lame | John 5.8-13
Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath. 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.” But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. John 5.8-13 | ESV
Jesus says to him, “It’s time to get up. Up with you, and take your mat too. It’s time for you to move.” And before the man had time to even think about it, the man’s feet were healed and whole – right on the spot! And no sooner were they healed than he was on them, and he started stepping over other members of this lame and paralyzed congregation – their eyes still fixed on the pool, waiting for movement there.
One more detail, though. This just happened to be on a Sabbath day – a day filled with rules about what you could or could not do.
And so the strict sect of the Jewish people simply had to weigh in on this, citing the fracture of the Sabbath law #38.125 “Thou shalt not carry thy mat on the Sabbath Day” to this man who had just been healed and who now walked for the first time in a very long time. The healed man naturally responded, “Well, the guy that made me healthy and whole said, ‘Pick up your mat and get moving.’” Looking past the healing and focusing on the infraction of the rules, they asked him, “Just who is it that said to you ‘Pick up your mat and walk’?” And the healed man didn’t have a clue, because Jesus had slipped away into the ever-present crowd in those porches. He hadn’t even thought to ask him his name. Or to thank him. MAV (Mike’s Amplified Version)
I’m not sure which amazes me more – the now-healed lame man who didn’t have a clue who had healed him (I think it’s called being self-absorbed, but then who of us could blame him?) or the religious “police” who aren’t impressed by the miracle but only with how it compromises the rules.
But then, I shouldn’t be amazed at either, for this is us, isn’t it?
The miracle of today becomes the expectation of tomorrow, and rather than being the occasion for thanksgiving and reflection, we consume it, wipe our mouth, and ask, “So what’s next?”
I guess it’s called “consumerism.”
And if the story of Jesus healing the ten lepers is any indication (see Luke 17:11-19) this is what happens nine out of ten times. But then there are the Pharisees, the “strict sect,” who only look up from their pages when someone from the porches, who happens to have just been healed after being lame for thirty-eight years, goes walking by carrying his mat as instructed. On go the lights and sirens. It’s a Sabbath citation.
There were, we are told, some thirty-nine categories of forbidden Sabbath day activities, and the man formerly lame for thirty-eight years stood in violation of one of the thirty-nine.
What a sign of true Sabbath that a man lame for decades could be cited for a moving violation on the Sabbath day!
But they just saw the violation and wrote him up anyway.
But then, perhaps most lame of all – the multitude of invalids over whom one of their former companions has to step, one after another, carrying his palliative mat with him, and evidently none of them notices him. At least that’s what I imagine. I see their eyes still either glued to the pool, waiting for the water to move – perhaps annoyed at this guy walking past them, blocking their view (“Hey, move, buddy! I can’t see the pool!”), or glazed over, staring off lamely into space, a resigned dull gaze at nothing.
One of my favorite lines of poetry comes from Browning: “Earth’s crammed with heav’n, and every common bush afire with God.”
But O how we can miss it.
What miracles, blessings, divine encounters can you stop, right now, and mark with celebration and thanksgiving? What has God done in your life in the past twenty-four hours?
Abba, wake me up to the reality of your goodness, your wonders, your work in and through my life. Arrest the blank, numbing gaze that misses your presence in this moment either through ignorance or distraction, and draw my eyes to the common bush afire with you right here and now. Through Jesus.