John, chapter 5, calls the place Bethesda – “House of Mercy.” It was Jerusalem’s hospital for the blind, the lame, the paralyzed – not far from the gate through which shepherds brought their sheep to market. Five covered porches offered shelter from the heat of the sun, the sandy winds and the occasional cold rain. But that was about it. There were no nurses or attendants to care for these castaways of society. Historically, it might be noted that our own modern hospitals and clinics owe their origins to the rise of Christianity and the compassion that goes with it.
Here they all wait. But for what? Today too, some folks call nursing homes “God’s waiting room.” Row upon row of people – with broken bodies and fading minds – parked in wheelchairs through hallways and dining rooms – TV game shows droning away the day in monotonous sameness as people wait. But wait for what?
The Bethesdas of the world preach an uncomfortable sermon to the young and the healthy who dare to venture a visit: “Your time is coming too. This life is soon over. Now what do you wait for? What lies beyond? Do you know Christ by faith? For what and for whom are you living while you still have your strength? Prepare to meet your God!”
Jesus does not heal them all. He heals one man that day – a lame man who had waited for 38 years – for reasons all His own. He loves all the others no less. Every miracle Jesus worked served as a telegram of better things to come. We too wait for Jesus to come to us and set everything right – in a new heavens and a new earth – where He shall change our lowly bodies and fashion them like unto His own glorious body.
But neither did Jesus come to create a heaven on earth – nor to raise our hopes that this sin-broken world can ever be more to us than the hard wilderness road toward our real home that it is. There is a far greater rescue to wait for than the momentary deliverance from the pain and difficulties of this world. There is Christ’s deliverance from sin, death and hell – a deliverance He won for us by the perfect life He lived and the death He died in our stead, and the victory of Easter morning that He shares with us.
Who knows if this man would ever have met Jesus at all were it not for 38 years of waiting? But for those who wait in faith, Jesus always shows up – not one minute too soon – not one minute too late – at Bethlehem – on Easter morning – in the Word, the water, and the blood – and one last time for sure. And He promises – we shall not be disappointed.