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. John 5:1-5 NIV
“Come to the pool,” he called. And one moved from the back to make his way down.
In Jesus day, there was a pool. This pool was surrounded with five large columns. In and around the columns, standing, sitting, and lying were a great number of disabled individuals. There were no super tanned bikini-clad women or hunky men wearing mirrored shades. Instead the pool was encircled by the miserable.
The idea of being healed kept them from leaving. The Bible tells us, “An angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.” (John 5:4 KJV – Verse 4 is only found in certain versions of the Bible.)
So they waited. When the water stirred, people raced to be the first in the water. I imagine pushing, shoving, and fights as people were driven to find physical healing.
Jesus showed up one day and found this man who had been lying there by the pool for thirty-eight years. “Do you want to get well?” Jesus asked. The man, assuming Jesus was questioning why he wasn’t already healed after so many years of living by the pool, responded by telling Christ that he had no one to help him get in the pool when the water was stirred. Someone always beat him to it.
This was the topic of the message at the prison revival I attended. I listened as Jerome, a self-proclaimed “country preacher” who also just happens to be a convict, shared the story of the Healing Pool. He told us folks will knock each other over for a physical healing, but step back when spiritual healing is mentioned.
Jerome pointed out that often our attitude is, “I’m not worried about you as long as I’ve got Jesus. You can do your own thing.”
Jesus healed the man at the pool that day – the one who had been there for thirty-eight years. What He did for the man’s physical being, He can do for our spiritual being, Jerome shared.
And in an old country preacher style, this convict turned man-of-God called out in a mellow singing voice, “Come to the pool. Get up on your feet. Do you want to be saved?”
His voice captured me. I was locked in – mesmerized. I watched as one prisoner made his way from the back to the alter that was placed in this makeshift church. The wooden alter was old. The edges were worn from prayer. I could imagine how many pairs of hands must have gripped and rubbed the edge of that wood as their hearts cried out to God.
The man kneeled. STATE PRISONER shouted from the back of his shirt. Another prisoner joined the first and placed his arm around his fellow inmate to pray with him. Soon, the “pool” was full. The lull of deep masculine voices resonated through the room as they offered their words to the Father.
I watched as the waters stirred and people were healed. Right before my very eyes. A healing where the spiritually lame and paralyzed are gathered in one place. Just like the pool.
As I stood there in the prison that day, I wondered about my own self. I may not need a spiritual healing, but how concerned am I about people who do? Am I blocking their way? Walking on by? Or I am willing to hang out by the pool and help others into the water?
Oh Lord, help me to see the sick and lame of heart around me. Spiritual deformity is often invisible, but the most debilitating. Please give me a willing heart to stop and help lift others to You. Draw me closer. Help others to be drawn to me because they see You in me. Amen.