John 5:1 After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. 3 In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. 5 One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” 7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” 9 And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. ESV
What is the general theme of the passage?
The name Bethesda means either house of mercy or house of grace but it seems improbable that pool has any religious connection to the God of the Jews OR that the people there, were waiting for Israel’s God to heal them, especially on this Sabbath day. Some versions have added to the ending of verse 3 and all of verse 4. In many versions this addition is only a footnote a because the ancient manuscripts do not make that connection. This pool would likely have always been a place of uncleanness to the Jews because “a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed were there.” The mystery of this water is healing happens only when the water is “stirred up.”
What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus chooses to go to this pool to find this man. It seems so similar to what He chose to do when he offered “living” water to the outcast woman at the well. Jesus’s assurance is “My Father is working until now, and I am working” even on the Sabbath.
What does it say about people?
Here are some questions to read and ponder: Why did the crippled man not just say “yes” when Jesus asked him “Do you want to be healed?” If he IS a Jew, what’s he doing there on the Sabbath? If he’s NOT a Jew, why did he go to the Temple after his healing? This invalid man may be yet another story of someone who is not necessarily Godless, but not Godly either. He knows some of the essentials: the water in this pool is identified with the grace and mercy of some mysterious power. He knows there is some miraculous healing possible. He knows he needs some thing more, some one who can get him to that “stirred up” water.
Is there truth here for me?
How many times has this man been taken to this same pool and been disappointed? Jesus is not just the some one who will put that invalid into the pool to be healed. HE IS the “stirred up” water” that man cannot reach on his own. Jesus has given that invalid man the one thing that pool could never offer, a healing that is something more — a connection to Him. Jesus is the missing verse 4!
a “waiting for a certain movement of the water, for an angel of the Lord came from time to time and stirred up the water. And the first person to step in after the water was stirred was healed of whatever disease he had.”
God is still offering this world His annual reminder to celebrate Christ’s birth, even disguised by what we call the chaos of Christmas. This year in the midst of my very different kind of personal chaos I have been reminded that first Christmas was disguised by chaos too! People lived in a world where harsh circumstances became the evidence they mistakenly used to form their judgments about God and each other. They lived as separate pieces of chaos with no connection to one another. Sound familiar? But…then The Gift of Connection happened.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder and his name will be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6
Jesus is The Gift of Connection! He is the real Gift sent to us with God’s divine expectations…hoping we would recognize…and receive…the one Gift that could reclaim chaos. The Gift that could connect old Words and Light to overcome darkness. The Gift that would find, and custom-fit, the unrelated shapes, mismatched patterns and varied colors of chaos together to become a perfectly designed whole cloth; every piece connected in just the right spot, at just the right time to become part of something eye catching and unique.
This Christmas, 2021, God still persists in reminding the world he chooses to make whole cloth from pieces of chaos so the world might see how the many parts of His Body and His church can fit together to become proof that His character and promises are made visible by The Gift of Connection and His perfection. Amen!
“All the persons of faith I know are sinners, doubters, uneven performers. We are secure not because we are sure of ourselves but because we trust that God is sure of us.” ― Eugene Peterson
John 5:26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.
Is this one verse saying God granted a self-contained life to Jesus similar to what He did for Adam? OR Is this verse saying Jesus’s life was “God in himself?” That is a bigger truth worth pondering.
The repetition of “in himself” slips by so quickly it’s easy to read it without questioning if there might be something more. It’s easy to accept Jesus being the living example of the perfection of God, His emissary if you will, sent to be like an extension cord that would connect us to the power of God. That is the truth of experience but words are gifts I believe God uses to direct devotional thoughts. The idea of “in himself” identifying Jesus as both the extension cord and the power made me think about Jesus as the sacrifice God made for our life on earth even before His sacrifice on the cross.
God “in himself” as Jesus was sacrificed on a cross to assure us there was a connection that would lead to eternity. Heaven is surely a blessing to look forward to but we live life our life on earth. The first sacrifice of God “in Himself” was Jesus living on earth to become the connection of this life and eternity. God “in himself” as Jesus on earth could teach us by example how to experience a connection to God that would turn every day of life, here and now, into the beginning of an eternity to come.
2 Samuel 9:7 So David said to him, “Do not fear, for I will surely show you kindness for Jonathan your father’s sake, and will restore to you all the land of Saul your grandfather; and you shall eat bread at my table continually.” [NKJV]
2 Samuel is the work of [probably] more than one prophet speaking for God to a culture dominated by the struggle for power, senseless violence, emotional rebellion and constant conflict. That environment and the gruesome deaths of Saul and Jonathan are events that usher in this interchange between David and Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth. I have struggled in earlier chapters of this book to see past the harsh realities it records to the connections that make 2 Samuel 9 a meaningful path to the New Testament and Christ. I understand Mephibosheth‘s caution. He knows only the fear he’s endured and it wasn’t good. Sometimes reading the Old Testament feels like endurance is the only connection because applications for finding faith in daily life are hard to come by.
