Chapter 21: Bethesda and the Sanhedrin

February 13, 2007

I have been studying the issue of undeserved suffering. Many people can’t seem to climb over this whole idea while holding the hand of an all powerful God of love.  At the same time, other people have no problem believing that God supernaturally sustains physical and spiritual torture in hell and will continue to do so throughout all eternity. How does that work? Maybe we will deal with hell later, but for looking at suffering on this earth, this is a key chapter. Fit these pieces together with me.

“He longed to exercise His healing power, and make every sufferer whole. … He knew that such an act of healing would so excite the prejudice of the Jews as to cut short His work.” DA199

“The sick man was lying on his mat, and occasionally lifting his head to gaze at the pool, when a tender, compassionate face bent over him…”  DA200

[and about the sick spirit]

“Let these despondent, struggling ones look up. The Saviour is bending over the purchase of His blood, saying with inexpressible tenderness and pity, ‘Do you want to be made well?’ … Whatever may be the evil practice, the master passion which through long indulgence binds both soul and body, Christ is able and longs to deliver. … He will set free the captive that is held by weakness and misfortune and the chains of sin.” DA201

What is shown about God’s view of suffering? I’m thinking:

1. God takes the long view.
2. The long view has more to do with healing the spirit than with the body.
3. God longs to put an end to all suffering including physical pain.
4. Healing is not only possible, but available. Free and by faith.
5. God will not control our will, but “Self-will is blind.” DA210.

Despite the force of sin and self-destruction causing sorrow, there is hope in the invitation of Christ, “Do you want to be made well?” There is power in the command, “Rise, take up your bed, and walk.”

Not only does this chapter unpack how healing is accomplished, it also tells how hardening is accomplished. It deserves to be unpacked and examined; I want you to be free, not yet from suffering, but from self and sin. Let’s continue in Christ.


6 Responses to “Chapter 21: Bethesda and the Sanhedrin”

  1. Jan said

    This is my favorite chapter so far; has always been one of my top ten favorite Bible stories. Imagine, lying there for years and years..longing to be cleansed in some miraculous way. I can just feel this man’s accumulated years of disappointment. The agony of day after day waiting for pushing and shoving to be rewarded by God!!! Imagine believing that an angel wiggled a finger in the water, and smiled as people pushed and shoved and crawled over each other to be first. I see Jesus looking specifically for him; to show the truth about what God is like, and choosing Sabbath to heal..because as God is misunderstood, so is His special day.

  2. Renee said

    It is always interesting to me that we tend to cling to earthly hopes almost every time–because that is the hope that is more tangible. The lame man clung to the hope of getting in that water because it was something that he could see and know, even though it was terribly unlikely. He may have heard of Jesus at some point, but until Jesus showed up, the pool was his “only hope”.

    I’ve been reading “Prayer” by Philip Yancey, and he writes about God’s perspective of time and space–He sees the beginning and the now and the future all at once. All at once! Which means the things I worry about are no worry to Him, and outside of time have already been resolved. Somehow, thinking that way puts my heart at ease–at least for a moment. 🙂

    I love this phrase: “The Saviour is bending over the purchase of His blood, saying with inexpressible tenderness and pity, ‘Do you want to be made well?’” The catch, of course, is: “Of course I want to be made well–But I wanted to be made well last year!” But to The One who is outside of time, what is of utmost importance is simply our acceptance of His offer. There is a danger to becoming hardened by pain.

    (As an aside, I wonder if Jesus healed anyone else by that pool?)

  3. Carla said

    To the suffering God expected explicit belief. I love the phrase, “Do not wait to feel that you are made whole. Believe His word, and it will be fulfilled. Put your will on the side of Christ. Will to serve Him, and in acting upon His word you will receive strength.” DA 203

    The idea of softening of the heart to God and also the hardening of the heart as is outlined in this chapter is key. If I will to serve Him, then I will receive strength to do what He has called me to do. If I do not will to serve Him, then I harden my heart to His repeated calls and become like the Jews of Jesus time who would rather see a person suffer than help him on the Sabbath day.

    I wonder if we Adventist like the Jews of Jesus’ time have a thing to learn about “senseless restrictions” DA 204. It says, “Especially was the Sabbath hedged in by all manner of senseless restrictions.” DA 204 How do you make the Sabbath a delight?

  4. Sonia Edwards said

    “Do you want to be made well?” How many times I have reached out to Jesus in faith and grasped His loving hand. Praise God for His mercy and love! I have learned through the years that there is nothing too big for Jesus to handle. I feel for all the precious souls out there who try to find healing through other means than Christ.

  5. wallygoots said

    Nice to hear from you Sonia. You describe the dependency on Christ that takes years to culture. The challenge and responsibility of teaching always brings me to my need–praise Jesus!

  6. wallygoots said


    I’ve wondered quite a bit about what it means that the Sabbath is holy. I think there is a chapter coming called, “The Sabbath” that may present some ideas. It’s worth discussing. (Right now, I need the regular unholy rest).

    Cheers, Seth

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