Told only by John, this is the third miracle performed by Jesus after the wedding at Cana and after the healing of the government official’s son.
The healing of the paralytic at the Pool of Bethesda or Bethzatha – from the Hebrew Bet Chesed "House of Mercy," which comes from the Chaldean Bet Chesda, "House of Grace" - takes place on the Sabbath, the Sabbath of a major holiday. Jesus spent two or three days travelling from Galilee to Jerusalem, which is 900 meters above sea level. He arrived at the gate through which the sheep passed through to go to the stables and then onto the temple’s clearing for the sacrifices, a gate that led directly to the temple. The pool of Bethesda with five archways was located there where a multitude of sick, blind, lame, maimed, and many other ill people lay waiting for the rippling of the water. According to an ancient tradition dating to Melchizedek, an angel would occasionally descend from heaven and ripple the water which, by miracle, was able to heal all evil; the people could not see the angel, but knew that the angelic presence had passed when they saw the water move - which happened once or twice a week. It was said then to become extremely therapeutic and the first person who arrived at the pool regained his/her health.
The Pharisees and the authorities, of course, did not believe in the angel’s descent, but they nonetheless considered the pool a curative agent, just as the Romans and Greeks who used it. The pool was a facility that the authorities learned to use to their advantage. In fact, it permitted them to control, manage, and monitor the people's suffering and poverty, by manipulating persons who were influenced by both ancient religious beliefs and magic; the temple leaders also had an economic interest in managing the pool in that they reserved the best places for rich, affluent friends and acquaintances. The poor, who had no money to pay, had to wait a long time before some compassionate person helped one of them into the water to be healed. The temple is the seat of power and spiritual paralysis, the pool is the seat of the people, a place of submission and suffering.
Jesus knows, knows about the intolerable injustice, he knows about the marketplace. He knows about the 38-year-old man who lives a miserable existence waiting at the pool side. Jesus knows that there is a religious celebration in the temple and knows about the scenes of desperation and loneliness at the pool. Jesus bypasses the festivities in the temple and goes instead to where the people suffer and are crushed.
The sick man suffered from two diseases: his illness and the solitude of the poor; Jesus takes the initiative and performs a double healing: health and love. In order to do so Jesus dramatically separates Himself from all forms of religion which, by their nature, are legalistic, formal, persecutory, and so divorced from the people’s reality as to be unable to grasp man’s suffering and the divine presence of Christ, the Messiah, and to feel joy in the face of life’s rebirth. Jesus separates Himself from this unhealthy religiosity and positions himself as the source of the therapeutic pool.
Just as at Jacob's well, Jesus historically positions Himself with everything that was synonymous with salvation, healing, deliverance, resurrection and life. Not only does he do that but He shows us how we replaced Him, Life, in the temple with a culture of death, laws without honor, irrational habits, useless traditions, empty religions, laws and precepts leading away from love. Jesus takes the place of the pool’s water and the Sabbath’s laws because He wants to liberate man, every man, from the interior paralysis of the soul. This provokes a hostile, violent reaction on the part of the authorities, who, in a moment, see their power founded on the people’s ignorance and submission, melt like snow in the sun. And they see every possible economic advantage, in this case that related to the pool, disappear.
Jesus breaks the Sabbath law in the name of his love for man; the ruling class betray love for their neighbor in the name of the Sabbath law.
Do you want to be well? - In Greek thèlei hyghiès ghenèsthai, literally meaning do you want to be rescued and healthy - Jesus asked the sick man.
To tell the truth, Jesus does not ask the sick man if he desires to get well, to become healthy; His question is much deeper and broader than healing and health. The verb ghìnomai, “I am generated, I become” – from qinnu, “generation” – is joined to the adjective hyghiès that means "healthy, strong, intact, unharmed," but also "honest, faithful, righteous." The etymology of this adjective of Sanskrit-Indo-European origin further enhances the meaning of this word with a sense of light and wisdom: hyghiès is formed by the adverb y-, which means "good", together with the root gwi-, meaning "life." The adjective hyghiès, therefore, literally means "living well." From a deeper analysis it can be seen that the Sanskrit root gwi- is the basis of the formation of bìos, "life, existence," and zoè, "life" as well as the Latin verb vìvere, "to live, have life, be alive." Therefore "existence, way of life, essence of life, any substance for life" is a more accurate translation.
Jesus in reality asks: “Do you want to be generated in the Life?” Magnificent! The tradition, law, religion are not what saves us anymore, now salvation can be found only in Jesus the Lord, the One who can truly heal and regenerate us to a true and complete life.
In a time when the authorities, blinded by their economic interests, are managing to destroy humanity, people can still reach out and turn their hearts to Jesus, the Lord of Life, and beg to be reborn to new life. The person whose desire is strongest will be the one who wins.
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