Thirty-eight years is a long time to wait.
The man was an invalid living at a pool called Bethesda, meaning, “House of Mercy,” where it was believed that an angel would periodically trouble the waters. It was said that the first person into the waters would be healed. There were five porches at varying heights where people waited for the angelic visit.

A Community of the Impaired
After an extended season of ministry in Galilee, Jesus and His disciples traveled back to Jerusalem for a religious feast. On the Sabbath, He visited the pool at Bethesda and found a community but not a thriving one. This was a community of the sick, afflicted, blind and those otherwise impaired. John does not explain the stirring of the waters, leaving us with a provocative image that lends itself to spiritual applications such as the stirring of hope, or of the Spirit of God, or a wind from heaven. These people were helpless. A constant low moan added an almost musical drone to the sound of wind, water, and voices. We do not know how this “house of mercy” came to be but it was a poor way of distributing the grace of God. One man in particular illustrates the mixed results.

He had been lame for 38 years. When the waters were stirred, he had no one to help him. We do not know how many years the poor man had lived with this faint, tantalizing hope. How many people had he seen enter the water with a debilitating illness and come splashing out rejoicing and healed, while his withered legs remained under him numb and useless? Such repeated disappointments dulled his hopes. He made peace with his lot and merely watched the spectacle of a hurting multitude and the occasional angelic breeze. Jesus came upon him in the state of pessimistic resolve and asked a remarkable question.

“Do you want to be made well?”

It seemed a foolish, if not cruel, question. The man made his well-rehearsed excuses, explaining his predicament. As Jesus looked deep into his eyes, a stirring began in the man’s heart—a stirring of hope. Jesus commanded him,

“Rise, take up your bed and walk.”

People heard the bones snap in the man’s legs and saw them straighten. The man carefully rose on unsteady feet, trying not to fall over. The muscles in his legs filled out as new strength flooded into them. In the shortest time, he was standing tall, no longer unsteady on his feet. He stared at his mat on the ground, his prison for 38 years. He clapped his hands together, bent over and picked it up, dust raining down to the floor of the porch. He rolled it up and threw it over his shoulder. He enjoyed this so much, he threw it down and picked it up again, just for fun.

It was the Sabbath.
Other sick folks in the crowd found a new hope beyond that of an arbitrary angel—they found Jesus! We are not told how many were healed—curiously, John does not tell us if any more healings took place—but we are told of religious leaders who ignored the healing and accused the man of working on the Sabbath for carrying his mat! When they asked him who had healed him, he confessed he did not know. Later, he met Jesus in the Temple, and credited Him with the healing to the religious leaders.

Better than the stirring of the waters was the stirring of the soul when Jesus was near.

John 5:1-15

After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. 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. Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath. The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.” He answered them, “He who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your bed and walk.'” Then they asked him, “Who is the Man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.

Lord Jesus, You are the Great Physician! You are the Sun of Righteousness rising with healing in Your wings! The Bible says that the stripes on Your back were for our healing and I believe it. The New Testament says that the prayer of faith shall save the sick and raise them up! You are our source of healing, a constant, never lacking supply. Save me from accepting less than all that You have for me. Help me to want Your touch, Your healing touch. Stir my heart today! Amen and Amen.

The Waters Are Troubled

Words and Music: Bill and Gloria Gaither
1. There is a fountain for healing the soul
And those who will plunge in that stream are made whole
The waters are troubled and so is your soul
The Spirit is moving be completely made whole

He knows you are broken and long to be free
He sees all the heartache that others can’t see
The waters are troubled and so is your soul
The Spirit is moving be completely made whole

2. I sat by the water of life’s healing stream
There was no one to help me no way to be free
But Jesus loved me and said tenderly
I am the Water so just come to me

He knew what I needed before I could ask
He saw deep inside me behind all my masks
The waters were troubled and so was my soul
The Spirit was moving and He made me whole

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at

4 thoughts on “September 19 “Stirring”

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