Following a recent episode of Unbelievable? on miracle healing, Erik Strandness explores what we can learn about healing from the biblical account of the pool at Bethesda

“Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids – blind, lame and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for 38 years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him: ‘Do you want to be healed?’ 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 going another steps down before me.’ Jesus said to him: ‘Get up, take up your bed, and walk.’ And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.” (John 5: 2-9)

A man who had been crippled for 38 years sat with his fellow disabled friends by a pool waiting for a miracle. Legend had it that you would be healed if you entered the water when it was stirred up. It would seem obvious to every passer-by that these poor people were hoping for a miracle. Jesus then walked up to one of them and surprisingly asked: “Do you want to be healed?” It seems like an odd question based on all the surrounding evidence. Was Jesus blind or did he actually see something deeper?


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Responding to the question

The response of the crippled man was telling because he didn’t immediately say yes but seemed to make excuses, such as no one would carry him down to the water, or the others would beat him to the pool. Perhaps, he was basking in his victimhood, preferring pity to consequential healing. The man’s very presence at the healing pool indicated that he knew his plight. He wanted to be in the proximity of a cure. 

Jesus, however, wanted to know if he truly desired healing with all the expectations of a restored life or if he was content being the life of his own pity party. Jesus didn’t mess around by helping him to make his way to the water’s edge, but boldly told him: “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” No parade to the pool, no dramatic wailing or moaning, just the command to get down to the business of a healed life. 

“Now that day was the Sabbath. So, the Jews said to the man who had been healed: ‘It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.’ But he answered them: ‘The man who healed me, that man said to me, “Take up your bed, and walk”.’ They asked him: ‘Who is the man who said to you, “Take up your bed and walk”?’ Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place.” (John 5: 10-13)

The fall out

Stunningly, the religious leaders were more interested in the status quo rather than radical life change. A man remarkably healed after 38 years of being crippled is confronted by the lame accusation of Sabbath violation. He was then asked to finger the perp in this Sabbath crime but confessed he didn’t know the culprit. He quickly discovered that once you are touched by Jesus, people will dust you for fingerprints, and if they find a match, will persecute you because of his name.

“But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness.” (Luke 21: 12-13)

Life change

“Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him: ‘See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.’” (John 5: 14)

The man then bumped into Jesus in the Temple and quickly discovered that being healed entailed more than strutting your stuff, but involved walking on holy ground. No braces, no crutches, no physical therapy, just the command to walk the walk and enter into a lifetime of spiritual rehab.

“The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them: ‘My Father is working until now, and I am working.’” (John 5: 15-17)

I would argue that there are many times in our lives when we prefer to embrace a victim mentality. Not wanting to abandon our sinful ways, we beg at the cultural poolside looking for a non-binding fix to our problem. We say we want healing but prefer non-demanding spiritual lameness.

The problem is that when Jesus tells us to get up and do a jig, he expects us to dance to a different tune. A moment of healing will demand a lifetime of avoiding sin. We need to be very careful when we consult the Great Physician because he may not give us the happy pills we desire, but rather ask us to do the hard work of changing our lifestyle.

Jesus gave his life to atone for your sins. The deed is done, therefore, the question isn’t, “Is healing possible?”, the question is, “Do you want to be healed?”.


To watch or listen to the Unbelievable? episode ‘Miracle healing: Does it happen today?’ click here.


Erik Strandness is a physician and Christian apologist who has practiced neonatal medicine for more than 20 years.