Gospel: The Man Who Never Finished First

At the end of John 4, the Lord Jesus healed a man from a distance of about 40 kilometers. In chapter 5 He gets close enough to be able to talk to a man who is described as “impotent,” meaning, “without strength” (v7). The location is “the pool of Bethesda,” not far from “the Sheep-gate” (v2) through which the sacrificial lambs were taken on the way to the Temple. It seems that an angel had, at one time, visited the site and stirred up the water. Subsequently, whenever the water became agitated, it had healing properties, although only the first person into the pool was healed.

For 38 years he had suffered this debilitating disease. We are not told how he got there. There were probably times when he questioned why he even bothered, since he had no chance of being first into the water. However, there was still that faint hope that his time might come.

Well, his day had come! The Lord Jesus was perfectly aware of this man’s need, and while there were many other needy people there, the Lord singled out this man for deliverance. The Lord didn’t need to wait for the waters to be stirred; He possessed the power to heal the man. The Lord could have healed him without saying a word but He said, “Wilt thou be made whole?” (v6). One would have thought that the answer to this question was obvious. No doubt the Lord wanted this man to express his helplessness. Then the Lord told him to do what he had been unable to do for 38 years. Jesus said, “Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.” Without having to go through any course of physiotherapy the man immediately responded to the command of Christ. He arose, took up his bed, and walked.

This incident in the life of Christ illustrates for us why He came into the world. The Lord went to the pool to deliver this man from his affliction. Likewise, He came into the world to save us from the consequences of sin. We have been afflicted with the disease of sin from birth, due to the fact that we are children of Adam. “As by one man [Adam] sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom 5:12).

This man is described as “impotent,” that is, totally incapable of helping himself. Even so, we are totally incapable of delivering ourselves from sin. However, in Romans 5:6 we read, “When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” Just as the impotent man trusted the words of Christ, so we must believe Him when He tells us, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).