We sometimes speak as if it would be enough just to see a miracle, longing to be astounded. We wonder why God heals one person but permits another to suffer and die. In this sixth week of Easter, we recall that God himself suffered and died, and that the miracles described in the gospels have more to teach us than to desire miracles.

The successor of Huldrych Zwingli as the leader of the church in Zurich, Heinrich Bullinger (1504–1575) was the primary author of the First and Second Helvetic Confessions (1536; 1566). Using evocative language to depict the deep suffering of the invalid by the Pool of Bethesda, Bullinger argues that Jesus chose to heal this man for two reasons: to demonstrate his power to work miracles over even the worst maladies of humanity and to use the man’s patient long-suffering as an example of rightly waiting upon the Lord.

Why Jesus Chose This Man

After a description of the place, the time, and the occasion of the benefit of Christ, the benefit itself is now described together with the circumstances that made it so glorious. For the Lord did not randomly choose a person from the crowd to heal, but he chose someone who, of all the people, was the most miserable, one who was gripped with long-term, dangerous, indeed, incurable disease, and a man who was especially longing for the help of others. He was so feeble that he could make no one listen to his requests for help to be carried down into the water.

And this is related to us for our instruction. For the number of years of the sickness is recorded so carefully, so that those who are suffering through a long-standing illness should not despair. Rather, let them learn patience and await God’s help which will come at the right time.

Certainly, this man did not curse, did not murmur (as you often see happening with many who are languishing in illness), and he did not prescribe any time for God to act. For he knew that when his deliverer showed up, he would bring help at the right time. The long duration of the sickness also enlarges the greatness of the miracle.

John 1-12, ed. Craig S. Farmer, Reformation Commentary on Scripture, NT Vol. IV, p. 160.