The more you dig, the more the Bible proves to be true.
I grew up with the stories of the Bible. The stories about Jesus were simply the best of them. I remember Jesus’ healing of the paralyzed man from when I was very young, but I couldn’t imagine what it was like. What a strange setting John describes- “ Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.”1 What in the world? Healing pools in the city of Jerusalem, five different porches and huge columns? Nothing I drove past on any day of the week bore any resemblance to such a thing. Hmmm…how to think of it.
Yet this retelling by the apostle John particularly fascinates me and even pleases me today. Here’s why: for centuries, those who wanted to say the Bible contained errors used this very passage in John chapter five as proof. You see, it was not until the mid 1900s that excavators discovered those pools. “With their more advanced technology they found the pool in Bethesda, the Sheep Gate, and the five roofed colonnades exactly as John describes.”2 It was as John had written!
Friends, think of those who walked away from Christianity thinking the Bible stated something untrue . . . tragic!
When in fact, Nelson Glueck, a renowned Jewish archaeologist has said that “it may be stated categorically that no archeological discovery has ever contradicted a biblical reference.”3
Never would I have thought I would view the site where Jesus healed the paralytic with my own eyes, yet I have been to the Bethesda pools four times in the last three-plus years and touched the colonnades myself. Not far off the Temple Mount, through the Lion’s Gate (which was called the Sheep Gate in Jesus’ day because it was the gate through which the sheep were brought for Temple sacrifice) one finds the multi-leveled pools.
Really, it is an amazing site, and as with all things in the Old City of Jerusalem, there is much packed to the square inch. In the background of the picture I took in November, 2019, you can see laundry hanging at a modern day home in the Muslim Quarter. So interesting.
Back to the story though … Jesus shot straight to the heart when he asked this particular man, “Do you want to be healed?”4 We do not know this man’s name, only his issue--he couldn’t walk. Yet Jesus met him, Jesus changed him that day - though not before he asked him straight up, “Do you want to be healed?” Thirty-eight years this man had been lying there - longer than Jesus had been alive! And out of all of those people looking to be healed that day, Jesus picked him out, Jesus healed him.
“Do you want to be healed?” Jesus was asking him if he was ready to take up his part in the healing - to let go of his past, let go of his pain - stop blaming, take some responsibility and start inching his way into the pool, rather than waiting for someone to carry him!
Christine Caine preached a powerful, inimitable message from this passage:
https://youtu.be/BSuMzsBFCuQ Do yourself a favor and listen to what I heard her deliver in Los Angeles. Somehow it seems especially timely to me in this Covid season - God wants to do a work in us, yet some of us are just hanging back feeling blue about the current outlook. Jesus is bigger than our circumstances!
Please, let’s get off our mats! And remember that this Word of God you are reading is truth - archeology is proving it yet today.
More coming on that . . . you will dig it!
1 - John 5.2-
2 - The Problem of God, Mark Clark, p.81, chapter entitled “The Problem of the Bible”. Clark was a former atheist - this is a great read.
3 - Rivers in the Desert: A History of the Negev Nelson Glueck
4 - John 5.6, ESV