"Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. 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. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.” But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ” So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?” The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well." (John 5:1-15)
What is worse: having a false hope or having no hope at all? It’s difficult to say, but having a false hope seems worse in my opinion. With a false hope, the disappointment is recurring. Each time the promise of something miraculous comes along, hopes are dashed when the miraculous turns out to be just another empty promise and once again, nothing changes.
Such is the case of this poor paralyzed man who was waiting by a pool with the false hope of healing from the superstition of miraculous water. If only he could be the first person in the water, he would be healed – or so he believed. Unfortunately, as an invalid, he could not move. His hope was false and his life was filled with repeated disappointment. What a miserable situation.
Miserable, that is…until Jesus arrives. I doubt many of the other travelers that day made their way by the Sheep Pool as they entered the city gates of Jerusalem. If they did, they would not waste their time with the outcasts of the city. “Just don’t look at them and keep walking,” they might say.
But not Jesus…His eyes turned to the helpless and the poor and he was compelled to care for those in deepest need and in a most hopeless condition. As he turns to the man who could not move, he asks an interesting question, “Do you want to get well?”
Why, that seems like a silly question, doesn’t it? He has been an invalid for 38 years and he is so desperate to be healed that he has placed all his hope on superstition – magic water. Yet there is a deeper truth to this question. It is this: our greatest problem as a sinful human race is that we either do not recognize we are sick or we do not want to be healed. The first step to be taken in order for this man to be able to walk again begins with a desire to be healed.
The implied answer to Jesus from the crippled man was, “Yes, I want to be healed but I have no hope unless someone helps me. In and of myself, it is not possible. But if someone could do for me what I cannot do for myself, maybe a miracle is possible.”
For the first time, his hope would not be lost in an empty promise. Jesus did for the man what the man could not do for himself. He tells him to stand up and walk and in that moment, his atrophied muscles were restored, his brittle and crooked bones were made strong and straight. And for the first time, his hope in restoration was placed on the only One who had the legitimate power to heal. Jesus would not disappoint.
What is disappointing, however, is the response of the religious Jews who were just as disabled. Unfortunately, they would not admit their blindness and had no desire for healing. When they encounter the man they had no doubt seen by the pool (38 years is a long time to go unnoticed), they completely missed the fact that the man who was once lame was now walking in their midst. Instead, all they could see was his mat and they were completely blind to the miracle walking right before their eyes.
Don’t miss the miracle in your own life. Like the disabled man, it begins with the desire to be healed. But desire alone is not enough. The disabled man had desire long before Jesus arrived…but He had no hope until Jesus stood before him. Where do you place your hope?
"If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.”" (Romans 10:9-11)