A fire started on some grassland near a farm. The
county fire department was called to put out the
fire. The fire was more than the county fire
department could handle. Someone suggested that
a nearby volunteer bunch be called.
Despite some doubt that the volunteer outfit would
be of any assistance, the call was made.
The volunteers arrived in a dilapidated old fire
truck. They rumbled straight towards the fire,
drove right into the middle of the flames and
stopped! The firemen jumped off the truck and
frantically started spraying water in all directions.
Soon they had snuffed out the center of the fire,
breaking the blaze into two easily controlled parts.
Watching all this, the farmer was so impressed
with the volunteer fire department’s work and was
so grateful that his farm had been spared, that
right there on the spot he presented the volunteers
with a check for $1,000. A local news reporter
asked the volunteer fire captain what the
department planned to do with the funds.
‘That ought to be obvious,’ he responded, wiping
ashes off his coat. ‘The first thing we’re gonna do is
get the brakes fixed on our fire truck!’
Today we are going to look at another of the signs or
miracles described in the gospel of John.
It is found in John 5:1-15.
The purpose of this miracle is to highlight God’s mercy.
The Mercy of God
The event happens, as v.2 tells us, just outside of
Jerusalem near the sheep gate at a pool called Bethesda.
Bethesda means House of Mercy.
And how fitting based on what we just read.
John explains that there was a pool with 5 porticoes.
Porticoes are covered porches with columns holding them
up. In the 1900’s archaeologists found two rectangular
pools side by side in the place described here in the
Scripture. Commentators believe that there was one
porch on all 4 sides surrounding the pools and one
Under each of the porticoes were a multitude of those
who were sick, blind, lame and withered.
They were gathered there because they knew that
occasionally something stirred the water and when it was
stirred the first one to get into the water would be
Your Bible may have a note that the end of v.3 and all of
v.4 don’t appear in the oldest manuscripts. These verses
tell us that during certain seasons an angel of the Lord
went down and stirred the water. If you don’t believe
they should be there just take a look at v. 7. The man
mentions the fact that the water is stirred and the first
one in is healed from their illness. I believe this to be an
amazing display of God’s mercy to heal those who were
sick, lame, etc gathered around the pool.
Remember, mercy is when we don’t receive punishment
for wrongs we have done. (discuss this further)
Next we read of the man who is obviously lame and has
been suffering for 38 years. At some point he made his
way to the healing pool and that is where Jesus found
God’s mercy finds us right when/where we need it
Jesus saw him and knew he had been there a long time.
Then Jesus asked him the all important question –
Do you wish to get well?
The man doesn’t come right out and say, YES! I want to
be healed. He gives a whiny excuse.
Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the
water is stirred. Every time it gets stirred someone else
gets in first.
Jesus could have picked him up and placed him in the
pool and let the water heal him, but He didn’t.
He simply told him to pick up his pallet and walk.
Imagine what the lame man must have been thinking as
Jesus told him to walk. 38 years he has been unable to
Imagine the atrophy that must have set in after that long
period of time. But, he doesn’t ask questions.
He simply gets up, picks up his pallet and walks away!
Healed by God’s mercy after such a long time. Isn’t God’s
The Legalism of the Jews
Now, after the man was healed he was walking by some
Jews with his pallet in his hand.
They judged him for his sin.
They told him it was not permissible to carry a pallet on
So, the law they were referring to was to honor the
Sabbath and keep it holy. The 4th commandment.
The healed man argues with the Jews telling them that
the one who healed him also told him to pick up his mat
They asked who healed him and told him to violate the
law, he didn’t know because Jesus had slipped away
before he knew who He was.
The Jews were so focused on following the rules and
condemning those who didn’t that they missed the mercy
that Jesus offers.
Legalism leaves no room for God’s Mercy
Remember Jesus found the lame man, offered him mercy
by healing him.
But that wasn’t all.
Afterwards Jesus found the man again, this time in the
temple. It’s important to note what Jesus tells him.
You have been healed, do not sin anymore, so that
nothing worse happens to you.
This is similar to what He told the woman caught in
adultery. Go and sin no more.
Jesus healed the man physically and then came back to
prepare him for spiritual healing. The Bible doesn’t say if
the man repented of his sin and followed Him.
It simply says that he went to the Jews and told him it
was Jesus who had healed him.
There’s something that bugged me as I read this miracle
of Jesus. Whenever the angel of the Lord came down
and stirred the water someone was healed. Why didn’t
they stick around and help someone else receive the
healing? This man had been there 38 years and no one
helped him until Jesus came to his rescue. Everyone else
left him there to fend for himself.
How do we respond to God’s mercy in our own lives?
We ought to Respond in Thankfulness
David understood the mercy of God. You don’t have to
read too many of his Psalms to know how thankful he
was that God rescued him from the pit.
The Psalms help us praise God in thankfulness because of
who God is and for all He has done.
Take some time today to read/meditate on the Psalms
and thank God for His love, mercy and grace.
He found us while we were still sinners.
We didn’t find Him until He revealed Himself to us.
He loved us first. We only love Him because He loved us
We ought to Respond in Obedience
The man who was healed was simply asked to get up,
pick up your pallet and walk.
God has healed us from our spiritual sickness of sin
because of His great love and mercy.
It’s what Jesus modeled throughout His ministry.
He met people in their point of need and showed them
kindness and mercy.
When Jesus met someone He almost always dealt with
their immediate physical need and then addressed their
spiritual poverty. He did it with compassion and caring so
they understood how much they meant to Him.
It’s how we ought to deliver the gospel today.
People are sick with sin.
We likely won’t come right out and ask someone directly
as Jesus did – do you wish to get well?
But we can meet their physical needs, and then take the
time to explain sin to them and its consequences.
In love, we should share with them the great news of
God’s mercy and how He freely gives it to all who
We should also tell them about how He sent Jesus to die
on our behalf so that we can be reconciled to God and
have eternal life. That is the obedience God is looking for
from His children.