There was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. 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. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’ ” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because not only was He breaking the Sabbath, but He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God. (John 5:1-18 ESV)
The Bible has much to say about fools. The word fool today usually means “a senseless fellow, someone who is unwise in their choices.” The biblical definition has the added dimension of “someone who disregards God’s Word.” The Bible lists many characteristics of such a person, often contrasting him with someone who is wise. There is an important distinction between the biblical definition of a fool and the word Jesus used (raca) in Matthew 5:22 when He forbade calling a Christian brother a “fool.” The term “raca”, spoken from a heart of contempt, implied utter worthlessness. Jesus was not saying that we cannot call the choices of another foolish. But to call someone “raca” was saying that this person was beyond the reach of God and therefore condemned forever. To say, “You fool!” to a brother or sister in that day was the equivalent of saying, “Damn you!” to someone today. We do not have the power or the right to condemn anyone to hell. That position of judgment belongs only to God.
With that understood, I want to point out the foolishness (not “raca”) of the man Jesus healed at the pool of Bethesda so that we are careful not to make the same mistakes.
First, lets look at why John was inspired to include this story in His Gospel, since he writes:
Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. (John 21:25 ESV)
There were so many positive encounters John could of written about where people had great faith in Jesus. Jesus loved to respond to faith by healing both physically and spiritually (sins forgiven). Many times we read Him saying, “Your faith has made you whole, saved, well” (Mark 5:34; 10:52; Luke 7:50; 8:48; 17:19; and 18:42). In contrast, Jesus usually chose not to respond to unbelief (Mark 6:5-6). But in the case with the man at the Pool of Bethesda, He chose to heal Him physically, even though this man did not have the faith to be healed spiritually.
I believe John included this story about the man at the Pool of Bethesda because it is a lesson on how not to be. When this man first answered Jesus, he blamed other people for why he was not healed. When he walked away healed, he blamed someone else for the reason he was carrying his mat on the Sabbath. There is no mention that he was grateful or rejoicing. What is remarkable, Jesus sought this man out the next day and warned him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” This brings chills up and down my spine. Apparently it did not bring chills to this man. Instead, he went and squealed on Jesus, bringing persecution upon Jesus. He was a very foolish man.
When Jesus had His second encounter with this man, Jesus says something so unexpected that it troubles people to this very day: “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” Stop sinning? It almost sounds like his paralysis is some kind of punishment. How could that be? God is a loving God. He would never do that! But a number of times in the Bible, we find instances where God does just that. Is all sickness a result of sin? No. Some sickness has nothing to do with sin. But sin is at the root of this man’s life.
“Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” What could be worse than being crippled for 38 years? The Bible teaches us that missing out forever on eternal life, most certainly is! Sin eventuates in eternal death, make no mistake about it.
What is the man’s sin? We’re not told, but it must have been so serious that Jesus needed to speak to him about it. He is only partially healed. Now his soul must be healed or his sin-sickness will destroy him for eternity. Jesus gives this warning to all who do not have faith in Him:
But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you.’ (Luke 12:20 ESV)
Now let’s move to our present day and see what the Bible has to say about the foolishness that will infiltrate our Christian world:
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4 ESV)
Just glance the internet. Many Christians are taking their eyes off of Jesus, who is both the living and written Word. Jesus and the Bible will not be enough for them. Many will put Christian music first, above sound doctrine. Others will lust after worldly comforts and riches. Others will put enticing prophecies at the top of their interests, laced with stories about visiting heaven and hell and political outcomes. Others have put their trust in the re-election of Trump, rather than the Lord setting up kings and kingdoms for the End Times events that are about to unfold. Did it ever occur to you that God’s purpose for Trump may have already been fulfilled, and the gates of evil are ready to be opened wider on America?
We need to take the advice below and take our eyes off of the water and put them solely on Jesus:
“Around the pool of Bethesda lay a great multitude of folk, waiting for the moving of the water (John 5:2-4). Undoubtedly, many had their eyes on the pool and had no eyes for Jesus. There are many today who always have their confidence in things they can see. If they would only get their eyes on God instead of on natural things.” (Smith Wigglesworth)