Carrying Out The Law
(John 5:10) The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed. The Lord Jesus had just healed an impotent man that had been waiting a long time for the benefits of the seasonal troubling of the water at the Bethesda pool by an angel (JOH 5:1-9). Thanks be unto God that Jesus is not constrained to use intermediate means to work saving and healing in men! The benefits of these troubled waters which were limited to this man because of weakness and lack of help were given to him immediately by Christ. Jesus is in many ways (as the songwriter said), a bridge over troubled water: giving help to those who cannot help themselves by available means, using troubled waters to deliver His people and destroy their enemies (PSA 77:15-20), limiting the wicked who are as the troubled sea (ISA 57:20 c/w PRO 21:1 c/w JOB 38:8-11), being our Ark to save us from destruction (1PE 3:18-22). Bethesda means “house of kindness” and as Jesus was to this helpless, powerless man, so has He been to us: Titus 3:3-7 (3) For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. (4) But after that the KINDNESS and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, (5) Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; (6) Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; (7) That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. That this man had no one to help him on this occasion may have been owing to what was implied in our text today: to expend effort to help him would have been (according to the Jews' interpretation) a breach of the Sabbath law. That they would deny healing to a desperately infirmed person because of the sabbath day is confirmed by LUK 13:10-14. The leaders of the people held such sway over them that such an act of mercy as this man at Bethesda needed would have likely been avoided out of fear of excommunication and ostracism (JOH 7:13; JOH 9:22; JOH 12:42; JOH 19:38; JOH 20:19). But there were weightier matters of the law, mercy being one of them (MAT 23:23) and therefore technical forms of godliness (2TI 3:5) were to be set aside for nobler obedience as necessary. Mind that when it came to saving their ox or ass, the Jews unflinchingly set aside the sabbath law (LUK 13:15; LUK 14:5). And many are the pharisaic keepers of the forms of godliness who deem animals (or the wealth they represent) to be more valuable than men and will shamelessly “set aside their sabbath” (so to speak) to save their own oxen or even their own asses. It is not a Jewish problem; it is a human problem. The Jews were here (our text) referring to the order of the Sabbath law of old which said that no work was to be done on the Sabbath (EXO 20:8-10), even that no burden was to be borne on the Sabbath (NEH 13:15-19; JER 17:21-22). So Christ truly did fulfil every jot and tittle of the law, not breaking one of the least commandments (MAT 5:17-19) like the sabbath command by dying on the cross when He did. He was “...once offered to bear the sins of many...” (HEB 9:28); “Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows....and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all...” (ISA 53:4-6); “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree...” (1PE 2:24). The words of JOH 19:30-31 are thus most enlightening: “...It is finished...” and that before the sabbath day so that no burden be borne upon the sabbath, no, not even our sins.