Grace and mercy at Bethesda
One definition of the word Bethesda means "house of mercy or grace" but it could also mean "shame or disgrace". The same word has two different meanings, but when we look at John 5:1-15, it all makes sense. There was a pool of Bethesda in the Bible, where a lot of disabled people stayed in the hopes of getting healed.
It was believed that when the water was stirred up, that it had healing powers, but in order to receive that healing you had to go into the water. So, if you were unable to help yourself, you wouldn't make it into the pool in time to receive healing.
As I reflect on this, I think of the Easter season that has just passed and I reflect on how much I need grace. Even as I strive towards perfection and to be who God has called me to be, I still make mistakes. Because I know that this is the reality of being a Christian, I want to ensure my heart is always at Bethesda. Even in shame and disgrace, I want to be in the house of mercy and grace where I can get healing.
It is the awareness that I am not perfect that keeps me in this place, knowing that only God can truly restore me and make me whole again. Even though I don't constantly live in shame and disgrace because I have been cleansed by God, I still need his mercy when I falter.
The paralyzed man at the pool of Bethesda, received healing even though he was not able to make it into the pool. He was in the place that allowed him to receive this because Jesus was passing by. I can imagine he had been trying for years to get into the pool himself and may have given up. But even in that state, he still stayed near the pool, hoping his healing would come, hoping that someone would have mercy on him.
And that's exactly what Jesus did. As Jesus walked by and learned of his ailment, and he extended mercy and grace to him. Even though he couldn't help himself, God reached out and did what he couldn't do all along. This goes to say, God does help those who can't help themselves.
Bethesda also reminds me of Mary Magdalene who received grace and mercy and received healing from Jesus. She had been tormented for years by demons, and Jesus came and cast them out. Once he cast them out, she started following him and his ministry. She was always by his side, near the place of mercy and grace despite her past of shame and disgrace. She stayed close to the one who was able to extend mercy and to restore her life.
So, it makes sense in John 20, when Mary goes to the tomb and finds that it is empty, that she stayed there weeping while everyone else left. She wanted to still be close to "Bethesda". It was in her brokenness and remaining in this place that she was able to see Jesus again after his resurrection. She was able to reunite with the one who restores.
I am grateful to have encountered Jesus at Bethesda. I believe that Jesus can come to you too and meet you at Bethesda just like he did with the disabled man and Mary.