By CRAIG HARRIS
John 5: 1 - 10 (NIV): Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie--the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to get well?" "Sir," the invalid replied, "I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me." Then Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk." At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, "It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat."
Are you kidding me? This was the religious leaders' reaction to a man being healed? He had been paralyzed for 38 years and suddenly is standing there holding his mat - that stinking mat he had been confined to for years - and their reaction was, "Hey you can't do that."
But the church is often guilty of this today. We see lawbreakers instead of hurting people. We see what people are doing wrong instead of rejoicing with them that God is moving in their lives. We overlook healing and see issues. Come on man!
Oh, the church needs to take a stand against sin, don't get me wrong, but let's see people the way Jesus saw them: as hurting in need of compassion. A third of Americans now say they are no longer affiliated with a church. Could it be that they went to church for healing and found condemnation instead? Could it be that they felt beat down all week and went to church only to get beat down some more? We must preach the truth, but part of that truth is compassion and grace.
This is a mysterious story. It is found only here in the Scripture. I'm not sure if anyone was ever healed when the water was stirred, but I know this man was healed when Jesus came along.
Craig Harris is the pastor at Brushy Creek United Methodist Church in Brushy Creek and Mt. Vernon United Methodist Church in Pert. Sunday services are at 9:30 at Brushy Creek and 11 a.m. at Pert. See more of his columns at www.instantmessagelive.com.