The Sabbath in the House of Mercy
Oct 26, 2013 1940
In John 5:1–8 we find the story about the paralytic man whom Jesus healed by the Pool of Bethesda. This is a story about what the Sabbath means for New Testament Christians.
This place was called “Bethesda,” which means “House of Mercy.” When you are dwelling in the house of mercy, no matter how bleak your circumstances may be now, surely goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life, because the House of Mercy is the House of the Lord.
Jesus is the one who comes to Bethesda, the house of mercy. When you feel you can’t come to him, Jesus comes to you. That is what the Sabbath is all about.
Now Jesus goes straight up to him. The Bible says in John 5:6 that Jesus saw him lying there and He knew that He had been lying there a long time. So often you can think that Jesus has forgotten you. But no one hides in the house of mercy, my friend. The Scripture says that Jesus “knew” that he had been there a long time. No matter how low you think you have fallen, Jesus knows you. That’s what the Sabbath is all about.
And so Jesus asks this man a question: Jesus says to him, “Do you want to be healed?” And the man answers in John 5:7, “I have no-one to help me.”
The man had no legs and no friends – a bad combination. And in his answer the man captured the basic problem of humanity. We have no one to help us. We are born hopeless and helpless. But what the Sabbath tells is that that we do have a friend, of the truest kind; a friend who is not just able to say, “Do you want to be healed?” but who is also able to say, “Get up and walk!”
I like what Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” Jesus was saying to him, “When I heal you, my friend, I heal all of you. I heal everything you are and everything you own. You own just one mat? Well, pick it up, because I’m healing it too! Today you walk out of here and you take everything you are, everything you own with you. You aren’t leaving anything behind, because today, the house of mercy has become the house of joy!
It is no coincidence that, “[t]he day on which this took place was the Sabbath.” (v.9)
Now Jesus had done this deliberately in order to teach them and to teach us a lesson about what the Sabbath is really all about. Because for Jesus, and it should be for us, the Sabbath is a day that celebrates the creative, redemptive work of grace.
How do you do that? By receiving, sharing, and celebrating grace! That’s what this story about the man by the Pool of Bethesda is all about. That is what the Sabbath teaches us. Perhaps, like the Jews, the Christian world, in one way or another, has missed this.
Grace is what that paralytic man needed most. Grace is what you and I most need today. Grace is here in the person of Jesus. My friend, we that person who has been waiting in the house of mercy for so long to hear this news! So now, let’s get up, pick up our stuff, and walk!