Q: “Can you please explain why Jesus chose to heal the man at the pool of Bethseda (John 5:1-15) and not heal the other people? Thank you.”
A: There are some important facts that we must note about this incident. The first one is dealt with in Romans 9:14-18, “What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.” Clearly, the Lord can and will show mercy to whom He will without explanation, but it is also clear that He has good reason or purpose for it that may not be obvious to others.
The second aspect of this incident is that the man was among a multitude waiting for an angel to stir the water, believing that the first one to step into it would be healed. This tells us three different things about this group: 1) they were not looking to God for their healing, 2) they were putting confidence in an experience and not in the One who is behind all miracles, and 3) Jesus the great healer was passing among them, but none of them were looking for Him or prepared to recognize Him. Keep in mind, those who were healed by Jesus were either seeking Jesus or crying out to Him because they knew who He was.
This brings us to the third aspect and that it was Jesus who searched out this man. This man had his infirmity 38 years, which no doubt Jesus knew. One has to wonder if every year at that time this man sat at the pool, waiting and hoping that he might be the first one to enter so he could be healed, and each year his hope was dashed into disillusionment.
Jesus would know this man’s history and his struggles. He approached him and asked him if he wanted to be made whole. However, the man’s answer revealed that he was still looking for the experience of healing and not for the One who could heal him. He admitted that he could not make it into the pool because he had trouble physically getting into it before others. It was then that Jesus instructed the man to, “Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.”
The man who sat among the masses was healed, but you have to wonder how many sitting in the crowd even noticed because they were still looking for the miracle, the supernatural experience, rather than the Great Physician? We must ask this very question in relationship to those who sit in churches. How many are looking for some type of experience instead of Jesus, and as a result He is passing among the so-called “masses” without anyone realizing it because, sadly, they are not looking for Him and would not recognize Him if they encountered Him?
Jesus might have had some concern that the healing of this man might cause others to chase after Him if they realized what had just occurred, for we are told, “Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place.”
This man took up his bed and walked away, but was there any rejoicing? Did he even bother to thank Jesus for healing him? I would think it would be such a joyful occasion for him that nothing could keep him quiet about what happened.
His healing took place on the Sabbath which serves as another important point. Here enters the self-righteous, and what were they more concerned with—not the miracle that happened, but that the man was carrying his bed on the Sabbath. When confronted, the man told them the reason for his activity was because he had been healed. When asked who healed him, the man had no idea to the man’s identity even though Jesus had healed him. Clearly, he was not interested in who Jesus was.
Jesus came to this man afterwards and must have introduced Himself to him, but he gave him an important warning, “Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.” To me this is an important key. When God does something it often becomes a test to the recipient or to those around him as to how they will respond to it.
Jesus does not pinpoint an actual sin, but I think we can be assured that one of this man’s sins was that of unbelief. He was not looking to God, seeking God, and trusting God with his plight. And, when he was healed there was no sign of thankfulness on his part that something unique had happened to him. He simply went his way without any regard to the grace that he had just encountered and experienced.
The final insight into this man’s character came when he sought out the religious people to tell them who healed him. The question is why did he do that? In all honestly it appeared as if it was a type of betrayal. This man did not tell the religious people the first time because he did not know who healed him; therefore, he could leave them in ignorance. The reason I say this is because I am sure he had to suspect that their reason for knowing who was behind his healing was not to pat Jesus on the back. They wanted to cause trouble for Jesus and when they located him, Jesus gave His reason for healing the man, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” And, what was the response of the religious people, “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.”
I believe the man healed at Bethesda serves as a good example to us. We may want something supernatural to happen, but what are we looking to and how will we respond if it happens? We all have that moral deviation in us that tends to believe we deserve such consideration and that it does not matter where it comes from: but it does. Satan can heal as well, and we need to make sure we are looking to God, while maintaining the right spirit in which we can receive something if it does happen and always be prepared to use such an opportunity to bring glory to the Lord.