March 27, 2024

In 2024, we will strive to become more like Jesus by rediscovering the ancient practices of prayer, study, sabbath, celebration, and many more. Our knowledge of scripture, coupled with studying how Jesus lived his life while on earth, will help us become people that overflow with the goodness of God. Wednesday email devotionals will highlight the practices that have been discussed on the previous Sunday.

Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”


“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”


Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 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 Jewish leaders 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.’”


John 5:1-11


Several years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the site where this story took place in Jerusalem. Visiting a place like this always makes the scripture come alive in a fresh way. However, when I read the description of the people surrounding the pool at Bethesda another very different place comes to my mind. On several occasions while in Kolkata, India, I have seen the area surrounding the Kalighat Temple. It is one of the darkest and most depressing places I have ever seen. There are many people lying around the temple that fit the description “the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.” These are desperate people hoping against hope that they can find healing, or at least a handout from someone visiting the temple. The desperation of this community led to Mother Theresa opening her home for the destitute and dying there in 1952.


In sharp contrast to these tragic scenes and the description of a man waiting for water to be stirred, we read how Jesus healed the man who had been in this situation for 38 long years. The healing caused a controversy because it took place on the Sabbath. These Jewish leaders believed that carrying a mat on the Sabbath was illegal even for a man who had just walked for the first time in 38 years! However, the Sabbath is not about legalism; it is about grace.


Sabbath is a time of rest and can also be a day of healing and restoration. It’s a time when we can halt our frenetic pace and see Jesus more clearly. The way of Jesus stands against the false hopes that surround us. It is a way that is hard for us to embrace since it is so different from the world in which we live. When the man at the pool was offered healing, he still had to get up, pick up his mat, and walk. Jesus offers us Sabbath as a gift of grace, but it still requires effort on our part. When we resist the gift of the Sabbath let us be reminded of Jesus’ question, “Do you want to get well?”

For Reflection

In what area do you need healing and restoration in your life?


What prevents you from embracing the gift of Sabbath?


Lord, we are all broken and in need of your healing touch. Our lives contain physical and emotional challenges. Many of us are simply exhausted by the pace of our lives. In this week, we ask that you give us the wisdom to see the healthy rhythm of life that you have offered to us. Give us the courage to overcome the pressure of our daily lives and to trust that if we slow down we will experience your healing and restoration for our weary souls. Amen.

Dr. Jay Madden
Executive Pastor