John Message #14 “The Miracle at Bethesda”, Ed Miller, March 6, 2024

Listen to the audio above while following along in the transcript below which is also available for download at

We welcome you again to our little meditation on the Lord. I received a call Monday from my grandson and it was a great encouragement to me.  He wanted to share a verse, and he felt like the Lord wanted him to share that verse.  It’s Matthew 3:10, just one portion of that verse.  It says, “The ax is already laid at the root of the tree.”  Why was that a blessing?  It’s because of the way he applied it.  He said, “You pray sometimes that people won’t be injured by your teaching, and I want you to know that the ax is laid at the root of the tree, and anything you say that’s not from Him, He’s going to chop down.”  So, I appreciated that application to that verse, and it is my heart’s prayer. 

Let’s commit our time, please, to the Lord.  Heavenly Father, we thank You so much that You’ve gathered us in this place, and You’ve promised to protect us from what is flesh and blood and human reasoning.  We want to see the Lord Jesus, and You’ve put the Holy Spirit in our heart, and you are always turning our heart, our faith, to the Lord Jesus.  So, this morning we ask once again, according to our desire and capacity, that You would unveil the Lord Jesus to us.  We pray in the matchless name of the Lord Jesus.  Amen.

Just one announcement.  In case you didn’t know, our brother Dave Twilley is now in the presence of the Lord.  It was a great day for Jesus early this week when he was received home.  So, pray for his family, as the Lord brings it to mind.

Welcome now to our meditation from the Gospel of John.  We’re at the end of the Gospel of John chapter 4.  This morning, Lord willing, we’ll finish a few thoughts on John 4, and then introduce chapter 5.  As always, we emphasize that even though we’re looking into the Gospel of John, we’re not here to learn the Gospel of John.  We’re here to behold the Lord; that’s why God has given us His word.  It’s possible to be an expert on the Bible and miss the Lord.  When we get to chapter 5, I’ll emphasize this a little more, but listen to chapter 5:39&40, “You search the scriptures because you think in them you have eternal life.  It is these that testify about Me, and you’re unwilling to come to Me, so that You might have Life.”  So, there were those that searched the scriptures and missed the Lord.

I’m going to give an illustration, and I may have given it before, but I think it’s worth repeating.  It’s from G. Campbell Morgan.  I was meditating one day, and he said, and I’m quoting, “The flower belongs to the artist and not to the botanist.”  I want you to think about that.  The botanist knows more about it.  He’s an analyst; he can give lectures on every part of the flower, and he has a different word for each part.  We’ll look at a flower and say, “That’s the stem,” but they don’t call it the stem, that’s the “cane” according to the botanist.  Then, the botanist speaks, now I don’t know what these words mean.  I’ve written them down—the corella of the flower, the sepal, the petal (I knew that one!), the pistols, the stamen, and the relationship between them.  He has studied every part of the flower.  He can give all the facts and lectures about the flower, and in his analysis, he killed the flower.  He took it apart and put it under a lens, and he killed the flower.

On the other hand, the artist loves the flower; he gazes at the flower and drinks in the beauty of the flower, appreciates the majesty of the flower, breathes in the fragrance of the flower, and he just enjoys the flower.  He doesn’t dissect it, and he doesn’t have to kill it.  In fact, it’s God’s gift and it’s appreciated when it’s alive.  The Bible belongs to the worshipper and not the theologian.  The theologian will take it apart and kill it.  He’ll take it all apart and analyze it, and get into the Greek and into the Hebrew and into the Aramaic, and this word means that and all that kind of thing.  May God deliver us from killing the word of God by analysis.  I’m using that illustration because there’s a part in this lesson where I’m going analyze.  I hope I’m not killing the flower; I hope I’m killing the weeds around the flower when we do it.  Anyway, we gather here to enjoy the Lord, to behold His beauty, to be lost in the fragrance of His presence, so let’s begin.

