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What you believe dictates what you receive

John 5:2-4

"2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep [Gate] a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. 3 In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. {4 For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had.”}

This passage is extremely important, although those of us who have never been to Palestine and who do not understand the culture will not see it as such. First, the word “gate” is in brackets because in the KJV it was actually the word “market”. Neither the word gate nor the word market are in the original and oldest texts of the gospel of John found at Qumran as part of the dead sea scrolls. The translators of the KJV added it to their translation for clarity. However, there is not a sheep “market” in the Jerusalem at the location described in the Bible here. What there is a sheep “gate.” This gate is used to usher into the temple the sheep that will be used for sacrificial offerings to the Lord. It is important to understand where this is for practical renderings of scripture but also to see the metaphoric value of this location for Christians today. You see, this is where the sheep  would go into the old city and they would be stalled there until they were sacrificed at the temple. There was this pool there, where there were still very sick people, yet the sacrificial lambs were walking right past them. This is significant as a symbol to the church because it verifies that even though there were so many sacrifices offered, sin still cause sickness and there was absolutely nothing really being be done about it. 

    The pool that is called Bethesda here that has five porches was excavated in the nineteenth century and has water in it until this day. The interesting thing about it is that the water is still “stirred up” from time to time. Think of this pool of water like a hot spring. We have hot springs all over the US; Yellowstone, Hot Springs, Arkansas, T or C, New Mexico, Northern California… That is exactly what this pool in Jerusalem is. If you have ever visited any of the hot springs areas I have listed above, you will notice one prevailing thought- that the hot springs themselves have healing properties. In Hot Springs, Arkansas, a large portion of the economy during the early part of the 1900’s was promulgated by this notion and bath houses were strung in rows to offer “healing” to paying customers. That is exactly the idea that these ailing and lame inhabitants of Jerusalem had as they lay by the pool at Bethesda. As a matter of extreme importance and historical truth, the verse John 5:4 is NOT included in the oldest copy of the gospel of John found at Qumran in the caves of the dead sea in 1947!!!! The earliest we can find reference to the inclusion of this verse is some three to four hundred years after the Ascension. It is my personal feeling that it was added by the Greeks so that their dominant Greek readers-who have no understanding of Jewish custom and mindset- could have some empathy as too why all of these sick people herded about a pool of bubbling water! 

    I admit that every time I personally read John 5 verse 4, I was a bit offended at God. It sort of upset me that these poor people who were very much in need would only be able to be healed one at a time and it was a race -by the lame- to a pool of water! It seemed disheartening to me to regard God in this way. Now I know that this is not the case. The people had a superstition, a belief and as a man thinks in his heart, so is he! That begs the question though, why then, when Jesus came did He only heal one man out of the many in need here? The reason can be found in the answer of the man when Jesus asks him if he wanted to be made well. 

John 5:5-9

"5 Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been [in that condition] a long time, He said to him, "Do you want to be made well?" 7 The sick man answered Him, "Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me." 8 Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up your bed and walk." 9 And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath."

    Here we see Jesus approach this man who had been lame for 38 years. We know he was lame and unable to walk on his own because he said he needed someone to put him into the water- indicating that he was unable to mobilize himself. Indulge this though for just a moment…. this man was lame for 38 years! That means that someone had to get him and bring him to the pool every day and literally pick him up every day. They had to feed him and take care of his sanitary needs as well!!! The man was absolutely and completely dependent on the mercy of another human. That is going to be very significant later in the story. 

So Jesus came to the man and asked him if he wanted to be made well….. This statement alone should strike you as it strikes me.   First of all, the man had someone take him to a place with the intent of receiving healing presumably every single day for 38 years!! Second of all God basically put Himself in a box here by asking the will of the man! And that is the answer…. the reason that Jesus only healed one person, is because everyone else wanted to be healed on their own- they were the “multitude” as related in John 13. The word multitude implies the “ignorant multitude.” They believed they had to get into the water. This man that Jesus healed basically believed that someone else would lead him to his healing!! The difference being that the multitude wanted to receive on their own- by their own efforts and this man was completely dependent…. That is not to say there were not others there who were just as dependent, we of course do not know for sure, but this man’s heart was to get healed. 

    Might I point out that there are several places in the New Testament that Jesus only heals a few sick people and leaves the rest…. the Scripture is clear that this is done specifically and directly because of the unbelief of the people and NOT the will of God. Therefore, we know, as a rule, if someone does not receive healing from Jesus it is because of the state of their own heart and will and NOT the heart and will of the Father or the Son. 

    Incidentally, notice that Jesus always healed in this way. He never went to the Father and said things that you hear the church say today such as…"Oh Father would you please just reach down and in your mercy heal so and so?”  Jesus never, ever, ever did that. He always knew God’s heart was to heal and that He had already provided all of the healing needed for everyone for all time so Jesus just commanded whatever the situation was to get in line with the truth of God’s word or He brought the truth of God’s word to the attention of the one in need. He said, “rise up and walk”, He said, “Go your way, your son lives” He said, “Stretch forth your hand.” He said, “Let it be unto you as you have believed.” He said, “Be opened” , He said “ Lazarus Come forth” …  Jesus took healings on a case, by case basis and gave every person exactly what they could receive. He still does this today and as Christians, we are commanded to heal the sick… but we cannot heal the sick unless we believe that we have been given authority by God through the person of Jesus Christ to heal the sick. The signs follow those who believe- the signs do NOT follow those who do not believe and so for a Christian the answer to healing is the state of the heart!

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