Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Thirty eight years? The man lying by the pool at Bethesda had been sick and unable to move for thirty eight years. Surely that cannot be an incidental addition. Few words in John’s gospel are wasted.
In the book of Deuteronomy we read that Israel walked in the desert thirty eight years after it refused “to go up” and take the Promised Land which the Lord was giving them. The people refused to believe that the Lord would be with them, so they pulled back from the charge entrusted to them. Because of the hardness of their hearts, they were forced to wander in the desert until the entire generation had passed away.
The sick man wanted to bathe in the pool near the gate where they brought in the animals for the sacrifices in the temple. Jesus dispenses with this step and directly bids him rise and walk. Just as the judgment of God was upon the people in the desert, so the judgment of God was drawing near once more. Jesus was not afraid “to go up” to Jerusalem, even if it meant his persecution and death. Unlike our own wavering faith, he was possessed with an unshakeable faith that his Father in heaven led him forward and would vindicate the righteousness of his cause.