14 February 2010

Jesus Is Despised even by Someone He Helps

After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” 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 making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.
Now that day was a sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, “It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” But he answered them, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’ ” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take it up and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared ind the crowd that was there. Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus, because he was doing such things on the sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father is still working, and I also am working.” For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God.    John 5:1-18

  • Jesus healed many people.  Not all of those healings are recorded.  When the disciples recorded Jesus healing, there is always a larger lesson to be learned by future disciples.  So why does John tell us about this healing?
  • This is one of the few (if not only) healings we can read about where some kind of faith in Jesus isn't mentioned or inferred.  I think John tells us about this healing to reinforce why faith is necessary for a person to be healed by Jesus.  It is also important to remember that Jesus is far less interested in our physical healing and much more invested in our spiritual healing.
  • Until now, most of Jesus' ministry had taken place in Galilee.  This can explain why the presence of Jesus at a healing pool in Jerusalem didn't precipitate a full-on riot by all those present.  It also explains why the man doesn't know that he is talking to someone who can make him well.  All he wants from Jesus is help carrying him into the pool when the water is stirred up.
  • I can't imagine this man's life.  Can you imagine the kind of existence of a poor invalid stuck by a pool for 38 years?  
  • "Do you want to be made well?This seems like an odd, callous question.  But, no matter how pathetic a life that is lead, sometimes we get used to a certain pattern and we become used to the dysfunction.  So, we may fear the change that we know will come if we are actually made better.
  • The man is healed.  Jesus disappears.  Did he want to thank Jesus?  Not sure.  Did he want to follow Jesus?  He didn't even know who Jesus was, but we have no indicator that in his life change he wanted to find Jesus to see the rabbi who healed him.
  • Here comes another illustration between the heart of the religious and the heart of Jesus.  The man had been at the pool for 37 years.  Surely some of the Jews who confronted him knew who he was.  He surely did not have the clothes or the look of a common Jewish man, but as one who had been down on his luck for years.  When they see him, is their reaction, "Praise God!  This man is healed!" or "Poor man, we need to see what we can do to love this neighbour of ours"?  Sadly, no.  The mind of the religious is obsessed with petty rules that don't matter a hill of beans in the lives of real children of God.   "It is the Sabbath.  It is unlawful for you to carry your mat."  The man explains that the only reason he is carrying his mat is some man healed him told him to carry the mat.  He is unable to answer their callous inquiry as to who told him to break the law.
  • This rule about carrying incidentals on the Sabbath does not exist in the Torah (Jewish Law given through Moses).  It is a hedge law made up by the religious class to ensure the true law given by God that His people will keep the Sabbath holy would not be violated.
  • We don't really know the heart of this man until Jesus encounters him a second time.  We don't know what sin the man has committed, but Jesus knows as Jesus confronts him with it and warns him not to continue sinning or something worse would happen to him.  Sin is our primary problem, but sometimes we don't want to remove our problem because we enjoy the benefits of our sin.  But Jesus warns us time and again that the consequences of any sin in our lives is dire and worse than living off scraps in filthy rags unable to walk into a nearby pool for 37 years.
  • What is the reaction of the man to Jesus' warning?  "Rabbi, I know you are good and from God since you healed me from my crippling state.  I will do as you say.  Could you please help me to live a godly life?"  No.  The man, now knowing who Jesus is, dobs him in to the same people who already demonstrated they couldn't care less about him.
  • The Jerusalem religious class confronted Jesus about healing on the Sabbath and he responds, "My Father is working, and I also am working."  They refuse to see the stamp of authority given by God by his power to heal.  They do not even dispute his ability to heal.  They are enraged by his flouting of their laws.  And it reveals their hearts.  They could care less about their neighbours' well-being.  They only care about their ability to control the lives of the populous by the creation of sanctimonious rules that clearly do not allow them to know their God better.  
 Father, please help us to acknowledge your love in our lives so that we can allow you to create hearts of flesh out of our hearts of stone. 

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