When we closed last time, we were looking at John 4:46-54, the miracle of the healing of the royal official’s son.  John 5:54, “This is again a second sign that Jesus performed when He had come out of Judea into Galilee.”  We know there were many signs.  This is the second one He did in Cana of Galilee, but He did others.  Last week we showed the wonderful revelation that God gave of Himself to this royal official.  As far as the Bible record goes, this is the first healing miracle that the Lord worked from a distance.  It was about twenty to twenty-five miles from Cana where Jesus was and Capernaum where that child that had the high fever was.  And yet, by His will and word, He just spoke the word, John 4:50, “Jesus said, ‘Go; your son lives.’  The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started off.”  So, Jesus revealed Himself as the omnipresent Savior, and now that omnipresent Savior lives in your heart, and that omnipresent Savior lives in my heart, and by His special provision and gift of prayer, He can express that omnipresence through you and through me.  When we pray, the Lord can reach people a great distance away.  We can reach to the ends of the earth in believing prayer, because the omnipresent Christ lives in our heart.  This truth I willingly receive, all things are possible to Thee, since His indwelling I believe, all things are possible to me.  That’s just another way to say that because He lives in you, don’t neglect that privilege of praying for those who are far away and who are in need for evangelism, missionaries, for loved ones that you know, and those who are sick.

When we left off last week, I was calling attention to the struggling faith of this particular royal official when he started.  Remember that struggling faith is still faith; it’s not unbelief.  Struggling faith is not unbelief.  Struggling faith has a willing spirit; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.  God accepts struggling faith as faith.  The first evidence of struggling faith in this royal official is that it brough him to Jesus, it brought him to the Lord.  That’s faith, but it was struggling.  I’m going to weave in the rest of the review as we look at our new material, because it overlaps some, and I don’t want to just repeat it.  Just know right now that God will never reject struggling faith; He will always encourage struggling faith. 

Here is how I want to wrap up the story.  I want to establish again a fact that we talked about earlier in verse 46, “Therefore, He came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made water wine, and there was a royal official whose son was sick at Capernaum.”  Once again, the distance; Jesus is in Cana, and the sick boy is in Capernaum, and that’s about twenty or twenty-five miles in between.  I want to focus on the road.  The road from  Capernaum, and then the road from Cana back to Capernaum, because that royal official had to make that journey twice.  He had to make it from Cana and go the twenty or twenty-five miles to get to Jesus, and then He had to go back, and I’m just suggesting that the way he came was very different from the way he returned, because when you meet Jesus you are not going back the same way.  It’s going to be very different, and that entire journey from Capernaum to Cana, I’m suggesting that he travelled that with struggling faith.  When he went back, he wasn’t struggling that much, but when he came it was struggling faith.

Capernaum was known for the mighty miracles of the Lord.  For a while the Lord Jesus actually had His headquarters in Capernaum.  He spent so much time in Capernaum.  Mark 2:1, “And when He had come back to Capernaum several days afterward, it was heard that He was at home.”  Some people think He had a home there, and in the context, this is when they broke through the roof with that invalid.  That might have been His home, or anyway, He was borrowing it.  That’s where Peter and Andrew came to know the Lord; that’s where they lived, in Capernaum.  When He called Levi, it was in Capernaum.  Capernaum was blessed to have the Messiah living there and working mighty works in their midst.  That’s where He healed Peter’s mother-in-law, and that’s where He healed the centurion’s servant.  That’s where He healed the paralytic.  That’s where He cast the demon out of a little girl, and now here in John, that’s the royal official, and his son was healed in Capernaum. 

But in spite of every sign and wonder and miracle Jesus did in Capernaum, it is very sad to read a verse like Matthew 11:23, “And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven will you?  You’ll descend to Hades.  If the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained until this day.  Nevertheless, I say to you, ‘It will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day judgment than for you.’”  Capernaum rejected all the signs and wonders that Jesus did.  I’ll be honest with you, I don’t have a clue what that verse means, how it’s more tolerable in the days of judgment.  I know the Lord will do the right thing, and that’s all I know.

Anyway, those miracles that He performed there, those signs, those wonder, everybody was talking about the signs, the wonders, the miracles.  John 4:45, “When He came to Galilee, all the Galileans received Him, having seen all the things He did at Jerusalem at the feast.”  They were enamored with His signs, and His wonders.  And because the Galileans were talking up all of His mighty works, the Lord Jesus did not receive them.  Remember John 2:23, “When He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing, but Jesus on His part was not entrusting Himself to them.  He knew all men.”  He knew they were just looking at signs, and so since He saw the heart, He knew what was in man.  They were impressed by His signs, but they didn’t desire Jesus.  They weren’t looking for forgiveness of sin.  They weren’t looking to have a reservation in heaven or eternal life. 

