Sunday Morning Bible Study
September 17, 1995
Last week we saw Jesus head to Jerusalem for another of the Jewish ritual feasts.
While there, He stopped by a pool called Bethesda, where He met a man who had been sick for 38 years.
Jesus asked him if he wanted to be whole.
:10-16 The Sabbath Law
:10 It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful ...
There's always somebody around to spoil the party.
Here is a man who has been ill for thirty-eight years.
And he is miraculously healed!
Praise the Lord!
But instead, we have to pick it apart and find the faults.
Cheer up a little! Learn to praise the Lord!
Some of us are so negative and so critical of one another, that when something incredible or miraculous happens, all we can do look for what's wrong.
»Proverbs 15:15-AV All the days of the afflicted [are] evil: but he that is of a merry heart [hath] a continual feast.
It's not that all the days of the "afflicted" are actually bad, but that to them they sure seem to be bad.
Lighten up a little and learn to say "Thank You" to the Lord.
There's the guy ...
It seems he came down to breakfast one morning and told his wife he wanted two eggs -- one fried, one scrambled. With no comment, the long-suffering woman cooked each egg to his specifications and then quietly put the plate in front of him. "Oh no!" he groaned, pushing it away. "You've fried the wrong egg."
And the guy ...
A man decided to join a monastery and one of the rules of the group was that you were only allowed to speak two words every ten years. At the end of ten years he said, "Bad food!"
Ten more years went by and he said, "Hard bed!"
Finally, on his 30th anniversary with the brothers, he thundered, "I quit!" And the priest in charge responded, "You might as well. All you do is complain anyway."
:13 wist not who it was
wist - knew
The man actually forgot to get the name of the guy who healed him.
Everything happened so fast, the crowd was so big, and Jesus just wandered through the crowd so fast that the man didn't know who He was.
:13 Jesus had conveyed himself away
conveyed - ekneuo - to bend to one side; to take one's self away, to turn one's self, to avoid a thing; to swim away, escape by swimming; to escape, slip away secretly
Jesus had just kind of slipped away, swimming through the crowd.
:14 Jesus findeth him in the temple
This tells me two things:
1. The man had his priorities straightened out.
Jesus didn't find him at the pub.
Jesus didn't find him at the football game.
Jesus found him at the temple.
It's obvious that the man was in someway wanting to give glory to God for his healing.
2. Jesus was looking for the guy.
findeth - heurisko - can mean: after searching, to find a thing sought; to find by enquiry, thought, examination, scrutiny.
We catch a glimpse of our Good Shepherd, watching out for the flock.
Jesus wasn't just a heal 'em and leave 'em kind of guy.
He was truly interested in the people He ministered to.
»John 10:11-14 AV I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. 12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. 13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd, and know my [sheep], and am known of mine.
Jesus was aware of the trouble He stirred up because of healing the man.
If He didn't care for the man, He could have just taken off and run away.
But instead, He sought the man out.
Take God's opportunity to get your priorities together.
If God's given you a special touch recently, take advantage of the fact that you've had contact with God, and get back to Him.
We can fall into a trap into thinking that because God has graciously delivered me from my problem, that I don't need to really change anything.
God's looking for repentance.
His kindness toward you is intended to nudge you to change.
»Romans 2:4-AV Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?
Be a good shepherd, not a hireling.
The ministry is too filled with people who don't really care about the flock of God.
They could be in it for themselves.
They could be in it because they started okay, but ended up getting off track.
Care for God's flock.
-- Howard Hendricks
"If you can't stand the smell of sheep, you shouldn't be a shepherd."
Illustration (really has nothing to do with the point...):
A golfer had a terrible day on the links. On the last hole he actually went into a tantrum, cursing and swearing, and beating the ground with his club. Finally recovering himself, he looked woefully at the caddy and muttered: "I guess I'll have to give it up."
"Give up golf?" asked the caddy.
"No, not golf," he said sorrowfully, "the ministry."
:14 sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee
Here's an interesting insight into this particular man's problem.
His sickness had been a result of sin in his life.
It's not the case in every sickness though.
Be careful not to jump to the conclusion that because a person is sick, that they must have sin in their life.
We'll get to that more when we get to John 9.
But sometimes sickness is directly related to sin.
We can see it even in the physical realm.
Sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS, cirrhosis of the liver, etc.
:15 told the Jews that it was Jesus
I don't think the guy was particularly trying to get Jesus into trouble.
Maybe if nothing else, he could get them to see that Jesus was the Messiah or something.
:16 therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus
At this point, the serious trouble begins with the Jews.
He got into trouble earlier when He cleansed the temple (chapter 2).
But now they're going to seek to have Jesus killed.
:16 because he had done these things on the sabbath day
Jesus had done two things offensive to the Jews:
1. He told the man to carry his bed, making the man break their Sabbath law.
2. Even worse, Jesus Himself had broken the Sabbath by healing the man.
Healing was considered work, and thus, Jesus broke the Sabbath.
The Jews may be accusing Jesus here of breaking the law, but all that He's guilty of is breaking their interpretation of the law.
As we go into a discussion of legalism, keep in mind:
1. Jesus said He came to complete and fulfill the law, not do away with it.
»Matthew 5:17-19 AV Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. 19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach [them], the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
2. Jesus was sinless
»Hebrews 4:15-AV For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as [we are, yet] without sin.
He may not have been considered sinless to the Pharisees and their ideas about the Sabbath, but as far as God was concerned, He was perfectly sinless.
