Posts Tagged ‘the pool of Bethesda’

Jo 17I have discovered that, unless I am vigilant, I can sometimes become a lot more self-focussed and self-serving than I like to think I am. I may gladly agree to do something, but soon those selfish questions I am loath to acknowledge resound in my brain. What will I get out of this? How can I impress others as I complete this task? What if nobody sees all my effort?


One recent Saturday morning, I was ahead of schedule to get to a speaking engagement some distance away, so sat down to check over my input and read my Bible before leaving. I found I was up to the story in John 5 of how Jesus heals a man who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. This takes place on the Sabbath, so the Jews begin to persecute Jesus—and even more so after Jesus refers to God as his Father (5:17). Yet Jesus still proceeds to explain how he does only what he sees the Father doing and how he has received authority as the Son of  God to give life and to judge others (5:19ff).

Then the following words caught my eye:

By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me. John 5:30

Okay, I found myself thinking—Jesus chose to listen to his Father and not step out in his own strength. And he chose to please his Father rather than think only about his own wellbeing. What a challenge! If Jesus had that attitude in his life and ministry, then surely I should aim to do likewise—especially as I set out to speak somewhere.

I read on, admiring Jesus’ boldness as he addressed those Jews seeking to kill him: ‘But I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts.’ (5:42) Wow—how confronting that must have been for them to hear! Yet I personally found his next statement even more challenging:

How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God? John 5:44

As I drove to my speaking engagement, I found myself hoping I had heard my Father God well and prepared the message God wanted me to give. But then I asked myself: What are my real motives in it all? Is it just to receive praise from others—or is it to hear that ‘Well done!’ from God deep in my spirit and to know that is enough? Usually after I speak, someone will come and say something positive about my input—and I hope I have learnt to accept this with grace and not let it add to my pride. But if I begin to care more about that than about whether I have pleased God in it all, then something is sadly out of balance in my whole approach.

Sometimes our real motives for doing what we do can be well hidden, don’t you think? Let’s bring them into the light of day and check them out with our loving, caring, gracious God, who does not want to see us go astray.


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At times, I confess I can be a bit slow to spring into action—although that depends on the task at hand, of course! If it’s something boring like housework or arduous like weeding, I can be very slow. I can think of all manner of things I simply have to do instead. Even if it’s writing, which I love, I can procrastinate, especially when starting a new and somewhat overwhelming project. So perhaps it was for this reason that two different events from John’s Gospel caught my attention recently.

The first one had to do with the official from Capernaum who travels to Cana to beg Jesus to come and heal his son who is close to death (4:46-54). When this man makes his request, Jesus seems to rebuke him or at least try to make a point with him (v 48):

Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”

Now, just like this man, I think I would have been looking for a different response. I would not have wanted Jesus to stand there making a point but instead decide to head down to Capernaum pronto! The official continues to stick to his guns—until Jesus calmly tells him, ‘You may go. Your son will live.

At that point, if I had been this boy’s father, I suspect I would have argued with Jesus. I would have wanted what I wanted. But what does this man do? He simply takes Jesus at his word and departs! He does what Jesus says—even in this life and death situation and even before he fully understands who Jesus is.

It’s a different story, however, after the man’s servants meet him on his way home and tell him his son is now well. Then he discovers the fever left at the exact time when Jesus had told him his son would live—and he and his entire household believe (v 53).

The second event that challenged my own faith was the healing of the disabled man at the pool of Bethesda who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years (5:1-15). Jesus asks him a rather strange question first off—“Do you want to get well?” The invalid seems to be a little indirect in his answer which to me has some slight overtones of the sort of comment I probably would have made: ‘Of course I want to get well! Why do you think I’ve persevered lying here all these years near this healing pool?’ But Jesus simply responds: “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”

And that’s what happens. The man is cured then and there, picks up his mat and walks! He does exactly what Jesus tells him to do—and all this when he has no idea who Jesus is (v 13)! Later, Jesus finds him at the temple and challenges him further, yet even then we are not told if the healed man believes in him.

So where does that leave those of us, like me, who have believed in Jesus for many years and who have experienced his love, his kindness, his encouragement, even his healing firsthand? I, for one, know it makes me much more determined to listen well to Jesus and to spring into action, next time he tells me to act or speak in a certain way.

How about you?

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