by César De León Ph.D LMFT, Ministerial Director for the North Pacific Union Conference
I was transferred last week, in light of our world church reports and thoughtful responses, to the story John recounts about the man Jesus came to heal after walking 67 miles on a Sabbath afternoon. This account has moved me since childhood, perhaps because one of my childhood buddies, Rafael, was crippled. As the rest of us kids played soccer, kickball and baseball, Rafael would characteristically stand on the sidelines. Leaning on his crutches, he’d stand content to watch his neighborhood buddies work up a sweat. I also like this story because of the depiction of the extreme situations it recounts, like the 38 years this man had been laying in the same spot, or the sudden, extreme restoration he goes through in the blinking of an eye.
Paradoxically, these “holy leaders” mutated. One proud moment they are fanatical observants of the law, particularly of the fourth commandment, and the next moment they have morphed into ruthless, conniving sixth commandment offenders.
I can only imagine what this formally crippled man may have been thinking: “Don’t you guys recognize me? You must know that I am the same man you’ve seen parked next to the pool of Bethesda for 38 years? You must have noticed me at some point. Look at me! I’m walking for heaven’s sake! I’ve been healed. . .” However, the only response he gets from his spiritual leaders is: “But it is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.” (Verse 10). Never mind that this crippled man had just been healed! De-nile is not just a river in Egypt; in fact, it’s a vital ingredient in self-deception which runs deep and wide in our Christian communities.
Under the beguiling mindset of self-deception, the only thing that is vital, is what’s most important to me; never mind the moving of the Spirit in others’ lives. My focus is so exclusively attuned to what is important to me, that I have no interest or curiosity in even acknowledging the possibility that there may be something else of eternal significance occurring right before my eyes. Like the spiritual leaders of old, I may become totally blinded to the profoundly obvious supernatural miracles that the Spirit of God may be empowering. Everything that does not align with my personal agenda or priorities eclipses the phenomenological needs and experiences of others. Let’s just ignore (deny) Christ’s mission and agenda. My AGENDA becomes the only important matter at hand! Sound familiar?
Later that day, when Jesus finds the healed man in the temple, he tells him that He is his healer. The man runs to tell the religious leaders that it was Jesus who had healed him. (verse 14-15). The obsessed keepers of the fourth commandment then began to plot out the murder of Jesus; because after all, the fourth commandment is far more important than the other commandments, right? “For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath.” (Ver. 16).
Finally, ALL THE CONDITIONS ARE SET FOR THE NEXT CUT: JESUS HAS SET THE STAGE, LIGHTS ARE ON, CAMERAS ARE ROLLING, THE PEOPLE ARE LISTENING . . . AND NOW JESUS GETS READY TO SAY SOME OF THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS HE WILL SAY DURING HIS EARTHLY MINISTRY. Are you ready to hear it? Continue reading