POOLS OF SUPERSTITION

“After these things, there was a feast of the Jews and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame and withered waiting for the moving of the waters, for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water. Whoever then first after the stirring of the water stepped in was made well from whatever disease of which he was afflicted. A man was there who had been ill for 38 years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, ‘Do you wish to get well?’ The sick man answered Him, ‘Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.’ Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.” But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ “So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?” The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.” John 5:1-18

If we study to show ourselves approved, we will notice in verse 3 that there is an odd inconsistency before the word “waiting” or after the word “withered” that runs all the way down to the end of verse 4. What is obvious is that something or should I say, some extraneous verbiage has been added out of context from the earliest biblical manuscripts. I imagine at this point I may be losing some readers, but please hear me out. It is very important to note that the most ancient or earliest manuscripts do not reflect the same unfolding picture or intent of a man being healed by the power of a “pool”…Even being stirred by an angel! I believe that many added additions to clarify “good intention” have been added by scribes and translators at certain times in history to promote the agenda and understanding of their day. I do not believe that these scribal differences were of ill intent – but woven within the translator’s social and cultural conditioning at that time in history. I have wrote other articles on this blog that addresses the impact of obvious translation errors and interpretations that have had profound impact on biblical doctrine and dogmatic beliefs today. Sadly, far too many weird doctrines have been founded upon a single verse of scripture taken within a particular context to meet a man-made agenda rather than being backed up by two or three scriptural witnesses. With that said, I believe the Lord divinely protects the essence of biblical truth. Many in the church didn’t or don’t realize this obvious clerical error or addition because they have no idea what the earliest and most reliable manuscripts state. Thus, many are led on a path of mystical doctrines, healing or restoring virtues outside the authority of Christ.

The truth is that the portrait of this story as painted by a particular scribe(s) did not happen or unfold as commonly understood and interpreted by the flesh. In my humble opinion, we must disregard the idea that a particular angel came down (from where?) and stirred up the waters and that whoever stepped in was made well from whatever disease he had “if” he was the first one in the pool. On the same hand, we simply do not see this odd form of preferential healing via the creation rather than the Creator. (Obviously, women were exempt at this pool which lends credence to the time-line of these translations in which women were subservient to men). Whether it’s water, oil or even mud upon eyes – genuine healing must come from the hand of Jesus or his ordained created in His image to be authentic…For even angels are in wonder of man’s anointing by the Spirit of the Lord. There has been enough man-based Pentecostalism and angels of light disguised in their carnal based spirituality and weirdness. Spiritual quacks to this day want to deceive you into buying “man’s anointed oil” to heal your physical ailments and “man’s holy water” to remedy your finances. It is the blood of Jesus through faith in his finished work upon the cross that brings forth physical, emotional and spiritual wellness to our body, soul and spirit. Again, some zealous scribe added the verbiage because there was rampant superstition in the times of many ancient and European societies which spilled over into their translations to be more readily accepted by the masses. Many of these cultural superstitions were ironically based on “bubbling waters.” Through the eyes of European medieval scribes, cultural superstition would have been in the mind of the man in verse 7 when he states, “I have no man to put me in the pool when the water is stirred up and when I’m coming, another one steps down.” Does this sound in line with the real world of everyday life of which I believe God has a vested interest in? Does this even sound like God who is a respecter of no individual man or woman? It reads more like ancient Grecian or medieval Anglo-Saxon superstition.

We should ask ourselves “How would superstition develop to find its way into the modern Bible?” Maybe, the better question is whether the European or Greco-Roman based translated Bible is the end all of doctrine when it clearly deviates from the earliest manuscripts. With that said, my opinion does not negate the authority scripture! By no means! The scriptures are divine, the blueprint for life, salvation, life more abundantly and hold the keys to eternal life. However, I will state that the KJV for example has many scribal errors and its primary translation taken from Erasmus’ work stated as such when he openly complained that he did not have the best manuscripts to work from and had many blanks to fill in. The best proof in regard to the life and ministry of Christ is in the earliest manuscripts and they are a beautiful representation of his glory power and grace. Likewise, the leading and voice of the Holy Spirit leads us into all truth for the Holy Spirit points to the fullness of Christ and the Godhead. The Word (as just words) without the Spirit of God to quicken it to our spirit is of little to no affect. The leading and obedience to the Spirit of God drawing us into truth is the key to salvation, understanding and spiritual maturity. However, the key cannot be turned to open its treasure unless there is a personal relationship that is actively cultivated with Christ.

