The House of Mercy
In John 5, we find Jesus near the temple at a pool called “Bethesda”. Legend has it that every day an angel would come to “stir the waters” and whoever was first into the water when this occurred would be healed of whatever ailed him or her. There were many there who where sick and invalid. Among those who were sick is a man who “had been an invalid for thirty-eight years” (John 5:5 ESV). It is this man, Jesus approaches.
Ever wonder how Jesus decides who would be healed and who wouldn’t? Don’t you know that He had the compassion enough to want to heal the whole world right then and there? But He had to restrain Himself, He had to wait. Imagine how difficult that must have been for Him, to be surrounded by hurt and pain, to literally be dwelling in a dying body, to have the power to heal all, and to wait… to wait for God’s perfect timing, for God’s perfect plan. I don’t know that I would have been able to restrain myself…
However Jesus chose, He approaches this one man with a question:
“Do you want to be healed?”
Now, what kind of question is that? After thirty-eight years, who wouldn’t want to be healed? And yet…
To be healed by Jesus required belief in Him. It required associating yourself with the man who was creating waves all over the country. And once you were healed, there would be no real denying what He had done for you, you would be in His debt.
To be healed by Jesus would be saying goodbye to the life you were currently living, goodbye to all that was familiar, perhaps even comfortable, to say hello to the unknown. As painful as your predicament might currently be, would you be ready to leave what you know? To possibly new pains later on? Would you also be willing to attempt to follow the command given by your Healer, “Sin no more“?
I don’t know if any of these things crossed the mind of the invalid man on this morning by the pool of Bethesda, but these are things we ponder when we are asked by the same Jesus, “Do you want to be healed?” We may not by physically ill or lame, but we all bear the same sin sickness in our souls. And the only one we can turn to is Christ. He offers. We have to say yes.
Jesus compassionately heals the man by the pool, creating an occasion for rejoicing, however, it seems the only ones rejoicing are the man and Jesus. “Others” (read “religious rulers”) have a problem…
“Now that day was the Sabbath.” (John 5:9 ESV)
Jewish law required rest on the Sabbath day, the seventh day of the week, in line with the day of rest God established for Himself after He created the world. The day was meant to be dedicated to praise and worship of God. The rest was meant to enrich the people of God. There were laws given to them as to what types of work were allowed and disallowed on that day. However, over the years, those laws had been twisted and embellished on so much that the day had ceased to be enriching and restful for the Jews, but a burdensome ritual.
First of all, when the religious rulers saw the formally invalid man walking in the temple with his mat, instead of rejoicing with him over his healing, they begin to berate him over the fact that he is carrying his mat on Sabbath. This man had a reason to praise God in the streets and he is being reprimanded for carrying a mat…
When these hostile Jews find out that it was Jesus who had told this man to pick up his bed, they turn to Him and start fussing at Him. He just healed a man! A power that comes from God, Himself. And they are worried about their traditions.
Jesus doesn’t make any apologies. Instead He makes them even more angry with the words, “My Father is working until now, and I am working” (John 5:17 ESV). Not only did Jesus do “work” on the Sabbath, but His statement implied that He was an equal to God.
“So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise’” (John 5:19 ESV). What a beautiful example for us! We, too, are to look to the Father, see where He is working and join Him in His own work. Nothing of ourselves, but only the Father’s plans in mind.
Jesus explains that He does have work to do, work given to Him by God. He gives life to those who believe in Him and He judges those who do not.
There’s that word again. John once again enforces the testimony about Jesus. Jesus points out here that His testimony comes not from Himself, but from three other sources.
1. John the Immerser testified about Him, burning with the light of Christ within him. Many people believed John, but had a hard time believing in Jesus. Even though they had John’s testimony, Jesus says there is another source that speaks even louder than John…
2. The works Jesus performs that God has given to Him and could only be accomplished through God are a very strong witness. As if those were not enough…
3. God, Himself testifies for Christ in His Word, the Scriptures written about Christ. The Pharisees often used the Scriptures as sources of power. The promises God had given the Israelites they felt gave them superiority, yet they missed the most important promise, Christ, Himself. How would it feel if you had spent your entire life studying the Scriptures feeling sure of your own salvation only to be told that you missed the point of the whole thing? The realization would have been devastating. After all, what are God’s promises without Love, what is salvation without Christ?
Before we wag fingers and “tut tut” at the Pharisees, how often do we quote Scripture at people because we think it somehow makes us superior to them and yet completely forget to live the love found in those Scriptures? To live as Christ commands? To believe in His message and actually use it as a salve for our own souls’ wounds instead of a weapon to wound others? Do we, too, miss the message of Christ? Oh, how would we shudder to hear the words of Christ spoken of us “But I know that you do not have the love of God within you” (John 5:42 ESV). We must be careful to look for life in Christ, instead of our own self-importance, it is only found in Him.