In John 5 we have the story of Jesus healing a man on the Sabbath. Like we saw in John 4, Jesus does not always do things that fall in line with our expectations. Before we get to that let’s have a look at the conversation with the lame man. It starts with a condition, paralysis that leads to a question, “Do you want to get well?” I think that parallels our relationship with Jesus quite well. The one who has the power to heal comes to us in all of our weakness and asks us the same question. If we respond through faith in the affirmative, he will come and make us whole as well.
Like this lame man, when the initial invitation comes from Christ for spiritual renewal, we probably will not completely understand the offer – we may equate it with things other than Christ. The words of Christ break ground in a life that has formed its opinions by what the contemporary culture has said in the past – try dipping in this pool or that, try to get in first or last, go here or there…these words of Christ give a seed of hope to a life that has heard all of the empty promises before. Faith starts to take shape as this new message competes with all of the old. As the conversation unfolds it becomes clear that healing is not found in pools or by magical or angel empowered water, it comes only through the Son of God. The next thing you know the legs have feeling again and the 38 year perspective of seeing things from three feet off the ground expands as he takes to his feet for the first time in decades and sees the Christ eye-to-eye.
The Jews had a real problem with Jesus healing on the Sabbath. It all boils down to an authority issue. Since they believed Jesus was not the Son of God then he certainly didn’t have any right to work on the Sabbath. The Jews acknowledged that some work was done on the Sabbath, one out of seven circumcisions would have been performed on the Sabbath, but that was an exception because God required that it be done (that is probably part of what Jesus was referencing in 5:17 – “my Father is at work to this very day.”). For Jesus to legitimately do work on the Sabbath was to put himself on level with God. That is precisely what he was doing. The Jews didn’t message the message behind the actions and that is why they wanted to kill him. He could have waited until Sunday or Monday or come a day early and done it on a Friday but he didn’t. He had a point to make – God is not constrained by our presupposition of what he can and cannot do. Neither is Christ, as God in the flesh bound by them. If they were we would have authority over them and they would have to fall in line with our opinions, rules, and regulations. Thank goodness they don’t!
Jesus goes on to talk about life that comes through belief in him and a resurrection that is in store for those who have faith in the Christ. We are reminded that believing in Jesus is not “ho-hum,” “run of the mill,” or “ordinary.” Many of us have believed since our youth that is seems quite ordinary to believe in Jesus. In reality it goes counter to all the messages that the world has to send our way. It is a light in the darkness, truth amongst lies, life in the midst of death. Church is plagued with people who have fallen into “status quo” Christianity, people who believe the message of Christ is quite ordinary. Tell me, when was the last time you saw God die for someone? Is that happening every couple of weeks to make it seem quite ordinary? I sure don’t think so. Let’s live mindful of the fact that the message we have for the world isn’t and never has been ordinary. No, it is extraordinary.