John 5:2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes.
It is possible to study this amazing incident from several angles: the doctor, the patient, the disease, the treatment or the hospital (the latter being called “Christ’s Hospital” by C. H. Spurgeon).
If we look at the hospital we notice that it had five porches or alcoves. We may liken these to five typical wards in a modern hospital.
I. THE SURGICAL WARD
Surgical means “to cure by manual operation as opposed to medicine or drugs,” according to the dictionary. In surgery the “knife” is used, and sometimes it has to cut deep to deal with the root cause of the disease. This is not as painful today, p 44 with the techniques of modern surgery, as it was before the days of anesthetics (discovered by a Christian, remember!).
God has to deal drastically with the disease the Bible calls sin. First He calls attention to it through the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. Often this conviction is as painful as the disease, for sometimes He uses illness, bereavement, trial, or affliction to bring us to our senses regarding His holiness and our sinfulness.
Then the “knife” is used. Scripture becomes “quick and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” As we read it, or hear it expounded, the Word of God does its own work and deals with our sin.
There was once an old doctor who was nicknamed “Dr. My Book,” for he was always recommending to his patients the book he had written! God has written a Book that deals with sin and its cure. We need to read it and believe it, saying to ourselves, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.”
The most drastic surgery for sin, however, was the cross of Calvary. Only the death of God’s own Son could really and finally deal with sin, its power and its penalty.
II. THE MEDICAL WARD
Treatment by medicine is not as feared by most people as surgery. There are two kinds of medicine in God’s “drug cabinet”: blood-red and colorless. The first is described by John in his first letter: “The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin.” Once again we are made to think of Calvary and the blood that flowed from the Savior’s five wounds.
The colorless liquid is the water described in John’s Gospel: p 45 “The water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” This stands for the unfailing supply of God’s saving grace.
“Three times a day,” the doctor writes on our prescriptions. We need take God’s remedy only once, for He who saves can also keep us in the faith: “kept by the power of God, through faith” (1 Peter 1:5). Faith saves us, and faith keeps us. “Once saved, always saved” is the simple summing up of one of the five points of Calvinism called “The Perseverance of the Saints.”
III. THE CHILDREN’S WARD
The children’s ward is not the maternity ward where babies are born; it is the children’s ward where repentant believers have been “born again.” Jesus once said, “Except you become as little children you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.”
It is not being born in a Christian country or a Christian home which saves us. (“Being born in a garage does not make one an automobile”—Billy Graham.) What saves us is being born from above by the Spirit of God, a supernatural, miraculous act of God through His regenerating Spirit.
IV. THE SPECIALIST’S WARD
A specialist is a man who is devoted to one particular part of the human anatomy. There are many kinds of specialists, including ear, nose, throat and eye specialists.
Jesus Christ is the great Heart Specialist. “Out of the heart …,” Jesus said, “all kinds of sin proceed.” But He can perform a spiritual “heart transplant”: “A new heart will I give you … I will take away your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” All we need to do is pray, “Create in me, Oh, God, a clean heart.”
p 46 V. THE RECEPTION DESK
This is where we go first on arrival at the hospital. The details of our visit must be written down—time of arrival and admission; recommendation by the doctor; and then the escort takes care of us and directs us to the appropriate ward. If, however, we have an accident or severe illness, then we are brought to the emergency room by ambulance and taken by stretcher directly to the appropriate treatment area.
We should not delay. The doors of “Mercy Hospital” (Bethesda—House of Mercy) are open day and night. The “staff” is always in attendance, on perpetual duty. If we do not come in time for healing, then we shall end up in the mortuary, for “the wages of sin is death,” and “the soul that sins shall die.”
Paraphrase John 5:2 to fit your own situation:
“Now there is at (your town or city’s name), close by (insert your address), a church (write in the name of your church) having five porches.” Then in your imagination enter into the appropriate ward for healing, for spiritual wholeness. The great Heart Specialist is waiting to receive you and restore you.
Hayden, E. W. (1978). All-Occasion Sermon Outlines (pp. 43–46). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.