In the previous post, we studied John 5:1-6, the story of Jesus’ in Jerusalem, asking a hurting man if he wants to be healed. What does the man want? We find out in verses 7-9.
“’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 to him, ‘Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.’ At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.”
That’s two miracles in a row! The first we studied earlier this week here. In that previous post about John 4:46-54, Jesus healed a man’s son who was on his deathbed, and the man and his whole family responded to the miracle by believing in Jesus. Now we have another piece of evidence to place faith in Jesus. Will the man in Jerusalem also place his faith in Jesus?
John tells us, as we read above, the man, now healed, just walks away, as you would if it’s been 38 years since you walked! You indulge in it! But it means that both Jesus and the man disappear into crowd that would have been in Jerusalem for the feast. They don’t talk further, at least not yet. But the man does talk to other people. Look at the middle of verse 9 through verse 13:
“The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.” But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ” So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?” The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.”
Oh boy…trouble is brewing. The Jewish leaders, probably Pharisees, because they were hyper-concerned about this kind of thing, question the man, “Who did this?!?!” As if someone had injured the man or mugged him. No, someone healed him, and then told him to pick up his mat and walk. I find it interesting how the healed man responds to the religious leaders.
Also notice how different the healed man’s response is as compared to the royal official’s response in the previous story. The royal official and his whole family believed in Jesus. But this healed man? It seems he lets his fear of the religious leaders get the best of him.
When questioned by the religious leaders for carrying his mat on the Sabbath, the man says, “The man who healed me told me to pick up my mat and walk!” I see fear all over his answer. Think about it. You’ve just been healed, after 38 years of desiring healing, and then when asked by a healer if you want to be healed, you say, “Yes!”. But then you don’t honor and protect the man who healed you?
We could be really hard on the healed man for not sticking up for Jesus. But frankly, let’s turn the lens on ourselves first. We are ones who have been abundantly blessed by God. Some of us have experienced physical healing ourselves. We could all count our blessings. And yet, while we may not betray Jesus, we can sure ignore him. I wonder how that makes him feel? Keep that in mind. We forget our blessings so fast. Instead, we can fixate on the times we did not receive what we hoped for. Or, like the man, we can allow fear of reprisal from others, keep us quiet about the blessings we’ve received.
Back to the story. Were the leaders upset at the healing or at Jesus’ saying the man should carry his mat on the Sabbath, and thus break the law? They likely viewed both the healing and the mat-carrying as illegal on the Sabbath. At this point, we only have a foreshadowing. John seems to include the interaction between the healed man and the religious leaders to add a tone of ominous threat to the story.
Staying with that ominous theme, Jesus himself gets a bit dark in verse 14, and we’ll find out how in the next post.