Anyway, the word got all the way up the Capernaum.  John 4:46, “Therefore, He came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine, and there was a royal official whose son was sick at Capernaum.  When he heard the Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and was imploring Him to come down and heal His son.  He was at the point of death.  He heard the testimony, signs and wonders, and he looked at his son, and he said, “I need a sign or a wonder; I need a miracle.”  That was the beginning of his prompting to go to Cana to meet Jesus.  He heard about the miracles, he was encouraged, it gave him some hope, his son was right ready to die, and so his journey began. 

It started off subjectively; it started off where he is going to look for a sign.  God doesn’t tell us what went through his mind or his heart as he made that long journey.  We do know that when he arrived at Cana, Jesus immediately addressed the problem. John 4:48, “As soon as he presented his problem, Jesus said to him, ‘Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.’”  Of course, it says, “You people,” there were others it applied to; everybody was looking to signs, but in a special way Jesus said, “You are included there; you came seeking a sign.” 

I told you would we weave in some of the review from last week.  This visit with Jesus displayed a struggling faith.  When Jesus spoke these words of mild rebuke, it’s almost as if the royal official ignored him, like he didn’t even hear it.  He was so burdened with the need he had of his son.  He didn’t say to Jesus, “Now, what do you mean by being a sign-seeker?”  He didn’t ask that.  All he said is, “My son is dying.  Will you please come?”

The original language that I pointed out last time when he poured out his heart, it was that he begged.  He didn’t ask once, he didn’t ask twice, he didn’t ask five times.  According to the original he asked over and over.  I don’t know if he fell down on his knees, but he just said, “Come, come, please come, my son is dying, You’ve got to come, please, come, come,” and he kept saying it over and over.  That was struggling faith.  In verse 47, “When he heard Jesus came out of Judea, he went down to Him and was imploring Him.”  That’s the word in the Greek that means asking over and over.  So, he came on that road seeking a sign, he came begging, and then as I pointed out last week, he came with an agenda.  He told the Lord Jesus where this miracle must be done, “You’ve got to come to Capernaum; it’s got to be done there.”  And he told the Lord Jesus what He had to do, “You’ve got to heal my son; he’s ready to die.”  And he told the Lord Jesus when He had to do it, “Now; you’ve got to come now.”  It’s struggling faith every time we come with an agenda and dictate to the Lord how He’s got to answer our prayer.  We need to be pretty careful about that; He knows what He’s going to do.  That was the heart when he came, of this royal official.

When he made the journey from Capernaum to Cana, those twenty-five miles, in his heart there was some desperation and struggling faith, and he came hoping for a miracle, looking for a sign, wanting Jesus to have mercy on him.  His faith was struggling; he was begging that He come.  But read the record; that is not the way he returned.  There’s another trip on that road.  It’s one thing to come to Jesus with a problem and to come with struggling faith, but it’s another thing when you meet the Lord Jesus and you have to go back. 

I’m not suggesting that he was completely delivered from subjectivism.  I wonder if we ever are completely delivered from subjectivism.  I know my heart inclines toward the miraculous.  I love it.  We saw a great miracle this last week; I love it when we see great miracles.  John 4:52, “He inquired, when he got close to home, the hour when he began to get better, and they said, ‘Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.’”  Notice how it’s worded, he inquired when he began to get to better,  He didn’t expect a complete cure; he just wanted him not to die.  He just wanted Jesus to break the fever, so that he wouldn’t die.  But for him, he was thinking, “This is going take convalescence; he had a high fever, and now he needs to regain his strength, and it’s going to take some time,” but when did it begin, and start to get better?  And, basically, they said that the fever broke at the same hour, and so on.  You can see still some of that subjective, to believe that Jesus would have healed him all at once, and like Peter’s mother-in-law, get up and start to minister in full strength, I don’t think that was his faith at that time, but there was a tremendous turn around from how he came and how he left.  I love verse 50, “Jesus said to him, ‘Go, your son lives,’ and the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started off.  That doesn’t sound subjective; it’s a naked word.  Jesus gave a promise and he embraced it, he believed it, and he went. 

Once again, he doesn’t tell us much about the trip back, but I think he was singing, “Go your way, your son lives, go your way,” whatever tune he put to it, I think he was repeating that over and over and over again.  He didn’t ask for details; he simply believed the word.  So, it was more objective faith on the return home, subjective becoming more objective when he returned. 

