This is the story of a man laying by the pool by the Sheep Gate (sheep market) in Jerusalem. There were five porches there.
[Each porch had a roof over it, probably to shield the people from the sun.]
In Hebrew it is called Bethesda (house of mercy).
And an angel of the Lord descended at certain times into the pond and the water was moved. And he that went down first into the pond after the motion of the water was made whole of whatsoever infirmity he lay under. -John 5:4
This man had been sick for 38 years. Jesus saw him lying there, and He knew that the man had been sick for a long time. John 5:6
[I always ‘read’ this as he was lying there for 38 years. That’s not really possible; he would have to make trips to the bathroom, he would have to eat…]
[Also, I always ‘assumed’ that the Angel came down at the same time each day, like “Old Faithful” gushes every hour on the hour. So either, 1) it was a set time, and if so, why hang out on the porch, why not stay right next to the water? Or 2) if they didn’t know exactly what time it was to happen, it was a race to get into the water.]
The text says he was sick for 38 years, but isn’t specific as to what his illness is. [I also ‘assumed’ he was lame and could not get into the water without help. (He could have been arthritic, just slow.] If this is true, someone would be dropping him off at the porch each day, and leaving him to figure out how to get into the pool. This means someone helped him a little, but not enough to get him healed.
The man was lying on his mat, and Jesus said, “Do you want to get well?”
To which the man answered, “Sir, I don’t have anyone here to put me in the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am trying to get in, somebody else gets there first. -John 5:6-7
[Prosperity preachers insert here that the man didn’t want to get well badly enough to do something about it. That’s absurd to me. Sometimes we get ‘stuck’ in situations, and need help from other people.]
Jesus told him, “Get up, pick up your mat, and walk.” Immediately the man got well; he picked up his mat and started walking.
Of course we then have the religious folks coming by and telling him, “Today’s the Sabbath, it’s against our Law for you to carry your mat on the Sabbath.” [That’s another story…]
So what I gathered from reading this today is that there were 5 porches/cabanas surrounding the pool. People who needed healing would sit on the porches, waiting for the angel to stir the water and then make a mad dash to be the first one to get into the pool.
And most of the people needed HELP.
At the point of desperation, Jesus meets us.
Then, we are to meet others at their point of desperation, and help them find Jesus.