Today David McMillan continued our ‘Seven’ series, looking at the seven signs in John’s gospel. The third sign is recorded in John 5:1-16.
There was a disabled man, who had been unwell for 38 years, and had been lying by the pool of Bethesda with the hope of healing, if only he could get in when the water was stirred. Jesus brings hope and mercy as He cures this man with a simple command, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” This miracle is not typical of other recorded healings in the gospels. David offered three helpful reflections…
1) Jesus is healing on the Sabbath
It’s no surprise that healing on the Sabbath and telling the man to pick up his mat and walk were actions bound to lead to controversy.
The Pharisees had no problem with the concept of God working on the Sabbath, rather it was Jesus’ claim that He was sharing in God’s work that they found unacceptable. They had a choice to see this as heresy or a further unveiling of Jesus as the Messiah, Son of God.
2) Jesus’ attitude towards chronic suffering and disability
Many scholars view this man as a defeatist, having fallen into a mindset of incapacity, and they read his responses to Jesus as sorrowful and self-pitying. However, given the limited knowledge we have of this man, it seems unfair to label him in this way. There are two ways to read this man’s encounter with Jesus: “Do you want to get well?” could be either a challenge or an invitation. This begs us to examine our own hearts and ask ourselves how we view those who are chronic sufferers. Do we expect people to present a positive attitude, and are we embarrassed if they do not? Do we jump to conclusions, assuming people to hold a depressive mindset? We have a lot to learn from Jesus in this situation. Jesus puts the person at the centre. He chooses to engage with a question and seek to understand, rather than jumping to conclusions. When encountering those who are chronic sufferers, let’s not make assumptions about what is unspoken, rather let’s follow Jesus’ example of engaging with and understanding the person. Let’s act with compassion, rather than judgement.
3) The house of mercy
The word ‘Bethesda’ means ‘house of mercy’. Mercy and compassion are the hallmarks of all of Jesus’ miracles. In this miracle we see an example of mercy with no strings attached. Jesus doesn’t reference faith, nor does He use it as a teaching opportunity. It is a miracle of pure mercy. Of course, there is a time to preach and witness, but there is also a time to simply be kind. Kindness is gospel work. Paul outlines our calling to kindness and mercy:
So, let’s follow Jesus’ example of generous mercy with no strings attached, remembering that the outcome of our kindness is God’s business, and our calling is to do just as Jesus did.
- What is your attitude towards those who are suffering?
- How can you show kindness to those who are suffering this week?
- Examine the motivation for your kindness – does it often come with strings attached?
- Reflect on the mercy Jesus has for you and let that be your motivation for mercy this week.