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Readings for the Fifth Week of Lent

“Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches.” Under those five porches, “…lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water.” (John 5:3)

If we imagine that one person has been bedridden for thirty eight years, without anyone caring for him, supporting him, or even helping to bathe him, we would imagine the extent of the ordeal and the humiliation in which these ill people lived under those five porches. Perhaps the case of the Samaritan woman under the yoke of five husbands was more tolerable.

Humanity had fallen into bondage, waiting for its salvation from its difficult illnesses that stemmed from corruption, which entered into the world by the envy of the devil – by sin. As such, humanity sat beside the water of the law that is mixed with the blood of the sacrifices, hoping for atonement for its sins and a cure for its diseases. From time to time, the angel came to stir the water, “For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had.” (John 5:4) And from time to time, God would send prophets to stir the stagnant waters of the law, giving hope for salvation. In this rotten atmosphere that was contaminated withal kinds of diseases, everyone was expecting a long awaited salvation without a glimmer of hope. All of a sudden, our Lord Jesus, whom the prophets spoke of, appeared and guided us to the law, “Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” (Galatians 3:24) As such, Christ entered into the world of our corruption with His fragrant scent, where the pungent odour of sin congests. Nevertheless, His righteousness, which is not tainted with our corruption is able to purify us from all sin, no matter how significant our corruption, “Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” (John 5:5) It was an unexpected question, for is there any doubt that the ill person would want to be healed? Nevertheless, there are those who get accustomed to their ill condition, and adapting to that reality leads them not to want to change their situation. The ill man’s answer to Christ does not suggest that he was asking for healing, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” (John 5:7) He began to justify why he remained in his sick condition for such a long time without recovery. We can understand this situation when we compare it to that of Bartimaeus the blind, “And he cried out, saying, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Then those who went before warned him that he should be quiet; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be brought to Him. And when he had come near, He asked him, saying, “What do you want Me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, that I may receive my sight.” Then Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight;your faith has made you well.” (Luke 18:38-42)

The feelings of the ill man of Bethesda pose a danger in the case of spiritual illnesses. Many sinners do not want to be healed of their sins, contrary to what they claim. Therefore, their condition worsens and prolongs; it deteriorates greatly like the man of Bethesda. The problem is that the ill person loves their illness secretly, but complains about it openly, and in this there is a severe spiritual danger that Christ wanted to reveal to us in His dealings with this ill man. Although the ill man did not explicitly ask Christ for healing, still, Christ healed him.

Christ will never deny us salvation, He will consult with us on the topic of our salvation. Many ill people remain ill for a long time with illness, evil, and sin and they do not want to change. After Christ fulfilled our salvation upon the cross, He placed it into our hands so that we can either accept it or refuse it. He placed the responsibility of our salvation in our hands with all freedom. Jesus said to the man, “Arise, take up your bed and walk…” Just as Christ did not use the worldly waters with the Samaritan woman, here also Christ did not use the water of the pool that symbolises the law, because He came to disperse the law of the sacrifices with one sacrifice that is presented on behalf of the world. “Afterward, Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” (John 5:14) Although this ill man at the pool did not ask to be healed, Christ healed him, however Christ gave us all a hidden warning of the life of carelessness and laziness which was represented by this ill man. Christ finds us at the right time, and He grants each person the appropriate message for their precise situation, just as we will see in the story of the man who was born blind.