That Day Was a Sabbath
6th Sunday of Easter – C LSB #906
Text – John 5:9
And at once the man was healed, & he took up his bed & walked. Now that day was the Sabbath.
That Day Was a Sabbath
An old man turned 98. He won the lottery & died the next day. It’s a black fly in your chardonnay. It’s a death row pardon, two minutes too late. A traffic jam, when you’re already late. A no smoking sign on your cigarette break. It’s like ten thousand spoons, when all you need is a knife. It’s meeting the man of your dreams, & then meeting his beautiful wife.
It’s like rain, on your wedding day. It’s a free ride, when you’ve already paid. It’s the good advice that you just didn’t take. And who would’ve thought it figures? And isn’t it ironic? Don’t you think?
Those are lyrics from a 1995 song by Alanis Morissette. The song’s title was – Isn’t It Ironic? That is definitely where the last sentence of today’s sermon text leaves us – with irony. “Now that day was the Sabbath.”
Jesus had just healed a man who’d been an invalid for 38 years. The problem is, the Word of God, which healed the man, also told him to take up his bed & walk. The verse right after today’s Gospel reading tells us, “So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, ‘It is the Sabbath, & it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.’”
Hopefully, you recall the 3rd commandment, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” (Exodus 20:8 ESV) In Jeremiah, God expounded upon that: “And do not carry a burden out of your houses on the Sabbath or do any work, but keep the Sabbath day holy, as I commanded your fathers.” (Jeremiah 17:22 ESV)
In the days of the OT it was clear. Mankind should not of its own prerogative choose to
work on the Sabbath. Where the irony comes in, is that it was God who gave the command to remember the Sabbath, & in the Gospel reading from John, it was also God who gave the invalid the command to take up his bed & walk.
In light of the 1st commandment, Yahweh has the right to do that, & in light of His love for us, Jesus commanded the invalid to do what was considered to be work on the Sabbath. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27-28 ESV)
In other words, the Sabbath is a servant to man, not the other way around. The Sabbath was given to us by our Lord to be a blessing, rather than a burden. Do you see the irony in the Pharisees reprimanding Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath, for telling a man He’d just healed to carry his bed?
You & I are able to see because we believe that Jesus is Lord almighty, the 2nd person of the Holy Trinity, Creator of everything there is. This text from the Gospel of John makes clear that the Jews did not believe that Jesus was Lord.
Of course that fits right in with what John recorded of Jesus already in the 1st chapter: “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, & the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him. He came to His own, & His own people did not receive Him.” (John 1:9-11 ESV)
So how do we keep ourselves from ending up in the same predicament as the Jews that John wrote of in today’s Gospel lesson? How do our thoughts, words & deeds not end up as objects of irony? The simple answer is always to side with the truth. Fortunately, Jesus is the Truth. The struggle is that our sinful nature, like Satan, loves to hide behind lies.
The Son of God came to earth, not as some mysterious spirit or ghostlike creature, but
as an historical reality in human flesh & blood. Jesus was, & still is, bringing the truth to light – the truth that our heavenly Father loves us beyond what sinners are able to comprehend. In line with that, today’s Gospel reading reveals Jesus as He’s doing battle with Satan, by healing the invalid & by confronting the lies of those who would keep God’s children enslaved to sin.
Knowing the circumstances of this particular individual, Jesus approaches & asks, “Do you want to be healed?” It hardly seems that the question needs to be asked. It certainly does not appear to be the beginning of a battle between heaven & hell. Yet, if we had read on to 5:18, we’d have heard, “This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill [Jesus]…”
In chapter 4, Jesus had been talking to a woman, one on one, & she was a Samaritan woman at that. Now, Jesus heals a man on the Sabbath by telling him to take up his bed & walk. If this ‘foolish young rabbi’ were smart, he’d fly under the radar for a while until he’d earned his stripes. Instead, he’s choosing to buck the system from the get-go.
What begins with an innocent question, “Do you want to be healed?” silently evolves into a full-blown confrontation. We aren’t just looking at a simple miracle event in this healing. The narrative bears within it a deep theological significance, which can easily be overlooked.
Next, this healing took place in the context of a “feast of the Jews.” (John 5:1 ESV) To the ear of someone in our culture that detail is completely ignored. However, during festivals the people of Israel were to recall God’s works of redemption of old, & to express their hope & prayer that God would continue to bless them with His presence & favor.
That John mentions the feast is a marker that in the healing of the paralytic Jesus is working as had the God of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob long past. This ‘foolish young rabbi’ is revealing Himself to be that God of Israel. To those steeped in the millennia of Jewish tradition that should have been obvious, yet, “He came to His own, & His own people did not receive Him.” Yahweh has come into the life of the paralytic at the time of a feast in order to bring physical healing, but also something far greater.