How many times, just for a little application, is this scenario played over and over again in our own lives?  We start off in Capernaum, and we get some bad news, and it’s a real trial, and it looks hopeless, and we can’t see the end.  The story ends well, but he didn’t see it when he was in Capernaum.  All we see is, “We’ve got to walk a road and we’ve got to get to the Lord Jesus.”  For us it’s a test; it’s a trial and it’s an emergency, seemingly bad news, and we’re trying to cling to hope, but we’ve got to get to Jesus.  So, many times we go like that royal official did, with struggling faith.  So, on the way we pray, we cry, we beg, and we finally get to Jesus. 

I’d like to bring in at this time a verse from Isaiah 46:9&10, “Remember the former things long past; I am God, there’s no other.  I am God; there’s no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, from ancient times, things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established and I will accomplish all my good pleasure.’”  God sees the end; you don’t.  God sees the end; I don’t.  God sees the end; we don’t.  We see bad news.  At the end there’s great rejoicing.  That was good news; the whole family came to the Lord.  It was tremendous.  But when we give to Him, there’s a turnaround, and there’s peace in our heart.  When I read this, I see this man believing, “Your son is well.  Go back,” and he has that faith.  In our heart the emergency is over after we meet the Lord Jesus.  We still have to walk the long road, and we still have to go back, and we’re still wondering how it’s going to turn out.  That’s why he asked the servant, “How is it?”  So, this man leaves Cana in hope, with encouragement and confidence, trusting, believing; Jesus said it, and it’s true; Jesus said it and it’s done.  What went through his mind and heart on the trip, we don’t have the details, but on his return to Capernaum I know he was more joyful than when he left Capernaum.  I imagine, like I said, he sang or said it over and over, ‘Go, your son lives.’” 

Somewhere along the road, we don’t know where, he was met by his servant.  Verse 50, “Jesus said, ‘Go your way; your son lives.’ The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started off.  As he was going down, his slaves met him saying that his son was living, so he inquired of them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, ‘Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.’”  It’s interesting to read verse 55, “The father knew it was at the hour in which Jesus said, ‘Your son lives,’ and he himself believed, and his whole household.  I see two things here.  Number one, he believed, but then I ask the question, “Didn’t he believe before he started?”  Look at verse 50, “Go, your son lives.”  The man believed, and now he gets there, and it says, “He believed.”  What’s the difference between the second belief and the first belief?  The first believe was the believe of faith; he believed the word Jesus said.  That’s the belief of faith.  The second belief was confirmation, God confirmed what he had believed. 

I believe and my Lillian believe that the Lord is going to supply all of our needs.  We believe that, but when He does, we believe.  When we get that mailbox miracle, or something like that, there’s a difference.  We’re believing it now, but when it happens, it’s a little bit different.  I pray and I trust that the Lord will deliver me from this indwelling corruption and give me victory over my thoughts and my sin, and when He does it, oh how I praise the Lord!  I believe.  As I sit before you, I have no doubts that I’m going to heaven.  Jesus is in my heart and I have His righteousness and I’m cleansed by His blood, and I’m going to heaven, but when I arrive, you better believe all heaven is going to know I arrived because I’m going to say, “It’s true; it happened and I’m really here, and there’s the Lord Jesus!”  Our friend and brother, David Twilley, he believed when he was on the earth, and he believed when he sat here, and he believed when he was going through the cancer treatments, but I’ll tell you that this week his eyes were opened wide in amazement, and his mouth was opened wide in amazement.  He said, “I always believed you, Lord, but now I believe!”  This man believed and God confirmed, and in that confirmation, that struggling faith was strengthened and it became real, true, honest faith.

Look again at verse 53, “He himself believed and his whole household.”  In our society, if you said “your whole household”, usually we mean the parents, the mother and the father and the kids, and now and then maybe the grandparents; that’s what we mean.  But this was a royal official, and I wonder what was included in his household.  We see in verse 51, “As he was going down, his slaves met him.”  I know he had slaves; I don’t know how many, but I wonder if that’s part of his household.  And I’m assuming he had other servants in the house, and if he had children, and I know he had one, perhaps a tutor or more was in the house, and whether his grandparents were there, we don’t know.  But it’s just a glorious thing to read, the power of the Lord and the missionary aspect, that he believed, and that was like the woman of Samaria that spilled over and others, also, came to faith.  He went to Jesus and moved from struggling faith, and then went back home rejoicing in the Lord. 

