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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Lameness of Man-John 5


In this actual, historical event; we 'see' yet another allegory, not unlike the allegory in John 9. As Jesus seemed to do quite a bit; He 'healed' the 'lame man' on the Sabbath, again, to purvey to the Pharisees, and all of His audience, that 'the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath', that it is more important to meet any given need, than to strictly observe the 'letter of the Law', which Paul said, brought only death ( Romans 7:6-10 ).

    'The invalid at the Pool of Bethesda does what almost all of us are wont to do; for he limits the assistance of God according to his own thought........In this we have a mirror of that forbearance of which every one of us has daily experience, when, on the on hand, we keep our attention fixed on the means which are within our reach, and when, on the other hand, contrary to expectation, { H ] e displays { H ] is hand from hidden places, and thus shows how far [ H ] is goodness goes beyond the narrow limits of our faith. Besides this, this example ought to teach us patience. Thirty eight years was a long period, during which God had delayed to render to this poor man the favor which, from the beginning, [ H ] e had determined to confer upon him. However long, therefore, we may be held in suspense, though we groan under our distresses, let us never be discouraged by the tediousness of the lengthened period; for, when our afflictions are long continued, though we discover no termination of them, still, we ought always to believe that God is a wonderful deliver who, by [ H ] is power, easily removes every obstacle out of the way. -John Calvin

Say what you will about the man John Calvin; in this, he was quite right: too often, we are tempted to look at the circumstances surrounding us when we ought to look to God for deliverance! We; through our 'traditions of men', have unwittingly tried to 'place God in box', by our interpretation of Scripture ( for instance ) much as the Pharisees ( and many other Jews ) had done in Jesus' day, and earlier, throughout their history.

Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep [ Gate ] a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water.

We can see that this story takes place, at least, in an identifiable place, giving us greater assurance that this event actually took place. It is interesting to note here, that this story takes place near the Sheep Gate, considering John's recollection of Jesus 'pet' ( II Kings 12:3 ) name for His people, particularly in chapter 10 of his Gospel. What follows, in brackets, is not present in the earliest Greek manuscripts, according to the notes in my NKJV bible. It is certainly possible that the following is true, but it sounds to me like some of the mysticism ( apocryphal book of Tobit, for example ) that had crept into Jewish literature, especially during the inter-testamental period.

[ For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had.[b] ]

Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been [ in that condition ] a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked.


Like John Calvin said above, as I quoted him, 'Thirty eight years was a long period'! Especially after such a long period, as Calvin wrote; we do tend ( naturally ) to get discouraged, and even to feel that God has forsaken us, and forgotten His promise. As Peter wrote though, in relation to His Parousia, 'the Lord is not slack concerning [ His ] promise' ( I Peter 3:9 ). We can take comfort in the fact that when God makes a promise, whether concerning His Presence ( John 14:23 ), or 'healing' ( Isaiah 25:6-8 ); it will happen EXACTLY how & when He said it would ( Genesis 15:4, 18:14 )! We may also take great comfort in the fact that, by delivering His people ( Matthew 1:21 ) from the ravages of sin & death; He has made it possible to use our feeble human bodies to do His will, to be 'the leaves of the tree' ( Revelation 22:2 ), that were 'for the healing of the nations' ( John 14:12 ), even if we have a physical 'disability', and usually because of, and through, our physical ailments!


And that day was the Sabbath. The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed. He answered them, “He who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your bed and walk.’ Then they asked him, “Who is the Man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’? But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in [ that ] place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.

Jesus did this quite a bit, doing His Father's 'work' on the Sabbath, and as usual; the Pharisees were NOT pleased, but, as Jesus was nowhere in sight, the formerly 'lame' man 'got it' first! Not really knowing what had transpired, and why this man would be carrying his bed ( roll ) on a Sabbath; they 'naturally' felt the need to set this man straight, reminding him ( probably quite haughtily ) that 'It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed', which, in a sense, was true enough; their law, which God had prescribed through Moses, & later through prophets like Jeremiah, DID say 'Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the Sabbath day, nor bring [ it ] in by the gates of Jerusalem; nor carry a burden out of your houses on the Sabbath day' ( Jeremiah 17:21 & 22a ( Exodus 35:2 ), but they seemed to have forgotten that God desired 'mercy and not sacrifice' ( Hosea 6:6 ), as Luke recorded in his Gospel ( 13:15, 14:1-6 ), facing a very similar situation; Jesus replied 'Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead [ it ] away to water it?' To emphasize, once again, that 'the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath'; Jesus showed that it is more important to do what is needful ( Matthew 23:33, Luke 11:42 ), whether it was a 'holy day', or not.