The healing of this invalid is meant by Jesus to be seen as our heavenly Father’s response to the problem of sin. God did not come in human flesh simply to make physical life better for the relatively few people He healed during the relatively short period of human history that He was living on earth.
After today’s Gospel reading, & after the Jews confronted the former invalid for carrying his bed on the Sabbath, Jesus found the man in the temple & said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” Given the context, a more consistent translation would be, “See, you have become whole!” rather than, “See, you are well!”
When the Creator of the universe heals someone, we should not think of that only in physical terms. That would be to separate the healing from the forgiveness of sins. Basic to all biblical thinking is that the fall into sin brought the consequence of death. In other words, physical damage to our bodies, not just our soul, comes from sin.
The NT record of healings by Jesus are a reversal of that original fall into sin. The miraculous healings or signs, recorded in the NT, are thus a new creation brought about by the removal of sin & its effects. Jesus makes that connection between healing & forgiveness very clear in another incident, recorded in Matthew, where Jesus heals a paralyzed man:
“But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” – He then said to the paralytic – “Rise, pick up your bed & go home.” And he rose & went home. When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, & they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.” (Matthew 9:6-8 ESV)
The miraculous healings Jesus performed are an inkling of the coming resurrection of the
dead at the end of time. In His defense before the Jews, Jesus will associate the passing from death to life, by those who hear & believe His Word, with the final resurrection. On that day, those who are dead will hear His voice & be raised to life eternal, just as the man got up & walked when Jesus said to the invalid of 38 years, “Rise, take up your bed, & walk.”
In opposing this as a violation of the earthly Sabbath, the Jews are opposing the reality of the new & heavenly Sabbath which stands before their very eyes in the person of Jesus Christ. In this Gospel reading, John is highlighting, through the use of irony, that the Jews he’s writing about do not believe that Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath, & therefore, not Lord at all.
God’ Son specifically healed this man on the Sabbath, then told him to take up his bed & walk, because Jesus was challenging their refusal to accept Him as their Lord. He challenged them because He wanted to turn them away from their sin & back to their Creator. They were trying to find life in their keeping of the Law, instead of finding it in the person of Jesus.
In His 20th chapter John wrote, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, & that by believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:30-31 ESV) Today’s Gospel reading is one of those signs.
When it came to the Sabbath, the Jews did not believe that Jesus was Lord. In what areas of our lives are we unwilling to acknowledge Jesus as Lord? Could it be the financial offerings we struggle to give back to God? How about the giving of our time to the work & the mission of the Church? When it comes to our sexuality, are we willing recognize Jesus as Lord?
Living together before marriage has become the “normal” practice today, yet it’s a direct violation of God’s commands. So it shouldn’t be too surprising when people who’ve grown up in that climate refuse to acknowledge Jesus as Lord when He defines marriage as between one man & one woman. Nor should it be surprising to see the tremendous push in our culture to allow people to choose what gender they want to be, or which bathroom they’d like to use. All of those are simply manifestations of the same problem. We really struggle in allowing Jesus to be Lord of EVERY aspect of our lives.
That’s why the words, “You shall have no other gods before me,” make up the very 1st commandment. The words, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy,” support the 1st commandment in that Israel, & we today, demonstrate our identity as God’s holy people through our faithfulness to the Sabbath rest.
If being in Church on Sunday reflects heaven, what does our absence here say about our desire to enter the true Promised Land? As Jesus teaches about the end times, coming before the Day of Judgment, He says in Matthew 24:12, “And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.” Is that what’s happening in our nation & in our churches today?
Those words should send a chill down our spine, because we are seeing them before our very eyes. On the issues of marriage, gender, abortion, tithes & offerings, sexuality, even church attendance, is our love for God growing cold in our heart? Is lawlessness increasing within each of us, as well as across our land? Are we siding with the truth, or hiding behind lies?
Next week, next month, next year, will Jesus find us in the temple, in church, in order to say to us, “See, you have become whole! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” As sinful beings, our thoughts, words & deeds will certainly end up as objects of irony.
Fortunately, like to the invalid in John 5, this very morning Jesus has come to us again & asked, “Do you want to be healed?” or, in an even better translation, “Do you want to become whole?” As those words of God fall upon your ears, they have the power to create faith, to forgive sins, & to bring life out of death, thus making you whole. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matthew 11:15 ESV) Let it be said of our time here this morning, “That day was a Sabbath.” Amen.
O day of rest & gladness, O day of joy & light, O balm of care & sadness, most beautiful, most bright; this day the high & lowly, through ages joined to bless, sing, “Holy, holy, holy,” the triune God confess. That light our hope sustaining, we walk the pilgrim way, at length our rest attaining, our endless Sabbath day. We sing to Thee our praise, O Father, Spirit, Son; the Church her voice upraises to Thee, blest three in One. Amen. LSB 906:1, 4
 Exodus 20:3 ESV
Pastor Dean R. Poellet