Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

Q: Why didn’t Jesus heal everybody at the Pool of Bethsaida?

A: There is a misconception that Jesus went around healing all the sick, and this particular incident in John 5:2-9 proves that such a notion is misplaced. The first thing we must note is that those who were sick often sought Jesus out. It appears that most of them had heard about this Jesus and when he was in the vicinity they would often cry out to him like blind Bartimaeus in Mark 11:46-52 and the ten lepers in Luke 17:11-19. In the case of the bedridden man who was brought to Jesus in Mark 2:3-12, the key is that the sick man was brought to Jesus because of the faith of his companions, reminding us that we must bring the sick to Jesus in our prayers in sincere faith. (See James 5:14-15.)  It is clear that in most of the healings that took place, Jesus was sought out by those seeking healing for themselves or others.

      The fact that these individuals sought Him out or called to Him was an act of faith on their part, but when it comes to the man at the pool he was not seeking Jesus out because his faith was in the pool being stirred by an angel rather than an actual encounter with Jesus. This is true for many in America today. I do not know how many American Christians first seek God in fervent prayer, praying with expectation, ever ready to submit to His will in a matter. Like the man with the son under demonic influences in Mark 9:17-29, there may be those who have hope (wishful thinking) that God will heal or deliver, but who lack the expectation that He would personally touch them or someone close to them.

      Scripture shows that physical healing often was associated with people who had chosen to believe Jesus could heal them. As with the woman with the issue of blood, He is usually their last and only hope of being healed and definitely requires a supernatural intervention (Mark 5:25-34). Such individuals have nothing to lose by seeking Him out and everything to gain if they do encounter His healing touch.

      The problem with Americans is we have our various “pools of Bethsaida” that we look to just like those in John 5, hoping that there will be some type of stirring by heaven above that would supernaturally bring us healing, while all the time looking to a worldly pool instead of looking up. Occasionally, we become desperate for healing, but once the desperation flees, we are back to the place of considering what worldly options are left for us to pursue. It is true that the Lord can use these other avenues to bring healing, but the other harsh reality is that when it comes to healing among many in the American Church, the Lord is rarely sought and if He is considered, it is because He is the only option left.

      There are other aspects of healing that we as Christians must keep in mind when considering this subject. The first point is that there are three types of healing: physical, spiritual, and death itself. For example, take physical death. For the saint it is leaving behind the former life of suffering, challenges, and struggles and walking through the door into the glory of God. Psalm 116:15 says, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” However, for those left behind, it is a great loss. Even though in God’s eyes the death of a saint is heaven’s gain because another child has come home, it leaves a gaping hole in the hearts of loved ones left behind, frayed emotions that are unpredictable and a tormenting vacuum. We may intellectually know that at the end of this journey is great hope and expectancy for us to see our loved one once again, but we still must walk through the devastation it leaves behind, choosing to hold onto the Lord’s hand.

      In most cases we think of the miracle of healing in terms of physical healing, but the greatest type of healing is the spiritual healing that takes place when a sick, lost, dying soul has received salvation. Many Christians claim the part of Isaiah 53:5, “and with his stripes we are healed” in terms of physical healing and not the deliverance of the soul from the various bondages of the flesh, the world, and Satan. The Apostle Peter in 1 Peter 2:24 is clear that this particular reference of “being healed with Jesus’ stripes” has to do with the salvation of our souls and not physical illness, “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree that we, being dead to sins should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” Keep in mind that souls devastated by sin harbor broken hearts, are wresting under tremendous bonds, and are bruised (Luke 4:18). It is for this reason that those seeking spiritual deliverance sought out Jesus as well, such as in the case of the Syrophoenician woman in Mark 7:24-30.

      It is clear that the greatest healing has to do with our souls being washed, cleansed, and redeemed from the claims, workings, activities, and consequences of sin. This brings us back to the purpose behind physical healings. These healings often had to do with confirming the message or the faith of a person. For example, in the case of Jesus’ second miracle of healing the child of the nobleman in John 4:46-54, the nobleman was seeking to believe Jesus, and chose to believe His word before actually seeing the sign that his child was healed. His faith towards Jesus was confirmed by the healing of his child.

      However, seeking to believe and asking for a sign as a point of proof are two different things. Many were seeking a sign, but it was not to believe Jesus; rather, they wanted to put Jesus to a foolish test (Matthew 12:39). They had no intention of believing Jesus. They had a “wait and see” attitude to see if Jesus and His teaching fit into their narrative. Jesus said of such people that they were a wicked generation.

      Simple child-like faith allows God to show Himself mighty through miraculous interventions, but signs were never meant to be a source of faith (Matthew 18:2-4). Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). In other words, God did not heal to show off or prove a point. Healing was a means for God to cause people to consider the source of healing and not the act itself, and it is for this reason that healings, along with being delivered from demonic oppression, often serve as powerful signs. These signs will follow and validate the preaching of the Gospel (Mark 16:15-18).  Sadly, we do not see this happening on a grand scale in America, but it is happening elsewhere in the world.

      This brings us to another aspect of healing: it must be done for the glory of God. God sometimes uses abrasive tools such as illnesses to bring forth a greater testimony and refine the calling and ministry of a saint. Psalm 34:19 tells us, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.” Afflictions can be illnesses, persecutions, and losses as demonstrated in the book of Job, but as we can see God allows them, knowing that the saint is trustworthy in handling them if he or she looks to Him. Eventually He will deliver each of us out of our afflictions according to His will and timing.

    Sadly, many Christians think that Christianity gives them a pass when it comes to afflictions. They fail to consider that God is allowing them in His Body and at such times we need to seek His face for wisdom, comfort, and understanding. We need to know if He is allowing it in our lives to go deeper in us to refine the life of Christ in us, or maybe He is preparing us for our high calling, enlarging our testimony so that we can be used by Him in more effective ways, or it could be a point of chastisement to get our attention.

      Here is an important aspect of God’s intervention in any matter. It will prove to be a test. Jesus basically asked the blind man in Matthew 20:30-34, “What would you have me do for you?” People fail to realize that if Jesus miraculously heals them their life will change in some way. He does not heal people so they can continue to live like beggars or go back to the old way of doing something; rather, He heals them so they can live for His glory. Sadly, like the nine healed lepers that failed to thank the Lord for their healing, there is little or no acknowledgment from recipients that God indeed has healed them. They often go back to the world without considering why God touched them. In America there are also those who would also foolishly accredit their healing to their faith and not to God’s sovereign mercy and grace.

      In John 5:14 we get an indication that when God heals it is not just for the benefit of the recipient. Naturally it should bring rejoicing, but the other side of it is that it should bring sobriety. In John 5:14, Jesus gives the man at the pool this warning, “Behold, thou are made whole; sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.” People want relief from the illness, but not deliverance from their ways. Again God does not heal people so that they can walk back into the dead ways of their old life and the world, but He heals so that the recipient can walk according to his or her calling and His will. After all, it is all about conforming us to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29).