Whats the sin in John 5?

beggar-of-bethesda

Jesus heals a man at the pool of Bethesda.  Later, he says to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” (v. 14)

So what was the sin?

There is a theology as old as Job that illness is caused by sin. That idea is rebuked by the overall point of Job and by the speech of God at the end.  Then in John 9 Jesus was asked who was to blame for a man being born blind.  Was he to blame or his parents.  Jesus said neither. There was another reason.

So what are we to make of John 5?

Maybe the man was paralyzed from sin. Did he do something to cause it? Was he punished for some sin by being paralyzed?

I was reading the text for what the emphasis is there. What we know about the man is that he, like many, believed that the pool of Bethesda had some kind of healing power.  When the water was “stirred” the first to get in would get cured.  This man had been hoping to win that race for some time – his illness had lasted 38 years.

Just before this story in Chapter 4 is the account of a royal official who approached Jesus about his son who was close to death. He asked Jesus to come to his house, but Jesus simply spoke the word, “Go, your son will live.”  He found out later that at that moment was when his son was healed. This was the second “sign” miracle in John.  The Word of Jesus has power to heal.

Now I wonder if the text is calling us to read the signs.  Rather than looking to a bit of stirred water at a pool in a holy city, look to the Son of God who has, like the Creator in Genesis 1, the power to create by speech.  Has not John called Jesus the “Word” in John 1?

I am thinking that the sin might be a magical faith – the man in John 5 believed the bit about the water in the pool.  Maybe he should have put his faith in God instead.

In the history of religion, there as been a lot of excitement about holy places, holy objects, holy days and holy rituals, when God is not limited in time and place.

Was Jesus saying, something like, quit trusting in magic, trust me.

 

 

 

 

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Reading an old Book

augustine

I am reading St. Augustine’s “The Literal Meaning of Genesis” and found this quote. It is interesting because I am curious what pre-scientific era Christians had to say about Genesis.

Book 1, paragraph 25

“…although water still covered all the earth, there was nothing to prevent the massive watery sphere from having day on one side by the presence of light and on the other side,  night by the absence of light.” (underline added)

Hmmm. So much for flat earth thinking.

Dual Dual Natures

creation_of_man_by_hel999We are reading and I am preaching Genesis, John and later Revelation side by side.  This is an interesting way to see these books from a different perspective. The text’s should not be forced to correlate, but it is interesting how often they do.

In Genesis 2, there is a clear statement of the dual nature of the first human.

“Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”    Genesis 2:7

So this states that humanity is of the dust of the earth – we are made of the matter that surrounds us.  Unlike some views that see the world as a trap or an illusion, the Bible calls the material world (before sin) good. It is doing what it was made to do.  And so human nature ties us to the world.  Adam and Eve are created in the context of a material place – Eden.

While all creatures have the breath of life in them, even the mouse living in your attic has that. Only of “adam” was it said that God directly breathed into him the breath of life.  So this is to say there is a spiritual nature.  The word for “breath” is used here, but it suggests the spiritual nature of humanity.

We have a dual nature – we live and are tasked with working, caring for and enjoying life on the earth – together with others.  Yet we in a unique way have a bond with the creator that is unlike the members of the animal kingdom.

In John 2, there is a wedding.  Jesus and his disciples are in attendance. This is the same Jesus who was described in John 1 with this statement.

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” John 1:14.   In this chapter the Word is the pre-existent, eternal Son of God – present with the father at the creation of the world.  So we see the divine nature of Jesus.  yet the Word became flesh. He did not take up humanity as a disguise, but he became a man.  Jesus has a dual nature that is far beyond ours. He is Divine (“the word”) and Human (“became flesh”)

At the wedding, Jesus took water and with the power of the Creator (“through him all thins were made” John 1:3) turned it into wine.  Compared to Genesis 1, this is a small act.  but compared to how men and women usually make wine, it is a sign of his divine nature. “What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory and his disciples believed in him.”  John 2:11

dual

The church councils did a lot of work to hammer out our confession that in Jesus we have one person who is fully God (the Word) and fully man (became flesh).

People sometimes accuse these theologians of splitting hairs, but it seems to me that Genesis and John are written in simple terms (we can all understand words like word, dust, breath and flesh) but are also deeply theological.

Not everything can fit into Twitter.

(art)

A Holiday Meditation

mulledciderLast Sunday’s message followed the rubric RAMP. Read it here  Being Light

  • Read
  • Apprehend
  • Mull
  • Practice

In the “M” portion of this message we mull this over.  I use the word “mull” because that is what Meditate is in the Bible. In some forms of meditation, such as mindfulness mediation, the point is to empty our minds and be present without thinking. The Bible’s use of the word mediation is to think about God or the Word of God.  It is to “mull things over.”

Have you ever had mulled apple cider? Someone pours a bunch of cider into a pot, adds cinnamon sticks maybe orange peels and other spices and lets it simmer. We call that “Mulling.” In the process the spices work themselves into the cider and the result is delicious.

That is Biblical mediation. You are the cider and the word of God is the cinnamon sticks and orange peel. You need to apply time and thought so that the word of God works itself into your thinking. From there it works into your living.  It becomes part of you and determines how you live.

 

63 Years is just a start

pianoWe lost one of our members last week.  A year before we had honored her for 63 years of service to our music program at the church.  She did much more than that, but she did play piano, organ and sing in the choir and various duets, trios, quartets and so forth.  Her license plate, to make the point clear, was “MUSICK”.

It strikes me as good practice for eternity.  Take a look at the scenes of heaven found in Isaiah 6 and various chapters of Revelation, and you will find praise and worship.  Some of our familiar songs come from these chapters, such as “Holy, Holy, Holy.”

With whatever else we may be doing in Eternity, we will be offering worship.  What is 63 years? It is incredible to us. How can anyone do that for so long?  Yet what is eternity?  All our accomplishments and longevity will be like a drop in the bucket of eternity.

Oh, and did I forget to mention the Psalms – 150 songs of worship.

I rejoiced with those who said to me,
    “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”

Psalm 122:1

Larry

old-shoes-bernard-jaubert

He came the first time, 20 years ago now, holding a pair of shoes out to me. “Pastor, I need some money. Will you give me $10. I’ll leave these shoes with you.”

Well, there is an actual verse about not taking a persons cloak in pledge. Exodus 24:12

12 If the neighbor is poor, do not go to sleep with their pledge in your possession.

So I helped him. that was the start of a number of visits. He came to the office, he came by my house at times.  There was always a small need.  He had a prescription, but needed a co-pay.  He needed a few dollars for gas to get to a food pantry.  He turned out to wear my size of shoes and pants, so I would save any shoes that were old but not worn out and give them to him.

He did day labor when I first knew him.  He had a series of old cars that somehow he kept running.  Over time he was not able to work due to his health.

Yesterday his partner of 30 years came by in tears. Larry had died on the evening of Thanksgiving.  They were not married, so she did not know if she could see him.  I called the funeral home and we arranged to meet there the next today. She asked for a bible and a prayer, which we did in the parking lot.

Larry was laid out. down stairs in a small room,  under a cover.  He looked calm, as he usually did.

She wanted to know if she could kiss him. Yes she could.

Larry had some family and a few friends who were there, saying good-by.  His brother read a couple of verses from the New World Bible.

What is next?  Larry is in the hands of the Almighty, as is his partner for many years. He on that side and she on this.

She kept saying, “I want to take him home.”

I tried to say that he is home.  “You can take him home in your heart, but he has to stay here.”

If you read this, pray for Larry’s partner, Donna.