The Healing of the Paralysed Man

Gospel Reading: John 5. 1-15

The Healing at the Pool

1 Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda[a] and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. [4] [b] 5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

7 “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10 and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”

11 But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ”

12 So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?”

13 The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.

14 Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.


    1. John 5:2 Some manuscripts Bethzatha; other manuscripts Bethsaida

    2. John 5:4 Some manuscripts include here, wholly or in part, paralyzed—and they waited for the moving of the waters. From time to time an angel of the Lord would come down and stir up the waters. The first one into the pool after each such disturbance would be cured of whatever disease they had.

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Suggestions for hymns and songs

Light of the World (Here I am to worship)

Make me a channel of your peace

10-9-8- God is great

King of Kings, Majesty

I hear your voice (M Scott United Folk) see

Jesus the name high over all (to the tune LYDIA)

Loved before the Dawn of Time

Children’s talk

Kent’s Cavern: I remember as a child visiting Kent’s cavern, an underground cave near Torbay, where prehistoric man was supposed to have lived. The guide showed us around the vast tunnels and chasms, and he warned us to be careful where we were walking, because there were some very severe drops! We marvelled at the stalactites and stalagmites, but then he informed us that he was going to turn the lights off just to demonstrate how very dark it was in there. I recall the feeling of terror when he did, but then I felt my dad reach out for me hand, and my panic subsided. Jesus said: I am the ‘Light of the World’, he who follows me will never walk in darkness but have the light of life. He has offered us that kind of comfort, we need never feel alone in this world, we need never fear the dark.

Just think what this world would have been like if God had not sent his son.

Alternative children’s talk/activity:

(Produce Real Orchid and Fake one: Invite the question ‘Which one is DEAD, which one is ALIVE?

How can we really know? Have a team of children out to guess the correct answer. Have buzzer and bell at hand to reject or confirm their answers as in the TV game, FAMILY FORTUNES...

Answers as follows

• If we water it properly, it will grow.

• If left in a dark place it will turn pale.

• If we put it in direct sunlight it will die.

• If it is real it will have a smell.

• We could find out by touching it!

• If it is in a pot of soil it might be real

• If we examine it, we should see roots.

• A bee would know!

Story of Solomon and the Bee follows

Like the bee God knows what is false and what is genuine in us.

What is just talk and whether our love is shown in action.

All the animals and people of the kingdom considered King Solomon to be the “wisest of the wise.”

When the Queen of Sheba heard of this, she sent a message that she wished to visit King Solomon to test his wisdom.

On the morning of her expected arrival, a sting on the nose woke King Solomon from his sleep. He summoned all the stinging insects of the kingdom to find out who the culprit was.

A timid bee admitted the fault but promised that it was an accident. He mistook the king’s big, beautiful nose for a flower.

The bee was forgiven and treated graciously so he promised to help the king in return one day.

The Queen of Sheba arrive later that day and, after describing the difficult journey, arranged to meet with King Solomon the next day to present a challenge that would prove if he was really as clever as was believed.

The next day, the queen revealed eight flowers that looked and smelt exactly the same, but only one was real.

The king’s challenge was to find the real flower. The king examined each flower closely but was baffled. However, his new friend the bee came to the rescue. Kin g Solomon saw him buzzing around at the window, so he told his servant to open it. The little bee flew straight to the real flower. As a result, the king selected the right flower and the Queen of Sheba was very much impressed by his wisdom.

The bee knew the ‘real thing’. He helped King Solomon out.

St John, who was responsible for the Gospel we’re listening to today, was Jesus’ closest friend. And like the King Solomon’s bee, he wanted us to know what was REAL... what Jesus was like, what he really said, who he really was!

John was a young man when he knew Jesus, and he had had years to think about who Jesus really was, what he had said and done, when he wrote the gospel (or had it written for him) as an old man. He was a key eye witness.

(‘This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know his testimony is true.’ John 21.24)

Setting the scene:

Here’s a picture of the story we’re going to hear today written by him, it happens at a place called Bethesda, (Bethzatha) which was a pool, at the Sheep Gate, near Jerusalem . (Find pictures on Internet)

And here is a photograph of what that place looks like now, as a result of an archaeological dig.

The medicinal baths.

