“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. 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.’” (John 5:2-8)
When Jesus went to the pool at Bethesda what made him choose this one unfortunate in the midst of all those others? Why him, not someone else more deserving, more spiritual, one who had hope and faith? Of course that is the way it is: no one deserves the grace of God, not this man, not any of the others and not us. We all have sinned. But the Good News is that Jesus knows our heart and still comes to save us. Jesus knew this man’s heart and still went to him for he needed the grace and mercy of God. The Law could not remove his illness and it could not remove his sin.
The man indicated by his answer first of all, that he has no hope of healing. He has resigned himself to being sick. Think of it, this guy had lain there 38 years in sickness and in sin and no one helped him. He needed some one to cast him into the pool, but no one would do it. What despair! What helplessness! He saw his only hope only in the pool and as close as he was to that hope, it might just have well been a million miles away.
His answer to Jesus gives us a clue as to the nature of his sin. In his case his sin has either caused his illness or exacerbated it. Now sickness does not always come as a result of sin. Sometimes it does as with sexually transmitted disease or gluttony but not always. The words of this man indicate that he was filled with pride. He was unwilling to admit his sinfulness. He saw others as the cause of his 38 years of suffering. No one would pity him and throw him into the pool. Other people were the cause of his misfortune, not himself. We often blame other people or God for our troubles when we should really look at ourselves. This man did blame others. He did not see the connection between his sin and the illness. If Jesus had made healing conditional upon repentance it would not happen. But Jesus heals this man specifically because he in no way deserves it. And He still saves undeserving sinners.