Summary: What is the meaning of mercy in the Bible?
Back in my high school years in Korea, I had a really great friend named ¡°Jong-Sun¡±. We were like the closest friends not just in school but also in the world. Literally we did everything together during that time. We ate, we played, we studied, and sometimes we even slept together. Don¡¯t get me wrong we didn¡¯t do anything and you know it is okay in Korea. My friend was nearly a perfect man and that¡¯s why I liked him a lot. He basically played every musical instrument and every sport. He also studied very well. So many people looked up to us as a great example of friendship until one day.
It was in the middle of the winter semester and we were having different classes. There was one old lady came to school and was looking for my friend. Since everyone knew that I am the closest friend, they brought this old lady to me. But I noticed something strange because she was wearing a hospital patient cloth, looked really ugly and couldn¡¯t speak properly. I went to my friend¡¯s class right away and told him that there is an old lady looking for him. He was surprised for a moment and told me to go back and tell her that he didn¡¯t come to school. I asked him why and he said ¡°She is just a housemaid and came to get me because I didn¡¯t go home last night.¡± So I believed in him and went back to her and lied that Jong-Sun was not around school. She left school with a very sad face.
A few days later, I had a chance to talk to my homeroom teacher and he told me that the old lady was Jong-Sun¡¯s mom. She had a mental-disease and was put into the madhouse. But she escaped from it because she missed her son too much. My friend knew exactly on what was going on. After I heard about that I was so shocked and couldn¡¯t understand why he did it. From that time on I started to criticize him, ignore him and judged him.
Let us go back to today¡¯s passage. It shows a man who was an invalid for thirty-eight years. This man couldn¡¯t do anything by himself; he couldn¡¯t sit still, couldn¡¯t walk or stand by himself. Can you guys even imagine sick for thirty-eight years?
Why was he lying at a pool called Bethesda? From time to time, an angel of the Lord would come down and stir up the waters. The first one into the pool after this happened would be cured of whatever disease he/she had. This man was there for a long time because there was no one to help him out (v.7 = ¡°Sir, the invalid replied, I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.¡±). Jesus asked him if he wants to get healed, and this invalid man didn¡¯t answer the question but told Jesus that there is no one to help him out to go into the pool. This man was so desperate to be healed. Now when Jesus saw this man and found out what is happening to this man, Jesus cured this man right away (vv.8-9). Hallelujah!
Now notice the reaction from the Jews when this happened. When Jesus healed this man who was invalid for 38 years. Imagine if you were this man, you cannot even think how happy and how joyful you are because you are now able to walk, stand, run and do everything. He must be so excited and so thankful for what Jesus has done for his life. Maybe he wants to share his miracle with his neighbors, friends and relatives.
Once I broke my arm and had to put a cast in my arm for four months. I don¡¯t even want to think about that time. After four months later, I took the cast off and was so happy that I became normal. This man was sick not just for four months, not just for four years but 38 years and now became a normal person just like you and me.
But the Jews reacted so differently than we expect. I am reading from verse 10-12, ¡°It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat. But he replied, The man who made me well said to me, Pick up your mat and walk. So they asked him, Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?¡± The Jews is saying ¡°What the heck is happening here? Didn¡¯t you know that the law prohibits you from carrying your mat. And the Jews started to persecute and even wanting to kill Jesus because of this incident. John 5:16-18 = ¡°So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. Jesus said to them, My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working. For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.¡±