As we continue, geology clearly points that this pool was a spring-fed water source and certainly had some therapeutic value to ill or crippled people as mineral laden water does today. (Read the history of FDR and the mineral springs in my home state of Georgia) Maybe, over the years the locals of this particular geography associated that particular pool with miracle power as many shrines and places claim in our current time and especially as recognized in the Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches. Even today, as I touched on earlier, the church markets anointed cloths and handkerchiefs, holy water, gold dust, proxy prayers and the list goes on and on in the world of Charismania. It is important that we realize the earliest text of Scripture simply reads as the following, “In these lay a multitude of those who were sick and blind, and lame, and withered and a man was there who had been ill for 38 years.” The bottom line is that this pool was simply a mineral spring and it was Christ alone who happened to be there and who held the power of healing in his words and hands. It had nothing to do with a pool or an angel stirring it up. As the hours unfold, many will come and proclaim in these last days the power of the “created” and disregard or deny the hand of the “Creator.” This is the core warning and purpose of this prophetic message.

The pool in Bethesda had five porches which means that it was a substantially large pool or spring. Five porches or patios along with verandas would have also covered the bathers to shade them from the sun. However, there would also be an open air environment in parts with colonnades that would attract others around the pool due to the healing “rumors” which was common of the day. It seems to me that religious, or should I say, superstitious and local traditional beliefs erroneously found its way into the Bible to state that there was some angel that would come and stir the pool to heal people with no mention of the Lord hand. Frankly, I do not hold to this scribal interpretation and hold to the healing majesty of Christ alone and those whose physical hands he anoints (e.g. Elders of the church). The Charismatic and Pentecostal movements have fallen prey to the same superstitious type beliefs that elevates nature, shrines, buildings, geographies, minerals, water, gold dust, and many other natural substitutes for divine healing. Maybe, just maybe, this story had been entrenched as a tradition and a well intentioned scribe in Europe tried to explain his “spiritual” or cultural understanding even though it was not authenticated in the original text? Maybe, it was simply an expression of what and how we want things to be? Is this really any different from the strange doctrines and beliefs that have formulated in the realm of religion since the time of Christ’s resurrection? If they did believe that the pool healed, they believed it without substantiation. It was simply nothing but cultural superstition bound in religiosity to support an agenda and promote doctrine. Frankly, this phoniness is what deters many from coming into the spirit-filled life today. The day is already at hand where healing at all levels has and will continue to derive from the hand of man robbing Christ of His due glory. Again, I’m truly sorry if this offends your doctrine and beliefs.

Imagine today a person who has been ill for 38 years and they have been unsuccessful in getting into the water and being delivered from whatever illness he or she may have? When Jesus saw this man lying there and knew that he had already been in that condition for a long time – Jesus states as he does today in is his omniscience which is the declaration of his mercy – “Do you wish to get well?” “What…what…what do you mean?” Jesus continues, “Do you wish to get well?” We could almost look at this reply of Jesus as a ridiculous question. But as we’ll see later, the question had profound meaning and purpose. This man has been at this pool with all these other blind, deaf and lame people hoping to get in when the waters are stirred and all along there was nothing more than some bubbling spring action that was a natural phenomena in the nature of this spring-fed pool. It is worth noting that there is no recorded history of miracles happening at this spring fed pool in Bethesda. If physical healing truly happened every time the waters stirred – I’m certain we would know about it in historical writings. The point I am driving toward is not so much about the pool. It’s about something far more important that we will soon get to.

To gain the man’s immediate attention, Jesus directed his conversation at the man’s immediate need. If he had completely given up on this issue, he wouldn’t have been there with all those other people in order to be disappointed one more time after 38 years of trying. The Lord always speaks directly and precisely to our issues and needs just as he did with the woman at the well when he talked about “thirst” and moved right into her spiritual thirst or the thirst that mattered the most!

