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[July 10, 2009]
-- "Jesus said to him,
'stand up, take your mat and walk.'"-John 5:8
This healing story is working on several different levels. First,
Jesus is healing a man who had been sick for 38 years. The man was
lying by the Bethzatha pool, known in those days for its healing
powers, but he had no one to help him into the pool. Jesus asks the
man if he would like to be made well, the man of course says "yes,"
and Jesus calmly tells him to take his mat, stand up and walk.
The man does exactly this for, what we can only assume, is the
first time in 38 years. In this sense it is a basic healing story.
Except that Jesus performed this miracle on the Sabbath, the holy
day of rest. And in this lies the controversy. You see, nothing like
this was to be done on the Sabbath. The man was not supposed to
carry his mat on the Sabbath and Jesus certainly should not have
healed anyone on the Sabbath. The religious leaders were very angry
about all this and, once again, threatened to kill Jesus.
Our first response to this controversy is often to curse the
religious leaders. Those fools, we think, couldn't they tell that
their rules didn't matter in the face of Jesus' ministry? But when
we do this we gloss over one thing. Technically, they were correct.
Technically, according to the law, Jesus was in the wrong. He should
not have done what he did but in his actions he calls our attention
to an often unnoticed conflict; the conflict between that which is
good (healing) and that which is just (following the law). Today we
often assume the laws are correct. They are there for a reason, we
surmise, and ought to be obeyed. But sometimes, often in some cases,
the law is not good. How can it be? Even Jesus says, "only God is
good," and while we may root our laws in God, they themselves are
not good. Today we too can casually dismiss the good, even be
infuriated by it, just because it is not in accordance with the law.
I am not going to make a list for you but if you put your mind to it
you can probably come up with a few instances where the law is not
good. It may be just, but it is not good. So on this day I invite
you to spend some time pondering this contradiction between the
justice of the law and the occasional goodness of breaking it and
see if, in some ways, we may not have more in common with those
religious leaders than we think.
Prayer: Holy God, help me to distinguish between the
justice of the law and your goodness. Help me to see those places
where the law is counter to that which is good. I pray in the name
of Jesus the Christ. Amen.
[text from file received by Phil Blackburn, First Presbyterian