One of this Sunday’s readings is an account of a healing, stopping short of the controversy that follows. Retellings have to be more concise, so my version below sketches it out – another example of people missing the point. The religious leaders were so concerned about policing sabbath observance, making sure law was kept, that they overlooked the astonishing things that were right before their eyes – healing, and mercy.
What Jesus says in response outrages his listeners, and as we reach the end of the exchange we come to one of those extraordinary phrases of Jesus that stop you short, and stay with you, changing the way you see things.
He is doing what he sees the father do…
If we pay attention to what Jesus does, we might learn something of God’s heart.
It’s helpful to remember that the Greek word we translate disciple – mathetes – means both pupil and apprentice. I am drawn to the idea of apprenticeship – of watching and making fumbling first attempts to imitate. It is an adventure, and I am still working out what it means.
One sabbath, Jesus was in Jerusalem. He came to the pool of Bethesda, which means “House of Mercy”. The pool, with its steep steps, was surrounded by covered colonnades. Under their shade lay many who were sick, waiting to enter the water when it welled up, for they believed that the water could heal them. Jesus went and sat down by one man, and asked him “Do you want to be healed?”
“Sir, there’s no one to help me down into the pool. I’ve been an invalid for 38 years. How can I reach the water?”
So Jesus said, “Just get up! Take your mat and walk away!” – and he did so.
Some teachers of the Law stopped him. “What do you think you’re doing, carrying a mat on the sabbath? Don’t you know that’s work, and forbidden?” And the man told them what had happened. How angry they were at Jesus – a sabbath-breaker, they called him.
“My Father is always at work, so I, too, am working!” Jesus said. The teachers of the Law gasped, shocked. He was talking as if he were God’s equal!
“I don’t do anything by myself,” Jesus went on. “I see what my Father is doing and do the same!”
I hope it helps. If you wish to use this reading, please say where it is from.