“17 But Jesus answered them, ‘My father is working until now, and I am working.’” – John 5:17 ESV
One of the reasons (there were many) the Pharisees had issues with Jesus is that as a Jew he often broke the traditions laid out by Moses centuries earlier. In this final line from the opening passage of JOHN Chapter 5 titled “The Healing at the Pool on the Sabbath”, Jesus encounters an invalid man who can’t reach a pool called Bethesda that was said to have healing powers. Because the man could not get any assistance, he was too slow against the faster more capable people, hence he was doomed to wait forever.
“6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he already had been there a long time, he said to him, ’Do you want to be healed?’” – John 5:6 ESV
Jesus inquires what his circumstance is and by his compassion he cures him, only he does so on the Sabbath. For Jews and some Christians, the Sabbath is the one day of the week for rest and for purposes of religious observance only. All other activities on this day of the week are forbidden and considered a disrespect to God. There are six other days to conduct “work”. During Jesus’ era, it was cause for serious punishment, even death.
Jesus knew precisely what he was doing, the consequences according to Mosaic law, and that he would be observed, but made the exception on a very simple principle, God never sleeps nor rests. He is with us every moment of every day. Jesus as son and manifestation of God his Father, therefore, could no more rest on any day for the remainder of time.
The Pharisees erupted in a fury and wished to punish him right away. Jesus made his point clear, there are no rules for compassion and love. It cannot be bound to particular hours or days of the week. Gods love is eternal, everlasting and ever present. By this truth, Jesus and all his followers are granted all powers and rights to give such love and compassion at will. Especially for purposes of healing.
“8 Jesus said to him, ‘Get up, take up your bed, and walk.’ 9 And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.” – John 5:8-9 ESV
Our collective daily grind is not easy, no matter who you are. Those without much often accuse those who have as not suffering the same as they are. This is not true. We all have our own burdens on our backs, yes some have more, and some have less, but no one is completely free of them. The problem is when we use these burdens as excuses for why we can’t be good, or kind, or help others, or pray, or be with Christ. We don’t have the time. We’re too busy. We don’t want to “work”.
When we need God, do we not expect Him to be at the ready? When we cry for Christ’s mercy, do we do so only on Sundays? God expects the same of us.
Imagine if the volunteers at The Red Cross or Doctors Without Borders stopped working in a crisis to have a cigarette break or to watch TV. Imagine if our brave soldiers fighting for freedom around the world stopped in the middle of a firefight because they wanted to sit down and send a text message. These are extreme examples, and yet it becomes so clear in these circumstances that we expect them to selflessly perform.
Why is it so hard for us to be “available” for others in need in times that are infinitely easier than the examples above?
It’s because we have choices and choose not to care. We don’t have to do anything if we don’t want to. Sure, we all want the love, but are unwilling to give it back, especially when its an inconvenience or inopportune moment, like during a ball game on TV or on our lunch breaks. I am as guilty as anyone. Let me share an anecdote of my failure to assist two people within minutes of each other.
It is pleasing to God to see us move beyond our comfort zone to assist anyone in need.
I was recently in NYC for a Sony event as a photographer (one of my professions). Waiting in Penn Station on a Friday night during rush hour, I was in the hoards of people watching the monitor to see what track my train would arrive on. The way it works is when it appears on the screen people race to the track so they can get a good seat. Having lived in NYC for 15 years collectively, I was a seasoned rider and ready to go. I’m also quite aware of the scams often committed during this time of day and in the subways and railways.
As I was waiting, a large man with a homemade card in his hand explaining that he had a disability walked right up to me and asked if I could help him buy a ticket for a train ride back to his group home on Long Island. My instinct was that it was probably a scam. For a microsecond I thought of helping him. I scanned the room, looked at the monitor and calculated how much time I’d have to get on the ticket line, buy him a ticket and make my train (by the way, the next train heading in my direction was the only one that didn’t have a transfer and went straight home). I looked back at him and decided I was being deceived and told him I couldn’t help him.
The most peculiar thing followed. As he walked away time went into the slightest slow motion. I watched him to see who he would ask next, because that is how it works. Ask until someone says yes, because someone eventually will. But he didn’t do that. There were hundreds of people around me. Someone would have said yes. Instead, I watched him glide through the people, like a fish swimming gracefully, and then he disappeared behind a column and he was gone in the crowd. I stood there amazed.
Within minutes another person came up to me and asked for assistance, I can’t even remember what for, but it was similar enough. Again, I said no and watched as he also didn’t ask anyone else. Just walked away. Let me add that both when they approached me looked as if they were specifically coming to see me. I am a keen observer of people’s actions and I noticed in real time how strange that was.
And then it hit me, perhaps it was no accident that they came specifically to me. It was I who was tested to give help or to refuse. One came and then another, and I failed twice. As I looked for them, I could not find them. I questioned myself and knew I had made the poor decision. Would they get assistance from someone else, probably? If I helped, would I have missed my train? Not likely, but I would have gotten the next one for sure.
The failure was not assisting them because of “why” I didn’t want to help them. It was an inconvenience and I didn’t want to be scammed. Maybe I would have been scammed, but God would have read my genuine heart and be pleased. You cannot fail before God when trying to help someone. Did God send them to test me or to teach me? I picked up right away on my error and I was ashamed.
“26 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”– John 7:24 ESV
I encourage everyone to read the bible, Christians certainly, but even those outside the Faith. True wisdom lies in its pages, especially in the new Testament. Jesus gave us a playbook to a life pleasing to God. In return He promised an eternity of God’s love and favor.
The obvious wisdoms are the ones mostly shared, like thou shalt not kill or how to say The Lord’s Prayer. But in each sentence, there is truth to be gained. The passages above come amidst a whole story that carries the reader quickly to its end. But nestled in there is a simple truth; Jesus’ Father is working, and so is He. It’s so beautiful. It’s so quiet and yet so powerful a moment.
It is easy to be available when the time has already been put aside. But God is most pleased when He knows you are putting someone in need before yourself, when you are breaking some rules in the service of God and man. The law should not be broken, but you can work with the law and do good if you go out of your way to accomplish it. We can also alter our laws to improve them through proper and established processes. We can be lazy about it or go out of our way to fight for what is right.
All of Gods children can sleep soundly knowing that Christ and the angels watch over us. God will care for you, but one of his key instruments for good is us. He will send someone to help you when in need if your faith is with Him. Make sure you are available if He needs to send you to someone else. That is the partnership we share as Christians.
Do not rest, dear Christians, do not stop. Be available often to those in need. Say it to yourself, “my Father is working, and so am I.”