I'm still dwelling on John 5 this morning. It's such a rich story, with nuances I've not really taken time to think about before. Most of the time I've heard this section of the Bible preached fro the angle that Jesus is a healer. He healed the man who waited by the pool of Bethesda for 38 years, but there's an interesting followup story here.
When Jesus healed the man, He told him to "pick up his mat" (v.8) And the Bible says, when the man "at once the man was cured, he picked up his mat and walked."(v.9)
The controversy behind this story happened when the pharisees, the religious leaders of the day, confronted the healed man, and told him, "It is the Sabbath, and the law forbids you to carry your mat."(v.10)
In other words, the man who just was healed by Jesus was being belittled by the religious leaders of the day.
The man was just doing what the healer asked of him to be healed.
The religious leaders of the day were holding to a law they created, out of good reason. You see, when God gave Moses the 10 commandments, He told the people to "remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy." (Exodus 20:8) And so the people did exactly as God commanded. They created certain rules that would separate the Sabbath day from all other days by not working. They didn't walk a certain distance. They didn't harvest any crops. They didn't cook any meals. They didn't do ANYTHING that might resemble work on this day.
So the controversy arises as Jesus asks this man to pick up His mat. Do you think Jesus was aware it was the Sabbath? Do you think Jesus knew the rules of the Sabbath? This wasn't a simple oversight. Jesus knew what He was doing.
He was showing the people of the day there are some things that need to be re-addressed concerning faith. The people of Jesus day needed to see the purpose of the law, or the spirit of the law, rather than focusing on the letter of the law. Jesus came to trump the self-induced man made laws, and show them that God is at work all the time. (v.17) And if God chooses to HEAL SOMEONE of a 38 year old illness, the Sabbath rules are the least of His worries.
The lesson for me today, As C.S. Lewis writes in the Chronicles of Narnia in the discussion between the beaver and Lucy, "“I’d thought he was a man. Is he—quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver, “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about being safe? ’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
Of course C.S. Lewis uses a lion named Aslan to represent Jesus in the brilliant work of literature being made into a movie series. The point here is…
Jesus is not SAFE! He's certainly not an entity we can box up and know the next move. He's not domesticated to a "Christ Likeness" wrapped in cotillian like manners. He's radical to the religious leaders of the day, and He continues to push the boundaries of this world today. He's God, for goodness sake. And if you're picture of Jesus is a well mannered, suit coat and tie "yes sir" "no sir" kind of person, you've read the wrong Jesus.
But one thing you can know, He is good! He is good in His radical subversive nature. His mission to the world is to HEAL, not not abide by the systems and doctrines we've created for God to live in.
Can we allow that kind of Jesus to rule our faith?
It's certainly a shift from many sermons I've heard, and it makes me want to continue to learn more about Him.