IF we could walk together through the streets of Jerusalem we should see many strange things. The gates of the city are interesting. They are archways in the wall which are closed with heavy wooden doors. They all are named, some of them for the towns to which the roads from the gates lead,—the Jaffa Gate, the Damascus Gate. The streets are very narrow, often arched over, and with steps where the way is steep. The shops are small. Many of them you would not try to enter, but would make your bargain standing in the street. There are also outdoor markets for fruit and other things. And everywhere people who by their faces and dress and manners take us back to Bible days.
There is a place in the city where, if we should look From the roofs of the houses or from the back windows of the shops, we should see a large, pool of water, shut in by the walls of the buildings. It is a reservoir to which the water comes from outside the city walls. It is called the “Pool of Hezekiah.” In other parts of Jerusalem there are other such pools, but most of them are now dry.
Not far from the eastern gate of the city, in the yard of the church of St. Anna, is a pool that is called still by a name which means the same as Bethesda, “house of mercy.” The pool is cut almost wholly in the rock, and is double, like the pages of an open book. About the sides and between the two halves of the pool were porches supported by pillars. Many sick people lay in the shade of these porches, some of them on their light beds or mats, “waiting for the moving of the water.” There was a beautiful tradition that at certain times an angel troubled the water and gave it healing power. On the wall of this pool has been found a painting of the angel coming down to the water.
There was a feast at Jerusalem. It was perhaps the Passover after that when the Lord drove the traders from the temple, or a feast which was held a little earlier in the spring. The temple courts and the squares of the city were filled with pilgrims. There was a multitude by the pool of Bethesda as the Lord came among them on a Sabbath day.
After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. 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.
The Jews therefore said unto him 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. 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. The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole. And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day.—John V. 1-16.
Author: William L. Worcester 1904
Bethesda (house of mercy) >> Mercy of the Lord
Love and power of the Lord’s works and the Wisdom of His words >> Divine Love and Wisdom >> One with the Father
Washing >> The cleansing of the life from evil by the help of the Lord’s commandments
Moving of the water of Bethesda >> Vivifying by spiritual power, vivifying of repentance by influx from the Lord and heaven
Diseases >> Spiritual diseases, evil conditions of the soul
Means of cure >> Spiritual washing, repentance
Moving of the pool by an angel >> The presence of the Lord and the angels in the commandments and in all the letter of the Word vivifies the letter and makes it powerful to help us
Lord required persons to say what they desired Him to do, before He gave His help >> Thought must be definite and desire must be earnest in prayer
Arise >> Spiritual effort to arise from evil thoughts and ways and dwell in a higher state of consciousness (as in going up to Jerusalem)
“Wilt thou be made whole?” >> We must leave evil completely (not partially)
Bed >> True Beliefs upon which the mind falls back and finds support when it is feeble and discouraged
Take up thy bed, and walk >> Have faith in the Truth, go forward with the duties of life and the Lord will help you
Sabbath >> A heavenly state, when the Lord has blessed our spiritual efforts
The Jews objected to the carrying of the bed on the Sabbath >> Technical knowledge and formal piety
Pictures: James Tissot —-Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum