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Life of Jesus Christ in Its Historical Connexion and Historical Developement.
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§ 143. The Miracle at the Pool of Bethesda.—The Words of Christ in the Temple to the Man that was healed. (John, v., 1-14.)

CHRIST, having spent the winter in Galilee, was called again to Jerusalem by the feast of the Passover. His stay in the city at that feast forms a marked period in his history; for a cure wrought upon a certain Sabbath in that time was the occasion, if not the cause, of a more violent display of the opposition of the Pharisees than had yet been made against him.

A certain spring at Jerusalem was believed by the people to possess remarkable healing powers at particular seasons, when its waters were moved by (what they supposed to be) a supernatural cause.378378   Against the credibility of this account, Bretschneider and Strauss adduce the silence of Josephus and the Rabbins in regard to such a healing spring; but this argument—like every argumentum e silentio, unsupported by special circumstances—is destitute of force. These very authorities tell us that there were many mineral springs in Palestine. Eusebius, in his work, “περί τῶν τοπικῶν ὁνομάτων τῶν ἐν τῇ θείᾳ γραφῇ, (Onomasticon), says, under the word “Βηζαθὰ”—“καὶ νῦν δείκνυται ἐν ταῖς αὐτόθι λίμναις διδύμοις, ὧν ἐκατέρα μὲν ἐκ τῶν κὰτ᾽ ἔτος ὑετῶν πληροῦται, θάτερα δὲ παραδόξως πεφοινιγμένον δείκνυσι τὸ ὕδωρ, ἴχωος, ὥς φασι, φέρουσα τῶν πάλαι καθαιρομένων ἱερείων, παρ᾽ ὅ καὶ προδατικὴ καλεῖται διὰ τὰ θύματα.” (Hieron., Opp., ed. Vallars., tom. iii., pt. i., p. 181.) The old tradition, that the waters had become “red,” from the washing of the sacrifices in them in old times, leads to the conclusion that it contained peculiar components. The legend of the angel (in v. 4, which, according to the best criticism, does not belong to John, but is a later gloss) could not have arisen unless the spring and its phenomena really existed. Robinson (Palestine, ii., 137, 156) thinks that he found in the irregular movement of the water in the “Fountain of the Virgin” phenomena similar to those recorded of the Pool of Bethesda, and contributing to explain them. It is unimportant whether this belief was an old one, or was called forth at a later period by actual occurrences, of which, as was common, too much was made. The healing-spring itself, or the covered colonnade connected with it, was called Bethesda379379   חֶסֶד and בֵּוה. (“place of mercy”).

At this fountain Christ found, on the Sabbath day, a man who had been lame for thirty-eight years, and had long waited for the moving of the waters in hope of relief, but had never been able to avail himself of it for want of a kind hand to help him into the water at the auspicious moment. It is probable that many pressed to the spring in haste to catch the passing instant when its healing powers were active. But the sick man was to find help from a far different source. [Jesus saith unto him, Arise, take up thy bed and walk, and immediately the man was made whole.]

The restored man lost sight of the Saviour in the throng, but afterward Christ found him in the Temple, where he had probably first gone in order to thank God for his recovery. The favourable moment was seized by the Saviour to direct his mind from the healing of his body to that of his soul. His words, “Sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee,” may be considered either as implying that the sickness, in this particular case, was caused by sin, or as referring to the general connexion between sin and physical evil, in virtue of which the latter is a memorial of the former as its source. In either view they were intended to remind him of his spiritual necessities, and to point out the only way in which they could be relieved.


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