House of Mercy

by Paul Hoover

SOKANE, Wash., January 28, 2016   -   “Sometime later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie – the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’ ‘Sir,’ the invalid replied, ‘I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.’ At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.”

John 5:1-10 (NIV) 

Wedding parties, feasts by sinners and tax collectors and crowds in need of relief from disease, He loved to mix it up with people, “mingling among men as one who desired their good” Ministry of Healing, p. 143. It always strikes me how often we find Jesus with people with whom the religious elite don’t mix. This is where we find Jesus again, near the Sheep Gate, at a pool of water called Bethesda.

Jesus is walking among them on Sabbath, but not the way some others might. He is not there to preach at them or remind them of what they can’t forget, that their situations are hopeless. He is there because He likes them! He finds happiness in being with them! God loves them! “God so loved the world He gave… God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” John 3:16-17 (NIV).

Jesus wanted to heal all of them, with a wave of the hand, the proclamation to be free! But because of the legal minded religious Jews filled with prejudice, Jesus was reluctant to stir them up and end His mission early.

Bethesda means “House of Mercy,” its pool of water with five large porches evokes scenes of resort style living for the rich and famous. “House of Mercy” might have been better named “House of Misery” in that it was filled with some of the worst cases of the blind, lame and paralyzed. People who couldn’t be cured were there day and night hoping for a miracle based on superstitions about the pool. When the spring burped or the waters moved, they thought the first person in would be healed. Mayhem would break out whenever the waters moved as the crowds rushed to get into the water first. People were trampled and killed in the desperate race to be healed.

Not only do these people have insurmountable physical conditions, but they are also rejected by the spiritual leaders of the day, Jewish theology designated them to this place because they determined that these people deserved their diseases and that, in fact, God cursed them.

Bethesda – House of Mercy or House of Misery? This is where we find Jesus. Where do we find ourselves? Are our lives about mercy or misery? Let’s spotlight ourselves: leaders, pastors, teachers, elders, Sabbath school teachers, greeters, members, churches, academies and schools. Are we Houses of Mercy or Houses of Misery? Are we mingling among people as one desiring their good; are we hanging out with people and families that need to experience and hear the truth about God?

Jesus noticed the poster child of those who were there that morning. The man had been paralyzed for 38 years as a result of own his foolishness (sin) as a young man. Enduring each new day with the shame, guilt and feeling that he was shut out from God’s mercy, his life was fading away, he was at the end of his rope. It was for this man that Jesus (God) could not remain silent, whispering to the man with the question, “Do you want to get well”? When was the last time you whispered to someone words of healing, forgiveness, compassion, love, kindness?

Synonyms for mercy are charity, compassion, forgiveness, graciousness, humane and kindness. Antonyms for mercy are cruel, harsh, hateful, inhumane, mean, merciless and unsympathetic. Jesus offers this man not just healing and forgiveness, but a new life! Jesus found him in the temple later that day and said, “You look wonderful! You’re well! Don’t return to a sinning life or something worse might happen” John 5:14 (Message). “Whatever may be the evil practice… Christ is able and longs to deliver, He will set free the captive that is held by weakness and misfortune and the chains of sin” Desire of Ages, p. 203.

Jesus is showing us the love of God in human flesh, loving the unlovely, forgiving the unforgiven, a new life. “The church is God’s appointed agency for the salvation of men… we are to show His glory and manifest the final and full display of the love of God” Acts of the Apostles, p. 9.

Reprinted from Upper Columbia Conferrence Update, December 2015.