I want to mention one more thing about this story before we go to chapter 5.  We’ve been focusing on this royal official and his journey of faith from the problem to the Lord and to the Lord back to the solution of the problem.  It’s easy for me to identify with the father because Lillian will tell you, I have struggling faith very much, and I’m subjective very often, but I try to put myself in the shoes of the fevered boy.  So, I’d like to spend a moment trying to do that.  You’ve heard me remind you that all things are redemptive.  In other words, whatever the Lord brings into your life, or whatever the Lord allows to come into your life, is designed by Him for a missionary purpose; it’s always for others.  God has a worldwide heart.  What He does in your life is for others; He’s reaching out to the lost.  By God’s allowing this boy, not only to become sick, but to become very sick, and not only very sick, but to the point of death, that experience sent his Dad running to Jesus.  How powerful was that in his life!  God allowed that so that his father would run to the Lord, and in the end his entire household got saved.

I don’t know how old this boy was that became fevered, but I have an idea that if he was old enough to reason, he wouldn’t have said, “Oh, thank God I have a fever; this is redemptive and this is going to lead my Dad to Christ and the whole family to Christ.”  I don’t think he would think like that and I don’t think we think like that when something is allowed in our life.  I’m quite sure at the start we would rather not have the fever, or having it, we would like God to deliver us from the fever, but in the end when we look back, we can’t stop praising the Lord that He allowed this particular thing in our life, because of the fruit and because of how God used it redemptively.  Everything has a redemptive ministry. 

That principle has unlimited application, everything is redemptive, but I think in a special way it has an application to older saints.  Since I’ve joined their committee, let me just give an application, and I don’t mean by older, I’m not talking about more mature; I’m talking about age.  Of course, all of us here want to be children in everything but age because the Lord teaches us that, but the elderly have a particular problem.  The elderly increasingly become weak.  I experienced it this morning with my dear wife.  I came begging her to button my shirt.  I couldn’t get those silly collar buttons.  I tried and tried, and finally we both came to the same conclusion, “Change your shirt.”  That’s exactly what we did; we changed the shirt, and we not only changed it but Lillian put it in a bag to go to somebody else. 

Listen to Psalm 71:9 in this connection, “Do not cast me off at the time of old age; do not forsake me when my strength fails.”  I just want to call attention to that word, “When my strength fails,” and not, “If.”  If you’re going to get old, your strength is going to fail, and at that time you need Jesus, and at that time I need the Lord.  In old age we still have Him.   I don’t know if you’ve every pictured yourself being carried by Jesus, but listen to Isaiah 46:4, “Even to your old age I will be the same, even to your graying years I will bear you.  I’ve done it, I will carry you; I will bear you and I will deliver you.”  Isn’t that a glorious picture?  I wish an artist would put that on a canvas, the Lord Jesus carrying some old grandfather or grandmother in his arms; it’s beautiful!

Anway, sometimes redemptively He will bring a fever (now that’s a figure of speech), He’ll bring something into your life and it might be your weakness, your helplessness, and He might engineer it so that you will be forced to become dependent on others, redemptively.  God is going to use that.  Old people resist being dependent on others.  We say, “I hope God takes me home before He ever allows me to be dependent on my kids.”  I don’t want to be dependent on them; I don’t want to drain their patience; I don’t want to drain their bank account; I don’t want to drain their energy.  I don’t want to be a burden.  Old people think like that and they talk like that.  I understand it, because I sing from that hymnal, too.  But if God allows for redemptive purposes, if he ever allows you to be in the place where you have to depend upon someone else, understand that all things are redemptive.  Your family may need to have their resources drained and they may need to be tested in patience, and so on.  You don’t know what God is doing. 

I think it must have been a great miracle of God when Elijah was brought to the place, “You want to obey me?” says God to Elijah, “Then I want you to depend on that widow, and I want you to take her last meal.  She’s got that last meal for her son and her before she dies, and I want you to say, “Me first.”  Can you imagine?  If God ever called me to go to a dependent widow on their last meal and say, “Me first; let me have that meal,” I would need a miracle, and I think Elijah responded in faith, obeyed the Lord, and you know what a blessing; you know the end of the story.  It was a blessing for her, a resurrection for the son, for Gahazi and the other servants and Elijah.  What missions, what blessing, and for us to read it, what blessing!  So, everything is redemptive.

Having said all of that, somebody may need to play this tape back to me as things wind down.  Anyway, when we get to John 6 I’m going to revisit one expression in John 4:48, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.”  We’re going to come back to that, “Simply will not believe,” but I’m going to wait until we get to chapter 6. 

