Sorry that I’ve had a bit of a hiatus from blogging about John. Things got busy for a few days with in-laws coming to visit and Cryder heading out for vacation. I found myself just trying to keep my head above water.

5:1 After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. 3 In these lay a multitude of invalids- blind, lame, and paralyzed. 4 5 One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” 7 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 going another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” 9 And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath.

10 So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” 11 But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.'” 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. 14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. 16 And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”

18 This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

John knows how to pile on the drama, doesn’t he? Here is another great story that leaves me scratching my head wondering what the heck is going on and what the heck I’m supposed to do with it. It is always difficult to makes sense of the miraculous.

There are a couple of things worth noting about this passage that lead us into a deeper understanding of the good news that is Jesus. First of all, notice that the man had been an invalid for a long time – 38 years. What’s up with Jesus’ question to this guy? Verse 6 tells us that Jesus knew he had been there a long time and yet he feels the need to ask the obvious question, “do you want to be healed?”

Of course the dude wants to be healed. Why else would he be sitting by this pool of healing? What is cool about this story is that Jesus doesn’t simply take pity on the dude – instead he treats him like a human being by speaking to him and finding out what the issues are in his life. He makes it a relational interaction and the man immediately explains his disappointment with people who have had no mercy on him. Jesus engages him as a person and then exceeds his expectations by giving him instant relief!

This is where the story really gets good. The Jews see the man walking away carrying his mat and healed! Instead of rejoicing with the guy, they rebuke him because it is the Sabbath. What I love is the man’s response to the Jewish leaders – he isn’t intimidated and feels no weight from their rebuke. His confidence is in the one who healed him. He tells them, “sorry guys, but I’m just doing what the guy with the amazing power to heal told me to do.”

When the Jewish leaders learn it was Jesus who healed him on the Sabbath they began to persecute Jesus. Jesus responds by telling them that they got the Sabbath all wrong. Even though God rested on the seventh day of creation, he is still working today. Most commentators explain that God did rest from his creative work on the seventh day, but continues his redemptive work throughout history.

I think this is a pretty good explanation and forms the basis for my own view of the Sabbath. While the Sabbath is to be a day of rest from our normal routine of creative work, it is a day that should not ignore the redemptive work we are called to. This is why public worship is a very appropriate way to spend the Sabbath – with other people who may be broken and hurting and in need of an hour of redemption.

Jesus re-defines the Sabbath – at another place in the gospels, Jesus declares that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27). Jesus makes the Sabbath all about people while the religious leaders make it all about laws. Jesus also says, “I am the Lord of the Sabbath” and therefore he has the authority and rules to deem what is lawful (Mark 2:28 and Matthew 12:8).

The cool thing about Jesus with regards to the Sabbath is that he offers a third way. Isn’t this true of the Gospel in general? It always provides the third way. Religion defines the Sabbath by what you can do or can’t do – by what is lawful. Irreligion defines the Sabbath by ignoring it altogether – it doesn’t matter and the Sabbath is no longer binding on God’s people…anything goes! But the gospel offers a third way – “Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath” and if you are going to declare him as your Lord then you need to submit to Him concerning the Sabbath.

The beauty of the Gospel is that this Jesus who authoritatively re-defines the Sabbath also claims that he is equal with God (and thereby actually possessing the authority to re-define whatever he wants). Perhaps re-define isn’t the right word here – perhaps redeem would work better. If Jesus is God in the flesh then his view of the Sabbath would be the view that God intended all along (since it is impossible for God to change). If that is the case it is men who have corrupted the Sabbath and let invalids suffering on the steps of the Sheep Gate while they stand by debating about what is lawful to do on the Sabbath. Jesus came to set things right. He critiques the religious, but he also doesn’t throw out the Sabbath altogether.

Perhaps what really matters is that we have the response of this invalid when the Jews questioned his dedication to the legal demands of the Sabbath. He put his confidence in the one who healed him and told him to get up and walk instead of his own ability to do everything right according to the powers that be.