There is something particularly vicious about telling a man who had been paralyzed to stop what he’s doing. Every fiber of his being wants to move!
Let me back up. The Bethesda Pool in Jerusalem is a remarkable place both for what happened there two thousand years ago, but also what has happened there in more modern times. For years, the Bethesda Pool was misidentified as a different location. This wrongly identified place looked nothing the way the Bible described it, and so – of course – the intellectual elite decided that was proof positive the Bible could not be believed.
Except, of course, the real Bethesda Pool was identified and, yes, it matched perfectly with the biblical description. With each turn of the archeologist’s spade, the narrative of the anti-God establishment is covered up with truth.
Jesus had the same effect in real time. His message was subversive to the self-serving establishment.
The Gospel of John tells of a paralytic man who lived in a particularly nasty personal torment. Myth had it that when the waters of Bethesda were disturbed, the first person in would be healed. So he sat near the pool, but had no one to help him get in. Each time he sought to be placed in the pool after its waters were stirred up, someone else would beat him to it. The establishment political and religious leaders certainly weren’t going to waste their time helping him.
So Jesus did. He healed the man without making him so much as get his fingertips wet. But when the man picked up his things to leave – he was healed! – the establishment’s shrill response was predictable: Sit down and be quiet. They had their regulations, after all.
For the establishment elite, neither the Sabbath nor the Law was about honoring God and loving their neighbor. Instead, the law became a tool for inflating themselves and their self-decreed importance as regulators.
The former paralytic was having none of it. We’re told he “went away” and told people what Jesus had done for him.
When confronting the self-important establishmentarians and their shrill regulators today, we should follow the paralytic’s lead. It’s not worth arguing with them. Let’s keep moving, loudly proclaiming what we know to be true.