That brings us, then, to the verses in John 5:1-9, and this a miracle that Jesus performed on the Sabbath Day.  The rest of the chapter is a lot longer, and it’s verses 10-47, and are a response to what happened in verse 1-9.  So, if you follow the spotlight of the Holy Spirit, the miracle takes place, and then all of these verses are the response to it; the message is in the response, not in the miracle.  There is a message in the miracle, but we’re going to look at both. 

Let me quickly mention and pass over a few things in this text, and this is why I was so encouraged when I got that call from my grandson because I need to do a little analysis here.  I don’t want to kill the flower, but I think it’s important, so we won’t be distracted and we can go fast to Jesus.  Let me mention several things.  John 5:1, “After these things there was a feast of the Jews.” Alright, that’s what we have; God doesn’t tell us more.  The commentators will give you chapters.  Was this the feast of Passover?  Was this the feast of Purim?  Was the feast of Tabernacles?  I’m going to save you some time; nobody knows, so move on.

John 5:2, “There is in Jerusalem by the sheepgate a pool which is called in the Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticos.”  The sheepgate; some say, “Well, that’s the gate that’s mentioned by Nehemiah.”  Others say, “No, you can actually translate it as the market gate.” Does anyone know where the sheepgate is?  The answer is no.  There are many guesses, but they don’t know.  There have been excavations done for the five porches, and there are many places that it could be.  I just say that if God wanted you to know He would have told you, so let’s just move on.

The third problem is also in verse 2, the word “Bethesda”.  Now, where is it?  Here we go again.  Some say, “That’s the pool of Siloam,” and some say, “No, that was a different mineral spring.”  Do we know where Bethesda was? I know they’ve got places, and they say, “This is it.”  The answer is no.  There are guesses and nobody knows for sure.  So, move on.  Do we know what the word “Bethesda” means?  Yes, it means house of mercy.  God tells us that, so that’s important.  So, we’ll keep that.  The fourth thing and biggest distraction, and this is where I’ve asked the Lord to keep His ax at my root, is John 5:3&4, “In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, withered, and waiting for the moving of the waters, for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water.  Whoever, then, first stepped in after the stirring up of the water was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted. 

There’s a manuscript problem in these verses.  If you are using the New American Standard, you’ll notice that in the end of verse 3 and all the way through verse 4 there’s a bracket; these verses are in a bracket.  If you are using the Darby translation it’s the same thing; it’s in bracket.  It depends on the translation.  Some leave it out; they don’t even have it in their Bible.  The ASB of 1901 leaves it out.  The NIV leaves it out.  Williams translation leaves it out altogether.  The RSV leaves it out.  The New English Bible leaves it out, as if it’s not in there at all.  KJV ignores the problem and they don’t put a bracket and it doesn’t leave it out, and that’s because they didn’t have at that time the older manuscripts.  When that was translated, they didn’t have the older manuscripts.  Now, again, I don’t want to do what I’m warning you against, but I don’t want to be distracted from the Lord, so let me give you a couple of thoughts of how the copyists used to look at the manuscripts. 

Of course, they would compare manuscripts; they would find a manuscript and compare it, and if there was a problem with any text, should this be in the Bible, should this be included, they had a mark and it was called an obelus, and it’s just a mark.  They had four marks that they used.  If there was a little question about the text, they would put the text in and put a dash next to it.  If it was a little more serious, and the manuscripts didn’t agree, they would say, “We better put a different obelus and we better put a different mark.”  So, the horizontal line with a dot over it and a dot under it, like our division sign, they would use that.  If they came to text and they thought, “Probably this is not genuine, but we included it, but we’ll be warning people,” they would put an asterisk, a little star next to it.   But the most of all, when they saw that a text was absolutely corrupt and shouldn’t be included, they put a sword next to it, a little picture of a sword.  Those were the marks that they used.

I say that because when you come to the manuscripts on these two verses, there is both an asterisk and a sword.  In other words, be careful when you read this and don’t make it part of the text.  Then why did the Holy Spirit include it, if He doesn’t want to make it part of the text?  I’ll try to explain that; we’ll need to know, because to understand the text, we need to know why God says, “Watch out for this, but I’m including it,” and here’s the reason, so, may the Lord Help me here.

