Monday, January 16, 2017
In John 5 Jesus sees a man struggling for 38 years to obtain miraculous healing. It is hard to imagine the emotions that man experienced, knowing that his healing depended upon a speed he lost 13,870 days ago. What was his constant pain level, a three or a ten? Was sleep possible? Was he a beggar or supported by family? If a beggar, was he successful in receiving assistance from others? What emotional struggles did he endure those 1,976 weeks?
A chronic ailment drives one toward hope or despair. This man’s trust was in a pool of agitated water! How many years had an angel been stirring it? Was it 38 or more? How often did the angel make these visits? Translations leave us guessing. Some say, “certain season.” others “seasons,” or “at a certain time.” Some leave the verse out. Was “season” or “time” monthly or yearly? Was it at a specific hour? We may not know, but the desperate did. These hopefuls were there with the expectation of winning the jackpot! Being nearest to the water increased one’s opportunity. That crowd would produce only one winner. After each episode, did the lame man go home with resentment toward the winner, or did he offer his congratulations? If you suffered his fate, which one would be your choice?
Imagine his surprise, when after 19,972,800 minutes attempting to be healed, a man walks up and says, “Do you want to be well?”! He doesn’t see Jesus as a healer because he explains why he has failed to be number one for 38 years. His explanation receives an impossible command from this stranger, “Get up! Pick up your small bed and walk!” A modern retort would be, “Are you so blind or so stupid that you can’t see that I’m an invalid?” He doesn’t have time to reply because “immediately” the unbelievable happens. He is cured! No more pain! His legs are no longer useless. His body feels entirely different. He has strength! He obeys without effort and joyfully picks up his bed. WHOOPS! He shouldn’t have done that!! The religious police aren’t rejoicing. They have no concern for his 38 years of suffering nor for his miraculous healing. Their focus is different and demanding! “It is the Sabbath day! It is not right for you to carry your bed.”
Did Jesus break God’s law by telling this man to do something that was sinful? No! Jesus and the invalid had clashed with a religious tradition that was set in pseudo commandments of stone! When one fails to follow tradition, it’s time for a crucifixion! This man was fortunate that the authorities were more interested in the one who told him to carry his bed rather than him picking it up! Caring one’s small pallet on the Sabbath could be a slippery slope leading to a complete disregard for God’s Law! It must be stopped at all cost and they cherished the work of doing God’s will! The zealots could use any means available to stop this law breaker! Their arsenal contained innuendo, lies, false charges, and destruction of reputation. The end always justified the means! That office is still being filled today!
Traditions clothed in religious practice are walls that do not easily crumble. We all have them in one degree or another. Most began innocently to fill a perceived need. However, time dresses them in heavenly garments. They become as untouchable as Mount Sinai! The differences between man made and God commanded is blurred. We’re faced with it every week! If we understand that an expedient is only a human judgment in carrying out a command, and not the command itself, we’re okay. However, lost fellowship among churches evidences a failure in this comprehension!
Jesus is still asking, “Do you want to be well?”