It's one of my favorite stories in the gospels. John 4.
Jesus walks up to a pool at a town called Bethesda.
Evidently, the pool is legendary for stirring waters when God is interested in healing the sick and lame who sit beside it. According to the narrative, the first one to enter the pool when the waters begin to churn is healed.
Jesus and the disciples happen upon one of the sick men who has been sitting beside the pool for 38 years! 38 YEARS! WOW!
This guy has been waiting for the waters to stir for 38 years, but has been unable to get down to the pool before someone else jumps in ahead of him.
Jesus walks up to say, “Do you want to get well?” (v.6)
“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”(v. 7)
Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. (v.8-9)
You'd think there would be a celebration. A sick man who sat ill by the pool for 38 years is now walking around on his own. But how quickly we forget.
We forget the keepers of the law, those charged with defending God's truth, who walked incessantly day and night to make sure no false teachers were wondering about. Sure enough, as soon as they saw this man carrying his mat around on the Sabbath they scolded him and he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ” (v.11)
Every time I read that part, I laugh. Who in their right mind would approach someone who had just been healed and tried to conjure up the Old Testament Law to rebut the healing? But oh how similar we are today!
We know God's law.
We know how God works.
We build our whole existence on the words God gave us in the Bible.
EXACTLY WHAT THE JEWISH LEADERS DID.
And when we see someone who has been healed from their own spiritual sickness we have to make excuses about why God wouldn't heal them, if it wasn't on the terms we thought he might heal.
Or, if someone comes to God in a non-traditional way, we question the validity of their salvation.
Or, what if someone wants to believe God cares enough to work in a way outside the law we know to be true.
We have a decision to make.
Do we defend the law we know to be true?
OR, do we see the spirit of God's intent and try to celebrate the healing?
I hope we can learn from history. The pious are the one's God calls to the mat of judgement, and the sinners are the one's He's interested in healing. His grace is extended for the humble, but for the proud, He reserves a harsh tone.