Blind, crippled, and paralyzed - all lined up, neatly tucked away, just waiting. The sheep gate was the first gate rebuilt when Nehemiah set about the work of rebuilding Jerusalem. This gate had the unique purpose of being the "entry point" for the sacrifices which would be offered at the Temple in Jerusalem. Now, don't you find it a little interesting that the blind, crippled, and paralyzed were lined up along the pathway of "sacrifice"? I had never really connected the two before, but it struck me this morning - these people were waiting for their healing along the pathway of sacrifice! Blind - those without sight, plunged into darkness, or at least the haziness and blur of vision. Crippled - those who lived with some condition making them less than perfect. Paralyzed - those unable to make a move on their own, debilitated by that which consumed them. All lined up neatly, tucked away in their alcoves, waiting. I hadn't see that before either. All had a "place" along the pathway. A place of waiting - and some in "waiting" for a long, long time.
Hundreds of sick people—blind, crippled, paralyzed—were in these alcoves. One man had been an invalid there for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him stretched out by the pool and knew how long he had been there, he said, “Do you want to get well?” The sick man said, “Sir, when the water is stirred, I don’t have anybody to put me in the pool. By the time I get there, somebody else is already in.” Jesus said, “Get up, take your bedroll, start walking.” The man was healed on the spot. He picked up his bedroll and walked off. (John 5:2-9 MSG)
It should come as no surprise that the "pathway of sacrifice" has a "pool" called Bethesda - the house of mercy. Let that sink in a moment. The pathway upon which the blind, crippled, and paralyzed lined up was that of sacrifice. Their constant daily vigil was at the place of mercy. Does that give you a moment of pause? Some were there 38 years! A place of provision - of hope - of faith. This is a long time to be in the place of mercy! Maybe it will encourage some of us who have been in the place of mercy for a lot longer than we ever expected to be - waiting, anticipating, and being encouraged.
Encouraged? How were these men and women encouraged? They still had debilitating conditions - what would be encouraging about waiting around with a bunch of invalids for upwards of 38 years? Every single time the "pool" stirred, there was a healing. Let's look a little at the healing sought by the three groups:
* The blind - lacking the ability to see in the physical sense - they could only listen with their other senses. Sometimes this is our condition of "vision" - we just don't "see" what it is we need to see - we don't "compute" the image of what we behold as possibly intended for us. Even those with some sight, though blurred and unclear, tucked themselves into these alcoves just waiting for the stirring of that which could set them free from their "blurred" vision. Isn't this the way of mercy? As we present ourselves as sacrifices - laid out at the feet of the one who can give mercy - we begin to listen with all our "senses". We don't rely upon what we "can" see, but on the hope we will "see clearly" once mercy has had its way.
* The crippled - impaired in some way - they could only imagine a life without the limitations of their disability. Have you ever stopped to consider the term "disability"? In the most literal sense, it means "apart" or "away" from the ability to perform a certain thing. Isn't this the condition in which we find ourselves finally concluding that apart from a touch of God's mercy, we will be unable to ever have the "ability" to perform the way we hope? In our own effort, we are all disabled. In God's effort, the ability is his!
* The paralyzed - those who had the inability to act on their own - brought to a place of helpless stoppage. What is the one most paralyzing emotion? Isn't it fear? It brings us to a place of "stoppage" - unable to act because we are consumed by the imagined or perceived threat. What is fear's exact opposite? Some would say faith. Others might say courage. What is fear's most needed intervention? Mercy!
So, they lined up - all in their alcoves - all anticipating the "mercy" they so earnestly needed. Each came by the same road - sacrifice. Some of us seek mercy, but until we find ourselves in the place where mercy is, we may not find it! God doesn't desire us to "go to" some particular place for his mercy, but he does desire for us to recognize a few things. First, we have to recognize our need. These people all knew they had need of mercy! They were there because their only hope was mercy. Second, we come by the path of sacrifice - not some physical offering of a lamb or a goat, but by the laying down of our "dis-ability". We rely so much on our own ability, while God's mercy tenderly beckons for us to lay it down in order to be embraced by his!
Not sure what "mercy" you seek today, but I know his ability awaits those who take the first step of placing themselves exactly where it his mercy dwells. It is at the feet of Jesus where mercy dwells. No other path will yield the results found there. Just sayin!