When we humans forget why we do what we do we begin to lose sight of what is most important in life—relationship. If obeying the rules gets to be of more importance that the reason behind the rules that keep us safe and secure, we get lost in rule-keeping. We will find that those who have risen to power develop high estimations of themselves. They relish being the ultimate judge and jury. They love creating more rules with harsher consequences to add to the fun of executing those addendums. It’s all about who’s in charge or who they think is in charge.
Rules can be frivolous. Kids do it all the time. Watch them play any game. One of the players will seem to be in charge. When the “leader” is losing, he/she will persuade and manipulate the other players with presenting a new rule while convincing the other players that it always was a rule. Yes, sometimes rules are made because someone didn’t get their way so they make up a new rule to win in the game of life.
God gave his people The Law to help them care and manage themselves in His ways that were best for all people. Over time, His people remembered all the words of The Law, but they forgot the Rule-Maker—God. The religious leaders and teachers of The Law studied, read, debated, judged, and implemented The Law. Then they added their own laws. And this is where the trouble begins.
These creative additions to The Law will make you laugh at first, but these additions were very oppressive and burdensome to God’s people trying to live life. For example, you could not drag a chair across the dirt floor of your humble home on the Sabbath. Why? Because that would be “furrowing”, as if planting, so that would be “work” resulting in punishment. I know, right?! There were many add-ons to God’s Law that were ridiculous but the people didn’t dare oppose because the leaders used God as a way to make them feel consistently guilty. What kind of a relationship is that? Not one that God wants.
Jesus came to fulfill The Law, God’s Law, not the man-made add-ons. Jesus reintroduced God to His people. The leaders and teachers of The Law did not like this “intrusion” of their power nor the interpretation by Jesus of what God’s true intentions for the Law really were. They had forgotten the One who gave them The Law along with the reasons behind The Law. Jesus came to earth to seek and save, to heal and restore and to teach and reteach God’s intention behind His Law while revealing God to all who listened.
John 5:1-18, The Message
Even on the Sabbath
1-6 Soon another Feast came around and Jesus was back in Jerusalem. Near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem there was a pool, in Hebrew called Bethesda, with five alcoves. Hundreds of sick people—blind, crippled, paralyzed—were in these alcoves. One man had been an invalid there for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him stretched out by the pool and knew how long he had been there, he said, “Do you want to get well?”
7 The sick man said, “Sir, when the water is stirred, I don’t have anybody to put me in the pool. By the time I get there, somebody else is already in.”
8-9 Jesus said, “Get up, take your bedroll, start walking.” The man was healed on the spot. He picked up his bedroll and walked off.
9-10 That day happened to be the Sabbath. The Jews stopped the healed man and said, “It’s the Sabbath. You can’t carry your bedroll around. It’s against the rules.”
11 But he told them, “The man who made me well told me to. He said, ‘Take your bedroll and start walking.’”
12-13 They asked, “Who gave you the order to take it up and start walking?” But the healed man didn’t know, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd.
14 A little later Jesus found him in the Temple and said, “You look wonderful! You’re well! Don’t return to a sinning life or something worse might happen.”
15-16 The man went back and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. That is why the Jews were out to get Jesus—because he did this kind of thing on the Sabbath.
17 But Jesus defended himself. “My Father is working straight through, even on the Sabbath. So am I.”
18 That really set them off. The Jews were now not only out to expose him; they were out to kill him. Not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was calling God his own Father, putting himself on a level with God.
THINK ABOUT IT…
The Jewish leaders were so lost, so far from God, they could not see, (much less celebrate) the healing, forgiveness and restoration of a man who spent 38 years by a pool, hoping to be well again, trusting only in stirring waters. This man was of no value to them. Their first and only thought: Jesus broke the rule of working on the Sabbath. Jesus also caused the healed man to break the rule. “The Jews stopped the healed man and said, “It’s the Sabbath. You can’t carry your bedroll around. It’s against the rules.” Seem ridiculous?
I have to ask myself…
Do we have weird, man-made rules in our own places of worship and in our homes that have nothing to do with our relationship to God? Ooh, pause and reflect. Take all the time you need–I am. Then repent after thinking of these things that are not God but merely our preference.
Back to the story…
At this point, the healed man was not concerned about rules. He found the One and Only who gave hope, healing, forgiveness and restored life! He now had a relationship with Jesus, Son of God! The first encounter he had as a healed man was with the Jewish leaders who reprimanded him for carrying his bedroll on the Sabbath! Wait, what?! This is a new level of lost for the leaders. Blinded by arrogance, they didn’t see God revealed in power and might right in front of them.
Jesus finds and encourages the healed man after the attack of the leaders, “You look wonderful! You’re well! Don’t return to a sinning life or something worse might happen.” I can see Jesus and the man in relational conversation, can’t you? I can hear him say, “You’re a new man with a new plan. Don’t go back to where you were. You don’t live there anymore.” Friends, isn’t that just like Jesus? Jesus knows just what we need when we need it most. Rest in that thought for a minute.
“My Father is working straight through, even on the Sabbath. So am I.” To believers who know God, this is a grand assurance of knowing God is always at work on our behalf. Right? To those who do not know God, the statement is beyond their reality. John says of the leaders, “That really set them off. The Jews were now not only out to expose him; they were out to kill him. Not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was calling God his own Father, putting himself on a level with God.” Now the story of Jesus, our Savior, the One and Only, sent to restore our relationship with God, will heat up. Stay tuned.
Lord and Savior,
Thank you for coming to save us, restore and make us whole. Thank you for writing down your story of redemption that leads to relationship with you through your servants and beloved friends. Thank you for forgiveness which leads to internal joy with the promise of life forever with you. Thank you for always being at work for us. Thank you for being with us. Continue to teach us and transform our thinking. I love you, Lord with all that is in me.
In Jesus Name, Amen