At the pool of Bethesda, Jesus met an invalid man and asked if he wanted to be healed. A weird question to ask someone who had been patiently waiting for thirty-eight years to receive his healing. But Jesus’ words always have a purpose and putting them in the right context helps us understand its true meaning.
After Joseph’s death, the Egyptian rulers had taken it upon themselves to torture the Israelites through forced manual labor. They had become a great nation through the blood, sweat, and tears of this Hebrew clan that had immigrated into their land. For decades the Hebrews had been suffering under different regimes until God finally provided them a way out when He sent Moses to rescue them. But the current king of Egypt was a stubborn man and at no cost did he want to lose his army of workers. It took ten plagues for him to even agree to let the Israelites leave but not before God instituted a new covenant with His people, the Passover. While the Israelites might credit their prolonged stay in Egypt to the ruthlessness of its rulers, God had a plan in place which unfolded at His appointed time. The Abrahamic covenant was upgraded by a new covenant, which was the clearest analogy provided to the Israelites about their eternal King.
The Passover meal became significant to the Jews for a different reason, as they remembered their exodus from Egypt with the next generations during the annual festival. But the Passover meal had a lot of restrictions and rules put in place by God that the Jews followed these instructions blindly without understanding what this covenant represented. But why did God ask them to follow these strict restrictions? Why were only the ones who doused the blood of the slaughtered lamb spared by the destroyer and not all of the Israelites?
When the LORD goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.Exodus 12:23
All creatures are created by God. We all love a good origin story and nowadays the demand seems to be for movies that depict the humble beginnings of supervillains. Genesis 3 tells us about the serpent’s origins and that he was part of God’s creation like Adam. God did not shield Adam from the serpent but Adam had the choice to hold on to God’s words or be swayed away by the sly creature.
And it is I who have created the destroyer to wreak havoc;Isaiah 54:16
Similarly, the Israelites had to decide their own futures. They could continue as slaves in a foreign land or like Abraham listen to the voice of their maker and journey into the land that He had prepared for them. The people who wanted to stay back could have done so and not followed God’s instructions but those who did follow the instructions also showed their intent to obey God’s word and thereby expressed their desire to be led by Him. The question that Jesus posed to the invalid man sitting near the pool at Bethesda also had the same connotation. God could have simply sent the destroyer to the Egyptian homes rather than going throughout the land in search of houses that did not have blood on its doorposts. Jesus is the beginning and completion of our faith and we cannot do anything without Him. But because Jesus does everything for us, we take for granted His intervention and sometimes even despise Him for healing our wounds.
The New Passover
The desire to follow God’s voice led the Israelites out of slavery into the promised land. In remembrance of the exodus, they blindly followed the Passover tradition, narrating the exploits of God to their next generations each year during the annual festivities. Little did they know that God’s redemption of His people was still to come, as Jesus would be the ultimate Passover lamb for all of us. Our goals are set on immediate targets as we are myopic to His plans. While the Israelites were focused on their immediate departure from Egypt, God was preparing them for the ultimate Passover. The blood of the lamb is replaced with the blood of His Son that now prevents the destroyer from entering our hearts. Are we ready to accept Him in and douse the doors of our hearts with His blood? The invalid who had been waiting for thirty-eight years was only looking for the healing of His body, but God had plans for his soul.
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?”John 5:6-7
“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.”
He was taken aback by Jesus’ question and blamed his circumstance for his prolonged condition. Thirty-eight years of waiting near the pool would have drawn him countless empathizers, but no one would have ever asked him if he actually wanted to be healed. When we are in our broken state for too long, it starts feeling like the status quo. We are used to our pain and suffering and given that no one likes change, we don’t even desire a positive turn of events. Jesus was reminding the invalid of his purpose of waiting in the queue which he had apparently forgotten. Are we used to the pain and suffering that we have lost the desire to come out of it?
There have been times that God wanted to save the Israelites from their misery but the people themselves did not want God to intervene and depended on help from their neighboring countries. In the book of Isaiah, we read about how the Jewish nation depended on Egypt to save them from their foes. The same Egypt, that they were carried out from by God and the exodus that they remembered each year during their annual Passover celebrations.
Even in the Gospels, we see Jesus making sure that the people who came to Him knew what they are asking. To the rich ruler, Jesus reminded that following Him would entail giving up his riches. That prompted him to retreat as he was not truly desiring to follow Jesus. To the ones who loved their families more than Christ, He let them go back as their desire was not to follow Jesus. The blind man was asked to wash the muddy mess that Jesus pasted on his eyes in the pool of Siloam. Namaan was commanded to go and dip himself in the Jordan seven times to receive a brand new skin. Neither the pool of Siloam nor the river Jordan had any magical powers, but the healing was received by the ones who obeyed God’s voice and desired to get healed. Are we ready to follow Jesus?
Vaccinations are in full swing and in some countries, people have the options to chose their vaccine providers. These vaccines have been developed at a blistering pace and the efficacy seems to improve over each iteration. However many are skeptical for different reasons, some rational while some irrational. For some, the efficacy of the vaccine is not high enough to get the shot. However in the next round of doses, when a newer vaccine comes out with a higher efficacy rate, they stay away and this process continues. At some point, the government will have to question whether the remaining folks even want to get vaccinated. Have the people accepted social distancing and a cautious lifestyle as the new way of life?
God keeps reducing the distance between us and Him and even sent His Son to redeem all of us. Jesus came down not to heal our physical bodies or even our emotional wounds, but He came to redeem us. No matter which steps God took to Redeem His people there were some who kept rejecting His offer. At some point, we must question ourselves that do we even want to be redeemed? Are we so used to our sinful lifestyle that we have lost the desire to come out of it? Our prayer requests are filled with our petitions of what we think we should be asking God but the desire to be redeemed is not on our list. Our hearts have calloused when it comes to doing God’s will and we are on autopilot mode to get our will done. Let us examine our hearts to see if we actually want to be redeemed or like the Israelites are we satisfied with the current state of our souls?