Welcome to Bethesda, House of Divine Mercy in DC. Today, I want to start series of Blogs on “Mercy.” Let us read this powerful scripture together. After the scripture reading, I will introduce you to some scholars who have written background research to this narrative.

A Man Healed at the Pool of Bethesda
5 After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. 3 In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. 4 For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had. 5 Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”
7 The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.”
8 Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” 9 And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked.
And that day was the Sabbath. 10 The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.”
11 He answered them, “He who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your bed and walk.’”
12 Then they asked him, “Who is the Man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place. 14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.”
15 The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.
Honor the Father and the Son
16 For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.”
18 Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.

5:2 Βηθζαθά {C}
Of the several variant readings, Βηθσαϊδά has strong attestation but is suspect as an assimilation to the town of Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee, mentioned in 1:44. Βηθεσδά, though widely supported, is also suspect as a scribal alteration originally introduced because of its edifying etymology (‮בֵּית חֶסְדָּא‬, “House of [Divine] Mercy”). In the opinion of a majority of the Committee the least unsatisfactory reading appears to be Βηθζαθά (א 33 Eusebius), of which Βηζαθά (L it) and perhaps Βελζεθά (D it(), d, ) may be variant spellings. The Copper Scroll discovered at Qumran contains a reference to a pool at Betheshdathayim, which the minority of the Committee interpreted as corroborating the reading Βηθεσδά.

It has been suggested that the Passover mentioned in 6:4 is that of 28 A.D., and that, accordingly, the feast of 5:1 is Purim of that year.

Against this view we present the following objections:
(1) Having left Judea for the reason stated in 4:1–3, 43, 44, Jesus would not have returned to that region so soon afterward unless it would be for the purpose of attending one of the three pilgrim feasts.
(2) Purim was not a pilgrim feast. It was celebrated in the local synagogues where for that occasion the book of Esther was read amid great joy.
(3) The Passover mentioned in 6:4 carries us to the close of the Great Galilean Ministry. Now if that Passover occurred in 28 A.D. this entire lengthy ministry, during which so very many events occurred, would be crowded into a period of four months. This will never do.
Now if the feast of 5:1 was not Purim of 28 A.D., and if (as is clear from 6:1: after these things) it cannot be the Passover of 6:4, then the latter must be dated in the year 29 A.D.

We arrive at the conclusion, therefore, that the feast of 5:1, if it was one of the three Jewish pilgrim feasts, must have been either Passover or Pentecost or Tabernacles of the year 28 A.D.
Of these three the term feast of the Jews (5:1) is used elsewhere in the Fourth Gospel to indicate either Passover (6:4) or feast of Tabernacles (7:2). In both cases, moreover, the original has the definite article preceding the noun feast. Accordingly, the omission of that article here in 5:1 according to the best textual evidence, does not decide the question either way.

We conclude, therefore, by stating as our opinion that this unnamed feast a. was one of the three pilgrim feasts; b. must be dated in the year 28 A.D.; and c. was, in all probability, either Passover or feast of Tabernacles (without ruling out the possibility that it was Pentecost). In favor of the Passover two additional arguments are sometimes presented:
1. this is supported by the tradition of Ireneus, and 2. this was the only feast which the Israelites were required to attend. However, the evidence is not entirely conclusive.
We read that it was Jesus who attended the feast: And Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Nothing is said in this entire chapter with reference to his disciples. But this does not prove that they did not accompany him. It is possible that here as elsewhere (e.g., in 3:22 cf. 4:2) the entire group went up, though the name of the leader alone is mentioned. (Anent the expression “he went up to Jerusalem” see 2:13.)

2. Now in Jerusalem by the sheep-gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Bethzatha, which has five porticoes. Not far from the sheep-gate (St. Stephen’s?), probably called thus because through it many sheep were led for the purpose of being sacrificed in the near-by temple-court, there was a pool. Popularly, this pool is known as Bethesda (house of mercy), but the reading Bethzatha (Aramaic: house of the olive-tree?) has better textual attestation.
After much guess-work with respect to the identity of this pool, its site has finally been established to the satisfaction of most scholars. The pool (or, in reality, the reservoir which formed it) was laid bare in the year 1888 in connection with the repair of the church of St. Anne, in n.e. Jerusalem. A faded fresco on the wall pictures an angel “troubling” the water. It appears, therefore, that by the early church this pool was viewed as Bethzatha. In the time of our Lord it had five porticos or covered colonnades where the sick could rest, protected from inclement weather.

MERCY (Heb. rāḥam, rahamîm ḥānan; Gk. éleos, oiktirmós).† In the Old Testament, the basis of God’s mercy toward Israel is his covenant with Israel. Having established his covenant, he maintains it by his covenant love (Heb. ḥeseḏ; RSV usually “steadfast love”; KJV usually “lovingkindness”) and mercy (Exod. 33:19; Isa. 63:7–9), as well as by his judgments (Hos. 2:19 [MT 21]). Since the covenant is established and maintained in history, God’s mercy is known in specific historical acts (e.g., Neh. 9:27–28; Isa. 30:18–26; Jer. 33:24–26; Ezek. 39:25–29). Because God is known as merciful by his past acts of deliverance, his people can have confidence to call on him for deliverance in the present (e.g., Ps. 57:1 [MT 2]; 123:1–4; Dan. 9:18). God’s forgiving of his people’s sins is a fundamental manifestation of his mercy (Ps. 25:6; 51:1–19 [MT 3–21]). The reversal from being forsaken by God to being received by his mercy is fundamental to the beginnings of biblical eschatology (cf. Hos. 1:6–7; 2:1 [MT 3]). God’s mercy toward his covenant people is sometimes portrayed as the love of a parent (Ps. 103:13; Isa. 49:15; Jer. 31:20) or a husband (Hos. 3:1–3

A significant aspect of Jesus’ ministry was his active compassion toward the suffering (Matt. 20:34; Mark 1:41; RSV “pity”; Luke 7:13; RSV “compassion”) and toward the leaderless (cf. Matt. 9:36). He developed a reputation for his healing powers, so that those who were suffering often took the initiative in seeking his merciful help (e.g., v. 27; 15:22; 17:15). The mercy of Jesus also gives forgiveness and eternal life (2 Tim. 1:18; Heb. 2:17; 1 Pet. 1:3; Jude 21).

