When seeking to understand eternal truth our human minds can only grasp at the edges. This encounter with a cripple at the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem reminds me of how we can get it wrong and then impose our wrong beliefs on others. Confusion always abounds when creating theology that deals with the human condition. In this encounter I saw the religious leaders use their theology as a battering ram to seek to break Jesus.
This time we met a crippled man. His life was an eternity of failed hope. Disappointment had etched deep lines on his face, and the hopelessness of his situation touched his eyes. He had waited without success for nearly four decades to be healed.
Jesus started talking to this man, asking him questions about why he was there and why he hadn’t been healed. Jesus brought with him a presence of authority. The man had no idea who Jesus was. I am guessing he thought he was some kind person who may be able to help him get to the pool if the waters were stirred up.
Jesus then instructed the man to simply pick up his mat and walk! Amazingly the man did this.
This grabbed the religious leader’s attention immediately. Something had happened that was outside the rules. Firstly the pool wasn’t stirred up and secondly this was the Sabbath and if someone was healed and then carried their mat they had “worked”. They picked up on the work and forgot about the healing.
The religious leaders interrogated the crippled man. You could see the fear in their eyes as they sought to understand what was happening. They wanted to know every detail of the man’s encounter with Jesus.
The insecurity of these leaders was growing as more signs were being performed that were uncovering the lies that had been constructed. There was a hint of desperation about their questions as they saw their power base being threatened.
Insecurity makes it impossible for someone to be friends with anyone. When I looked at the religious leaders it was becoming very clear that they had to make Jesus their enemy. In their world there could only be a winner and a loser. They were going to fight to the death to be the winner.
Work for work’s sake is futile activity,
Slavery to an endless list of tasks,
Only to achieve a bigger paycheck is futile,
They are illusions of success,
Rest is important too,
It teaches us that God provides.
Later on that day we met the healed man again. He was in the Temple, giving God praise for what had happened to him. Jesus was very clear in his instruction, “Stop sinning now, otherwise you will return to the despair that you had during all those years when you waited for healing.”
Those of us who were close to Jesus started to realise some things that we didn’t know when we started out. The obvious thing was the growing conflict between Jesus and the religious leaders. It was becoming very clear that they hated Jesus. Even though their questions were polite you could hear and see the contempt in their voices and eyes. Sometimes I was chilled to the core when the raw hatred was seen from close quarters.
Jesus was fearless in his presentation of the truth. Even when surrounded by contemptuous glares he did not back away from what needed to be said. The new reality was that the Voice, the Breath and the Flesh’s desire to love us humans was going to be declared to the whole world.
This meant that forgiving love would set us free from the burden of sin. I know this burden because every day is littered with my own broken standards. Then when the religious leaders standards are imposed over my own standards I come out feeling a complete failure.
The secret that Jesus was revealing when he healed the crippled man was that rest belongs to God. It’s not some legalistic predetermined day. When we enter fully into the community of the Voice, the Breath and the Flesh we discover rest.