Whether just because the crowd was to big, as the text seems to say, or because Jesus knew that the Pharisees would 'get after' Him because of what He had done, He was nowhere to be found when they heard of this infamy that had been perpetrated; 'Healing: on a Sabbath?' 'Blasphemy!', they must have thought, 'there are six days...........' The poor man who had been healed, probably for somewhat the reason that Calvin outlined in my quotation of him, did not even know who it was that told him to 'Rise, take up your bed and walk'. According to the faith ( Matthew 15:28, Mark 5:34 ( Ephesians 2:7 & 8 ) of the 'lame' man, he had been given the power to 'stand on his own two feet', pick up his bed, and immediately to walk! Too often; we find ourselves just sitting in the pews on Sunday, taking as 'gospel' what the preacher says, and maybe even during the week, 'walking' accordingly, when we should be seeking the truth on our own, not waiting for a 'man to put me into the pool' ( hmmmmmmmmmmmm..........) & with the help of the Holy Spirit, of course, learning to stand on our own two feet, take up our pew & follow Him ( Mark 10:21 )!

For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him,[c] because He had done these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God. 
 
Jesus was surely in trouble now, but He didn't stop there; they, in their self-righteousness, had gotten His righteous 'dander' up! 'Sticking His foot in it' even further; He went so far as to tell them He was One and the same with God Himself, reminding them that 'My Father has been working until now, and I have been working', although I think they kinda missed His point, that God didn't observe the Sabbath, per se , because He was always working, but they were really irate now, because, 'how could a 'mere' Man be God?' ( though if they'd 'really' studied the Scriptures, they would have known ). Ignoring their obviously growing ire, actually, downright hatred; Jesus continued to 'dig'; 
 
'Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel.'

So far; Jesus is just further 'digging a hole', continuing to avow His Son-ship, saying that He's only doing what He's seen His Father do. He begins to reveal though, that He will begin to do even greater things than had been seen so far;
For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to [ them, ] even so the Son gives life to whom He will. For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.

Okay; now He'd done it! Sure; they knew the Scriptures: they knew that God had raised the dead before, their histories told them of people like Elijah who had raised the widow's son ( think Luke 7:11-17 ) , recorded in I Kings 17:8-24, but this Man claimed that He would do the same ( actually, Jesus said 'the Son gives life' ), further claiming that the Father had sent Him to mete out judgment to whom He would. This must have really stung, because Jesus then tells them that if they did not honor ( accept ) Him, and what He was doing; they didn't really honor God either, which they claimed to do above all!
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. 
 
Continuing His 'sermon'; Jesus told them that it was not only they that believed in God that would be raised from the dead ( 'at the last day' ( Daniel 12:2 ( John 6:40 ), but that they must also believe that Jesus was who he said He was, the Christ, their 'Messiah'! Again; too much: 'how could a 'mere' Man be God?' 'Blasphemy!' ( Although they claimed later, that 'we do not know where He is from' ( John 9:29 ), they knew exactly where He was from, no doubt knew all about his highly questionable birth, or conception ) They 'knew' that this Man was just a sinner, so His claim, not only to be their Messiah ( the Christ ), but to be One with God; that was just unconscionable!

Now for the historical and covenantal contexts; Jesus said that 'the hour is coming, and now is'; revealing that the promised resurrection, which they 'knew' all about, was upon them ( Judges 16:6-20 ) when those who heard the words of the Messiah, and accepted them as they were, the very words of God, would truly live, for, as He said before, 'He has granted the Son to have life in Himself'. This is true still & is happening still, today. Jesus then said, in fulfillment of Daniel 12:2, and all of the 'old' Covenant promises of a resurrection ( Isaiah 26:19, Ezekiel 37, etc ), 'for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth', and, as prophesied in Daniel, 'this' resurrection would mean the eternal life that some were receiving even now, but for others ( and they 'knew' who those others would be ), it would mean 'shame' and a lasting 'condemnation'!