Jesus is still asking the same question today as we search for all of mankind’s and nature’s alternatives – “Do you wish to get well?” Have you lost hope from a natural perspective because you are looking for a natural entity such as a pool or strange remedy or therapy to heal you? It’s a fair question. Thirty-eight years this man searched and did he have anything left that could be even considered hope or was he on verge of despair and disrepair before Jesus entered into his life? Is there anything in the way of hope within you? Whatever motive our Lord had to ask him this question – the obvious thing is that he wanted to direct the man’s attention on his need and the fact that it’s never been solved and will never be solved by a phenomena of nature or an angel stirring water. Jesus desired to invade this man’s life as well as our lives and show that he genuinely cares. Nobody else around this juke-joint was compassionate or they would have helped him – even in their deception and searching outside of God’s personal touch. Nobody else was making sure he got in first or even at all. This was a man who had lived almost 40 years without any mercy from anybody and hanging out with people who were miserable themselves at the pool which is telling of our human nature. But now for the first time, there is somebody who truly cared about him. This is the compassion and passion of Christ. A “stranger” comes on the scene and pities him. A “stranger” extends kind conversation to him. A “stranger” offers to help. Keep in mind that this man by virtue of his illness and over this amount of time is considered an outcast by the cultural and religious leaders because they would believe this was punishment from God because some hidden wickedness. Nobody of any spiritual or religious importance would have spoken to or helped this man. What about you?

But our Lord speaks to him. “And the sick man answered Him, ‘Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up. But while I’m coming, another steps down before me.’” The man had bought in to the superstition and man-centered religiosity of the day. Notice that the man doesn’t make any mention about angels stirring up the water. Whatever the religious slant of the day was, this man had bought into it and he had been unable to have it make a difference in his life.

I cannot help but ask myself why anybody would continue to believe something like this over all of these years. However, this is the ancient world that Jesus walked upon and a medieval world that interpreted this story. Egyptian medical books state, “To prevent hair from turning gray, anoint it with the blood of a black calf boiled in oil or with the fat of a rattlesnake.” Here’s another one. Some of you men need this. “When hair falls out, apply a mixture of six fats, those of the horse, the hippo, the crocodile—a little harder to come by–, the cat, the snake and the ibex. To strengthen it, anoint it with the tooth of a donkey crushed in honey.” Now if you think that will make hair grow, you’re really deceived! But this was mind-set and beliefs of the ancient world. They believed in magic water, lizard’s blood, swine’s teeth, putrid meat, stinking fat, moisture from pig’s ears, goose grease, animal fat, etc. as being remedies. This ignorance continued as health tonics and elixirs as recent as early American history and strange cures for physical and emotional health still pervade most societies today. People believing that somehow bubbling water could give them some kind of cure isn’t a stretch because bubbling water can in fact be therapeutic. But this man simply not been able to take advantage of it and maybe there is a reason.

We must understand that as Jesus shows up on the scene; this man has no idea who Jesus is. He has no idea what Jesus may have done for others previous to this miraculous day. He’s not a believer and again, he really doesn’t even know who Jesus is in regard to eternal salvation let alone God incarnate! Immediately, Jesus says to him in verse 8: “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.” Three commands of Christ are worth noting – “Get up, pick up, and walk.” The power of Lord is unleashed at that moment and maybe in midst of doubt since years of hope and optimism had already passed him by. But immediately in verse 9, “The man became well, picked up his pallet and began to walk.” This was a defining moment in this man’s life and points that he was in a prone or lying position with this illness. He suddenly began to feel strength come into his useless legs and arms and as he began to stand up, he had the sustained power and the strength to stand up. This pool of water could not compare to the healing of Jesus which is complete and instantaneous. He needed no rehabilitation or therapy and there was no progression or regression of illness. He was like a young man, full of strength as he stood upon his own two feet. It is awesome to think that this had nothing to do about faith. He didn’t have to believe for this to happen and we must come to grips with this when we encounter Jesus. He just desires a one on one conversation! Again, he didn’t even know who Jesus was. We see today as we look back upon this story that Christ is that caring, compassionate, merciful and relevant to our daily needs. I believe that just a mustard seed of faith was still tucked away in this man’s mind after all of these years which drew him to the pool that particular day. To simply to show up with a mustard seed is all Christ needs to meet our needs.

I sincerely believe that this miracle was not so much about his faith but about the power and compassion of Jesus toward humanity. The man simply acknowledged and he began to “walk out” his faith in what this “stranger” said. Just as astounding is that this event took place on the Sabbath Day. Maybe, this is really the point of this miracle in this man’s life that would be past down as a prophetic marker? Jesus could have healed the man on the next day because this man’s illness was not terminal. I suppose that this man could have been healed three days later or three days earlier. However, Jesus chose the Sabbath in his divinity because that’s the whole point of what’s happening here. He chose the Sabbath for the express purpose of confronting the religious leaders of the day.

