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For eight and thirty years had this poor man borne his griefs alone. He had not one who would stretch out a hand to help him, and so long had he been used to neglect, that though he still came to Bethesda, he seems almost to have lost all hope of being ever able to reach the pool in time to gain a cure. But suddenly hope returned ; a kind voice spoke to him. Jesus ever “ to the friendless proves a friend.
JOHN V. 649. 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 ? 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. Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked : and on the same day was the Sabbath.”
It was done, and in a moment—Jesus spoke the word, and power came back to the powerless limbs; the man stood upright, and in his first surprise thought but of obeying the command he had received; he took up his bed, and walked. But where was He whose word had in a moment thus ended the weary thirty and eight years, and changed the sick man's life of suffering into joy and health ? He was gone. The Lord Jesus departed at the very time when the man obeyed his command and arose, so that when he looked around he could not find Him, and “wist not who it was that had healed him. This miracle, done on the Sabbath-day, was the beginning of the new lessons the Saviour had to give on the right observance of the Sabbath, and He immediately left the place, perhaps on purpose, that the Jews might shew their feelings without being irritated by His presence. Their wonder at the sudden cure did not lead them, as it might have done, to the truth, that the power which had healed the sick man in a moment might be greater than that which they believed an angel gave to the waters.
John v. 10–13. “The Jews therefore said unto the man that was cured, It is the Sabbath-day it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed. He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk. Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk? And he that was healed wist not who it was : for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place.”
They were too full of prejudice, and of proud self-will, to see any thing but this, their opinions were not followed, Jesus did not keep the Sabbath according to their rule, and thus they missed the good they might have gained.
Let it not be so with us. There may be outward forms and observances dear to us, and time and custom may have made them sacred to our feelings; but let not these have power to draw our thoughts from higher things, from deeper truths. It is on the Saviour Himself we must fix our reverent attention, careful to learn what He would teach. Our Church is to us a Bethesda, a haven of mercy, and God has given it a healing power, and we do well to crowd into its porches, to wait long in faith and patience for the promised blessing, but let us, all the time, look up from our Bethesda to God, from whom the blessing comes ; let us watch lest we miss the Saviour, lest amidst the jarring sounds of men's opinions we may fail to hear Him, when to each one of us He says " Wilt thou be made whole ?” And there is much in the history of this miracle that should strengthen our faith, and fill us with comfort. How long this poor man had waited for a cure! Day after day, year after year, he had dragged his powerless limbs to Bethesda the haven of mercy.
He had seen others come there, like himself, faint and weary, and he had seen them depart in gladness of spirit, and in soundness of body. They had found health in the healing waters. He too believed in their power to heal, but he could not take to himself the cure, and he had not a friend to help him to it. His case seemed hopeless. It would have been hopeless but for Christ the Lord, the Saviour of the sinner, the Friend of the friendless, and among all the crowd he was chosen, that by a word he might be healed. Let none then lose hope. Let all who feel their need, in faith and pati
. ence, seek for God's saving power in His own appointed way, in His house of mercy, in His holy Sacraments, in believing prayer. The Saviour's eye is upon them; and though they may wait long, He will not forget them. He will Himself give the blessing they seek, and as the powerless man by his persevering in coming to Bethesda, at last found a sudden cure in Cbrist, so will each one who perseveres in all these things, find that the Saviour has at last come to him, and given him power to arise and serve Him with gladness of heart. Nor need the grieving sinner, who has not one friend to speak to him a word of encouragement, lose heart for that. As the Lord Jesus looked round upon a crowd of sufferers and singled out one who had none to help him, so will His pitying love seek him out, and "to the friendless prove a friend."
Prayer. Bow down thine ear, O Lord, and hear us, for we are poor and helpless. Preserve thou our souls, for we are thine ; save thy servants that put their trust in thee.
We have been early brought to thy Bethesda, Lord, and the waters of baptism have been sprinkled over our childhood. We have been taught to seek thee in thine appointed means ; O let us not fail to find thee, the Saviour. Give us humble, earnest hearts, that no self-will of ours, no vain disputes of men may keep us back from thee, for thou only canst heal the disease of sin, thou only canst give power to the sinner to arise from his helpless state, and serve thee with the glad service of soul and body. Let us not be discouraged though we wait long, but give us grace to persevere in all thine appointed means. Friend of the friendless, look with thy tender pity upon those who have none on earth to help them. One word of thine is worth all the words that men can speak; shew them thy salvation, Lord, comfort them, that they may be able to lift up their souls to Thee, for Thou, Lord, art good and gracious, and of great mercy unto all them that call upon thee.
Teach us thy way, O Lord, and we will walk in thy truth ; knit our hearts unto thee, that we may fear thy name. · And now, O Lord, our Redeemer, give ear unto these our prayers, and ponder the voice of our humble desires, for thou art God alone.* Amen,
We have read that the Lord Jesus left the pool of Bethesda immediately after He had spoken the word which gave back to the impotent man the use of his limbs. He had gone so suddenly, that the man himself did not know who it was that had healed him, but this he knew, that it was the power of God alone that could have thus raised him up, therefore he immediately went to the temple of God, there, as we may hope, to offer up his thanks and praise for the great mercy that had been shewn him. The eye of the Saviour was still upon him. He had healed his body; but there was much more to do. All sickness, all suffering is a type of sin, and is caused by sin, though not always by the sin of the sufferer; but there seems to have been something particular in the case of this man. We are led to think so, by the solemn warning given him by the Saviour, who took care to find him in the temple.
* From the 86th Psalm.
14. Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole : sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.”
Do not these words seem to say, that the thirty-and-eight years of pain and weakness that He had endured, had been brought upon him by sins long past, by deeds done, all those years ago ? * This infirmity had found him a youth, it had left him an old man.'+ His youth! how had it been spent ? Had he given the flower of his days to the service of his God? or had he not rather given the strength of his young life to vice, and so withered his manhood before it was ripe? Oh ! if
! the boy did but know, if he would but believe the years of grief that follow a youth of vice, he would sooner take a stinging serpent to his bosom, because its colours were bright, than he would give himself up to the pleasures of sin. And how short are these pleasures! They are gone even in the enjoyment of them; but long is the weariness of spirit, and the weakness of body, that follows upon them, and this cannot be prevented, for vice must bring misery. God has so ordered it, and no man can hinder it. I remember one who was born the heir of all that wealth and station could give: in person, in manners, in temper, and in talent, he was such as men most admire: he was the only son of his family, of which he was the pride and the hope. But in early youth he gave himself up to the pleasures of vice, and all this fair promise was blasted. With ruined health, and weakened mind, a victim to nervous terrors, when alone, he trembled where there was no cause for fear; when with others he plunged into a forced and reckless gaiety. He strove to forget in drinking, the ruin he had brought on all his prospects. In many ways, by many voices, the Saviour seemed to say to him, " Wilt thou be made whole ?" but instead of seeking for a cure, he turned a deaf ear to every * Scott's Commentary.
f Trench on the Miracles.