Joh 5:2 Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.
Joh 5:3 In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.
Joh 5:4 For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.
Joh 5:5 And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.
Joh 5:6 When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?
Joh 5:7 The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.
Joh 5:8 Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.
Joh 5:9 And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath.
In this story of the impotent man the heart of the matter is in verse five: "And a certain man was there, which had been thirty and eight years in his infirmity."
What is the Jewish background?
There is very little doubt that it was Israel's journey in the wilderness, the thirty-eight years of their wanderings.
What cripples they were!
They could have made the journey from Egypt to Canaan in eleven days, but it took them thirty-eight years and during that time they were really making no progress at all.
They were in bondage to their own self-life.
They were impotent, helpless cripples because the self-life was in the place of mastery.
You have no need for me to tell you how that self-life governed them in the wilderness.
They never looked at anything in the light of how it served God and how far it satisfied His interests.
They looked at everything in the light of how it affected them.
All their murmuring and rebellion was because THEY were not getting what THEY wanted.
It was never what God wanted.
They were just a self-centered people, and the self-life was their bed, and they were cripples lying on that bed.
They were never really able to get up and march straight forward into God's purpose.
Well, that is the Jewish background, and Jesus takes up an illustration of that right in the presence of the Jews when He puts this man on his feet.
The members of the new heavenly Israel are people who have been delivered from self-interest into God's interest, who have been put on their spiritual feet by Jesus Christ and are walking in strength in the way of the Lord.
Do you not think it is a very significant thing that the first miracle after the Day of Pentecost was the raising of an impotent man at the gate of the temple in Jerusalem?
These are not just pretty stories put together to make an interesting book.
God knows what He is doing, and when He makes the first miracle of the Christian era the raising of an impotent cripple, He is saying that the people of this new Israel are people who have been delivered from this impotence and put on their feet spiritually.
There are a lot of Christian cripples about!
They cannot get on their own feet, nor can other people put them there.
You try to pick them up! They may take a step or two, and then down they go again.
There are many like that, and you can spend your life trying to get them up on their feet.
What is it that is eating the very life out of them?
What is it that is making them such helpless cripples that they cannot walk?
It is self-centeredness.
Make no mistake about it, it is self in some form.
It is self that wants to be taken notice of.
It is self in the form of pride.
This poor man was delivered because he knew his own helplessness and he believed what Jesus said.
He believed on to Jesus Christ, which means that he believed out of himself.
Yes, that is the secret - that we shall turn from our miserable selves and cease to be occupied with them, saying once and for all: 'I am done with you, wretched self. I throw myself on to Jesus Christ.
I take the one great step of committal.
Jesus never lets such a person down.
~T. Austin Sparks~