Jubilee At Bethesda

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John 5:1-15

A woman from West Texas went to see the governor and begged for her husband’s release from prison. After a long wait, she was ushered into the governor’s office and proceeded to tell her story. The governor asked, “What’s he in for?” “Stealing a dozen hams,” said his wife. “Well that doesn’t sound too bad,” said the governor. “Was he a good husband?” “Matter of fact, he never said a kind word to me in all the years we’ve been married,” said the woman. “Was he a good worker?” the governor asked. “No, I wouldn’t say that. He’s pretty lazy. I can’t remember him ever having a steady job,” she said. “Well, was he a good father to the kids?”, he asked. “Well, the truth is, he’s pretty mean to the kids. Never pays any attention to them until he’s drunk. Then he’s mean to them.” “Ma’am,” said the governor, “I have to ask you, why do you want a man like that out of prison?” “Well governor,” she said, “we’re about outta ham.”

We cry out to demand justice, but justice is not what we want, we want mercy.
There is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate, a pool which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and it is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Bethesda, means “house of mercy.” Bethesda was a spring fed pool in the market place but not a pool the animals would drink from. Here a great number of disabled people used to lay. 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?” Tradition said that an angel would come and stir the waters and the first person into the water would be healed of whatever was wrong with them. “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.

It is clear that the issue is mercy because the religious leaders have a problem with Jesus’ healing the man. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.” But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, `Pick up your mat and walk.'” Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”

Do we understand what mercy is all about? We throw around terms like “mercy killing.” “Mercy is a form of love determined by the condition of the one receiving mercy. Their state is one of need, while they may be unworthy or ill-deserving. Mercy is at once the kindly ministry of love. Mercy is a Christian grace and is very strongly urged toward all.

James the brother of Jesus wrote, But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere (James 3:17). Dr. H. A. Ironside in his book, in the Heavenlies, tells the story of an attempted assassination of the first Queen of England, Elizabeth. The woman who sought to do so dressed as a male page and secreted herself in the queen’s boudoir, awaiting the convenient moment to stab the queen to death. She did not realize that the queen’s attendants would be very careful to search the rooms before Her Majesty was permitted to retire. They found the woman hidden there among the gowns and brought her into the presence of the queen, after confiscating the poniard that she had hoped to plant into the heart of the sovereign. The would-be assassin realized that her case, humanly speaking, was hopeless. She threw herself down on her knees and pleaded and begged the queen as a woman to have compassion on her, a woman, and to show her grace. Queen Elizabeth looked at her coldly and quietly said, “If I show you grace, what promise will you make for the future?” The woman looked up and said, “Grace that hath conditions, grace that is fettered by precautions, is not grace at all.” Queen Elizabeth caught the idea in a moment and said, “You are right; I pardon you with my grace.” And they led her away, a free woman. History tells us that from that moment Queen Elizabeth had no other more faithful, devoted servant than that woman who had intended to take her life.

That is exactly the way the grace of God works in the life of an individual once he or she becomes a faithful servant of God.

My best friend from high school and I went to two different colleges. During his first semester he dropped out and got married. I was a part of that wedding. After a year, his wife decided that she loved someone else and left him. All of us hurt for him and supported him. Then he started dating another lady. I went over to his house one day and caught him in bed with her. I went “ballistic” because I was the moral watch keeper of all of my friends. He had made enough mistakes and this was just another one.

It is easy to demand justice, it is difficult to give mercy. Then Jesus turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven-for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” (Luke 7:44-47)

God’s judgment reveals who we are. God’s mercy reveals who God is. If we answer the call to discipleship, where will it lead us? What decisions and partings will it demand? To answer this question we shall have to go to Him, for only He knows the answer. Only Jesus Christ who bids us follow Him, knows the journey’s end. But we do know that it will be a road of boundless mercy.

The Church is a type of Bethesda. In the place where God’s people gather, He has chosen to pour out His benefits of grace and mercy. Every Church that lifts Jesus’ name should proclaim and show God’s mercy. It is not right that we come week after week and never change. We come and go still sick, hurting, weak and blind. How can we come to the place of mercy and anointing and never be changed? It is beyond reason! Jesus says to you and to me, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”

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