Friday, August 3, 2012

Bethesda--Its Own Opposite

After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.
John 5:1-3

Bethesda--the house of mercy.  John's gospel tells us of a great miracle that took place at this site during the ministry of the Lord Jesus.  In mercy, Jesus found a helpless man who had been incapacitated for thirty-eight years.  By the time Jesus leaves the pool the man is walking whole and healed of his infirmity.  However, it is interesting to note that the word Bethesda is also its own antonym.  Amazing!

This name is a compound of two Hebrew words.  The first part is attached commonly to several towns in ancient Judah.  "Beth" simply means house.  The second part is the Hebrew word chesed.  What a wonderful word.  It is the Hebrew equivalent to grace or mercy and it is found translated as mercy, kindness, goodness, and other similar words over 240 times in the Old Testament.  Thank God for His mercy as it is everlasting!  Yet, this word was translated with a negative connotation a few times.  In those scriptures it is translated as reproach or wicked thing.  How can the same word be its own opposite?  Bethesda could just as easily be translated as the house of disgrace. 

The scripture even gives us several hints that the people of the day may have had mixed emotions about this pool.  First, it was near the sheep market around the sheep gate on the east side of Jerusalem.  The Roman historian Josephus, who was also Jewish, simply called it the pool of the sheep market.  This may also be the place where the incoming lambs were prepared for sacrifice.  Who would want to bathe in a place where sheep were watered or washed?  Then there is the problem with human nature. Most do not like to be around the broken and infirm.  If they are near someone with some strange affliction or caught in gross sin, they stare, gawk and offer judgmental glances to the place it makes the hurting individual greatly uncomfortable. It is apparent in the text that this place was a site where many hurting people lay daily hoping for the chance to be first into the waters.  "In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water (John 5:3)."  The last note is that this poor soul to whom Jesus ministered had no one to assist him. Was he such a pitiable case that family and friends had forsaken him? Is this why we have this interesting word that is its own opposite?  Many want to only "minister" to the well, the whole, the flourishing, and the capable.  Who wants to be around broken people near a stinking sheep market?  Jesus does!

Let's notice the verbs for a moment in this story from John 5.  Unlike the priest and the Levite who passed by on the other side of the road in the parable of the good Samaritan,  Jesus went specifically where
 those who were hurting could be found.  He made the effort to seek out those who were in need of help.  Did you notice that the man had no clue who Jesus was?  Quit standing around your church waiting for the "infirm" to come to you.  Reach out!  There are many hurting people who have no clue who Jesus is.  They are not able to come to you, so you go to them. Next, Jesus saw the man where he lay in such a terrible condition.  Christ sees your need and seeks to meet it if we will allow Him to.  After meeting your need He wants you to be a conduit of blessing to others.  Look around you and see those who need Jesus.  After He saw the man, Jesus knew the very depth of this soul's need just as He knows your need and the needs of those who are hurting around you.  Now comes the healing, Jesus saith.  Oh! When the Lord speaks!  He may want to speak through you, so find someone to share His word with.

Jesus commanded three things after the miracle
.  First, The man was told to rise.  Christ has the power to make the worst of sinners to rise from their sin.  He has the ability to heal mentally, physically, and spiritually.  Let Him use you to reach those who the world sees as a disgrace so that in Him they can arise above their circumstances.  The Lord's next command was to take up the the mat of affliction the man was stuck to for thirty-eight years.  In other words, He is telling the man to make a break from His past, and to carry away the very thing he was reliant upon. It is the command to start a new life.  Finally, the man is told to walk.  The man had new legs, but now he needed to start exercising them in faith.

So, rise up!  Rise up off of that pew and find those who are laying around waiting for help.  Search out those inhabitants of Bethesda that so many others simply pass by while ignoring their deep needs.  Take up that mat of excuses that keeps you from being the hands and feet of Jesus Christ and go.  Walk like Jesus would!  Since He is Soon2Come, He may take you places where those who need Him the most are.  Remember, He loves the worst of sinners and those who have toughest of circumstances.

And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: 
John 5:9a

*** I am greatly amazed at the number of nations where this blog is being read.  For all of those around this world who are faithfully reading, I pray that you are blessed.  I also ask you to pray for me that I may speak what the LORD, alone, wants and to always stay true to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

You will notice the addition of a language translator on the right side of the page under the pictures.  Hopefully this will help you in your reading.  However, these translators do sometimes miss the original intent of the writing or misinterpret colloquial vernacular.  If you ever have a question, feel free to contact me and I will try to assist.


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