The fifth chapter of John starts with a story about Jesus healing a man who’d been sick with an infirmity for thirty-eight years. The man was waiting by the pool at Bethesda, where people with different types of diseases would wait for healing. When the waters were stirred, the first one to step into them would be healed, but this man, being unable to get in on his own, and having no one to help him in, was still waiting and hoping to be healed.

Jesus came along and asked the man, “Do you want to be made well?” {a ponderable question} and the man replied by explaining why he hadn’t been healed already: he can’t jump in himself, and someone else always gets there first.

Jesus responds by telling him to rise, take up his bed, and walk. The man was immediately made well, and I imagine, with a hop and skip, picked up his bed and was on his merry way.

The Jews took offense at this man carrying his bed on the Sabbath, and confronted him about it. He explained that the one who’d made him well had told him to take up his bed and walk. He just didn’t know who it was that had healed him.

Jesus came and found the man again later — I think this might be the only time its recorded that Jesus went back and found someone he’d healed — and encouraged him: “See, you’ve been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.”


Following along from Jesus’ meeting with the Samaritan woman in the previous chapter {John 4}, through these stories John is introducing Jesus as a man with a greater authority than the law. He had a long theological conversation with a Samaritan woman, which was just not kosher in those days, and now here he is, directing someone to contradict the tradition of not carrying one’s bed on the Sabbath.

Have you ever stopped to wonder why? Like, why didn’t Jesus just wait a day or two, and then heal this dude on Tuesday and save him from getting hassled by the Jews? Why let his disciples pluck grain on the Sabbath? Why defend an adulterous woman? Why does it seem like he’s quite prepared to regularly offend the Jews in ways that could’ve been avoided?

I imagine He has more in mind than I could possibly think of, His ways being so much higher than mine, but certainly part of His intention is to challenge the Jews in their certainty about their knowledge of God’s will.

If the Jews had been busy about the things that Jesus wanted to teach, things on the heart of God, like mercy and kindness and justice, then they could’ve helped this man get healed. They could’ve been the ones to lift him down into the pool.

But here he is, healed without their help, and rather than rejoice at a miracle of God, they take offense that he is carrying his mat on the Sabbath.

But the Jews aren’t the only ones offended by Jesus. I find in my own life that God offends my ideas about Him and His will. Like the time I felt led to call the Hubs — not long before we started dating — even though the Lord had previously instructed me not to pursue him.

I made a law. God overruled, to lead by the Spirit.

Or like the time I had a drink with an old friend, though to my own mind at first the thought of having a beer with him was offensive, yet I couldn’t deny it was the leading of the Holy Spirit.

I made a law. But God, with greater authority than the law, led by the Spirit again.

God wants to put His Spirit in us, that we might follow Him more nearly, and understand His heart, but I think we would rather have a formula. Seven steps to a new you. Three easy ways to discern God’s will. But even chapter and verse, without the Spirit, are words on a page.

I wonder, if you are a follower of Jesus, if God might have shown up in ways You didn’t expect, to challenge the “laws” You’ve created. Or if He might want to.

Humbling ourselves and taking up our cross — it’s an offensive idea to our natural minds. Asking for forgiveness from God and from others — it’s an offensive request in the face of our own pride.

But perhaps in His infinite wisdom, God recognises that we need to be offended sometimes — in order to see the wrong beliefs in our souls. The wrong attitudes in our hearts.

Rather than set up camp on our own created rules, He urges us: keep travelling on this journey. Keep chasing after Me.