Thursday, March 04, 2010

Kindness, part 2

John 5:1-18 is the record of Jesus showing a particular kindness to a lame man. Why not say Jesus performed a miracle? There certainly was a miracle performed, but there is much more, which will become clear. The man received not one, but three acts of kindness in the miracle.

First, we notice that Jesus gave this man freedom from his physical condition. Immediately I recall and contrast the request (and failed attempt) of Houdini to restore the amputated leg of a French actress (see previous post on “Kindness”). The man had not been able to walk for many years, until Jesus confronted him, “Do you wish to get well?” Obviously the man not only answered in the affirmative, but also provided a history of what had been attempted for him previously. There is nothing anyone could have done to help the man and he remained immobilized in his condition. Jesus heals the man, who is immediately “up and running,” so to speak.

The second kindness we notices is that Jesus gave this man freedom from his sin. Moreover, Jesus gave him explicit instructions on how to keep something worse from happening to him. One may conjecture that the man’s illness was brought about by sin—perhaps he had so long duped the public with a false debilitation . . .

Regardless, Jesus catches the man in a private moment and frees him from sin, supplying him with a powerful strategy to keep from sinning more: “do not sin any more.” How profound!

The third kindness is that Jesus showed the man mercy. Mercy and kindness go together. Jesus showed mercy by telling him to walk—he can no longer remain immobile. He showed mercy by telling him not to sin anymore. Now Jesus met the man where he was and showed mercy despite all he had done. Contrast this with the Jews and how they responded to the man—they could have cared less about him. They just wanted to know why he was breaking the law on the Sabbath by carrying the pallet. Didn’t the man know he could not do that? No mercy.

What do you suppose the man was thinking? Someone comes along and says, “do this.” Would you do what a stranger asks? Why did this man not just speak up and say, “Uh, Jesus, don’t you know this is the Sabbath? I can’t be healed today. Sorry.” Those who are happy and healthy pass thirty-eight years in a much different way.

The Jewish religious leaders showed no kindness to Jesus. They don’t even know they are crippled in law, practice, attitude, etc. But they did not want to be made well, either, did they?

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