Just a lowly street man, that’s all he was. Ill, bedraggled, poor, and suffering for 38 long years. And there he lay, near the healing waters, always hoping for a miracle or cure. Waiting for someone, anyone, to notice him. To see his need, and help him into the water.
People continually passed that Pool of Siloam.
Next to Jerusalem’s sheep gate, the rich and poor, along with the religious leaders. People who should have helped, should have cared. But day after day, they passed him by. Never seeming to notice his struggle to reach the pool. Until that day, in John chapter 5, when the Lord passed by and healed him. And then told him to pick up his mat and walk.
“So the Jews said to him who was cured, ‘It is the Sabbath. It is not lawful for you to carry the mat.’John 5:10 WEB
A marvelous miracle. An end to a man’s suffering, and the chance to lead a normal life. But the religious leaders saw none of this. Just as they had not seen the man in his great need, neither did they see the wonder of the liberating miracle.
They were too busy looking at a mat.
At the mat and the rules he broke by carrying it. Blind to 38 years of suffering. Blind to his poverty and need. And too blind to give thanks for the healing miracle.
Scholars think the pool, with its five shady porches, was likely built by a rich benefactor, as a shelter for the sick. A hospital of sorts, where they could bathe in the healing mineral water of the spring-fed pool. Or rest under the shady porches.
And the thought came to me that there at the House of Mercy two kingdoms clashed. Two worlds, with strikingly different moral codes. Christ’s loving merciful kingdom and the Pharisees power-hungry religiousity.
Because nothing, perhaps, depicts so clearly the contrasts between these two kingdoms as mercy.
Mercy sees another’s need and reaches out to help. And mercy rejoices in God’s goodness.
But religious self-righteousness blinds. It keeps us from seeing need and from reaching out. And keeps us from rejoicing with others. “Leave your mat. So what if it’s all you own? Just don’t break the rules. Don’t rock our religious boat, or threaten things as they are.”
And the minute he did, they found fault, blamed and accused. “You’re wrong to carry your mat.”
The house of mercy and the house of rules, which finds specks in everyone’s eye but their own.
The House of Rules leaves people in their need. “They don’t act like us or keep our rules,” it says. So it builds high walls to keep transgressors out and shield themselves from seeing the needy. Rather than reaching out, it throws them out, not even allowing them take along their bed.
But the House of mercy sees and understands their need of healing. And builds bridges to help them reach the healing Water of Life.