“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.” —John 5:1-9
Now, in other places, soon as Jesus made his appearance, they brought the sick in their beds and laid them at his feet, and as he went along he healed them all, scattering mercies with both his hands. A blindness had come over these people at the pool; there they were, and there was Christ, who could heal them, but not a single one of them sought him. Their eyes were fixed on the water, expecting it to be troubled; they were so taken up with their own chosen way that the true way was neglected. No mercies were distributed, for none were sought. Ah! my friends, my sorrowful question is, shall it be so this morning? The living Christ is still among us in the energy of his eternal Spirit. Will you be looking to your good works? Will you be trusting to your church-goings and your chapel-goings? Will you rely upon expected emotions, impressions, and fits of terror, and let Christ, who is able to save to the uttermost, have no glimpse of faith from any eye, no prayer of desire from any heart? If it shall be so, it is heart breaking to think of it; men, with an Almighty Physician in their house, dying while they are amused with a hopeless quackery of their own inventing. O poor souls, shall Bethesda be repeated here this morning, and Jesus Christ, the present Saviour, be again neglected?
…. Half our professing Christian imagine that regeneration cannot take place in a moment; and, therefore, they say to poor sinners, “Go and lie at Bethesda’s pool; wait in the use of ordinances; humble yourself; seek for deeper repentance.” Beloved, away with such teaching! The cross! the cross! the cross! there hangs a sinner’s hope! You must not rely on what you can do, nor on what angels can do, nor on visions and dreams, nor on feelings and strange emotions, and horrible deliriums, but you must rest in the blood of my Master and my God, once slain for sinners. There is life in a look at the Crucified One, but there is life nowhere else. I come to the same point, then, upon the second head as the first. Thus saith the Lord, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.”
Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892)
Delivered Sunday Morning, April 7, 1867
at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol. 13, Sermon No. 744
“Jesus at Bethesda; or, Waiting Changed to Believing”