IN those days, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Bethesda, which has five porticoes (porches). In them lay many invalids - blind, lame, and paralyzed, waiting for the stirring of the water, for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and stirred up the water. And whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was made well from whatever disease that person had.
One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, He said to the man, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up. And while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.
Now that day was a Sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, “It is the Sabbath, it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” But he answered them, “The Man Who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’” They asked him, “Who is the Man who said to you, ‘Take it up and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in the crowd that was there. Later Jesus found the man in the Temple and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.
Christ is risen!
I do not know enough about this pool called Bethesda and what happened in it, so I will not add anything more to it than what is already mentioned in the text above.
When Jesus came by that pool, He saw a man, who was paralyzed and lying there for a very long time. Saint John Chrysostom says that Jesus singled out this man in order to teach us to have perseverance, and as a judgment against those who lose hope and/or patience in much lesser troubles lasting a far shorter time.
Christ's question, "Do you want to be made well?", is interesting because it shows that the sick man kept his faith even in a situation that was seemingly hopeless, since there was no way that a paralyzed man could be first into the water. Notice that the Lord does not ask the man whether he wants to be first into the pool, but whether he wants to be healed. And there is a difference. The man was focused on the pool for so long that he, perhaps, needed to be reminded that the point is to be healed, not the first into the pool.
The man does not answer the question. We talk to God all the time. We ask Him for things, we tell Him how we feel, we ask questions. And God replies to us, He also asks questions, in many different ways. It is very important to hear the question and answer that question, not the question we have in mind.
- Do you want to be made well?
- There is no one to put me into the pool.
It's as if they were talking past each other. Christ, knowing how long the man had suffered for, did not question him any longer, but gave a direct command. Upon the man's response to this command depended his future. "Stand up, take your mat and walk." Seems simple, right? Not when you've been lying for 38 years! The man's desire was to walk, after all, not simply get into the pool, so he got up immediately and did as he was told - he walked.
A bit later, Jesus found the man in the Temple. This shows the man's great faith. He was finally able to walk, he could've gone, literally, anywhere he wanted for the first time in a very long time. But he is in the Temple. Here the Lord gives him a follow up command, "You have been made well. Do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you."
Christianity does not teach that there is a direct connection between (spiritual) sin and (physical) sickness. Neither does Christianity teach that there is absolutely no connection. There is no one-to-one correspondence, but there is a connection. Whatever it is, we can't tell, but there is something. What Christ is telling the man here is that sin has a potential to lead him to a much more worse suffering than he had already endured. We might think 38 years of paralysis is bad enough, what could be worse. We don't know what could be worse, but Christ says that such a thing exists. Dare we try to find out? Better not. Receive all the blessings, grace, and healing we can, and try out best to avoid sin.
Your in the risen Lord,
Father Aleksey - your friendly Singac priest