By Max Lucado
Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. — John 5:1-8
It’s called Bethesda. It could be called Central Park, Metropolitan Hospital, or even Joe’s Bar and Grill. It could be the homeless huddled beneath a downtown overpass. It could be Calvary Baptist. It could be any collection of hurting people.
An underwater spring caused the pool to bubble occasionally. The people believed the bubbles were caused by the dipping of angels’ wings. They also believed that the first person to touch the water after the angel did would be healed. Did healing occur? I don’t know. But I do know crowds of invalids came to give it a try.
Picture a battleground strewn with wounded bodies, and you see Bethesda. Imagine a nursing home overcrowded and understaffed, and you see the pool. Call to mind the orphans in Bangladesh or the abandoned in New Delhi, and you will see what people saw when they passed Bethesda. As they passed, what did they hear? An endless wave of groans. What did they witness? A field of faceless need. What did they do? Most walked past, ignoring the people.
But not Jesus. He is in Jerusalem for a feast. He is alone. He is not there to teach the disciples or to draw a crowd. The people need him — so he’s there.
Can you picture it? Jesus walking among the suffering.
What is he thinking? When an infected hand touches his ankle, what does he do? When a blind child stumbles in Jesus’ path, does he reach down to catch the child? When a wrinkled hand extends for alms, how does Jesus respond?
Whether the watering hole is Bethesda or Bill’s Bar, how does God feel when people hurt?
It’s worth telling the story if all we do is watch him walk. It’s worth it just to know he even came. He didn’t have to, you know. Surely there are more sanitary crowds in Jerusalem. Surely there are more enjoyable activities. After all, this is the Passover Festival. It’s an exciting time in the holy city. People have come from miles around to meet God in the temple.
Little do they know that God is with the sick.
Little do they know that God is walking slowly, stepping carefully between the beggars and the blind.
Little do they know that the strong young carpenter who surveys the ragged landscape of pain is God.
• What do you think motivated Jesus to go to Bethesda during a celebration?
• What do Jesus’ actions in this story teach us about his character?
• How can we demonstrate God’s love to people who are suffering?
Article by Max Lucado from the Lucado Encouraging Word Bible, NIV Edition.
The Lucado Encouraging Word Bible, NIV Edition offers encouragement in God’s Word with a masterful collection of Max Lucado’s encouraging words curated from his more than forty years of sermons, books, and articles interspersed in Scripture. Learn More >