After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.…
What a scene of misery Bethesda must have presented.
I. THE BIBLE IS FULL OF SUCH DESCRIPTIONS OF HUMAN MISERY. It begins with the history of the curse, and ends with predictions of judgments.
II. And, further, IT SEEMS TO DROP WHAT MIGHT BE SAID IN FAVOUR OF THIS LIFE, and enlarges on the unpleasant side of it. Little does it say on the pleasures of life. But then human tales and poems make things better than they are. Scripture tells the truth, "Man is born to trouble."
III. THIS VIEW IS THE ULTIMATE AND TRUE VIEW OF HUMAN LIFE, AND A VIEW WHICH IT CONCERNS US MUCH TO KNOW, else we shall he obliged to learn it by sad experience; whereas if we are forewarned we shall unlearn false notions of its excellence and be saved from disappointment, and learn to bear a sober and calm heart under a smiling cheerful countenance.
IV. CONSIDER WHAT IS THE CONSEQUENCE OF IGNORANCE OR DISTRUST OF GOD'S WANING VOICE. For a while all will be enjoyment: health is good, spirit high, troubles easily mastered; but as years roll on it is discovered that substantial good is wanting. Then a man will get restless and discontented, for he does not know how to amuse himself. He has made no effort to change his heart, strengthen his faith, or subdue his passions. Now their day is come, and they begin to domineer. He had no habitual thought of God in the former time, and now he dreads Him. Where shall he look for succour? To those around him he is a burden. And so he will lie year after year by Bethesda no one helping him, and unable from long habits of sin to advance towards a cure.
V. THERE IS A MORE SOLEMN CONSIDERATION STILL — THAT TAUGHT BY LAZARUS AND DIVES. Suppose the world to remain a faithful friend till the last, its vanity will be disclosed after death. These disclosures of Scripture, then, are intended to save us pain by preventing the unreserved enjoyment of the world. Let this not seem to make life melancholy. The true Christian rejoices in those earthly things which give joy, but in such a way as not to care for them when they go.
VI. OUR SAVIOUR GIVES US A PATTERN WHICH WE ARE BOUND TO FOLLOW. True, such self-command composure and inward faith are not to be learned in a day; if they were why should this life be given us? It is given us as a preparation time for obtaining them. Its sights and sorrows are to calm you, and its pleasant sights to try you. Learn to be as the angel who could descend among the miseries of Bethesda without losing his purity or happiness. Gain healing from troubled waters. Be light-hearted and contented because you are a member of Christ's pilgrim Church.
(J. H. Newman, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.