Get out of that box!
There are not many things worse than being put in a box you can’t get out of. “You always…”, “She’s blond…”, “You are too disorganised to lead a church.” The last one was said to me by an elder in the first church I was on staff at. Once we have been pigeon-holed, it’s hard to get out of it. In today’s reading, v. 44, Jesus has experienced the same – “a prophet has no honour in his home town”. – ‘Jesus, oh he’s the carpenter, born out of wedlock you know’. Sometimes we need to move on when we grow up and make a fresh start. Most often we need to grow up, build our character (which takes a life-time) and know that our reputation can be ruined in a moment. Jesus would have us work on our character, because that’s what builds reputation. Society seems to be obsessed with reputation at the expense of character, forgetting one follows the other.
What box are you in? Is it one you have put yourself in, or have you allowed others to define who you are and what you can do? What’s stopping you from doing what God wants you to do? It won’t be God, that’s for sure.
Jesus moves on, firstly to Cana where He had done his first miracle making wine. That was a small village so Jesus would be known for what He had done and thus considered with more honour. He heals an official’s son. John is the Gospel of signs, but here is the second mention of Jesus’ reticence to “do a sign.” Faith in Jesus because of a sign was considered by Him to be of superficial quality – only nine of the ten cleansed lepers came back. Later Jesus tells religious leaders the only sign He will give them is the sign of Jonah – that is the resurrection.
Jesus sees by the man’s plea, that he is not after a magic trick or a show – only a “sign” will heal his son and so Jesus does as he asks.
Next, Jesus goes to Jerusalem to the pool of Bethsaida, which was rediscovered by archaeologists in the 19th Century. Jesus encounters one of the many invalids (I wonder if He healed the others afterwards – we aren’t told). First, Jesus asks if the man wants to be healed. Always ask someone you are about to pray for, what they want the Lord to do! Second, He commanded the healing “Get up, take up your bed and walk.” Thirdly, the man got up, took his camp bed and walked. Those three steps are a great model for us when healing the sick – find out what the person wants and what is wrong with them; command the healing and get the person to test it out.
All this happened on the Sabbath and annoyed the religious leaders, because the man carrying his bed was working under their version of the law. Jesus is bringing the new covenant. Under the old covenant three things marked one out as part of it and of the people of God – circumcision, obeying food laws and keeping the Sabbath. Those are the identity markers that identify you as part of the people of God. The new covenant has an entirely different identity marker for being part of the people of God – being Spirit filled and being a son – God is now our Father, and we are adopted into His family by the Spirit.