I wrote this article 30 years ago. I found it tonight. Even if the reader is not a Christian, I hope that the message I try to convey through this slice of Christ's life is a universal message. A meditation for Good Friday.
It is the Sabbath, a very holy day for the Jewish people. It's a day of prayer and rest. No work is to be done on the Sabbath.
But a man walks down the road to Jerusalem. He is carrying his mat, which is forbidden on the Sabbath.
"Now, just wait a minute. I can explain," the man says as he sees looks of disapproval.
"Before today, I couldn't walk. Now look at me!
"The man who healed me...I don't know him...but he said, 'Pick up your mat and walk.' And now, look at me! I can walk!"
For years from the time he was quite young, this man had lain by a bathing pool called Bethzath, near the Temple.
It was said that from time to time, an angel would stir the waters of the pool. Then whoever got into the pool first would be healed.
But since this man could not walk, he was never first. Yet he hoped day after day, year after year, that someone would help him.
He never dreamed that someone would be a man we call Jesus...or that the pool wouldn't be necessary for his healing.
He also never dreamed that people would be angry. Instead, he had hoped they would share his joy.
All the kind healer had asked was, "Do you want to get well?"
He nodded, and before he knew it he was walking ... the first time in 37 years.
Now the healer was gone. He had left because of the large crowd. For some reason many people did not like this kind man. If only he could locate him once more!
He would like to show him to the crowd, and tell them that he was a good man. There was nothing to fear from him. Besides, some Jews seemed very interested in getting to know him better.
Again, the former cripple looks at his feet. It's not a dream. He is walking!
Mat still in his hands, he takes off running back to the Temple to give thanks to God.
In the Temple, the mysterious healer again comes to him. He smiles and looks at the feet he's just made whole.
"I'm happy you're healthy again," the man says. "I am Jesus of Nazareth. Go and sin no more. Enjoy your health in my Father's love."
Still carrying his mat, the newly healed man rushes back outside and shouts:
"Hey, it was Jesus who healed me! He said his name was Jesus!"
Slowly eyes of the crowd shift from him to his healer, just steps behind him. Angry words become louder and louder.
This is the Sabbath... a day devoted completely to Yahweh. Why does this man heal on the Sabbath? Perhaps he is evil after all. He has broken the Sabbath.
But Jesus is calm.
"My Father works today caring for his people, and I do, too."
This Jesus is calling Almighty Yahweh his Father. No human being has ever said this before. He is making himself equal to Go, and on one has a right to do that!
Now besides breaking the Sabbath, he acts disrespectful to Yahweh. This man is dangerous!
Jesus knows the crowd's thoughts, but he seems not to be afraid. He sees that they truly do not understand just who he is. It will be hard, but he must try to explain.
"I am the Son," he says. "I can do nothing by myself. What I see my Father do, though, I do in the same way.."
Some of the men in the crowd stop to think. They are fathers, and they know that their sons learn in much the same way. Their sons depend on them, too, for guidance.
But this man says he is God's Son! That's different! That's wrong!
"The Father loves the Son, and shows him everything that he himself does. I know that he has even greater things to show me. Then you will be really amazed."
The Jews don't realize that he's talking about his future resurrection from the dead.
"The Father can even raise persons from the dead and make them live," Jesus says. "The Son can do the same for people he wants to live."
Tempers start to flare, but Jesus wants to be sure that his point is clear.
"I want to tell you more," Jesus shouts. "My Father won't judge anyone. He has given his Son this duty. He wants honor to be given to his Son, just as you give it to the Father. whoever does not honor the Son, doesn't honor the Father."
The fathers in the crowd again identify this with their own families. Family ties among the Jews are very strong. If one member is disgraced, the whole family is disgraced.
But this man's from Nazareth, and his father is Joseph, not God Almighty.
And now this same man is also promising eternal life!
"If you listen to my message and believe the Father who sends me, you will have eternal life," Jesus says.
"You are not sentenced to punishment, but pass over death into life."
It's difficult to go along with this Jesus. Now he speaks about the importance of faith to a crowd whose fear of judgment has always demanded perfect obedience to the Law, every letter of it. It was an obedience out of fear, not from love.
And everyone there knows that man cannot live forever. Everyone dies sometime.
But Jesus is not talking about their physical death... but a spiritual death... eternal separation from God.
"Soon... even now ... the dead (persons separated from God) will hear the voice of the Son of God ... and they will live.
"The Father has life in him, and has given me life, too. And since I am son of Man, he has made me judge for my fellow man."
Now he claims to be both Son of God and son of Man. This is too much! The crowd thins down. Some go home laughing.
The ones who stay then head Jesus speak of people resurrecting from their graves at the Last Judgment.
"Those who have led good lives will be resurrected to life; those who have done evil, to a life of misery.
"But remember, although I will judge at that time, I will not act alone. I will be fair, and will judge as I am informed. I will always act on the will of my Father."
This is enough! One man yells from the back, "Prove to us that you are who you say you are! Prove it!"
"I know you do not take my word as truth," Jesus answers. "But would you believe my Father, God of Israel? He says the same thing.
"John the Baptist knew my true identity and told you who I was. He attracted you like a lamp in the dark."
Jesus pauses as he remembers his cousin.
"Remember, while he lived and preached you were happy in the light he brought.
"Yes, even a greater witness than John the Baptist is the work my Father gives me to do, such as healing that man today.
"Believe me," Jesus emphasizes. "My Father in Heaven has agreed with everything I've said today, but you haven't heard his voice. Nor have you seen him as I have.
"But worst of all, his message doesn't live in your heart, because you do not believe in me, his Son."
Jesus's words were coming slower now.
You read from the scriptures daily because you believe you find eternal life in them. Next time, read more carefully. They tell of me.
"You can come to me for eternal life, yet for some reason, you don't want to.
"I tellyou this because I love you; not because I want to be famous. It saddens me that you don't seems to have God's love within you.
"I come in my Father's name, but you can't accept me. When others come in their own names, you accept them though. You welcome praise from one another, but turn your backs on praise from your God."
By now the crowd has dwindled to almost no one. Jesus is tired and wonders if his mission on earth is getting anywhere.
"When the time of the final judgment comes," Jesus concludes, "I will not accuse you. Moses will. You say you believe in Moses. Well, he wrote about me. I guess you don't believe in his writings either, because you're not believing me today."
The sun draws close to the western wall of Jerusalem. The Sabbath's about over. By now the crowd has left completely..
Jesus is alone. He turns his head slowly from left to right. Then his glance seems to focus on puffy clouds above the city.
He walks away, as a man carrying his mat stares down into the Bethsath pool. The former cripple knows his life will never be the same again. Yet now his joy is mixed with pain.
Today, as a lame man, he walked. Now he realizes that the healer also opened his eyes and ears at the same time.
He is certain that this man was telling the truth a few moments earlier. A knife seems to pierce his heart as he sees God's Son walk away... alone... totally rejected and ridiculed by the people he loves.
What hurts more is that the former cripple knows that this is just the beginning of his people's confrontation with Jesus. Perhaps they'll never accept him.
Perhaps someday they'll even try to kill him!