May 26, 2019
Scripture Reading: John 5:1-9
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.
The title listed for the above scripture in my Bible is Healing on the Sabbath. I think Healing when the Time is Right would be a more fitting title and would get at the heart of the issue, that John is trying to address. The author may be trying to illustrate that Jesus thought the strict observation of the Sabbath could be altered if necessary, to serve a greater purpose. I do not think God provided the guidance of the Commandment as a test to measure our worthiness. The Commandments do serve a purpose in providing common-sense rules to live in relationship with others including with God. It is those loving relationships that are important.
Does it bother you as much as it does me that the man has been ill for 38 years and seems to have had no one offering to help him into the pool? That may be the case, but it also may be the case that begging has become comfortable for him and he is not interested in changing his career. Jesus asked the crucial question, ‘Do you want to be made well?’ The man does not answer the question; he makes an excuse. Jesus healed him anyway.
It is too easy for us to follow well defined rules and not live our love of God, ourselves, or our neighbors. It is easy for us to see not wanting to change our norms in a poor beggar, but we all suffer from the desire to invest ourselves in activities that we can check off and feel comfortable about doing. What do we accomplished when we are not helping the man because we self-righteously obeyed a rule? Jesus is challenging his followers to accept responsibility for the irresponsible attitudes and actions that can be the byproducts of our ridge application of rules. Racism comes to mind and any of the isms where we perceive ourselves as better than another or that, after years of practicing an ism, it becomes accepted as a normal value.
Prayer: Lord, guide us to separating the norms of our lives we create from the way you modeled life for us. Amen.
All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.