First-century Jews found themselves mixed up in a lot of different superstitions. One of the more interesting ones is mentioned in John 5:1-15. The events described in this passage took place at a pool beside one of Jerusalem’s entrances, called the pool of Bethesda.
Here’s what the Jews believed about this pool. Every now and again, an angel would come and stir it up, making it bubble. When the pool started bubbling, the first person to touch the water would be healed from his or her affliction. For this reason a number of chronically sick and injured people would lie around the pool day after day and wait for the bubbles to come, in hopes they could be the first one to get in.
In Jesus’ day one man was well known in the company of those who sat around the pool. He was sick and couldn’t get around very well, but he was probably famous for one thing: he’d been lying there for 38 years, unable to get to the healing waters first.
We don’t know what the man’s actual sickness was. What we do know is that he lived a relatively simple life, especially compared to those who carried their everyday burdens in the outside world. He had to beg for money, sure, but his life was most likely a relatively comfortable one. Being healed would mean leaving that comfort behind.
One day this man was lying by the pool on the Sabbath and a Galilean rabbi singled him out amid all the blind, lame, paralyzed, and ill people waiting for the water to bubble up. He asked the man a strange question: “Do you want to get well?” (v. 6).
John 5:7 records the man’s answer:
‘Sir,’ the sick man answered, ‘I don’t have a man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I’m coming, someone goes down ahead of me.'” —John 5:7
While this man genuinely couldn’t have healed himself, he also showed no effort to get into the pool that many believed could heal him. And he didn’t reply, “Yes!” to Jesus’ question.
The sick man dodged the question, but that didn’t matter to Jesus. Jesus simply replied, “Get up, … pick up your mat and walk!” (v. 8).
It’s no accident that living a godly life is compared to a walk. Adam and Eve walked with God in the garden (see Gen. 3:8). Enoch walked with God and then was no more (see Gen. 5:24). Psalm 1 warns against walking in the path of the ungodly. Jesus calls us to die to ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Him (see Matt. 16:24).
Walking by faith requires leaving things behind, but it also requires putting your trust in the places where you put your feet. If Jesus is the One you’re following, it’s because you’ve heard His call to you: “Follow Me.”
It’s hard to leave the things behind that you’re used to, but Jesus was prepared for that. If there are things in your life you need to leave behind in order to follow Him, remember that He knew exactly what He was inviting you into when He gave that personal, radical charge: “Follow Me.”
Excerpted from Robby Gallaty, Knowing Jesus Bible Study. © 2016 Lifeway Press. Used by permission.