“I have to take a picture here”, I said to my fellow travellers. I was visiting the site of the Pool of Bethesda in the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem.
I explained to my travelling companions that the hospital in my hometown was called Bethesda and that my Dad had worked there as a physician for over thirty years.
One of my colleagues obliging took a photo of me at the spot where Jesus is said to have healed a lame man who was almost forty years old. The man was lying by the pool because people believed when its waters stirred; an angel was present and would heal those who entered the pool. Jesus talked to the man and healed him on the spot- an act that got him into trouble. The authorities said he shouldn’t be healing on Sunday. Really they were worried Jesus’ growing popularity might cause political problems.
Our guide pointed out the five porches on the pool, which match the Biblical description in John 5: 1-9. The guide told us archaeologists discovered the pool forty feet below ground in 1960.
That was nearly twenty- five years after the pool’s namesake Bethesda Hospital was opened in Steinbach but about the same time my Dad, Dr Paul Peters started working at Bethesda. In the photo, Dad is at Bethesda at one of the nurses’ stations.
Here is my Dad with the other Bethesda Hospital doctors in the 1960s.
Another interesting thing for me to learn was that the pool is right beside the spot where it is believed Jesus’ grandparents had a home. Jesus’ maternal grandmother, Anne was born in Bethlehem and married Joachim who was from Nazareth. The couple eventually settled in Jerusalem where their daughter Mary was born and raised.
In the fourth century a beautiful church, called St. Anne’s was built on the spot where their house was located and the site is still a popular Jerusalem tourist destination. Perhaps Jesus was visiting his grandparents’ family home when he came upon the lame man at the Bethesda pool located right next door.
According to accounts in three different apocryphal books, Jesus’ grandparents were very good people, well-known for their work in helping the poor and for their generosity in donating funds to the synagogue. This may be one of the reasons both have been accorded sainthood.
Jesus’ grandfather Joachim was a sheepherder and often supplied the priests with sheep for sacrifice in the synagogue. Could it be that Jesus’ recognition of people in need and his charitable attitude towards them was at least partially a result of belonging to a family that had an established reputation for church and community service? Joachim, Jesus’ grandfather was 46 and his grandmother Anne 24 when they married. They were apparently a lovingly devoted couple but had to wait twenty years to have a baby. Their daughter Mary’s arrival was considered a miracle.
There is a white marble statue of Mary as a young girl with her mother in the asp of the St. Anne church in Jerusalem. It depicts Anne with a kind elderly looking face.
I grew up in Steinbach, just a few miles from the Manitoba town of Ste. Anne and I drove through Ste. Anne every time I went to Winnipeg, yet I knew absolutely nothing about the woman for whom the town was named. I had to travel all the way to Israel to find out about Jesus’ grandmother.
I spent six years exploring different parts of the world. I discovered not only did travel help me learn new things, but it also provided me with new understandings of familiar things, like the name of my hometown’s hospital and the name of a nearby Manitoba community.
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