“After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had.”
“Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.”
“Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath.”
A feast, probably the Passover, though it is not certain. There were two other feasts, the Pentecost and the Feast of Tabernacles, at which all the males were required to be present, and it might have been one of them. It is of no consequence as to which one it was.
The sheep-market might have been rendered the “sheep-gate,” or the gate through which the sheep were taken into the city for sacrifice.
A pool may either mean a small lake or pond in which one can swim, or a place for fish, or any waters collected for bathing or washing.
“Bethesda” The house of mercy. It was so called on account of its strong healing properties, the property of restoring health to the sick and infirm.
Five porches. The word “porch” commonly means a covered place surrounding a building, in which people can walk or sit in hot or wet weather. Here it probably means that there were five covered places, or apartments, in which the sick could remain, from each one of which they could have access to the water.
Moving of the water. It appears that this pool had medicinal properties only when it was “agitated” or “stirred.” It is probable that at regular times or intervals the fountain put forth an unusual quantity of water, or water of special properties, and that during these times the people assembled in multitudes who were to be healed.
An angel, it is not affirmed that the angel did this “visibly,” or that they saw him do it. They judged by the “effect,” and when they saw the waters agitated, they concluded that they had healing properties, and descended to them.
The Jews were in the habit of attributing all favors to the ministry of the angels of God, Genesis 19:15; Hebrews 1:14; Matthew 4:11; Matthew 18:10; Luke 16:22; Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19; Acts 12:11.
An infirmity. A weakness. We do not know what his disease was. We only know that it disabled him from walking, and that it was of very long standing. It was undoubtedly regarded as incurable.
Wilt thou be made whole? Christ, by asking this question, wished to excite in this person faith, hope, and a greater desire of being healed. He wanted him to reflect on his miserable state, that he might be better prepared to receive a cure, and to value it when it came.
Sir, I have no man … The answer of the man implied that he did wish it, but, in addition to all his other trials, he had no “friend” to aid him. This is an additional circumstance that heightened his affliction.
Rise, take up … Jesus not only restored him to health, but He gave evidence to those around Him that this was a real miracle and that the man was really healed.
For almost 40 years he had been afflicted. He was not even able to walk. Jesus commanded him not only to “walk,” but to take up his “bed” also, and carry that as proof that he was truly made whole.
Jesus, when He gives a commandment, can give strength to obey it. It is our business to obey the commands of Jesus, however feeble we feel ourselves to be. His grace will be sufficient for us, and his burden will be light.
The Sabbath. This was a poor man, and Jesus directed him to secure his property. To carry burdens on the Sabbath was forbidden in the Old Testament, Jeremiah 17:21; Nehemiah 13:15; Exodus 20:8-10.
Christ showed by this that He was Lord of the Sabbath: Matthew 12:8.