How the Healing of the Infirm Man was a Sign to the Jews

When Jesus saw the man 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?” This was God’s question to the nation of Israel: Did they want to be spiritually well? Did they want to turn to their ancient Liberator with all their hearts and be free of their stony hearts and its tragic consequences? His question to them still stands.

The 8 miraculous works of Jesus that John chooses for his Gospel, under inspiration of the Spirit, are indications of greater truths applicable to the nation. That is why John only uses the Greek word for “signs” for the miracles of Jesus. This is the third one (the first one is the water into wine in Cana, the second is the healing of the nobleman’s son).

As mentioned in the prior post, the man was infirm for 38 years. He signifies the spiritual infirmity that the Israelites exhibited when they refused to enter the promised land after they arrived at its borders (see Numbers 13 and 14). For all their experience with God: seeing all the great and terrifying wonders that were done in Egypt in judgment of their captors; their miraculous escape through the Red Sea; the rock that gushed forth water; the manna that fell with the dew every morning except on Sabbath; the visit at Sinai with God as He came mightily upon the smoking and quaking mountain and spoke from Heaven over them — none of these things caused the adult generation to trust wholeheartedly in this God of their fathers called Yahweh.

What more could He have done to show them both His power and willingness to lead them all the way into the land He promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Stephen tells us in Acts 7 that they had turned in their hearts back to Egypt and that they still worshiped their false gods in their hearts. 

 This final act of rebellion in the wilderness on the verge of entering the promised land is the beginning of their infirmity of spirit called unbelief. It lasted for 38 years. God turned them back from the border of Canaan and made them wander until the adults who rebelled died off. It would be their children who would enter the land 40 years after leaving Egypt. That new generation would follow Joshua for 7 years conquering the land through the Lord’s divine help. Afterward, they settled into “houses they did not build.” 

When Jesus saw the man 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?” This was God’s question to the nation of Israel: Did they want to be spiritually well? Did they want to turn to their ancient Liberator with all their hearts and be free of their stony hearts and its tragic consequences? His question to them still stands.

His answer reveals another truth: The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up;  The Man that the Israelites needed was “Immanuel,” God in the flesh. Without Him, they cannot be made well from their sins and unbelief, nor can they realize their  eternal calling. God wanted to meet with His people as a Man so that they could not only have a prophet and king, but also a Priest to represent them to God.

This Man sent to them from Heaven is Jesus – the Son of God – who stood  before the lame Jewish man at the pool, a Stranger – just as he was to the nation, someone whom they did not know.  “For my people are foolish, they do not know me.” (Jeremiah 4:22). But the Lord says later that he will change that about them: I will give them a heart to know me, that I am Yahweh: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God; for they shall return to me with their whole heart.  (Jeremiah 24:7). As a nation, they have yet to know that Jesus Christ is their Yahweh, who before he came down from heaven, had set them free from Egypt “with an outstretched arm.” He was now here as a Man to set them free from their sins, but that would take his two outstretched arms, upon the cross, where they will have him nailed to.  

The infirm man was set free from a physical infirmity and was now able to walk with the token of his victory – his pallet.  The Israelites were set free from their physical slavery in Egypt and walked out of the land of their oppression carrying tokens of their victory, much wealth (Exodus 12:41-42).

 Jesus finds the healed man and warns him to give up his sins lest something worse happen to you. After the Israelites left Egypt, God meets with them three months later at Sinai, and delivers commandments to them they were already guilty of. They could not bear to listen any more, but sent Moses up to get the remaining commandments  for them to know, but do not let Him speak anymore to them they told him.  

God tells them that if they won’t obey Him that they will experience many worse things for their stubbornness than they have ever known. Read Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 for the chilling list of these curses. The world has watch them throughout their history suffering much worse conditions than anything reported about them when they were slaves in Egypt.

This man exhibited another trait of the Israelites: He betrayed his Liberator.  After hearing this warning from Jesus, the healed man went straight off to the Jewish leaders to let them know it was Jesus who had healed him.  He did what his forefathers had done after their arrival in Canaan. The newly freed and settled Israelites betrayed Yahweh in the promised land by a long  history of degrading idol worship that lasted until their final captivity about 900 years later.

The curses written in their Mosaic Law will be in force until, as a nation, “They look upon Him Whom they have pierced and mourn for Him as for an only Son.” (Zech. 12:10-14)  when He returns from Heaven. At that time he promises them this in Ezekiel 36: For I will take you from among the nations, and gather you out of all the countries, and will bring you into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. 26 I will also give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you shall keep my ordinances, and do them. 28 You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. 29 I will save you from all your uncleanness: and I will call for the grain, and will multiply it, and lay no famine on you. 30 I will multiply the fruit of the tree, and the increase of the field, that you may receive no more the reproach of famine among the nations. 31 Then you shall remember your evil ways, and your doings that were not good; and you shall loathe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations. 

This healed man was a sign, for he and the historical Jews were the same in heart and actions. Could the Jews of Jesus’s day see the significance of this man? Would they see? Some did, but most did not. Thus, in calling for the death of Jesus, they unknowingly sacrificed Him as the Lamb of God for their sins by the predetermined counsel of God. And not only theirs, but as John says in his first letter chapter 2:2, “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

 

2 thoughts on “How the Healing of the Infirm Man was a Sign to the Jews”

  1. This is a great insight Stan. I never related the healing of the infirm man at the pool of Bethesda as a sign from Jesus to the nation of Israel and a reflection of their own spiritual state of rebellion.

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    1. Thanks Mike. John’s Gospel always intrigued me from the way it reported its miracles as lead-ins to great discourses by our Lord. The others listed them nearly always without comment – more like journalists would. Both forms are useful to readers.

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