Take Up Your Bed And Walk
John 5:7-15 MKJV The infirm man answered Him, Sir, when the water is troubled, I have no one to put me into the pool. But while I am coming, another steps down before me. (8) Jesus says to him, Rise, take up your bed and walk. (9) And immediately the man was made whole and took up his bed and walked. And it was a Sabbath on that day. (10) Therefore the Jews said to him who had been healed, It is the Sabbath. It is not lawful for you to take up the bed. (11) He answered them, He who made me whole said to me, Take up your bed and walk. (12) Then they asked him, Who is the man who said to you, Take up your bed and walk? (13) And he did not know Him who had cured him, for Jesus had moved away, a crowd being in the place. (14) Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, Behold, you are made whole. Sin no more lest a worse thing come to you. (15) The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him whole.
There are three main characters here: Jesus who makes the man whole, the Pharisees who see the “sin” (carrying his bed) and miss the miracle (that he was able to carry his bed), and the man who was once infirm who now ends up telling on Jesus.
The crucial information is in verses 8 and 9 above: “Jesus says to him, Rise, take up your bed and walk. (9) And immediately the man was made whole and took up his bed and walked. And it was a Sabbath on that day.” Jesus speaks into the man’s life and makes him whole and able to pick up his bed (probably a straw mat of some sort) and walk, throughout the passage this is referred to as “being made whole”.
This is true holistic ministry, Jesus addresses the man’s physical need first (verses 8 and 9) and his moral need second (verse 14) – saving grace always precedes moral reformation. God often does His greatest miracles ‘while we were yet sinners’ (Romans 5:8).
Those observing it, miss the miracle and just see a man carrying his bed on the Sabbath in clear violation of the religious codes of the day. The answer the man gave is a classic: “He who made me whole said to me, Take up your bed and walk.” Clearly pointing out that Jesus (grace) could do what the Pharisees (Law) could not – that is making a man whole. But again the Pharisees miss the miracle and in their reply instead of saying, “Who made you whole?” indicating an interest in grace, they merely say “Who is the man who said to you, Take up your bed and walk?” Thus ignoring God’s great saving work in favor of locating a supposed “criminal”.
Jesus moves away and disappears into the crowd, doing another anonymous miracle. So much of God’s work is like that – anonymous. So often God heals, provides and saves and then leaves the scene with just a fragrance of grace lingering in the air.
Jesus did not just leave the man physically healed; He also sought to care for his soul. “Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, Behold, you are made whole. Sin no more lest a worse thing come to you.” Jesus knew that this man had been morally compromised by his 38 years of dependency, desperation and alienation. Such long-term poverty often reduces people to a survival mentality in which higher values like loyalty and morality are discarded in favor of the prospect of immediate monetary gain. Jesus was trying to lift him up a notch to a higher spiritual and moral level.
However, Jesus’ exhortation seems to have offended the man, who immediately left to tell the Jews about Jesus, knowing full well that this would get Jesus into trouble. In direct contrast to the blind man in John 9 this fellow is an ungrateful wretch.
His reaction is the short-term survival mentality at work: The man had got what he wanted from Jesus – healing, now he might get some money from the Jews by telling on Him. This is the ultimate extension of the “hand-out mentality”.
So we have two sets of people who missed the point of the miracle entirely. The first is the man who received the miracle who saw it as “just another handout”, this time from God and who at no point “praises God” – in complete contrast to the lame man at the Gate Beautiful who went “walking and leaping and praising God”. The miracle was simply another thing that happened to him in life and seems to have wrought no perceptible moral or spiritual change. This is what is known as a defiled conscience, one that has been degraded by life until only immediate self-interest is left as a personal value.
The second are the Pharisees who see the miracle as an illegal act. Their spiritual senses are overwhelmed by a desire to control people and to wield power over others via the enforcing of various rules. The Jews, as John calls them, are blind to grace because they only see Law. This is like many cults and schismatic churches today. This is known as an overly scrupulous conscience, one that is overly concerned with religious laws and fine-points and strangely seared towards human compassion and quite unable to apprehend grace. The diametric opposite of the defiled conscience it is like an over-dose of conscience. But it is just as blind to God.
Those who worship in Spirit and in truth, on the other hand, would see a miracle, a mighty miracle, and smell the fragrance of grace and have an intact sense of wonder and a conscience alive to basic spiritual realities. Let us pray that God will enable us to have such a sense of spiritual wonder that we always behold His works.