Summary: Why would Jesus heal a man on the Sabbath and then tell the man (in violation of the Sabbath rules of the Pharisees) to pick up his mat and walk?
OPEN: There’s a story I read once of 3 umpires who were talking about the feeling of power they had on the baseball field. As they talked about what gave them this sense of empowerment, the 1st umpire said – “I call ‘em as I see ‘em.”
The 2nd smiled and said, “That ain’t nothing. I call ‘em as they are.”
And the 3rd ump lifted his chin and said: “Well boys… until I call ‘em… they ain’t nothing.”
APPLY: In our story this morning we have three major players: There’s Jesus, the lame man… and the Jews (undoubtedly led by the Pharisees). The Pharisees were the self-appointed set of “umpires” in Israel. The Pharisees “called ‘em as they saw ‘em” … and even when they didn’t see ‘em, they still called ‘em. If there was law in the Old Testament was too vague the Pharisees would “clarify it” for God. For example, the Law declared it was illegal to work on the Sabbath, but it didn’t define what work was… so the Pharisees helped God out on that. I’m told that The Pharisees defined 1521 ways that you might break the Sabbath
• For instance, if the wick of your lamp burned out on the Sabbath, you couldn’t replace it. You had to remain in the darkness.
• You couldn’t cut your fingernails, tie a knot, or kill a fly or a flea.
• Women were not allowed to look in the mirror because they might see a gray hair and pull it out – which would have been reaping.
AND of course, as we saw in our story this morning, you weren’t allowed to heal someone on the Sabbath.
Now the story we read this morning is the 3rd of the signs/miracles that John focused on in his Gospel. It is also (perhaps) one of the most unique of the miracles that Jesus performed. John 5:1-8 tells us
"Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, 'Do you want to be healed?'
The sick man answered him, 'Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.'
Jesus said to him, 'Get up, take up your bed, and walk.'"
Now, for years skeptics claimed that this pool never existed. The very idea of people supposedly would go down to this pool in the hopes of being “healed” strained the imagination of critics, who mocked the belief this had ever occurred. They concluded that this was just a story made up by John as window dressing.
But THEN somebody found the pool!
(We showed a picture of the present day site) It took a lot of digging because over the centuries, one layer of the city was built on top of the other. You can see how deep this pool is now.
But back in the days of Jesus, it looked more like this: (we showed an artist’s conception of the Bethesda with the Temple close at hand). It was close by the sheep gate where sheep that were sacrificed were brought into the city. As you can see, the pool is not too far from the temple itself.