Summary: This sermon uses a non-traditional style to expound the text. A court proceeding is set up and narrated to communicate Jesus’ confrontation with religious leaders of His day. It was fun to preach!

Guilty or Not Guilty

Fortifying the Foundations # 13

John 5:16-47[1]



I want you to come with me to a courtroom this morning.

There with the prosecution at this table[2] are a number of well-dressed men. They are well known in the community, experts in the law and highly respected leaders.

Over at the defense table is one man. He has friends but they are not community leaders. Most are uneducated workers with limited knowledge of the law. The defendant is defending himself. Two indictments have been brought against him. Both are capital offenses carrying the death penalty.[3]

I invite you to participate in the proceedings as the jury.

Judge: Is the prosecution ready to present your case to the court?

Prosecutor: We are, your honor.

Judge: You may proceed.

Prosecutor: Indictment #1, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is a flagrant violation of penal code 35.2 of Exodus, which reads, “For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day shall be your holy day, a Sabbath of rest to the LORD. Whoever does any work on it must be put to death.”

We call the court’s attention to a precedent setting case known as “The State verses Joseph Stickgatherer”. That case, found in Num 15.32 through 36 is hereby read into the court record:

“While the Israelites were in the desert, a man was found gathering wood on the

Sabbath day. 33Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and

Aaron and the whole assembly, 34and they kept him in custody, because it was

not clear what should be done to him. 35Then the LORD said to Moses, "The man

must die. The whole assembly must stone him outside the camp." 36So the

assembly took him outside the camp and stoned him to death, as the LORD

commanded Moses.” NIV

The specific events of the violation before the court today concerns a command given by the defendant to Mr. Poolside Matcarrier to pick up his mat and carry it on the Sabbath day. As our first witness we call to the stand Mr. Poolside Matcarrier.

Bailiff: Rev. Rigidlaw, raise your hand. Do you swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. So help you God?

Witness: I do.

Bailiff: You may be seated.

Prosecutor: Mr. Matcarrier, please tell the court in your own words what occurred during the resent Passover festivities on the morning of April 13th.

Witness: Well, as I have done for several years, I positioned myself as close to the Pool of Bethesda as I could possibly get waiting for the waters to be troubled.

Prosecutor: And why was that important to you?

Witness: I had been an invalid for thirty-eight years and I would always come there hoping to be the first in the Pool and be healed of my terrible affliction. Not having anyone to help me in, I had never made it into the pool in time. But on this particular day a stranger walked up to me and asked me a very strange question.”

Prosecutor: And Mr. Matcarrier, what did he ask you?

Witness: He asked me if I wanted to get well. I explained to him the disappointment I had experienced over and over during recent years and then an amazing thing happened.

Prosecutor: And what was that, Mr. Matcarrier?

Witness: He looked into my eyes with the most moving look of love and compassion you could ever imagine and simply said to me, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk”. That was the most beautiful moment in all my life. To my own surprise I did what he told me to do and in the process I was completely healed. It was so wonderful to walk again. Tears of joy just flowed down my cheek and...”

Prosecutor: Yes, yes, ok—but tell me, Mr. Matcarrier, did you carry you mat on the Sabbath day?

Witness: Well, yes I did but let me tell you how this whole experience changed my life.

Prosecutor: Mr. Matcarrier, just answer the questions. Is this the mat that you carried that day?

Witness: Yes.

Prosecutor: We submit this very used mat as exhibit number one.

Judge: The mat will be designated as exhibit number one.

Prosecutor: Now, can you identify the man who told you to so flagrantly violate the Sabbath law?

Witness: Well yes, at first I didn’t even know his name. Can you imagine that—not even thinking to ask him his name? But later when I was at the temple he found me and that’s when I learned who he was. It was at the temple he addressed the very cause of my affliction and warned me not to fall back into the iniquity that got me into trouble in the first place. You know, I knew exactly what he was talking about. Years ago I...”

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