“Jesus said to him, ‘Get up, take up your bed, and walk.’ And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath.” (John 5:8-9)
Jesus often went out of His way to violate man made religious Sabbath regulations. The healing of the man at the pool of Bethesda was one such incident. Bethesda, near to the Temple, is Greek for the House of Mercy. This pool was actually a pair of pools with five covered walkways or porches. Four porches surrounded the two pools and a fifth bisected them. Stairways at the corners permitted descent to the pool for the level of the water was a few feet below the surface of the ground.
John tells us that an angel periodically came down to disturb the waters and the first person in was healed. Maybe he was just reporting a supernatural event or just a legend concerning some natural phenomenon similar to a geyser or hot spring. In any case, Bethesda was perceived to be a place of healing and thus attracted a large amount of people, more so at the time of a feast, perhaps thousands. In that case, those 5 porches must have been jammed with sick, blind, and paralyzed people on the day Jesus was there. For that reason, it was probably not a healthy place to be. People and animals used the water to bathe. Apart from the periodic stirrings, the pool would have been stagnant, smelly and dirty. And when the pool was stirred up, there would be a mad dash to be first in, a lot of pushing and shoving. No one would be looking to help his or her neighbor. Where was the love of God? Where was the concern for others?
The Law could not provide that. The Law could not help people love others or cure their selfishness. Neither could the Law take away sin. The Law could only expose sin in much the same as the sick were exposed in these 5 porches. Jesus used this miracle to show us, that salvation is by grace, not by works of the Law. Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath. He is God who has the power to give rest, to heal and to save. The Law could not save but it was designed to show us we need help, we need a savior, we need Jesus. Jesus came and told us “Salvation is through me alone, by the grace of God alone.” This miracle Jesus performed was a way in which He proclaimed this message.