So, let me give my two cents.  I believe God was warning us not to just keep reading this like, “This is true, this is the Bible.”  Honest Bible students must acknowledge scholarship; don’t be afraid of honest scholarship, and don’t bury your head in the sand when somebody comes up with a problem.  If you can’t answer it, say it, “I don’t know,” but we can’t just ignore it.  It’s not only the original text that has an asterisk and a sword, but even the content.  Listen to John 5:4, “An angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water.  Whoever, then, first after the stirring of the water stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.”  Now, if you just took that verse and looked for a principle, wouldn’t the principle be, “First come, first served”?  Does that sound like Jesus?  Doesn’t that teach that the strong would have an advantage over the weak?  “Make sure you get in first; you’ve got a need.  Push everybody aside and make sure you can get in there first.”  Mark 10:31, “Many who are first will be last, and the last first.”  But I think in this passage it’s saying, “Let the first be first.”  I’m just suggesting that might also be a clue on how to approach this passage.

It seems to me, and I think this is the reason, that there is no doubt that the multitude mentioned in verse 3&4, they believed that it was true.  They wouldn’t be gathered there if they didn’t believe that an angel would come at a certain time, stir the water, and the first one in would be healed.  They believed that it was real, and I think God allowed it to show us that He is so faithful that He will even show up at the place of superstition to deliver a person.  I think this was a superstition. 

There are many natural explanations for the mineral springs and so on.  There are places like that today.  In Peru they have the fountain of youth, and people go there and bathe in it.  In Budapest they have the hot springs.  The Rio Grande has the hot springs.  I read that six million pilgrims a year go to the Lourdes in France to bathe in the water because there were appearances, evidently, of Mother Mary and made the water curable.  In fact, there’s a big sign in front of that, “This is the site of healing and hope.”  So, people go there.  Now, does God meet people, sometimes, in the place of superstition?  I think He does, so I’m not going to judge, but you’ve got that same kind of thing in the Ganges River, you know, and even the Dead Sea, some have a superstition of the waters of the Dead Sea. I just think it’s wonderful that the Lord is not going to reject those who are stuck in some place of superstition.

Having said that, now, I hope I didn’t confuse you, but let’s get to Jesus.  That’s what we want.  Notice how the Holy Spirit records this.  There are two great contrasts between this story and the woman at the well, and we’ll have time, we’ll take time this morning to do the first contrast, and then, Lord willing, next week we’ll look at the next one.  The first contrast has to do with the bubbling spring.  Listen to what Jesus said to the sinful woman of Samaria, John 4:13, “Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks the water that I will give him shall never thirst.  The water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up into eternal life.”  “The water that I will give him will be a spring in here, a fountain in here, His Spirit in my spirit, His Life in my life; it’s an internal bubbling, and I don’t have to wait for some angel to stir it up; it’s always bubbling, not only bubbling but flowing over.  Listen to John 7:38, “’He who believes in Me, as the scripture said, from his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’ This He spoke of the Spirit whom those who believed in Him were to receive.”  It’s His Life.  And it doesn’t say “river”—it’s plural—rivers.  The fountain in me bubbles up for me, and then through me into rivers, missionary rivers, for somebody else.  That’s the fountain in chapter 4. 

In contrast to this is John 5:3, “Waiting for the moving of the waters.”  A bubbling fountain in here, or a bubbling fountain out there that we have to wait for, and maybe sit there for years and years before anything happens, and something may never happen.  One is internal, and one is external; one is spiritual and one is physical.  Look at the focus.  When the Lord Jesus is walking among this group that’s described, and there’s such a group of needy people—the blind, the deaf, the crippled, the lame, and they’re all gathered there.  Watch their eyes.  Here comes Jesus.  They’re not looking at Jesus.  They’re looking at some pool, and they’re waiting for that pool to bubble, and they’re waiting for that water to stir.  They’re waiting for something, so they can push their neighbor out of the way and jump in.  Here’s Jesus walking among them and they’re not looking at Him, because they’re looking at this pool, and there everything depends on man.  “I have nobody here,” verse 7, “I have nobody to help me; I’ve got to have somebody help me, if I’m every going be healed.”  And later we’re going to see that this healing was the healing of sin, “Go and sin no more.”  This was a penal sickness that he had.  But we’ll talk about that later.

We don’t know exactly how long he was at the pool.  We know how long he suffered from the disease.  John 5:5, “A man was there who was ill for thirty-eight years.”  We don’t know if he was at the pool all thirty-eight years, or how he got there.  Did people carry him, did he come every day?  I know he believed what would happen if he could get in first; he believed that, there’s no question. 

It’s pretty sad to see people sitting year after year after year in a place of superstition, staring at something, hoping that some day that’s going to bubble and they’ll be able to enter in.  What Jesus did for that woman, and put the fountain in her heart, there’s no stream out there, nothing in the world that can equal that; it’s got to be the Lord Jesus.  The pool of Bethesda will always stand in contrast with that woman in Samaria.  The Lord delivered this man from something and to something, and that’s going to be a big part of our look at this story.  He delivered him from, “Take up your bed and walk, and go away from this place,” He delivered him from that, but He also delivered him to something.  It was the Sabbath Day, and that’s important.  “Pick up you bed, that which carried you all those years, and now you are going to be able to carry that.  Pick up your bed, and be delivered from that superstition unto rest, unto Sabbath rest, unto the fountain that’s within.  As I said, Lord willing, we’ll develop that as we go along.

I think all of you have come to know that there is no satisfaction anywhere in the world, only in the Lord Jesus.  There’s nothing to quench your thirst, only the Lord Jesus, and yet needy folks, you’ve met them and I’ve met them, they try this pleasure, and they try that pleasure, and they try this activity and they try that activity, they think this is genuine, and. “We’re going to try religion,” so they try religion for a while.  “Then we’ll try a different religion,” and none of that worked.  Then they try relationship, “We’ll get real friendly with people, and maybe that’s going to work,” and then they try philanthropy, and then they try variety and, “We’ll go on a vacation, and we’ll do this and we’ll do that.  Maybe it’s education, and maybe it’s the gathering of stuff and they try to get rich.  They’re always waiting for some pool to stir that they can jump into and find satisfaction, which is only found in the Lord Jesus.  Changing locations isn’t going to do a thing.  They’re always looking for the moving.

Since I’ve been a Christian, have I ever sat at the pool of Bethesda, not looking at Jesus, but looking at water to stir?  You better believe I have!  Shame on me, shame, shame on me!  I need to keep my eyes on the Lord, but every now and then I say, “Well, I need a special gift, or I need a special baptism, or I need something, or maybe I need to become mystical, or I need to join this particular group of theological experts,” or something like that.  Over and over again the Lord brings me back.  It’s only Him.

I want to share two verses as we get ready to close, two verses and a poem.  Psalm 87:7, just the last part, “All my springs are in You.”  Isn’t that a great verse, and may God burn that on our hearts!  “All my springs are in You.”  That’s what this paralyzed man was about to experience.  The second verse is John 5:8&9, “Jesus said, ‘Get up and pick up your palate and walk,’ and immediately the man became well, and picked up his palate and began to walk.’ Now, it was the Sabbath day on that day.”  He picked up his palate and walked away from the cistern and began to walk with his bed in his hand into rest, and we’ll look at the rest. This is nothing but the first nine verses in an attempt at poetry..

“No hand reached out to touch his hem,

His feet received no tear,

No cry for mercy, plead for help,’

No clamor to get near.

The hump, the lame, the blind, the deaf, the withered

All were there.

A tragedy of human ills,

A dungeon of despair.

How strange, they sat as in a trance,

In bitterness and gall,

They did not hear His steps approach,

Or see His shadow fall.

No notice as His form passed by,

They did not see His face,

They did not sense His presence there,

As He walked through that place.

Their eyes were fixed upon a pool,

The Savior they ignored,

Intent to see the waters move,

How could they see the Lord?

So, men today by multitudes,

Bewitched it would seem,

Have set their gaze on vanity,

A superstitious dream.

They stare for years in helplessness

At forms that are not sure,

With eyes transfixed on emptiness,

They look right through the cure.

Yet, still He walks within, without

About and all around,

Making Himself conspicuous,

Desiring to be found.

Bethesda’s shadows lengthen fast,

The hours for healing fly,

While fools wait for some pool to stir,

The Savior passes by.”

Father, thank You for Your precious word, and what is from You, make that so real in our heart.  Protect Your people from anything that is not from You.  Lord, we thank You for the fountain within, for the Holy Spirit who lives in our hearts, and bubbles in us at all times in all places.  Lord, we just want to rejoice in You today.  Prepare our hearts for further study.  We ask in Jesus’ name.