First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday, July 24, 2022)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
“Bethesda: The House of Mercy!”
As we continue our summer sermon series – basically looking at some of the key places we encounter in the gospel narratives and reflecting on some of the events took place in there – our stop this morning is Bethesda. We have already covered some of those key places including Cana of Galilee, Nazareth, Capernaum, and Bethany. As I pointed out, our journey this morning takes us to a neighborhood in north Jerusalem called, Bethesda.
John gives us enough description of the Pool of Bethesda. We are told it was located near the Sheep Gate, which means it was on the north of the city. In fact, the remains of this pool exist till today just exactly as John describes it. If you’re wondering why the gate was called “The Sheep Gate”, it’s because animals were brought in from the surrounding areas for sacrifices in the Temple.
The word “Bethesda” or “Beth hesda” in Hebrew means, “The house of mercy.” I assume the pool was given that name because in there, God’s mercy was shown to those who needed it the most. Although, originally, the Pool of Bethesda was used for ritual purification purposes, where Jerusalem’s pilgrims get washed for worship, over time, the Pool was also believed to be a center for healing, strength, and transformation. John gives us the reason behind such belief.
As we consider the healing of the paralyzed man by the Pool of Bethesda this morning, I would like to underscore two ways this story, this miracle, in John chapter 5 speaks to us today. Two profound ways this story relate to each and every one of us today:
First: The Story Speaks of our Brokenness
John introduces this story by these words in John 5:1-3: “Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed—and they waited for the moving of the waters.” One of those people at Bethesda was a man who had been waiting for healing for such a long time, for over 38 years. Can you imagine someone who has been waiting for something to happen for that long?
The story before us this morning speaks of our brokenness as human beings. Challenges are part of this journey we call life. We all have challenges to face. As children we were either too short or too tall, too fat or too skinny. Someone else was always smarter, or faster, or more popular. As adults we are either too young or too old, too inexperienced or too overqualified, too busy or too alone.
Sometimes our challenges are more serious and more real. We worry about our loved ones, our health, and our finances. We grieve over a loss of someone close. We agonize over a rebellious child. The reality is, we all get our share of the disappointments and failures of life. Someone said, “you either in a storm, headed into a storm, or coming out of a storm.” Like the sick man in our story today, we could spend 38 years in our suffering before hearing that voice calling us, “Get up, take your mat and walk.”
Second: The Story Speaks of our Redemption
It’s true that at the Pool of Bethesda we are reminded of our brokenness, but also, we are reminded of our redemption. There is a Redeemer whose name is Jesus Christ who knows our hurt and our pain, our grief and our hopelessness, and who is always ready and willing to lend us a hand. Sin is real, yet salvation is more real.
The story in John 5 reminds us that our true hope is found in a person not a place. The man came to the Pool of Bethesda to receive healing and wholeness. This man’s focus was on the pool, rather than on Jesus, the Messiah. He put his faith in the so-called healing waters. Yet, this man’s life was transformed by a Person who arrived unexpectedly and who left just as unexpectedly. At the end of the day, wholeness wasn’t to be found in this pool, despite the commonly-held belief, but in a person whose name is Jesus of Nazareth. Like this paralyzed man, even though Jesus was right there beside him, in front of his own eyes, he put his hopes in the wrong place. Let’s get our eyes off our “pools” and put them on Jesus.
Friends, the cry of this man was, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred.” I have no one to help me. It’s also the cry of so many in our world today. The story assures us that there is a Helper; there is a Redeemer. There is a friend who is always willing and able to help.
“Do you want to be made well?” The Lord still asks. Yes, Lord, we want your healing and your wholeness so help us. Heal the sickness of our souls, and the apathy and timidity of our spirits. Brothers and sisters in Christ, healing belongs to our Lord. Transformation is our God’s. May we all hear the words of Christ this morning: “Get up … walk … put one foot in front of the other and follow me.” In the Name of Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!
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