This is the area where Jesus would have found the man that He healed. 18 metres long & 4 metres wide, and 24 steps led down to it. Many that sought healing at these baths did so not from the God of Israel, but from the pagan gods championed by the Romans. A few years ago during excavations in Jerusalem, the Pool of Bethzatha or Bethesda was uncovered and several descriptive details given in the Gospel that had previously been thought of as symbolic, were actually found to be accurate.

The healing of a paralysed man by Jesus, showed God was alive in the world and still at work.

It also showed that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, and that by believing in him we would have life in His name.

Drama: The Healing of the Paralysed Man.

(Man enters looking both exhilarated and terrified, carrying a mat!)

Man: Has anyone seen him? You know that man who was talking to me just before at the pool by the Sheep Gate? Somebody must know where he is!

I’m talking about the Healer!

You don’t recognise me do you? You think I’m mad!

I’m the invalid, or was or should I say I WAS! I used to sit each day, along here by the Colonnade. I was disabled, paralysed... have been for 38 years.

And all of a sudden this man, the one I’m looking for, came up to me and spoke to me face to face...asked me if I wanted to get well!

Want to get well? I said to him. WANT to get well? What do you think?

Stupid question! I thought.

So as politely as I could, I replied to him, I’m sorry sir, as you can see I have no-one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me. In fact I’m last in the queue, every time! They’re all up and in before me to get healed! The blind, the crippled, the lot!

I really blew my top!

He kept on looking at me all serious like. I began to feel a bit uncomfortable. There was something about him that was strange, but I wouldn’t say frightening.

He kept on looking at me straight in the eyes and simply said, “Get up!”

I thought at first he was having me on, but he was deadly serious. ...“Pick up your mat and walk!” he said.

Who on earth was this man? Was he the angel from the pool? I wondered.

Anyway that’s when time seemed to stand still for me!

My whole body started twitching and tingling. Yeah that’s how I would describe it!

I reached out to him, and before I knew it, I was UP! On my feet!

I was staggering around like a drunken fool! Shouting... screaming,


Who on earth was this man? When I turned round he’d gone!

And now they’re after me. The law keepers! They’re wanting to ask me questions? And I don’t know where he has gone to!

Law-keeper 1:- There you are you scoundrel! What are you doing with that mat in your hand? Drop it at once. The law forbids you to carry it!

Man: Hey don’t blame me, I was only following instructions! The man, who made me well, told me to pick it up and walk. And look isn’t it wonderful? I can walk!

Law-keeper 2: Which man told you to do this?

Man: I can’t find him, he just disappeared!

Nobody here knows where he is! But look, don’t you recognise me? I’m the invalid, well I was! I used to sit each day, along here by the Colonnade. I was disabled, paralysed... have been for 38 years...

Law-keeper 1: Be quiet, come with us!(escorts him out by the scruff of his neck)

Man; But look how I’m walking and running, I’ve been given my life back!

Law-keeper 2: That’s enough! Let’s find this man. You’ll have to identify him of course!


Let’s try to think what it was like for that invalid, that paralysed man in our story.

Everything around him must have felt dark, dreary and dismal. People who are sick today and housebound will sometimes say, ‘I’m sick of the sight of these four walls! After 38 years, it must have been so for him.

He was without hope; he may have had help and support from friends at first, but as the years went by perhaps he felt more and more abandoned and helpless.

He was obviously frustrated and a little bitter about the success of others getting in the pool before him.

He may even have felt withered up and distressed as he focussed more and more on himself and his own problems.

*We see very similar feelings in our world today in our world.

Jesus came along and he was the exact opposite, he was like a light suddenly switched on in a dark place.

He was full of compassion and concern. He seemed confident, cool, calm and collected, quite unlike the man who was poorly and the anxious crowd around him.

And Jesus asked him a very strange question. ‘Do you want to get well?

Can you remember what the man said back to him?

Was it.

  • What do YOU think?

  • No I’m just sitting here for the good of my health!

  • Sir, I have no-one to put me in the pool when the water is stirred.

People in those days were very superstitious. They believed that spirits or gods lived in pools and streams, and could bring healing, whereas in fact the unsettling of the water was probably caused by a current from an underground stream, which bubbled up to the surface now and then. The pool contained good mineral water, rather like the spa at Bath in our country, good for rheumatism...

From his answer Jesus could see that he genuinely wanted to get better. So he spoke three very bold commands to him.

The first was GET UP .

You see there are decisions no-one else can make for us. We on our own have to make them.

Jesus saw willingness and faith on the man’s part, because he did get up!