The divine covenant love of the Old Testament is carried into the New Testament, but is known mainly in God’s gift of Jesus Christ to those who have not been his covenant people (Rom. 9:23–26; 11:30–32; Eph 2:4–5; 1 Tim. 1:13). Paul is particularly insistent that God’s mercy is independent of human will and exertion (Rom. 9:15–18). According to Jesus, the one who refuses to show human mercy will not receive God’s mercy (Matt. 6:14–15; 18:23–35; cf. 5:7).

In the NT a very descriptive Greek word is used for Jesus’ mercy toward the needy (Mt 9:36; 14:14; 20:34). It expresses his pity and compassion by means of an intense verb literally translated “to be moved in one’s bowels.” The Hebrews regarded the bowels as the center of the affections especially that of the most tender kindness. Our Lord is thus described as being fervently moved in his inner feeling of benevolence toward the needy and spontaneously acting to relieve their suffering—to heal (20:34; Mk 1:41), to raise the dead (Lk 7:13), and to feed the hungry (Mt 15:32).

Because God has freely extended his mercy irrespective of worthiness or faithfulness, men are to respond by showing mercy to others, even though they do not deserve it or seek it. Indeed, men are commanded to be merciful, especially to the poor, the needy, widows, and orphans (Prv 14:21, 31; 19:17; Mi 6:8; Zec 7:9–10; Col 3:12). God regards mercy more than the ritual sacrifice (Mt 9:13). In the light of Christ’s sacrifice and of the revelation that comes by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, man’s obligation to be merciful toward his fellow men is made clear and vivid. God’s mercy in Christ actually puts men under obligation to act toward others as God himself has acted toward them. The Lord made mercy a foundation for his teaching (Mt 5:7; 9:13; 12:7; 23:23; Lk 6:36; 10:37; Jas 3:17). His coming was anticipated and announced in the context of the mercy which would characterize his mission (Lk 1:50, 54, 72, 78).

Members of the Christian church, as participants in the covenant community, are to show compassion and practical concern for each other. They are to give aid and relief, love and comfort to one another as Christ freely gave to them in their need. The apostle James teaches the essential nature of such good works as being of the very essence of genuine faith (Jas 2:14–26). It was the mercy which the good Samaritan had toward the man who was beaten and robbed which was singled out by the Lord for special commendation (Lk 10:36, 37). To be full of mercy is a distinguishing virtue of the citizens of the kingdom of heaven (Mt 5:7).

From reading the background to the account in this scripture we can conclude that the narrative is authentic. In this story there are five characters—the pool, the invalid at the pool side, the Jews, Sabbath and the Lord Jesus Christ. Of the Pool it was said that it get stirred up occasionally. There is a debate as to whether the word angel was in the original text, but every scholar agrees that the water get stirred. Moreover, by the sick man’s account, anyone who steps into, roll into, jump into, or carried into the water first get healed instantly of whatever may be the disease.

How was it that this sick man was at this miracle pool for 38 years and could not get in first or find anyone to assist him? Where are his families all these years? What does it mean to battle a problem or in this case, sickness for 38 years? Goals and aspiration were on hold. The man had no freedom, no life, he was totally helpless. It is no surprise that Jesus went to him directly to show the man the mercy of God! Do you have similar situation you are dealing with today? Do you have protracted sickness or any problem that just won’t go away—sickness, joblessness, barrenness, and debt or family issues? Has your object of help and hope let you down? What about your sin problem; what habit are you struggling to overcome—drugs, sex addict, homosexuality of any form, alcohol, and all forms of ungodly lifestyle? You know you are fed up with it, and you want freedom desperately. You have come to the House of Mercy, and the POWER of God is available to heal you and make you whole.
Jesus Christ has the power to heal, and to save! What he did for the man sick for 38 years He can do for you today regardless of your condition and no matter how long it has lingered. At House of Mercy, the presence of the Lord make all the difference just as it did at the pool of Bethesda. And whereas Jesus simply stopped by at the pool on that one occasion, the reality with the church is different. The church is the House of Mercy, and Jesus Christ Himself is the head of the church. This means He is in His House 24/7 and ready to show His compassion to anyone who needs it. Therefore, I encourage you to bring your problem to Jesus at House of Mercy in DC, and the mercy of God will set you free.

Now, let me make a few observations about the Jews and the Sabbath. It is okay to be religious and even fanatic. The Jews in the story represents the religious people of today, and Sabbath represents Sunday, the day of worship. If anyone supposed to have compassion like God and Christ, it should be the religious people. But what happened in the story here? Those Jews elevated their dogma above human suffering, and became oblivion to compassion. They were powerless to help, their religion was powerless to help anybody. On top of that, they have a violent attitude towards anyone who dares to show mercy to the needy. They could not rejoice with the man who was healed and they could not appreciate Jesus. Worst of all, those religious fanatics wanted to kill Jesus for healing the sick on Saturday.

If you belong to one of such religion, you need to run to Jesus Christ now! There is no worth for sticking to a dead religion that glorifies violence and despise human life and dignity. Even if you are healthy and wealthy, but if you are a sinner, you need Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior. Religion will not save you, only Jesus can save and guarantee eternal life. House of Mercy is open now!


Recommended Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *