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Easter (and Passover) amnesia

After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’ ” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. Afterward Jesus found him 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 made him sound. And this was why the Jews were pursuing Jesus, because he was making these things happen 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: 1-18

Easter is a time of killing. Not only was Jesus killed at Jerusalem at the first Easter (in AD 30) but also were two others (wrongdoers) and many lambs.

Why the lambs? Well, the first Easter took place at Passover time in Jerusalem. Every year for the previous 1,300 years the nation of Israel, God’s people, remembered their first Passover.

‘Love without measure/ Love without bounds/ Love that lasts forever/ On the killing hill.’ (David Gate, hymn writer)

They had been slaves in Egypt for over 400 years – under hardship they had become strong. One fateful night – Passover night – the angel of the LORD passed over the whole land and every first-born was killed. Humans and animals. But each Jewish house escaped because they killed a lamb earlier in the evening and marked their houses with the blood of a sacrificed lamb – so as to avoid the killing.

So.... the incident in bold above took place in Jerusalem when there was a feast of the Jews. The Jews had not at that very time forgotten the killing of Passover. But it seems that they had forgotten something else about Passover. Can you identify what had disappeared from their collective memories? This could be important for you because you might have forgotten it as well. What is it?

At Bethesda there was a multitude of strength-less, in-valid people – a multitude. Occasionally a miracle took place there. But only occasionally. All of them needed assistance when a miracle was about to happen – the blind couldn’t see; the lame couldn’t walk; the paralysed (the no-strengths) had no strength and were as good as dead.

‘Power into strengthless souls he speaks/ And life into the dead.’(Charles Wesley, hymn writer, 1707-1788)

Were the Jews there to assist the needy in-valid? Did they wait alongside the one – even one - who’d been strength-less for 38 years? No. But when they saw him carrying his bed on the Sabbath, the people of God flew into action.

The paraplegic’s only defence was that he’d been instructed to do so by the man who had healed him completely. That man, in his view, over-rode the Jews and the Sabbath. The Jews want his name. The man doesn’t know, finds out, and tells the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him sound.

The Jews pursued Jesus. They pursued the killing. They pursued him because he was “making these things” on the Sabbath – had “made him sound” – and was “making himself equal with God”.... “Making”?

Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” The Jews knew only too well that their theology allowed Almighty God alone to “make” on the Sabbath – if for no other reason than to continue the life-growth of humans, animals, birds and plants every day of the week.

What do you think the AD 30 Jews had forgotten about Passover? Had they forgotten that God was still “making” that very day – not killing? Have Christians forgotten anything this particular Easter time? Who is Jesus?

Richard Syvret

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