Jesus Pokes The Bear…Again!

Can God create a rock so big He couldn’t move it?

Hold onto that thought. We’ll get back to it.

Jesus had a way of upsetting the establishment; the religious leaders of his time. He did things that won the favor of the common people, but he enraged the religious leaders! They hated him because he was a threat to their religious laws. What would happen if he was allowed to break the laws that God had put into place?

The word “miracle” is literally the word for “sign”. A sign, something that points towards the true nature of Jesus’ message and mission.

Today’s message was about the third miracle of Jesus as related to us by John.

The Pool of Bethesda, photo credit to Jessie Harrison

In the first century, Jerusalem was occupied by Rome and was greatly influenced by Greek culture. Many sick people gathered by the healing pool in hopes that the water would be stirred and they would be the first to touch the water so they would be healed. The Pool of Bethesda was a healing pool dedicated to the pagan God Asclepius. People believed that every so often an angel or god or spirit would come down and stir the water. The first to touch the water would receive a miraculous healing. This was a survival of the fittest type of healing. The people with the least needs were the ones able to get to the pool first.

Jesus visits this pool and engages with the person who has been there the longest, over 38 years an invalid. He has no hope of reaching the pool.

When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, Do you want to get well?”

”Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in someone else goes down ahead of me.

Then Jesus said, “Get up? Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured, he picked up his mat and walked.

The day in which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “ It is s the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”

John 5:610

This man has just received a miracle that changed his life and the Jewish leaders are concerned that he’s carrying a mat?!

Yes, it was the Sabbath, a day we were commanded to keep holy. But they got hung up on what was “work”. This really is a serious thing to consider. In Numbers 15 is a story of a man picking up sticks on the Sabbath. God tells all the people to stone him to death. Jeremiah he chastises the people of Israel for disrespecting the Sabbath by carrying things around. (Jer. 17) So you can understand their concern, God often punished with famine and war. They certainly didn’t want that to happen.

The mat has nothing to do with the miracle, but it becomes the center of the debate. Jesus comes to poke the bear. How would the religious establishment view a leader who encouraged people to break with traditional interpretations of the Torah… That would make Jesus public enemy #1!

Throughout Jesus’ ministry he was followed by religious leaders. They sought to trip him up, abated him, studied him. They tried to publicly shame him with tests, tricks, and traps.

We would expect that people would have been in awe when they realized Jesus was restoring the image of God. But instead they attacked him on the grounds of breaking the Sabbath. When he referred to God as his father they began to plot against him.

The lesson here is to expect hostility from all angles when God is at work. Jesus is working just like his father. Expect it from the place you would least think it would come.

So because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. Jesus said the them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too, am working.”

John 5:16-17

Did he really just say he was the Son of God? Talk about poking the bear! He tells them he is “working”! Jesus could have chosen his words a little more carefully…but, no, he stirs the pot. He has the authority to live above the law.

Can God create a rock that even He can’t lift? Absolutely. Can He then choose to lifet it? Again, absolutely! Does God have the authority to move beyond the rules and rituals of His own holy book to do things in an entirely new way? Yes, yes He does. Until we can understand this, nothing Jesus says or does will make any sense.

Do you trust/believe Jesus enough to leave your mat?

  • We can never earn our salvation by adhering to religious laws
  • Jesus is the culmination of all the laws
  • It’s all about the grace of Jesus

It’s important that we grasp that it’s not about religious rules. That’s not how we receive salvation. It comes by the grace of Jesus, faith in God, because he’s doing a new thing.

If we don’t grasp this, it ends one of two ways. We either give up trying and fall further away from God, thinking we will never be good enough. Or we will cling to religion until we squeeze all the grace, compassion, and mercy out of it.

We have to decide what really matters. Is it what the world says, what religion says, or what people say about the condition we’re in? It all ends with Jesus.

What’s your mat? You can’t move on without leaving where you are. We begin to make our mats more homey if we stay there too long. What’s keeping you on your mat?

Do you want to get well?

Jesus is the end of all discussion, the culmination of the law. He will tell us to pick up our mats and in doing so he pokes the bear.

Jesus doesn’t ask us how we got here…he asks if we want to move on. He asks if we want to get well.

Always challenged to continue to grow in my faith. When I walk through the doors on Sunday morning, I anticipate that the sermon is going to be thought provoking; that I’m going to be challenged to look at the Bible stories I’ve heard so many times in a different perspective. I think that’s a good thing and it keeps me intrigued to find out more on my own.

In Faith,


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