John 5:1-15 Jesus Ups the Ante

In today’s study I noticed something interesting. Jesus has done three miracles, starting when He instantly turned water into wine at a wedding, then healed a sick boy with a word, and now healing the paralyzed man at the Pool of Bethesda. It’s this miracle that ups the ante, however. Let me explain…

Water is turned into wine all the time. Oh, I’m not discounting the miracle that Jesus did! It was bona fide, I have no doubt. But stay with me here, water gets turned into wine all the time. It’s not instant (unless instant wine is a new product I’ve missed—just add water—?) It takes a while for the natural process to transpire, controlled carefully by men, but in essence water on the vineyard grows the grapes, men ferment them, and in time that water is turned into wine.

Likewise, although I refuse to discount the miracle Jesus did in curing the son of the nobleman, the fact remains that kids who are sick, even dying, get better every day. I agree with you, if at the moment you’re noting that God is the one who heals them ‘naturally’! And I’m not trying to explain things away with some form of justification, the way people who doubt the miracles try to do. No, I just want you to notice something about the healing at Bethesda.

This guy sitting by the pool is a cripple. He’s been paralyzed—a word literally meaning ‘withered’—for thirty-eight years. I don’t know how old you are, but I’m old enough that I can subtract thirty-eight from my age and recognize that he’s been paralyzed long enough that folks know it. I don’t think there are too many people walking past him wondering if he’s a shyster, ripping off the insurance company by secretly walking on the weekends… He’s not an unknown quantity.

He’s sitting by this pool that’s supposedly a place people come to be healed. I have to take a short detour here, if you don’t mind. Some of the youngsters from our church went to a little town in Macedonia on a mission trip. While there a few of them were treated to a visit to the local ‘swimming pool.’ It turned out that it was a place that had been there for generations and was known as having curative waters. The kids described a few of the people who hung out in the naturally warm waters, and even though they were only visiting there for an afternoon the kids knew without a doubt that these people were crippled. The local townsfolk were no doubt even better acquainted with who they were and what infirmities they suffered. Likewise, the man at the Pool of Bethesda was clearly known to be a cripple.

So what? Well, let’s think about this. The two previous miracles are ones that people at the time might have tried to explain away, just as people have for the intervening two-thousand years. They didn’t have CNN and film at 11:00, they only had talk. News travels fast, especially when people are being healed, but making miraculous wine was a fun treat to talk about, and the nobleman’s son being healed was probably a curiosity, but this rich guy had access to some good medical care… I bet people were raising eyebrows all over the place, thinking some medicine given to the kid took effect about the same time Jesus said the word. Coincidence, that’s all. Yet here comes the man from the Pool at Bethesda walking past them. How do you scoff at that? Fact is, in thirty-eight years he hasn’t strolled past. He hasn’t done more than be carried, or at best lugged his body laboriously along on crutches. This is one of those undeniable, in-your-face miracles.

Fact is, water turns to wine every day and sick kids get better. Folks know that. It isn’t until Jesus heals this well-known crippled man that people begin to recognize that He does far more than the passage of time or natural processes do. This miraculous healing is an undeniable demonstration of His power!

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