Pool of Bethesda
The pool was called Bethesda in Aramaic. Various spelling of this name is found in Greek manuscripts, such as Beth-zatha and Bethsaida. It means house of flowing or mercy and it was known as a healing sanctuary.
The pool of Bethesda was situated at the Sheep Gate, a gate in the wall of Jerusalem near the Temple. The Sheep Gate was the gate used to bring the sheep through for sacrifices at the Temple.
It consisted of a double pool, two large pool complexes separated by a partition. There were five covered walkways, roofed colonnades. The pools were surrounded by these roof colonnades on the four sides and the fifth colonnade divided the two pools.
Crowds of sick, lame, paralyzed people lay under the covering at the pool of Bethesda.
Some early manuscripts tell how the people waited for the movement of the water as the sign an angel of the Lord has come down and stirred the water of the pool. Whoever entered the pool first, was healed. This verse 4 is not recorded in the earliest manuscript.
One particular man had been lying at the pool of Bethesda for 38 years. Nobody helped him and he had no hope of being healed and living a fruitful life, he was trapped…until the day he met Jesus Christ.
Jesus saw the man lying there and He knew he had been lying there for many years. When Jesus asked the man whether he wanted to be healed, the sick man did not say yes immediately, but told Jesus of his helpless situation.
Jesus answered the man, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” The man was healed immediately; he picked up his bed, (or mat or bedroll), and walked.
The healing took place on a Sabbath, the day the Lord God commanded the Israelites to rest.
“Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy. (Exodus 20:8-11 NLT)
Nothing in the Old Testament prohibited this man from carrying his mat. Jewish tradition had developed minute details and burdensome rules that defined what kind of work was prohibited. There were 39 different classifications of work. One of these manmade rules forbade carrying an object from one domain to another. This was the manmade law that the healed man violated when he picked up his mat and walked.
When the Jews accused the man of breaking one of their traditions, the man answered that the One who healed him told him to pick up his mat and walk, but he did not know the name of the man.
Jesus met the healed man later at the Temple and told him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” This implies that the man’s situation before he was healed was because of sin. The man went and told the Jews that it was Jesus who healed him.
The Jews persecuted Jesus because, according to their traditions, healing or providing medical treatment was also prohibited on the Sabbath. Jesus did not quarrel with them or entered into a discussion on what the definition of work is. He answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”
Jesus was telling the Jews that He, like His Father was Lord of the Sabbath and not man.
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