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the weak one and the one who works

Afterwards Jesus found him [a man cured from 38 years of (Greek) a-stheneia = no-strength] in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.                   John 5: 14-18


The work of Jersey’s Social Security Department is largely unsung. Why? Could it be because those who are helped by it are not especially articulate, not especially gifted in putting into words their thanks? And maybe because they are not in general used to publicising anything, let alone their infirmities and the help they receive?


But the work of that Department remains of incalculable value to many Jersey folk.


Take a look then at the words in bold above about the healing by Jesus of a man who had, for 38 years, been “a-stheneia” without-strength. He lived with many others in a covered colonnade near a natural water pool in Jerusalem named Bethesda. This pool still exists there today.


Interestingly, cured, Jesus finds him “in the temple”.....


But the most telling thing that Jesus says to him is, “Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” It’s the “nothing worse” that is troublesome. What could be “worse” than 38 years without the strength to move himself let alone to work? (Earlier in the incident it’s clear that through all that time the man could not move himself without aid.)

What would be worse for you after spending 38 years without working – when your life expectancy (Jerusalem AD 30) was not as it is today? And during which no Social Security Department existed to help you....


Contrast this with Jesus’ next statement when he is persecuted by the authorities because he has “worked on a Sabbath day” to restore this man. He says, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”


Historians tell us that, prior to AD 30, the Jews had worked it out that Almighty God, the God of Israel who created all things, did indeed “work” on the Sabbath days. How so, when their ancient books written by Moses mandated the Sabbath as a compulsory rest day? And mandated it because Almighty God the Creator rested on the “seventh day” after looking at all he had made and seen that it was all “very good”?


A simple reason really: they were well aware that God was the sustainer of all “life” (in the fullest, widest meaning of that word). Because “life” on planet earth continued and grew and came to birth even on Sabbath days, they concluded that God did indeed “work” on the Sabbath.


And Jesus explains his “work” on the Sabbath to restore this “unfit to work” man by saying, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”


No sooner has Jesus said this than those same authorities were “seeking all the more to kill him.”


Bizarre, isn’t it? But wait.


Maybe we kill Jesus for the same reason?


Of course, we have nothing to do with him. But what is the reason for that?


It cannot be because he was a good man. It cannot be because he died a criminal’s death (and rose again) as a substitute for others.


It’s because he’s Almighty God, isn’t it? I want to be my own boss.

‘God sometimes has to put us on our backs in order to make us look up.' (Anon.)
 ‘If Jesus Christ is not true God, how could he help us? If he is not true man, how could he help us?'  (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German pastor executed by Hitler for resistance to Nazism, 1906-1945)
Richard Syvret

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