It is quite intriguing that the UK Government has initiated the building of new hospitals throughout England to cope with coronavirus patients, called the “Nightingale Hospitals”.
Florence Nightingale has an illustrious place in history as the founder of modern nursing. Her fame reached its peak during the Crimean War when in 1854 she felt called of God to serve the wounded soldiers. She was known as “The Lady with the Lamp” as she would visit the wounded and the dying during the night. It was said that more soldiers died as a result of infections than from their battle wounds. Florence Nightingale implemented a strict hand-washing regime and greatly improved the hygiene within the hospital that saved countless lives.
Today, we recognise the invaluable work of doctors, nurses and health care workers who have
dedicated themselves to save so many lives in hospitals as well as caring for the dying in hospices.
This, of course, is the order of the day in hospitals throughout the world.
Let me share with you a true story about a ‘hospital’ in the Bible. It could be called Bethesda General Hospital or even Jerusalem City Hospital. The details are recorded in John’s Gospel 5:1-9.
I suggest we consider these verses under the following headings:
- A Hospital with a Difference
- A Patient with a Difference
- A Visitor with a Difference
John 5:1-9 A Man Healed at the Pool of Bethesda
After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had. Now a certain man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”
The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.”
Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked.
A Hospital with a Difference
The description of Bethesda General Hospital is understood when we read verse 3. In this ‘hospital’ there lay crowds of sick people – blind, lame and paralyzed.
The impression given is that this hospital was full to overflowing with people who had all different kinds of ailments and problems.
How was it a hospital with a difference?
Well, there were no doctors, nurses or health care workers. Patients brought in their own beds. There was no operating theatre or hospital equipment but there was a pool of water called the Pool of Bethesda.
Seemingly, at certain times of the year, the water in the pool was supernaturally stirred and at that moment of stirring it contained healing properties for those who could bathe in the water.
At present, in our time, hospital capacity worldwide is being stretched to the absolute limit as so many people are being infected by the coronavirus. Temporary hospitals are being set up and it is amazing that the newly opened Nightingale Hospital in London was constructed in the short space of nine days.
These days in which we live present a great challenge to the Christian church. Are we a ‘hospital’ or a ‘prison’? Is church a place where we care for people with broken lives? Through sin in our society many relationships and marriages are broken and people are in serious pain. Alcohol and drugs have ruined so many lives. Can we open the ‘wards’ of the church and receive people who need help spiritually to be healed?
A Patient with a Difference
Within the Bethesda General Hospital there was a dear paralyzed man who had been ill for 38 years. He was immobile and unable to walk. He expresses his despair in these words, “I have no-one to help me into the pool”.
The isolation and loneliness of his experience would no doubt be mirrored in his facial expression. All hope of being healed was gone and life was simply an existence. There was no joy for him or purpose in life.
A long stay in hospital can be a very debilitating experience. When I was diagnosed with TB in 1975, I heard the doctor say that I could possibly be in hospital for three, six or even nine months. It seemed like a lifetime but I was fortunate that it was only to be three months.
There is a disease much more serious than Covid-19 and it is called sin. Each one of us has been born with this spiritual malady and it has left us powerless and weak. King David in the Bible says in Psalm 51:5, “For I was born a sinner – yes, from the moment my mother conceived me”. Psalm 51 is a classic Psalm of David’s confession of his sin. He recognises before God his need to repent and confess and he experienced the remedy for his healing from God in forgiveness.
A Visitor with a Difference
Visiting in hospitals and hospices requires a sensitive pastoral approach. As a visitor you can bring words of comfort and hope to someone who is seriously ill or someone even coming to the end of life’s journey. However, sometimes you can say something really unhelpful or inappropriate.
When I had just received the diagnosis of TB all these years ago a visitor was passing my bed in hospital and, recognising me, he asked what was wrong with me. “The doctor says I have TB” was my reply. The visitor said, “Oh, I once had a brother who died with that!” I didn’t find this comment encouraging!
The conversation in Bethesda General Hospital that day between the visitor and the patient was quite different.
The visitor asked a very direct question, “would you like to get well?” The patient is in despair with no hope of getting well. The visitor said, “stand up, pick up your bed and walk”. Instantly, the man was healed, rolled up his sleeping mat and left the hospital walking. It was nothing less than a miracle!
Jesus was the visitor. He has the ability to transform lives by the Word of His power. There was a time in the history of the world when Jesus came to earth as a visitor. He came to rescue, heal and forgive broken mankind.
Many doctors, nurses and health care workers today are willing to serve in hospital and minister to patients with Covid-19 and it has cost some their lives. What a sacrifice that these dear people are willing to make.
Jesus Christ was willing to become sin that we might become righteous and that involved the ultimate sacrifice of His life at the cross.
2 Corinthians 5:21
“For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.”
Florence Nightingale once said, “Live life when you have it. Life is a splendid gift – there is nothing small about it.”
Jesus said in John 10:10: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Jesus, keep me near the cross,
there a precious fountain,
free to all, a healing stream,
flows from Calvary’s mountain.