Afterward Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days. Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches. Crowds of sick people—blind, lame, or paralyzed—lay on the porches waiting for a certain movement of the water, for an angel of the Lord came from time to time and stirred up the water. And the first person to step in after the water was stirred was healed of whatever disease he had. (John 5:1-4)
Read: Ruth 1:1 – 4:12
Relate: A bit of quick fun… If you have a Bible nearby pull it out and read the beginning of John 5. Don’t read anything more here until after you have done it.
I’m serious. Go get your Bible.
Did you notice anything different in what you read and what is in the verse above? Now close your Bible and look at the spine. What translation are you reading from? If you have the KJV or NKJV you probably didn’t see much different besides the wording. If you have the NASB or the NCV did you notice that the end of verse three and all of four was inside brackets? Were any of you reading from the NIV, ESV, NRSV, CEV, or NLT? (The NLT is what I usually use here at the River Walk). Was it missing anything?
In most of the earliest and most accurate manuscripts the missing portion from the NLT and others is, in fact, missing. It doesn’t show up except as a marginal note in any manuscripts dated before about 500 AD. What is more, many manuscripts from between 500 and 900 AD have this portion marked (with an asterisk, if you will) signifying that the copying scribe doubted that it was part of the original text. They likely had more than one manuscript before them and at least one did not contain it.
So why does the KJV and the NKJV have it where the rest do not? The fact is, most of the early manuscripts we have today have been discovered within the past 200 years or so. For the most part they have only served to confirm what has already been recorded and translated but here and there (like Matthew 23:14) it has helped us more accurately understand what the original authors have written.
React: Even though John did not write verse 4, he does mention the waters being stirred up in verse 7. It was a common belief (read: superstition) that an angel would stir up the water and the first one in would be healed. Did John have something against angels? Angels are seen all over the New Testament doing all sorts of things. I personally tend to think that John glossed over the popular belief about the pool of Bethesda on purpose so that people’s attention instead would be turned toward Jesus. He is the source of true healing. Whether or not there was an angel that would stir the waters is inconsequential. If there was, it only acted as an agent of God’s grace, and His grace can just as easily reach the paralyzed unable to get in the water as it did the swiftest one who was best able to jump in.
In a sense, all of us are in a waiting room. We are all beside the pool waiting for those waters to be troubled. We have all broken and battered souls, sick and dying bodies, and scars upon scars building up on our memories and emotions. None of us on our own ability will ever be quick enough or whole enough to help ourselves. The good news is that Jesus has arrived on the scene. Our waiting is over when He commands us to stand. Will we obey? Will we rise?
Jesus, You alone are my healer. It is in You alone do I trust. Nothing else, no one else, can provide what only You have. When You say, “Rise” I can stand. When You say, “Healed” I am made whole. You are my focus. You are my hope. You are my God.