Jesus told the man, “Carry your bed.” The catch is that the man would surely know that this act (carrying his bed) would rattle the Jewish religious elite. The religious of the day had perverted the law of God which was meant to be easy and light. God had given mankind the Sabbath all the way back in Exodus 20 and repeated it a number of times in scripture for its purpose. God had given the Sabbath to man as a time of rest, relaxation, enjoyment, and most importantly – doing good. The only thing you were not to do was the normal or daily grind of work and business.

“Take heed for yourselves and do not carry any load on the Sabbath or bring anything in through the gates of Jerusalem.” (Jer.17:21) Jeremiah is clearly speaking to everyday work and business commerce. But the religious and dogmatic had built man-centered doctrines of endless works and had added dozens and dozens of prescriptions or binding commands to behaviors on the Sabbath Day. The Sabbath had ceased being given to and for man…Man was now given to the Sabbath which is the manifestation and end-result of religiosity. In fact, in Matthew 23, the burden was so oppressive that people couldn’t carry it and they didn’t give them any help which were impossible burdens. In other words, they had perverted the Sabbath into the worse day of the week, the day of the greatest amount of bondage. It seems that little has changed! Are your Sabbaths a day of joy, comfort, freedom and excitement. Or, is it a day hectic busyness, religious rules and bondage?

“The Sabbath was made for man,” Jesus said, “and not man for the Sabbath. And the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27)

Jesus, in my opinion purposely brought about a Sabbath confrontation and this is a prophetic picture of what is unfolding today. The Lord is confronting the religiosity, control and bondage that has diseased and weakened the body – the church. This healing event was never about the faith of this man. This was about the confrontation of religion. This prompts and leads us to consider how serious they saw this breech and how Jesus paid no attention to their man-made traditions. He refused to observe the legalistic man-made Sabbath regulations entrenched in religious tradition. This was a major point of contention between Jesus and the religious establishment of the day. The Lord deliberately heals this man on the Sabbath, deliberately tells him to pick up his bed, deliberately tells him to walk. He knows he is defying the religious elite that are always around watching him. He has no interest in rabbinic tradition, only what he sees the Father doing and what the Father desires at that point in time. He knows that they have substituted the love and purposes of God for the traditions of men . Jesus alone and within his rest is the fulfillment of the Sabbath which is a means to glorify God. It is a wonderful gift to mankind. However, they have turned it into a burden and a way in which they can demonstrate their false righteousness through works. And so, Christ attacks them at the heart of their religious system and he does it by an act of compassion – amazing compassion to a man who was ill for such a long time. The man in this story is prophetically representative of the church and those who recognize their weakness and need for healing. Although years may have passed by – Christ is visiting us today with power to restore and empower his body. The choice of how we respond is up to us. The end-time servants and hand-maidens will arise as glorious (for Christ is coming back for a glorious church) and carry it’s bed (symbol of healing) to the nations as a testimony of God’s power, compassion and mercy. The glory of God’s healing and grace will no longer be silenced by the auspices and fear of religion.

The amazing compassion and mercy of Jesus is then followed by the amazing contempt and harshness of the incumbent religious folk. In verse 10: “The Jewish religious leaders (religious systems) were saying to the man who is cured, ‘It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet.’ But He answered them, ‘He who made me well was the one who said to me, Pick up your pallet and walk.’ They asked him, ‘Who is the man who said to you pick up your pallet and walk?’” What is critical to note is that they couldn’t care less whether the man could walk! They couldn’t care less whether that man had any healing flowing through his body! They were resistant and indifferent to any divine invasion upon the status quot. They had nothing but contempt for this man, believing that he was in that condition because God had punished him. On the same hand, they were not suffering this illness because they were being approved by God in their self-righteousness. They expressed nothing but disdain for the healed man, but more importantly, they had or should I say “have”nothing but contempt for Jesus and what he had done for this man’s body. The same contempt is certain to arise as the genuine body of Christ is healed of its religion as the days unfold.

