Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent (Feast of St. Patrick)
Today the one who is the “gate for the sheep” (John 10:7) has entered through the Sheep Gate; He who is our mercy has come to Bethesda: the “House of Mercy.” When King David came to conquer Jerusalem, its Jebusite king taunted him, saying, “You shall not enter here: the blind and the lame will drive you away!” (2 Sam. 5:6) Because of this, David swore that “the lame and the blind shall be the personal enemies” of the king (verse 8). Now the Son of David comes to conquer the world—starting with Jerusalem—and makes the blind and the lame His friends.
Shining a light into a dark place changes the look of everything. Shadows are cast at different angles than before and may be deeper, darker and longer. Colors are more vibrant; writing can be read. Light can, literally, transform one’s perceived reality. And so Jesus enters Jerusalem, certainly not for the first time in His life, but things have changed. The last time He came He shone a light onto the scandal of moneychangers and the selling of livestock in the Temple (John 2:13-25), which likely was remembered well by the religious officials there. Now He is stirring things up again by very publicly breaking the Sabbath.
Notice, as with the official’s son, how it happens. Jesus tells the man to rise; the man hears, believes, and goes on his way. He is chastised later for carrying his mat on the Sabbath, which leads to local people hearing that it was Jesus who healed the man, Himself breaking the Sabbath as well as encouraging the lame man to follow suit, doing what was considered unlawful. Later when Jesus finds him in the Temple area He shines His light yet again, revealing a sobering truth: “Look, you are well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse may happen to you.”
What could be worse than thirty-eight years of crippling illness, humiliating poverty, social isolation (“Sir, I have no one to put me in the pool…”) and then public chastisement for breaking the Sabbath? Sin. God gave the Law regarding the Sabbath, and here God—in Christ—has told the man to pick up his mat and walk, and the man did so; there is no sin in obeying God. “The Sabbath was made for man…” He says in Mark’s Gospel, “That is why the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath” (2:27-28). In this intimate encounter Jesus is reassuring the man, who likely feels terrible about potentially breaking the Sabbath, that “he is well,” that he has not sinned. He exhorts the man to sin no more, revealing to him that such a thing is worse than all he had suffered before; “rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both body and soul in Gehenna.” (Matthew 10:28)
Let us reflect with gratitude on all that Jesus has done for us, on all that the light of His mercy has revealed in our lives. Be encouraged by what you see, and let your gratitude strengthen you against future temptation.