God sometimes invites us to do the impossible! When we go into action, the strength is given. The action, the step forward comes first, we must play our part.

The second command, PICK UP YOUR MAT was a strange thing to say, because it was the Sabbath, and Jewish elders had hundreds of laws they’d invented from the original command so the people would keep the Sabbath day holy and rest. Even having a needle in clothing was breaking the law...or a woman wearing a necklace. The rules were strict.

So did Jesus tell him to pick the mat up to...

  • get him into trouble?

  • So he would tidy up the pool area and not leave the place in a mess?

  • show him there would be no going back!

  • show him he wouldn’t need the mat any more!

Jesus knew that the only way to live a new life was to break with the break habits and cut them off.

Like the man who once said he could give up smoking any time he wanted. It’s just that he never wanted to.

It’s a hard decision to ‘MAKE THE BREAK!’

The third command was... WALK!

Did Jesus expect the man to:

  • Fall flat on his face

  • Expect him to stand on his own two feet and move forward trusting him.

  • Play hide and seek

We have to get rid of the EXCUSES we cling to like crutches, and open our lives to Christ’s power.

Jesus then disappeared into the crowd and the man could not find him for a while.

The man’s healing was complete. Do you think he was...

  • Over the moon

  • Full of praise to God

  • Curious about the man who gave him back his life.

All of these! Excited , full of praise and full of wonder and amazement at who this man could be, who could command healing, just like that!

But the man walked straight into trouble...Jewish elders opposed him.

Did they...

  • congratulate him on his healing

  • celebrate the fact that God was still very much at work in his world

  • demand to know who it was, who ordered him to pick up his bed on the Sabbath

The man told them he’d been healed, but they wouldn’t listen to his good news!...

and later when he discovered who it was who healed him and told them, they all began plotting against Jesus, to get rid of him.

They found Jesus and asked him to explain himself, Jesus explained...

‘My Father is always at work to this very day, and I too, am working.’

The Jewish leaders were furious; by saying this was he not making himself equal to God?!!!

Did he mean that His work and the work of God were the same?!!!!

Jesus explained that Compassion must always be shown to the needy even on the Sabbath! God rested after he had created the world, but the world still needed to function. Rivers still had to flow, the sun needed to shine on, the rain had to fall...

Nature couldn’t rest and neither should COMPASSION!!!

As Christians, we believe that Jesus lifts up needy people, and has shown them how to walk His way.

He did this for each of us as Christians, so we could begin to love God and to show compassion to one another.

But I find the end of the story really interesting! We find Jesus warning the healed man not to fall back into old ways or something worse will happen to him!

It is so easy to fall into going our own way, doing our own thing, rather than truly being led by God...

There is a road sign in Australia which says this:

Careful which route you choose, cos’ you’ll be in it for the next 28 miles!

In our churches sadly we sometimes find sad divisions, fierce and angry debates; we find people who abuse their authority, we are expected to keep hundreds of rules and regulations, we seek safe harbours to hide away from the world rather than venture out to tell good news. We like to think we’ve fulfilled MISSION’ by holding a few guest services. . .

In our own lives we so easily fall back into selfishness, greed, hypocrisy and apathy...

In a book by Kate Tristram, on the life of St Aidan, as seen through the lives of those who knew him. King Oswald had this to say of the great saint, ‘There is no difference between what he preaches and what he is!’ Oh if only we could live up to that!

The real question then is... Do people see God alive in us? Have we the same light in us which shone from Jesus? Do we light the way for people to follow?

What is it that prevents us as a church from carrying out God’s will for His world?

What is it that prevents us or me as a Christian, from carrying out God’s will for me in His world?

What goes in these spaces? Only we can answer this in the quiet of our hearts before God.


‘If my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray,

and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, the will I hear from heaven

and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.’ 2 Chronicles 7 14

But rather than finish on a down note, I have two pieces of card over here,

Let’s jot down our ideas for presenting a vibrant and healthy church in today’s world, to show the LIFE of God in us. Is there anything that is possible for our church to take up as a project that no-one else has thought of.

Some of these ideas are written down here.

A possessions sale of hoarded treasure (for Darfur)

Christmas Market (for those who can’t afford Christmas this year)

Hire out our excess of talent to needy churches, speakers, musicians etc.,

Christian folk evenings (outreach)

X Factor evening (Christian songs)

Café Church for Christmas with music

Gift Day