This story reminds of the tag line of commercials which ran some years back - “What are the odds?” For the man who had been paralyzed for 38 years and is waiting by the Pool of Bethesda for healing, they are not good. The belief was that when the water was stirred allegedly by an angel, the first person in the water was healed. Obviously the crippled and paralyzed have zero chance to be the first one in. This pool favors the strong over the weak as one would have to be sufficiently healthy to get in the water first. Hangnails are more likely to get healed than non functioning limbs! Jesus heals this man, but the story still bothers me. How could God be involved in such inhospitality?

It turns out that our God was not involved in this scheme. Two things to note: 1) Most ancient biblical manuscripts of John lack the verse which stated that an angel stirred the water; and 2) many archaeologists are identifying this pool as a healing pool of the Roman god of healing, Asclepius (his symbol was a snake on a staff like the symbol for medical arts today). There was a pool of Asclepius at the Bethesda site built after Jesus’s day. They are postulating that it was built on one from the time of Jesus. This pool should not be confused with the Pool of Siloam where Jesus sends a man for healing in John 9. Bethesda consisted of two connected pools. When the pipes were opened between the pools it was likely that the water was stirred. Basically Jesus comes to a system (and religion) rigged against the weak; he bypasses it to heal the man directly.

This reminds me that Jesus would never condone inhospitality and systems which show preference for the strong over the weak. It encourages me to be a part of a movement that will reach out and give the most needy a chance to be whole. The church is that kind of movement.

I am proud to be along side you in the mission of promoting health and wholeness.