I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me. If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true. There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true. You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved. He was the burning and shining lamp, and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light. But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish—the very works that I do—bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me. And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form. But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.

Jesus again repeated what He had told them before, that 'the Son can do nothing of Himself'; not only as He has heard from His Father, but as He knows for Himself ( Matthew 9:4 ), having witnessed their evil thoughts ( and actions ) Himself. Probably conjuring up bad memories; Jesus reminded them then, that they had even gotten a 'credible' witness from one of their own ( 'and 'this' guy didn't claim to be God, either ), and that, although Jesus did not need testimony from another man, because the Scriptures, even Moses, in whom they 'professed' to trust, had already testified of Him ( Luke 16:29-31 ( Deuteronomy 18:15 ), John had testified to the Truth ( Matthew 3:11 & 12, John 1:19-34 ).

Paul, a former Pharisee, actually wrote that 'the commandment, which [ was ] to [ bring ] life, I found to [ bring ] death.' Many, I believe, have taken this to be saying that the law was meant to bring life and the Scriptures actually do say, concerning the commandment, that 'if a man does, he shall live by them' ( Leviticus 18:5 ( Romans 10:5 ), but, as he wrote later, to the Galatians, 'the law was our tutor [ to bring us ] to Christ'. True life, as we know, only comes through Christ, as His next words, and the end, for now, of His 'sermon' ( to the Pharisees ) will show. The life promised in the 'old' covenant Scriptures was true life, but it was always and only to be fulfilled in the Christ, who is 'the Way, the Truth, and the Life' ( John 14:6 )!

But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. I do not receive honor from men. But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you. I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God? Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?

It seems like many are quicker to turn to the 'Church Fathers' than to the Word of God, to trust to 'the traditions of men', than sometimes, to the 'plain truth'. Jesus was right there in front of them, but they were so 'blinded' ( II Corinthians 3:14-16 ) by their traditions ( Mark 7:13 ), that they could not 'see' ( Isaiah 6:9 ) that He was the one that Moses, and all the other prophets had written of! Not only had they been 'blinded', they had become so 'lame', by their traditions, that they could not even 'stand on their own two feet' & seeing past their 'bed ( roll-traditions of their 'fathers' )'; acknowledge ( accept ) what was as ( literally ) plain as 'the nose on their face'! In the historical context of Jesus words, as He was about to ( Greek-mello ) pass judgment, adversely at that, Jesus reminded them that it was not He, but Moses, in whom they trusted, and whose disciples they claimed to be ( John 9:28 ) who accused ( condemned ) them. Many today still seek honor from other men, whether through their preaching, writing, or both, sticking to the 'letter of the law', going at it 'by the book', some merely out of ignorance, but most, I believe, out of a misplaced wish to not 'rock the boat', because they have become accustomed to the lifestyle that their 'lameness' has afforded them ( I can literally 'take a lesson' from this as well, as anyone who knows me can attest to! )!

Alluding, once again, to His parable of 'the rich man & Lazarus', in Luke 16; Jesus reminded them & yet reminds His people today that it is not enough to be familiar with the 'traditions of the fathers' ( lest we begin to trust in them-Numbers 21:8- this later became an idol, according to tradition ), but we must get up out of the pews, and seek for ourselves ( again, 'through the Holy Spirit of God' ) the Truth that many have failed to see aright, because of a false reliance on tradition. Let me end on a positive note here; there is not ( necessarily ) anything wrong with 'traditions' themselves, sometimes they can be a good thing, but too often, we begin to trust in those traditions, and forget that our Faith is a Living One, a practicing one, a learning one, and when we 'rest' upon tradition; I believe that, more often than not, our 'muscles' begin to atrophy, and, almost too late, it seems sometimes, we find that we cannot 'stand on our own two feet', much less 'take up our bed, and walk'!

Not forgetting, or forsaking the traditions of our 'fathers' ( unless they warrant it ); let us move on ( Hebrews 6:1-3 ) beyond those traditions, trusting in 'our Father's wise bestowment', 'seeing' and 'walking' on our own!

Humbly. Charles Haddon Shank

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