(John 5:1-9)


            One of the greatest spreading issue in the end of 1996 which was frightening for Surabaya was “AIDS injections”. Rumors had it that victims of AIDS walk around with a used needle poking random people at malls so that they will get AIDS too. This scared many people from going to malls.

            The motive behind that rumor is unknown, but according to reporters, there was business competition amid malls. Such ‘competition’ makes people lose control. They attack one another. Whoever is strong, wins, and the weak is oppressed. To be victorious, they were not reluctant to achieve it by means of cruelty. The end justifies the means, which is what competition is.

            On January 2, 1992 something quite shocking to Indonesians happened in Aspen, Clublodge, Colorado. The problem was quite trivial, not a world war; there was a small fight between two old friends who had known each other for 20 years. The argument was not a big deal, but the thing is, these two people are famous figures.

            Ratna Sari Dewi, the wife of ex-president Soekarno fought with Voctoria Marie Osmena, also known as Minnie. Minnie’s face was scarred from Dewi’s broken glass pieces. The problem was not clear, but reporters concluded that the problem was jealousy and vengeance that started in August of the previous year. Their anger exploded when they were accidentally invited to some party. As a result of that fight, Mannie demanded about US $10,000 from her old friend, Dewi. In addition, Dewi got jailed for 34 days. According to Dewi, the problem could not possibly be resolved.

            “Competition” is nothing new. Two thousand years ago, this happened. It did not take place in some big city like Jakarta, Surabaya or Medan, but by a small pool, calledBethesda. A pool that was only about 40 square meters.

            Apparently at the bottom of that pool, there is an underground current that sometimes creates bubbles causing the water in the pool to move by itself. People at the time were sure that such a thing was caused by angels. Whoever goes in first after the water moved will be healed completely.

            We can imagine when the pool water moved, then people by the pool will fight to be the first one into the pool. Around that pool, there were many people of many diseases. John wrote about a blind person, a cripple, and of course many others.


Different criteria of the sick people


            Some ill people were strong enough to rush to the pool at anytime. Some were very sick that they could not move much, but they had siblings ready to help them get them to the pool. Some were weak, without siblings, but they had money so they could pay people to help.

            Then what about our poor fellow here? He was a cripple, without siblings. There was no ‘taking turns’ to get to the pool. There was no line as to who goes first. Toleration was not tolerated. They were all selfish. Who had money won. It is then not surprising that this cripple had been there for 38 years lying and waiting.

            Thirty eight years is not a short time. In that time many things must have been forgotten. Maybe some had said that they were not even born yet 38 years ago. Maybe some could say that Jakarta was not as crowded 38 years ago. That is almost the same amount of time that Israel journeyed through the desert (Deuteronomy 2:14). It is indeed quite a long time that it’s even hard to imagine. But our friend there waited for 38 years without any change. He would have been still there had Jesus not helped him. Jesus gave him His hand, and had mercy on him.

            Were there not many people there? Indeed there were many people walking around, but none of them wanted to see the cripple. They were busy with their own business. If they got cured, they would have left that place. They felt as if they had no time to help the others. So we should not be surprised if he had been there for that long.

            Jesus was different, while everybody ignored him, Jesus really cared for him. The Bible says that it was a time after some Jewish celebration. We are not sure what celebration it was. But according to the Jewish custom, there are three celebrations: Easter, Pentecost and the feast of tabernacles. Every adult Jew who lived within 20 km of Jerusalem, by law was required to celebrate these three occasions. If chapter 6 was written before chapter 5, then we can deduce that the celebration meant in this passage was Pentecost, because chapter 6 talks about how Easter was coming (John 6:4).

            When Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, he was alone; His disciples’ whereabouts are not mentioned. He passed by Bethesda and His attention was directed to that cripple. Verse 6 records: “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?” (NIV). When Jesus asked “Do you want to get well?”, that means Jesus wanted to say: “Do you want to surrender your life as it is now into My hands? Do you want to let me do something that you cannot do alone? Do you want to fully trust me?” Apparently people in need does not always seek for help. Those in need sometimes use their weakness to gain sympathy and favors from their friends. Some suffers so bad that they give up, and they wish to die. We don’t know about this cripple, but I am sure that he still wanted to be healed.

            Read verse 7, the cripple replied: “”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.” (NIV). This is very sad, but that’s how life is. When the “Great Healer” asked “Do you want to get well?”, that cripple did not say” “Yes Lord, help me” or “Yes Lord, I want to be healed”. But he said: “Sir, nobody helped me into the pool”. The cripple got a bit confused with what he really wanted. But Jesus disregarded him. Verse 8 records how Jesus told him to “”Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” (NIV). Note that back then their mat was made of cloth which was very hard to fold.

            Humanly speaking, this cripple could not have done anything, but Jesus came and said: “”Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” That means he had to throw away his old mat that made him suffer. Only then would he be free from suffering.

            What happened at Bethesda has passed, that cripple had been cured. As for you, do you know that today many believers still create new pools of Bethesda? As believers, haven’t we been saved by our Lord Jesus? We were like that cripple by the pool, hopeless. But Jesus came and we were cured as if we were thrown into the pool. We must remember that Jesus helped us.

            Today there are many siblings, neighbors and friends who are still ‘by the pool’. They are still waiting, but no one help them. Why? Because we don’t tell them about the Gospel when we see them. We talk about movies, shopping, parties and other things with them. This is different from Jesus; He was not like that. He brought good news to whomever He met. Jesus cared for the uncared ones.



  1. As one who is considered to be a believer of Christ, who have you cared for? Rich people? Pretty girls and good looking guys? Or are they still struggling to survive?
  2. One should help others by giving. Have you regret helping someone? Why? Who enables you to keep helping others till this very day?


About Rev. Saumiman Saud

Lahir 5 Agt, di Medan, alumni SAAT Malang, saat ini sebagai Pendeta di San Francisco
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