John 5: Building Our Own System
It is easy for people to miss the obvious when they become too focused on the particular, and we see that happen with some Jewish people in John 5. Jesus had just healed a man who was unable to walk, and even though you would think that everyone would be happy for the obvious good news, the people were not.
Joh 5:9 And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath.
Joh 5:10 The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed.
Joh 5:11 He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk.
I think about this because the obvious good news is that the man was healed. Healing is a great thing. However, rather than focus on that overarching happy event, it became a question of whether or not he should be carrying his bed on the Sabbath.
I find it interesting that Jesus was making a very strong statement. He obviously knew it was the Sabbath, and He would’ve known that in Jewish culture it was considered to be a sin to carry any type of a burden on the Sabbath.
However, He would have also known that the Sabbath, while entirely Biblical and important as a direct commandment from God, had become entirely legalistic in Jewish culture. The Shabbat Laws are actually really interesting to read about, and they seem to be based upon how to understand the prohibition on “work.” Because of the different understandings of what “work” meant, a system of laws was developed to outline what was permissible activity on the Sabbath.
On one hand, I admire the effort. I think that we all should do whatever we can to try to follow what God has for us. God said not to “work” on the Sabbath, so it does make sense to try to understand what that means so that we can conform to what God has for us. However, what seems to have resulted was a system of man-made laws on top of the baseline commandment from God, and based on the complexity of that law, no one would be able to follow it perfectly I have a feeling.
What then would Jesus perhaps be talking about here? Maybe this is what happens when we try to impose our own guidelines on top of what the Bible has taught us. Maybe Jesus is saying that keeping the Sabbath is good, but maybe our human structure of how to go about doing that was not quite perfect. After all, Jesus would not command this man to sin, so if the law understood this as a sin, and then it was a human error rather than one on the part of Jesus.
Maybe then we need to think about our own lives. Maybe, like this man, we need to be more concerned about following what Jesus tells us to do than putting our own system in place.