Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Mercy Versus Legalism

Mercy is more important than trying harder.

John 5:1-18  Afterward Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days.  2  Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches.  3  Crowds of sick people--blind, lame, or paralyzed--lay on the porches [waiting for a certain movement of the water,]

5  One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years.  6  When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, He asked him, "Would you like to get well?"

7  "I can't, sir," the sick man said, "for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me."  8  Jesus told him, "Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!"

9  Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking! But this miracle happened on the Sabbath,  10  so the Jewish leaders objected. They said to the man who was cured, "You can't work on the Sabbath! The law doesn't allow you to carry that sleeping mat!"

11  But he replied, "The man who healed me told me, 'Pick up your mat and walk.'"  12  "Who said such a thing as that?" they demanded.  13  The man didn't know, for Jesus had disappeared into the crowd.  14  But afterward Jesus found him in the Temple and told him, "Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you."

15  Then the man went and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had healed him.  16  So the Jewish leaders began harassing Jesus for breaking the Sabbath rules.  17  But Jesus replied, "My Father is always working, and so am I."  18  So the Jewish leaders tried all the harder to find a way to kill Him. For He not only broke the Sabbath, He called God His Father, thereby making Himself equal with God.

People around the world look for help through superstition and religious expressions that don't have any ability to help. In today's verses there are hundreds of people that sit by a pool waiting for the water to move because they believe that the first one in gets a prize. On this day Jesus chooses to meet with just one of them.

It's the same as it was for the woman that was on her way to a well in Samaria, Jesus had a plan to interact with certain people, his plan guided every step that he took. Unlike Nicodemus the woman at the well and this man at the pool were not looking for Jesus and when they first meet him they have no idea who he is.

Jesus Power

Jesus knew how to start a conversation, "Would you like to get well?" The man's response implies that he wants to be well but he is hopeless to be healed at this pool because he is friendless. Nobody is there to help him get in.

Maybe this guy is hoping that Jesus will be nice enough to put him into the pool the next time the water is stirred but instead he received his healing without delay. He was able to walk and he was able to pick up his mat and carry it off with him.

Notice the spiritual condition of this man, he didn't have faith that Jesus could heal him, he still didn't know who was telling him to get up and walk. Jesus choose to work in his life without any prerequisite amount of faith or belief, Jesus choose to work in his life when the man couldn't do anything to earn an intervention from Jesus. It was completely up to Jesus!

If Jesus could stand over this man and speak the recreation of his muscle tissue, then he could easily speak our world into existence.

Jesus Authority

What a shame that this man's story is marred by one fact. It looks like a happy time to us and a celebration is in order but everybody around him probably watched in horror as they saw him pick up his mat. They probably wanted to scream out to him to let it go.

Why couldn't Jesus wait a few hours and heal this man right after the Sabbath ended? Why did Jesus feel that it was necessary to go meet this one particular man and heal him alone? Jesus had a point to make and he would work through this man to make his point.

Jesus wanted to address the area of the religious leaders greatest sin, he wasn't just trying to antagonize them and stir things up for no reason, if Jesus stirs things up it is to show you something that you need to see. It is always disturbing when our sin gets pointed out.

Jesus Knowledge

Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time and besides that he also knew the reason for his illness. Sickness was blamed almost always on somebody making God mad at them. That was a teaching that was true of the pagan gods of ancient times.

We don't know if he straightened up his life and took Jesus advice to stop sinning. We do know that he exhibited some amount of faith when he got up, picked up his mat and started walking. We know that he was in the temple just a few minutes later when Jesus introduced himself to the man. Was he in the temple to praise God for healing him?
The New High Priest
Hebrews 4:15-16  This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same testings we do, yet He did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
The religious leaders in the temple that day were amazed that someone would dare break their rules about keeping the Sabbath. They didn't realize the the person that made the original Sabbath rules was the one that was breaking their man made rules.The original law about the Sabbath had been expanded by the religious establishment, they had made it impossible to do anything but sit in a corner all day.

Are you passionate about your list of rules? Legalism is usually self serving, whoever is in charge of the list of rules is usually the one that is in control of everything and their passion for the rules is usually for their own benefit.
Isaiah 55:7 Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong. Let them turn to the LORD that He may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for He will forgive generously.
The appeal to Christianity is that it teaches mercy and forgiveness. Every other religious system points to their list and pulls out their scales to see how you measure up. Satan wants to get your focus off of grace and onto performance. His strategy is to beat you up with your inability to keep the entire list of rules.

Thank God we have a new High Priest that doesn't want us to live in fear for twenty-four hours. The old high priest was cold and heartless, instead of mercy and instead of rejoicing that someone is healed he points to his list of rules and lets you know which ones you are breaking.
Hosea 6:6 I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know Me more than I want burnt offerings.
Are you passionate for Jesus? Our new High Priest wants a relationship, he sympathizes with us, he knows how it feels to hurt, and he knows how it feels to be tempted. The new High Priest wants genuine worship, he wants our motivation to obey his teaching to come from love for him and hatred for sin.

Help us Lord to follow your example and become more merciful and forgiving.