Obviously, the man in this story is naturally intimidated and this leads us to the crux of the story which is brought to light by the this man’s choice to be spiritually complacent or develop a personal relationship with the Lord. The compassion of Jesus, the contempt of the religious, and then the spiritual complacency of this man unfolds in verse 14. “Afterward Jesus found him in the Temple…” I will stop here and note that there would have been thousands of people in the Temple at this time, but Jesus knew what was in people’s hearts and he knew where they were and he knew where they had been and where they were going. Thus, Jesus finds him in the Temple and he approaches the man and states, “Behold, you have become well. Do not sin anymore so that nothing worse happens to you.” It’s imperative to recognize that Jesus always approaches us with a personal touch and he finds the man in a large crowd (representative of the world) who is now walking and talking to everybody he can find about what has happened to him. The man has no idea who did this and where the power came from. Nonetheless, Jesus finds him and I believe they had a deep conversation that lasted a bit longer than is recorded in this passage of scripture! As the Bible states: “If all that Jesus did and said was written down, the books of the world couldn’t contain it.” (John 21:25)

As we continue in the story, we know that the conversation ended like this: “You have become well. You’ve been healed. Do not sin anymore so that nothing worse happens to you.” We must ask ourselves, what is the purpose and the ultimate implication of this comment by Jesus? I believe that it is obvious that his 38 year illness was connected to his sin nature. Now, is that always the case? The answer is emphatically, no! In chapter 9 another man is born blind and what did the religious Jews say? They said, “Who sinned, this man or his parents?” Jesus replies, “Neither.” Sometimes you’re sick and it’s not a direct punishment for sin. But sometimes sickness is in fact a direct punishment for sin. Paul said to the Corinthians, “Some of you are weak and sick and some of you have even fallen asleep because of the way you’ve desecrated the Lord’s table.” David said that God’s hand was so heavy on him for his sin that his life juices were drying up. Moses said in Deuteronomy 28, to the people of Israel, “If you do not obey God, God will cause these diseases to come on you.” In the case of this man, his sickness was related to sin – to his personal sin. We simply don’t know any more than that and Jesus’ final and sobering warning to the man, to me, and to you is, “You’ve been made well, now you need to go a different direction, away from the sin that has marked your life.”

We now come to the most interesting part of the story (And maybe, the most applicable part to our time and hour as well) “The man went away and told the Jewish religious leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.” In other words, he picked sides between the lines of scripture and the answer is clear whose side he picked if we’re prophetically discerning…It was the religious elite. His starvation for acceptance and need of affirmation negated the eternal opportunity that had miraculously manifested in his life. Many of us treat our miraculous salvation with the same disrespect by choices of acts and words we state. I’m certain that he walked away from Jesus and declared his loyalty to the religious leaders who denied not only Jesus in person – but his works that were led by the Spirit. Obviously, he knew they hated Jesus once he put the pieces together and he soon realized that they were after Jesus to protect the religious status quot. Everybody in the region knew that the “system worshipers” were after Jesus and this man essentially turned Jesus in. This is the power or outworking of the spirit of religion and the antichrist agenda. Smack in the face of the compassion of Christ. Smack in the face of an amazing healing / restorative miracle. Smack in the face of healing – this man declared his loyalty to those who hated the Spirit of Christ and wanted Him dead to protect “their” kingdom. This has to be the most startling act of ingratitude and unbelief in all the documented expressions of healing that Jesus did. This man had no intention of truly worshiping the Lord Jesus. He had no intention of following Jesus and providing a testimony to those within the sphere of his influence. Verses 10 – 12 are interesting and they revealed much. I suppose that in the flesh, this man in order to put himself back in good graces for having violated the Sabbath – a warped type of penitence (which religion always demands contrary to grace) was sought as he justified his desire to be in good graces with the religious leadership by turning in Jesus to ingratiate himself with the religious establishment.

The story continues and concludes in verse 16 as the Jews were persecuting Jesus because he was “doing these things on the Sabbath.” It seems that most have bought into this as a miracle story, but it is a tragically sad miracle story. This is not a story to about a man who was healed and then became a believer and a testimony to impact lives. This prophetic story represents the hour in which we live and a man who was healed or restored and ultimately became a coward and a rejecter of Christ because of the fear of man. Ironically, almost all of the people that Jesus healed rejected Him. I can state this with a clear conscious because he clearly healed incredible numbers of people and there were only a few that stood beside him at the end of the day. That is the power or should I say, the damning power of religiosity. He took the natural and fleshly safe side with those who had their prescriptions for acceptable behavior within the religious system and Sabbath. However, this prescription of man’s weakness would usher in the power of the cross. This was just the start of the rejection of Christ as well as the rejection of those who truly follow Him – The Spirit of prophecy.