Those of us who love to read the gospel stories about Jesus occasionally gloss over the fact that he wasn’t always adored. He was always right, right? Always God, yes? He always responded …
Those of us who love to read the gospel stories about Jesus occasionally gloss over the fact that he wasn’t always adored. He was always right, right? Always God, yes? He always responded correctly in every situation? Yes, that’s one advantage of being God.
So how did Jesus manage to be hated by so many people?
In an extraordinary one-time event, God interfaced with humanity for the sole purpose of saving mankind from the eternal consequence of sin. So what can we learn from the vignettes where Jesus appeared to be a scoundrel?
His third documented miracle was recorded in John 5:1–9. It’s one of the times Jesus was judged to be a villain: Soon another Feast came around and Jesus was back in Jerusalem. Near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem there was a pool, in Hebrew called Bethesda, with five alcoves. Hundreds of sick people — blind, crippled, paralyzed — were in these alcoves. One man had been an invalid there for 38 years. When Jesus saw him stretched out by the pool and knew how long he had been there, he said, “Do you want to get well?”
The sick man said, “Sir, when the water is stirred, I don’t have anybody to put me in the pool. By the time I get there, somebody else is already in.”
Jesus said, “Get up, take your bedroll, start walking.” The man was healed on the spot. He picked up his bedroll and walked off.
When the man told people that Jesus healed him on the Sabbath, the traditional Jewish day of rest, many Jewish people became upset, and they sought to kill Jesus.
To the Jewish legal scholars, Jesus was a villain. He broke “the law.” Every Jewish follower in the ancient world knew this one thing: You don’t work on the Sabbath.
Never. Ever. No excuses.
There might be some vague legal phrases that only the Pharisees knew. This wasn’t one of them. This was something everybody knew and obeyed.
But the Pharisees? Every Sabbath was their big show-off day. They understood all the fine points of “the law,” and they loved to make sure everybody knew they knew them. In fact, over the centuries they added and expanded hundreds of rules and regulations, to the point of absurdity by our cultural standards. The Pharisees studied six days-a-week. On day seven, they made sure no one was breaking any of the laws and interpretations they revered.
Nobody in Israel dared work outside the home on God’s Holy Sabbath.
This week I’ve heard two entirely different scenarios “in the church” where leaders did what they knew to be the right thing, but are accused of breaking “the law.” What is this dynamic law that every Christian knows and must follow?
“Everyone who follows Jesus must be consistently kind, loving and cheerful … and never make anyone unhappy.”
Never. Ever. No excuses.
Which brings me to this question: Why did Jesus heal on the Sabbath?
He was surely acting against the Pharisaical interpretation of the law and against their particular rules. But the Holy One of God, who came to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:17), did not violate it. The reason Jesus healed on the Sabbath was that people needed His help.
God maintains no calendar.
This scripture is a powerful reminder that God hears and responds to our needs every minute of every day.
Sometimes we have to make peace with the fact that we are the villain in someone else’s life, even when we’re doing the right thing.
We don’t get to tell other people how to narrate their story.
Sylvia Peterson is former co-pastor for Bald Hill Community Church and the author of “The Red Door: Where Hurt and Holiness Collide,” which can be purchased at Amazon or Barnes & Noble. She and her husband are chaplains for the Bald Hills Fire Department. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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