But Jesus found him

John 5:13-30 The man didn’t know [who had healed him and told him to pick up his mat and walk], for Jesus had disappeared into the crowd. But afterward Jesus found him in the Temple and told him, “Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you.” … So the Jewish leaders began harassing Jesus for breaking the Sabbath rules. … The Father judges no one. Instead, he has given the Son absolute authority to judge, so that everyone will honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. … Those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.

When I was a child, it seemed the only thing my parents commended me for was my report card. For me, earning all As felt like a matter of life and death. So when I received a B in math in third grade, I was devastated. I remember so clearly sitting in my hiding place at boarding school feeling absolute despair. I was a failure. The thought of my parents’ disappointment in me felt unbearable. How could I face them? How could I live with myself?

In chapter four of his book The Good and Beautiful God, James Bryan Smith discusses the merit system so engrained in our culture and then asks the question, “What does God really want from me?”

When Jesus was asked which was the greatest commandment, he answered clearly: love God with all you have. … This in no way negates the fact that God is unflinchingly against sin. God hates sin because it hurts his children. But God is crazy about his children. … What if God is not mad at you? What if God responds to us with absolute delight regardless of how we look or feel, or what we have or have not done? The only possible response would be to feel absolute delight in return (pp. 85-87; italics mine).

When I read this, I wrote “Karis” in the margin. Because somehow, she captured and owned this bedrock belief that God loved her no matter what. She used to say, “I’m the most useless creature in the world. God made me to showcase his grace because I have no way to earn his favor. All I can do is love him back and love the people he sends to me.”

I’ve returned to chapter 5 of John because after my last post, a friend emailed me the question, How do you reconcile Jesus not judging with all the verses that say he does judge? Of the 33 times in his Gospel John uses words translated as judge or judgment, seven are in 5:22-30, including verse 22, the Father judges no one. Instead, he has given the Son absolute authority to judge. That sounds like the opposite of 8:15 from my last post! And verse 27, the Father has given the Son authority to judge everyone because he is the Son of Man.

I have a theory, but I’ve run out of time and space for today. For now: In the case of the healing of this man, Jesus said he had gotten sick because of his sin (v. 14). He states elsewhere, as with the man born blind in chapter 9, that his blindness is NOT because of sin in his life or his parents’. Jesus was able to discern (“judge”) the difference between the two cases.

Illness resulting from choices is commonplace: if you drink too much alcohol over time, you’ll kill your liver (and probably your family relationships). If you smoke regularly, you’ll kill your lungs. If you are chronically overstressed, it will show up in your body. We don’t know what sin caused this man’s illness, but Jesus cared enough to seek him out later.

If we define “sin” loosely as something that harms you or someone else, sin and its effects grieve God because he loves us and wants us to live in freedom.

Our pastor in Brazil was invited to preach in another church. When he came home, he asked his son what the substitute preacher in our church had to say. Caught out for not paying attention, his resourceful son fabricated, “He preached about sin!” “Oh, and what did he say?” “He was against it!”

The sin Jesus is against is what hurts his beloved ones. This stands in sharp contrast to rule-keeping for its own sake, to earn points—the merit system embodied in the Jewish leaders.

Later! Gotta run!

From Shutterstock by Faya Francevna


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