We are in a sermon series drawn from the gospel of John, examining some of Jesus’ recorded miracles which point to something that God would have us know about about him. One challenge in getting to know Jesus is the fact that he is a perfect human being, which is difficult for us to accurately imagine. In the New Testament we are able to observe a perfect human being in Jesus, and as we do we are constantly surprised and forced to conclude that we could never imagine someone like him. Today we will be looking at the third miraculous sign that John records about Jesus involving the healing of the lame man at the pool of Bethesda. We will examine this account in three steps: first, we will look at the pool, then the lame man, and finally, we will talk about the controversy over the Sabbath that comes afterward.
The Pool The construction of the pool was a source of controversy at one time, and was used as an argument for why the Bible was unreliable until an excavation in the 1890s uncovered the location and Biblically accurate design of the pool. What once was used as evidence against the historical reliability of the Bible is now used as evidence in support of it. This proof highlights a question about why trusting the New Testament documents is important and reliable. Every other major religion tells us that God saves the worthy, but the New Testament tells us that our salvation cannot be earned, that we are saved by God’s grace apart from works. Therefore, it matters whether the New Testament records are reliable because it is asking us to entrust our eternal destiny to its historical accuracy.
The Lame Man Jesus takes the initiative and goes to the lame man, which illustrates an important Biblical principle: If you find God, it’s because God pursued you (Romans 3:10-12). The lame man sees Jesus as a partner in his healing, not as the ultimate source of his healing. Likewise, we tend to use God as a means to an end, not as our source of salvation and joy. There is no indication that the lame man responds in faith to Jesus, but is simply satisfied with his physical healing only. He received from Jesus all that he wanted from him.
The Sabbath Controversy In healing on the Sabbath, Jesus was pointing to his true identity as God. The physical healing Jesus offered the lame man was a sign pointing to the spiritual healing he came to offer humanity. The Sabbath was in place to point to the culmination of Jesus’ work on the cross—his perfect life which qualified him to die as our sin substitute and afforded us a rest from our futile labors of trying to please God. He is our salvation rest.
APPLICATION / CHALLENGE
Jesus’ “sign” at the Pool of Bethesda…
- Proves that we can trust our Bibles as an accurate account of Jesus’ words and works.
- Reveals that whenever someone comes to find God, God took the initiative first.
- Cautions us not to buy into Satan’s lies. God is not a cosmic killjoy—he wants to bless you.
- Teaches us to embrace God as revealed in the Bible—not for what we want him to be.
- Shows God to be the sole source of our salvation—not our partner in our salvation.
- Urges us not to settle for a blessed material life—we need forgiveness!
- Warns us not to fall into a legalistic Sabbath-keeping “Christianity”; Jesus is God, our Sabbath rest.
TAKE ONE STEP
Each week, write down one doable concrete step of obedience, small or large, that you will put into practice this week. (James 1:22: “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”)