John 5:2-3, 5-9a
“Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches. Crowds of sick people—blind, lame, or paralyzed—lay on the porches.
One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?” “I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.” Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking!”
Bethesda, as you might know, means ‘House of mercy’ or House of grace. I read this passage and it it struck me that here this man was, lying there, sick for THIRTY EIGHT years in the ‘house of mercy’. Right next to the healing water, watching others go in and get their healing.
The point of the parable isn’t that Bethesda was some sort of ‘magical’ place. Who knows whether people actually came out of those pools any better than when they went in.
The real and very sad point is that this man had been going there, to The House of mercy, The House of grace, for thirty eight years. He had lain at the side of the pool and watched others go in and come out changed. Yet although he got so close, he never received healing. He went home again, year in, year out, unchanged and disappointed.
Our churches are filled with people like this. If we’re honest, we ourselves are often this man, in certain areas of our lives. Wounds inflicted by a past relationship that just won’t heal and bleed a little when inadvertently pressed on by an insensitive joke or comment, or being ‘overlooked’ seemingly yet again, in favour of someone else for that much coveted ministry position in the church. Debilitating financial worry, that may have taken a grip on your heart because of the loss of your business years ago, and now, somehow, you find you just can’t break free of it.
The man’s response to Jesus’ question is telling of his state of mind and heart. Jesus asks the simple question ‘do you want to be well’? Instead of saying, with relief, ‘ yes please’. The man immediately launches into a tirade about why he hasn’t been healed. He blames other people – ‘no one will help me’ and ‘someone always gets there before me’.
Isn’t that so typical of us as people?
When we belong to Jesus, as children of God we have full access to The REAL House of Mercy, God’s actual throne room! And yet we so often sit at the side of the water, nursing age-old hurts, wounds, sickness and fears. All the while pointing the finger at other people for where we find ourselves.
Jesus says to us “Do you REALLY want to be healed? Then get up and walk”. GET. UP. And. WALK. It’s as simple as that. It’s time for us to stop casting the blame on others and simply to ‘walk’ in the truths of His word.
Jill McIlreavy 2017