Stirring the Water
John 5:1-17 (from: The Message – MSG)
Calling Jesus unorthodox is an understatement.
Although Jesus grew up in the orthodoxy of contemporary Judaism of that time, where human need dictated it, he regularly overstepped and broke the rules.
One can call him a Stirrer. I am not sure whether the title stirrer has the same meaning here as it did when I was growing up. A stirrer was someone who upset the status quo, a troublemaker.
Imagine this response from a twelve-year-old after his parents, searching for him for three days, find him in the Temple in conversation with the theology professors there.
Luke 2 49 “Why were you searching for me?…Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”
From a child, marching to a different drumbeat, to a rabbi, instructing his disciples to break the Sabbath laws and glean some food from the fields, to his cleansing of the Temple when he brought the whole Temple service to a halt, Jesus was stirring the pool of contentment and indulgence.
In the same vein as the prophets before him he spoke the Truth of God whether his audience were ready to hear it or not.
In today’s passage we read how he discovers a man waiting on the edge of a public bath, where people believed you would be healed every time an angel stirred the waters. The problem for this man was that he could not move fast enough to get into the waters before the bath was overflowing with the more able who beat him to it.
One might have thought Jesus would have sat there next to him, ready to jump to help him in when the stirring occurred so he would have a shot at being healed, but no. Jesus goes in a totally unexpected direction.
Right there, on the Sabbath, Jesus says to him; “Get up, take your bedroll, start walking.”
What causes a stir with this act is twofold.
Firstly, Jesus heals someone on the Sabbath, thereby breaking the Sabbath Law that says you cannot work on the Sabbath. He breaks it a second time by commanding the man to pick up his bedroll and start walking, another act regarded as forbidden “work”.
Now, in history we know that real change only takes place when you have change-agents. Someone has to start a movement away from the status quo to something new. Sometimes this is a good thing and sometimes it is a bad thing.
It was a good thing when the first doctor began to teach that personal hygiene, the washing of one’s hands, enhanced the chances of the patient’s survival.
In 1846 a Hungarian doctor, Ignaz Semmelweiz, made this revolutionary statement and he was thanked for this by being scorned by other doctors and losing his job. He ended up in an asylum. But it was a beginning. He had stirred the pool of stupidity and ignorance and the result was the revolutionizing of medical treatment.
It was a bad thing when a young man, in the 1920’s, began his ascent into German politics following the chaos of Germany’s defeat in World War I.
1920 was the beginning of his career and he became beloved among the people for his message of “Deutschland uber alles” – Germany First. This man started a movement that changed the world forever.
So, stirring in and of itself, does not guarantee a positive outcome. So, lets be careful.
The stirring Jesus did was to awaken a new understanding of how God stands in relationship to humanity. Religion had become, in many instances, so institutionalized, that it had lost its heart.
People are good at memorizing the rules associated with religion, but we sometimes suck at living out the essence of faith.
The mission, Jesus taught, was to love God with your whole heart and to love your neighbor as yourself.
No rule and no tradition and no practice was above this truth.
That is why he saw the Sabbath laws as secondary to the needs of people.
That is why he saw the moral laws as secondary to the saving of the perpetrator and why he could set the young woman free that was about to be stoned for adultery.
That is why he was willing to break the cultural law of engaging a woman he did not know, at the well in Samaria.
Her rehabilitation as a human being was far more important than the cultural laws of his time.
Jesus stirred more than simply the waters at the bath where the sick man awaited an opportunity to be healed. He simply healed him and gave him his life back.
How is Jesus stirring us in these days?
I wonder what he would say about our own personal struggles. Are we like this person on the edge of the bath, just not able to reach our goal?
When we struggle with issues that have held us back in your life, it might be time to stop all the excuses for reclaiming our lives, and simply do as Jesus commanded this man. “Get up, take these issues that have been limiting you and give them to God, as you start a new journey to hope?”
Sometimes society and even our religion conditions us to believe that we need to prove ourselves worthy of God’s love or someone else’s forgiveness before we can live fully again.
Nonsense, God calls you and me to get up and get on with life as God’s Beloved.
Some of us feel we are owed by someone or by the system, and before that debt is paid, we insist on being a victim.
Nonsense. God calls us to shed our anger and hatred and embrace life and walk fully into the Light of God.
Some of us feel that if only we had the ability, the know-how, the courage or the approval, we could be living a much better life.
Nonsense. Claim this moment when Jesus looks at us and declares; “you are my beloved, get up and walk.”
It is time to buck the trends and where necessary, ditch tradition, abandon the culture or change our circle of friends if that is what holds us back.
God offers us the fullness of life despite everything we can name that we believe limits us.
May we have eyes to see and ears to hear and may we go forth and be healed of that which keeps us back from being the people God knows we are. Amen.