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The Man at the pool of Bethesda: no intercessors
by Carole McDonnell
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The man by the pool of Bethesda: No intercessor at all
Verses: John 5: 1 -15

Summary of the story: A man waits for years for a supernatural
miracle that occurs when an unseen angel stirs the water. He has
no friend who will wait with him to intercede with him. Jesus
meets the man and asks the man, "Do you want to be healed?" The
man is healed when Jesus tells him to take up his bed and walk.

His story: There is something called a desperate hope, true...but
it is hope nevertheless. I have heard of miracles happening to
the desperate. Our religion is filled with stories of these
miracles. We are taught to believe and trust on and rely on the
Maker, the Almighty, the Creator of all. He knows all. He loves
all, especially the poor and afflicted who wait on him. So, was
it so very wrong of me to trust that a miracle could touch my
puny and forgotten life?

Those who do not understand desperate hope live at ease in king's
palaces. They do not understand the hardness of life. Those who
are not oppressed by illness, sorrow, afflictions and
troubles...they do not understand how a drowning man will clutch
at a straw. They walk by and shake their heads at we invalids
who sit here on the five porches laugh at us who sit here waiting
for the waters of Bethesda to roll.

When I heard their mockery of my desperate hope, I would tell
myself that the Maker saw their mockery and my need. He would
reward me for holding onto this silly desperate hope of mine.
Yes, I told myself, The Holy One of Israel, would heal me. There
was no other way for me to be healed. I had not accepted the
permanence of this pervasive illness. I would hope in the God of
my fathers.

This was the reason for my hope: at certain seasons, the cause
unknown, the time unknown, the waters of this pool of Siloam here
at Bethesda are stirred by an angel. At that time, the first
person to leap go the water is healed. I do not know why this
happens. But I know it does. I, myself, have seen it with my
own eyes. Some people have said that the waters come out from
beneath the priest's altar. Some people say it is a mere natural
occurrence, water coming up from Hezekiah's tunnel. Others, the
mockers, have said, "Would the Holy One of Israel, play such
cruel games on his people? This way of healing is almost a
gamble and a God who would create such unpredictable and random
healings surely cannot be believed...and who gets healed? Not
the sickest man, but the man who has strength enough to run, the
man with loving friends to intercede and put him into the pool."
I admit it: sometimes their words would burn into my spirit. I
felt ashamed of my strange hope, my only hope. But I hoped
against hope. I hoped even when I had no hope left. I told
myself that the Maker of all men and He who has a special place
in His heart for the sorrowful...had his eye on me...even as his
eyes are upon the ant and the little sparrow.

We never knew when the waters would be stirred. Sometimes, it
would not move for weeks, sometimes months. And we would stay
here.. A hardy band of hopers, waiting together. But all
togetherness would leave once the movement of the water began.
Yes, when the water stirred, it was every man for himself. And I
would start --this poor diseased man-- towards the water. (I
would sit so close to the pool sometimes, guarding my spot,
preventing anyone from taking my place. I, who used to have the
chief place among the beggars in the marketplace...turning to
religion, what a laugh? I forgot about begging alms. All I
begged for was healing. I was not satisfied with this prognosis.
I wanted a better life. And so there I was, my body a pitiful
traitorous mass whose sole purpose was to drag itself to the pool

After a while, not months, but years, I realized that all sick
and wounded men are selfish. We want to be healed first. Our
families are selfish. They want their own people to be healed
first. But I had no one. No one to stand in the gap and
intercede for me, no one to help me.
I promised the Maker of all things that if He would send someone
to take me to the water, I would not forget this place. I would
not forget this misery-filled portion of my life. Instead, I
would make sure I was there to help others who had been similarly
afflicted. It was a promise I meant. Unlike the betrayer of our
ancestor, Joseph, who forgot his promise as soon as he was freed,
I intended to keep my promise to the Lord. But the Dear One did
not hear my promise. Or maybe he heard it but it did not concern
Him. The Great One, as we all know, is inscrutable in His wisdom
and sends sorrows to those He loves.

And so I lay here. And the longer I lay on this courtyard brick,
and the longer I waited, a numbness and a silence built up in me.
The betraying body was not bad enough. The lost years of promise
were not bad enough. The poverty that had entered my life were
not enough. The Maker had left me without a helpful friend. I
had no one to help put me in the pool.

People must live their lives, I understand. They have to earn
their living. And for the most part, people know only what they
know. They don't understand suffering if they've never
experienced it. And for the most part, they do not like being
acquainted with grief. The house of mirth is vastly to be
preferred than the house of sorrows. People have no time to
stand here waiting shamefacedly for a miracle in some afflicted
soul's life...no matter how much they pity. I understood that.
My mind understood that, at least. But I had no one. Life is a
hard, cruel, mean-spirited and unfair thing. Suffering and
poverty are loving siblings; they walk hand in hand. And their
younger sister, isolation, is never far behind. The heart does
not understand that. And I had been here for so long.

One day a man came by. I did not know it was Jesus. I did not
know who Jesus was. I was not looking for Jesus. The man asked
me if I wanted to be healed.

I told him that I had no one to put me into the water when it
stirred. My eyes pleaded with him to stay and wait with me.
But he only looked up at me and with pitying eyes, he said, "Get
up, take up your bed and walk." And for some reason I believed
him. I got up. And this body was perfectly healed.

The man told me I should not sin anymore or something worse would
happen to me. And I believed him. Who would not believe a man
who had just healed him of a disease of 38 years standing?
So I started on my way, praising the Almighty that he had not
forgotten me. I was carrying the mat I had lain on for so many
years. That was when the priests saw me.

"Why?" they asked, "are you carrying your bed on the Sabbath day?
The law forbids carrying any burden on a Sabbath day."
I almost laughed. I had carried my burdensome body for 38 years,
a burden heavier than my mat. And no one had cared.

Suggested topics for study: Rejection, Looking to God and not
to men, The isolated sufferer, false miracles.
Study Questions:
1. Have you visited the sick lately?
2. Have you ever had a desperate hope? What was it?
3. Have you ever known someone with a desperate hope? What was
your reaction?
4. When is someone's desperate hope silly?
5. How would you respond to someone who said "I have no one to
help me."
6. What do you think caused the supernatural stirring of the
7. Define spiritual tiredness? What is the difference, if any
between "fainting" and being spiritually tired"?
8. Why do you think Jesus asked the man "Do you want to be
healed?" What do you think the effect of these words were?

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Member Comments
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Steven Wickstrom 20 Sep 2002
Great article. It reminds us to never give up hope, because you never know when or how God will answer your prayer.


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