Bible notes author

The Revd Nicola Vidamour

Nicola is a Methodist minister, currently serving two churches in East Ham, London. Before taking up this appointment, Nicola spent six years as the associate pastor of Pskov United Methodist Church in Russia.