Does the sun rise in the east? Is the sky blue? Is the ocean salty? Is the atomic weight of cobalt 58.9? Okay, that last one you might only know if you’re a science geek or tend to dabble in trivia, but the other questions have an obvious answer: Yes. In fact, questions like these are usually mixed with a hint of sarcasm.
If we’re not careful, our modern—sometimes jaded—ears can hear a bit of sarcasm in Jesus’s question to an invalid: “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6). The obvious answer would seem to be, “Are you kidding me?! I’ve been wanting help for thirty-eight years!” But there’s no sarcasm present, that’s the furthest thing from the truth. Jesus’s voice is always filled with compassion, and His questions are always posed for our good.
Jesus knew the man wanted to get well. He also knew it had probably been a long time since anyone had made an offer to care. Before the divine miracle, Jesus’s intent was to restore in him a hope that had grown cold. He did this by asking a rather obvious question, and then giving ways to respond: “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk” (v. 8). We’re like the invalid, each of us with places in our lives where hope has withered. He sees us and compassionately invites us to believe in hope again, to believe in Him.
In what ways has your hope grown cold? How has Jesus revealed His compassion to you?
The city of Jerusalem is approximately 2,500 feet above sea level and lies about thirty-three miles east of the Mediterranean Sea and fourteen miles west of the northern end of the Dead Sea. Like Rome, it’s a city built on hills. The Sheep Gate mentioned in John 5:2 was one of the gates that led into the ancient city of Jerusalem. It was located east of the Fish Gate near the pool of Bethesda and just a short distance from the modern St. Stephen’s Gate. The Sheep Gate was the section of the broken-down walls of Jerusalem repaired by “Eliashib the high priest and his fellow priests” under Nehemiah’s supervision (Nehemiah 3:1; around 445