This week as I gave my husband my synopsis of 2 Samuel 9 he asked me an important question: where’s Jesus? I couldn’t give an answer but I wanted one. David’s words, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father” probably seemed too good to be true to Mephibosheth but they sound very much like the words Jesus would speak. I found this commentary by Pastor David Guzik. [click to read]. Mephibosheth knew his security and safety were dependent on his need for the grace only the king could extend to him. Guzik finished his commentary with this.. “We are Mephibosheth…”
We are like Mephibosheth. We are dependent on recognizing our need for the grace of Jesus speaking those same words to us that David spoke “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father.” Recognizing need is where I found Jesus in 2 Samuel 9 this week.
Mark 9 The Red Thread
16 “What are you arguing with them about?
19 “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”
21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”…“You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”
29… This kind can come out only by prayer.”
Here are the characters of the story:
• Religious leaders hassling the disciples for being ineffective
• The frustrated disciples because they’re ineffective
• A devoted father unable to get help for his son
• A frustrated Jesus
It seems studying a red letter version of Mark requires going through the book more slowly to experience how the little parts tucked in along with the big deal parts are tied together with that same red thread of Jesus’s words.
Chapter 9 seems to be about recognizing the challenge that faith is greater than what you currently comprehend. That certainly happened to Peter, James and John on the mountain with Jesus. That challenge continues with the words of the devoted father, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” and even the disciples own frustrated words “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
Faith wasn’t the issue. It was an issue of maintenance that frustrated Jesus enough to confront them with this truth. It’s prayer that maintains the connection of faith to the power of God…”only by prayer.”
• 3 “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”
• 9 Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
Each morning I spend time reading scripture and writing hoping the “rest” of the story will help me find a voice for my faith today. Here’s what I wrote about this parable at first glance: ‘Jesus is the farmer who went out to sow his seed. The obvious comparisons are the different responses to what Jesus was speaking about the seed he was sowing.’
Good, that’s all true but I’m surprised to to discover I can still be surprised by the Bible. I’d been looking for a thread of connection between the words Jesus spoke about the path, the rocky soil and the thorns when I found this quote from William Temple.
“A parable is not a situation in which every detail stands for something but a situation in which one great idea leaps out and shines like a flash of lightning.”
BOOM…There it was! The truth wasn’t a subtle thread at all. Jesus was speaking! He spoke knowing some of his words would just be wasted, some would be temporary fixes and some would be rejected but this truth made speaking them worth the effort…”Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”
Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
…and if Jesus has given you seeds to sow, find your voice and speak.
NIV Romans 4 18-22…a homemade amplified study using the dictionary. It’s just another way to establish our confidence in Scripture and enhance our own  complete trust or confidence in it.
 Hope: a feeling of expectation and desire
 Faith: complete trust or confidence
 Unbelief: lack of religious belief; an absence of faith.
 Righteousness: being morally right or justifiable.
18 Against all  expectation and desire, Abraham in  expectation and desire believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
19 Without weakening in his  complete trust or confidence, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.
20 Yet he did not waver through  lack of religious belief; an absence of  complete trust or confidence regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his  complete trust or confidence and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.
22 This is why “it was credited to him as  being morally right or justifiable.
Hosea 6: excerpts from v.1-3
He will heal us
He will bind up our wounds
He will restore us that we may live in his presence
Let us acknowledge the Lord;
Let us press on to acknowledge him.
He will appear
He will come to us
6:4 Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears…6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.
7:13 Woe to them, because they have strayed from me! Destruction to them, because they have rebelled against me! I long to redeem them
but they speak about me falsely. 14 They do not cry out to me from their hearts but wail on their beds.
8:2 Israel cries out to me, ‘Our God, we acknowledge you!’ 3 But Israel has rejected what is good…5b How long will they be incapable of purity?…
I’m glad I’m reading Hosea knowing that God is going to provide the answer for us in Jesus. It’s hard to read of the disconnect between what God required and what “those” people were willing to give. Still the point of reading this book or any other of the Bible is to consider what possible difference it makes for life today.
Look at the statements pulled from the first part of Chapter 6. Don’t they sound like faith? The reality is they’re only a sacrifice of words. The next two chapters are a frustrated God calling them on it. Isn’t it interesting that God looks at those same statements that sound so good and adds “but they speak about me falsely?” The truth is God pays attention to the words we offer him and their connection to the what he sees in our heart.
There’s sort of a cart before the horse idea here that’s really important to remember. Acknowledging God with words before our hearts are connected to them won’t get us anywhere. We’re fooling ourselves if we think words are all it takes to convince God we’re putting him first and willing to move forward with him in the lead.
TLB Hosea 6:6 I don’t want your sacrifices—I want your love; I don’t want your offerings—I want you to know me.