Beth-zatha! Its meaning is “house of mercy.” But it wasn’t really a merciful place. The pool had the reputation of healing people. That’s why there were a lot of sick people.
In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralysed. (John 5:3)
Once in a while, an angel would come to the pool and stir up the water and if you went into the pool when the water was stirred up, you would be healed. But there was a condition. Only the first person who entered into the pool when the water was stirred up, would be healed.
Imagine what would happen when the water was stirred up. Imagine how they lived their lives there. How they had treated each other every day. They could not be friends. They were competitors.
It was not a merciful place. Only the best of the best could benefit the healing. Only one person who was the fastest could get the reward of healing. Is that mercy?
Mercy – It is hard to understand the concept because we don’t see it often around us. You deserve what you get – that is much more around us and more understandable. If you work hard, you will get a reward. If you are the best, you deserve the honour. If you are bad, you should get punished.
We all live in Beth-zatha. To be healed, you have to be the best. To be happy, you have to be the best. To be loved, you have to be the best.
This creates tremendous pressure, stress, disappointment, anger, and hopelessness. We can see this hopelessness in the man who had been sick for 38 years. 38 years is a long time. It is how long Israelites wandered in the wilderness.
And the length of time we had travelled from Kadesh-barnea until we crossed the Wadi Zered was thirty-eight years, until the entire generation of warriors had perished from the camp, as the Lord had sworn concerning them. (Deuteronomy 2:14)
For 38 years, this man lived with the mentality of Beth-zatha. He continuously repeated to himself that he could never be the best. That meant he could never be healed. And he could never be happy. He was obsessed with being the best or the fastest.
So, when Jesus asked this very simple question, he couldn’t answer him. Jesus asked him,“Do you want to be made well?” It is a strange question to the man who had been sick for 38 years. Of course, he wanted to be made well.
But this man could not even answer this simple question of Jesus.
He couldn’t say, “Yes, I want to be made well.”
Instead he said,
Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me. (John 5:7)
In his mind, he was thinking, “What is the use of wanting to be made well? I cannot beat others. I can’t be the best. I cannot go into the pool before other people.”
He didn’t understand the concept of mercy. To him, being made well meant being the best. That’s all. There was nothing else. And he could not be the best.
Ask yourself. Do you have to be the best to be happy? Do you have to be the best to be healed?
Mercy From God
Sometimes, we think of our faith in that way too. We think faith is the condition for God’s love. Didn’t God love us even before we believed in him? Faith is not our condition for God’s love but our response to God’s UNCONDITIONAL love. Why does God love me when I haven’t done anything that deserves that love? That is the beginning of having faith.
That was what Paul discovered. Pure mercy of God.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Romans 5:6)
But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
Unless we understand God’s mercy, we won’t understand the joy of life. Joy of life does not come from being the best. THAT’S AN ILLUSION. Joy of life comes from experiencing this mercy. This mercy comes from God. When we live day by day, experiencing the mercies of people, and mercies of life, you become very happy. Our life is full of mercy. Salvation comes from experiencing the mercy of God and mercy of life.
This is what Jesus said.
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. (Luke 6:32-35)
Then at the end, he said this.
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:36)
He said that life is full of mercy. Good life is life of being merciful. Jesus wants us to live a merciful life. As you have received the mercy from God, be merciful to each other.
Remember God’s Mercy
This man who had been sick for 38 years experienced Jesus’ mercy. He didn’t have to be the best. He didn’t have to go into the pool first. Jesus didn’t help him to go into the pool first. Jesus did not help him to be the best.
Jesus simply told him,
Stand up, take your mat and walk. (John 5:8)
This man was not a perfect ideal person who deserved healing. He didn’t have faith in Jesus. He lived with disappointment and hopelessness. He lived in his own world of illusion, wanting to be the best. When he was in trouble, he turned blame on Jesus. After he was healed, the Jews challenged him. It is the sabbath. Why do you carry the mat? Then he said this.
The man who made me well said to me, “Take up your mat and walk.”(John 5:11)
So, they asked him, ‘Who is the man who said to you, “Take it up and walk”?’ Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was… (John 5:12, 13)
He didn’t even know who healed him.
When Jesus came back to him and finally he knew who healed him, then he reported to the authority that it was Jesus, knowing that Jesus would be in trouble.
He was self-centred and he was ungrateful. And yet Jesus healed him. That’s mercy. Not because the man deserved the healing but because Jesus wanted to help.
We are who we are by God’s mercy. Let us never forget that. Live your life always remembering God’s mercy. That is what faith is. That is what Christian life is all about.
This man didn’t seem to understand Jesus’ mercy. So Jesus came to him again and said,
See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you. (John 5:14)
Forgetting God’s mercy is sin. Remember God’s mercy and be merciful to each other. I pray that our life is full of mercy.