John 5:9-15 (NIV): 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.” But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.'” So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?” The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.
Jesus broke many man-made Sabbath “rules,” but He never broke God’s Sabbath law. The law that God gave the people through Moses says basically that a person should work at their livelihood for six days, but that on the Sabbath, one day every week, they must rest from their labor and focus on God. God forbade things like making fires, gathering firewood and cooking on the Sabbath because those things could all be done the day before with some planning, leaving the day free to rest and to focus on Him.
But the teachers of the law had taken this way further than God intended. They had surrounded this simple command with hundreds, thousands of extra rules, which had made the Sabbath a burden instead of the blessing that it was meant to be. They had mandated how far a person could walk on the Sabbath before it became “work;” how heavy a load they could carry; and they even forbade healing anyone, or even treating an injury in such a way that it might promote healing. And then they enforced these additional rules as if they were laws that God had commanded.
When Jesus told this once-disabled man to pick up his mat and walk, neither picking up his mat nor walking actually violated God’s Sabbath law. (If they did, Jesus would not have told him to do it!) But the Jewish leaders were incensed that someone would engage in what they considered flagrant law-breaking in this manner. So they questioned the man.
The man gave them more than they expected. Not only had someone told the man to pick up his mat (strike 1) and walk (strike 2), this man had also supposedly healed him on the Sabbath (strike 3)! This man who had done this had to be found and punished!
But the once-disabled man couldn’t identify Jesus – he had never seen Him before, and He had never given His name. So the manhunt was frustrated before it ever got started.
The man went to the temple to praise God for his healing, which was right and proper. But when Jesus found him there, He saw that this man would quickly betray Him to the Jewish leaders if he had the chance – the man was more afraid of them than he was thankful to Jesus for healing him. Jesus tried to warn him away from that betrayal, but as soon as Jesus had finished talking with him, he went to the leaders and identified Jesus as the one who had healed him.
Father, how often do we get so tied up in our man-made rules that we obey them scrupulously, while at the same time careless treating, or even completely disregarding your real commands – and blindly disregarding the evil that lies in our own hearts! Lord, we must be made clean inside by You if we are going to be able to obey You in every way. Our hearts must be made pure by Your Holy Spirit if we are going to be able to NOT betray You when the chips are down. It is all so clearly a heart matter. Lord, help us, cleanse us, purify us through and through, so that we can follow You and obey You with our whole being. Amen.