Rising above the Rules

April 19, 2019 at 2:26 pm | Posted in John | 4 Comments
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Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.

John 5:2-3

What made these handicapped folks think that this pool could help them? They thought an angel would come along every now and then and cause a noticeable disturbance in the water, and that the first one – but ONLY the first one – to enter the water would be healed or “made whole.”

And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.

John 5:5

Was this man desperate? Or perhaps only resigned? He had been “infirm” – lacking firmness – for 38 years. Some commentators see in this detail a symbolic reference to the inability of the Israelites to heal themselves of the unbelief that kept them wandering in the wilderness for 38-40 years.

When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?

John 5:6

Jesus saw him “lie.” He was lying down, but he was also perhaps being less than completely honest when he said:

The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.

John 5:7

That wasn’t really an answer to what Jesus asked him: “Wilt thou be made whole?” “Do you want to be healed?”

Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.

John 5:8

Jesus did not engage in a lengthy dialogue. He just gave a simple direct command.

And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath.

John 5:9

He was healed and STRENGTHENED – “made whole” – instantaneously or immediately.

The Pharisees had developed 39 rules concerning the Sabbath. These were not part of Scripture, but were given authority by them AS THOUGH they were part of Scripture. This is one of the meanings of legalism – adding man-made rules or traditions to God’s Word and trying to endow them with binding authority. One of the 39 rules forbade carrying anything.

The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed.

John 5:10

This gives us telling insight about the Jewish religious leaders and their psychological mindset, their pride, and the object of their praise. They worshiped the Sabbath itself to the exclusion of the Lord of the Sabbath.

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  1. […] woman about drawing and drinking water from a well (John 4), where do you think He went in John 5? To a pool of water, of […]

  2. […] the man near the pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath, we can see how the response of the Jewish leaders revealed more about them than about the man who was […]

  3. […] The attitude of the religious leaders – even supposing that they HAD the power to heal the woman – would have been, “Wait, let’s not heal her on the Lord’s special day. Let her keep suffering so that it doesn’t interfere with our rule-keeping.” […]

  4. […] For the Pharisees who opposed Jesus during His earthly ministry, their “pet peeve” seems to have been people who were lax in their observance of the Sabbath day (4th Commandment). They were so keen to prevent the Sabbath commandment from being violated that they fashioned a bunch of additional cautionary rules around it to keep people from even coming close to breaking it. Maybe they originally had good intentions, but the problem was that, over time, they considered these man-made safeguards to be co-equal with the Law of God itself. In other words, they began to worship the Sabbath itself rather than the Lord of the Sabbath. […]


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