Keep in mind where the laws about the Sabbath day came from:
God gave Moses a law about the sabbath day:
»Exodus 20:8-11 AV Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10 But the seventh day [is] the sabbath of the LORD thy God: [in it] thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that [is] within thy gates: 11 For [in] six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them [is], and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
God was serious that the people keep this law, forever!
It was to be a sign that the Jews belonged to God.
If you disobeyed this law, it was worthy of death.
Jeremiah warned the people:
One of the things that the nation of Judah was warned to take care of by the prophet Jeremiah was the keeping of the Sabbath.
»Jeremiah 17:27-AV But if ye will not hearken unto me to hallow the sabbath day, and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath day; then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.
Judgement came from neglect of the Sabbath
When God's judgment against Judah came, with the invasion of Babylon, one of the reasons given for the judgment was the neglect of the sabbaths.
»2Chronicles 36:21-AV To fulfil the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her sabbaths: [for] as long as she lay desolate she kept sabbath, to fulfil threescore and ten years.
»Leviticus 26:34-AV Then shall the land enjoy her sabbaths, as long as it lieth desolate, and ye [be] in your enemies' land; [even] then shall the land rest, and enjoy her sabbaths.
So, when the Jews got to Babylon, they began to take the Sabbath day seriously, very seriously.
We see evidence of this when Nehemiah came back to Jerusalem to help rebuild the city walls:
When he found out that people were still conducting business on the Sabbath day, he rebuked them:
»Nehemiah 13:18 Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the sabbath.
Then he made laws to shut down all business on the Sabbath.
From the time of the Babylonian captivity, the Jews began to develop more and more finer points to this law of the Sabbath.
Possibly it all started to simply make sure that things were done properly.
One rabbi wrote:
``carrying out and bringing in any thing, from one place to another, is said to be work, and one of the principal works;'' (Maimon. Hilchot Sabbat, c. 12. sect. 6.)
``whoever carries any thing out (i.e. on the sabbath day), whether in his right hand, or in his left, in his bosom, or "on his shoulder", is guilty; for so carried the Kohathites.'' (Misn. Sabbat, c. 10. sect. 3.)
``he that rolls up a bed of the brasiers or tinkers (i.e. on the sabbath day) is bound to a sin offering.'' (T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 47. 1. & 138. 1.)
It was unlawful for traveling tradesmen to fold up their beds on the Sabbath.
It got to the point though, where there were laws that made it illegal to tie a knot on the Sabbath day.
But at least you were allowed to tie your girdle or belt.
So, when you wanted to lower the rope in the well to get a drink, if it was the Sabbath, you had to tie one end of the rope to your girdle, and the other to the bucket to be allowable.
Part of the Sabbath laws is a law that says you can't start a fire on the Sabbath, because it takes work to start a fire.
As technology has evolved, it has been decided that turning on an electric lightbulb is the same as starting a fire.
Therefore, it is against the Sabbath laws to turn lights on in your house.
A few years back, wealthy Jews could afford to hire people to turn their lights on for them during the Sabbath.
General Colin Powell had a job as a "goy" (Gentile) who would turn on lights for Jewish people.
Now, it's simply a matter of timers and computers to turn your lights on for you.
You see, it very may well have started out of a sincere concern to be pleasing to God, but what happened is that it went way too far.
It's kind of our human nature to do this.
We start out as gross sinners, and after God touches us, if we're not careful, we can swing way too far to the other side and become self-righteous and legalistic.
Definitions of legalism:
Trying to enforce obedience to the law to the point where it is no longer according to God's design for the law, but is something twisted by man's interpretation.
Legalism is when you are focused more on the laws you're trying to obey, rather than on Jesus.
1. Don't confuse legalism for zeal
God wants you to have a passion for Him.
He wants you to have a desire to do only the things that please Him.
But don't let it slip into legalism.
Don't let it consume you to the point where you loose sight of the things that are most important to the Lord.
The Jews were so preoccupied with the Law, that they neglected the joy of the man who was healed.
Paul writes about the Jews:
»Romans 10:1-4 AV Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. 2 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ [is] the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
telos - termination, the limit at which a thing ceases to be
God's not looking for you to make yourself better and better, closer and closer to the Law.
God is looking for you to get closer and closer to Jesus, who will take care of it all in your life.
2. Learn what God's heart is in the Law
Here's where the Jews missed it.
They were so focused on their ideas, that they missed the heart of the matter - hey, a man was just healed!!!
God's first priority is love - love for God and love for one another.
That's supposed to be the basis for the whole law.
Yet the Jews weren't using the Sabbath law in love toward the man, they were looking to hang somebody.
God prefers people over obedience to the law.
God is more concerned that people are helped rather than all the t's are crossed and the i's are dotted.
God wants the heart of the law over the letter of the law.
Watch and see these things in this passage:
»Matthew 12:1-13 At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. 2 But when the Pharisees saw [it], they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day. 3 But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; 4 How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests? 5 Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless? 6 But I say unto you, That in this place is [one] greater than the temple. 7 But if ye had known what [this] meaneth, "I will have mercy, and not sacrifice", ye would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day. 9 And when he was departed thence, he went into their synagogue: 10 And, behold, there was a man which had [his] hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him. 11 And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift [it] out? 12 How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days. 13 Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched [it] forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other.
»Hosea 6:6-AV For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.
The law of the Sabbath was meant to be a blessing to man.
It was meant to bring man rest, because God loves him.
That's the heart of the Law.
But the legalists turn the blessing into a noose around someone's neck.