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Miss the Forest? - John 5

“You have your heads in your Bibles constantly because you think you’ll find eternal life there. But you miss the forest for the trees. These Scriptures are all about me! And here I am, standing right before you, and you aren’t willing to receive from me the life you say you want." - John 5:39-40 MSG

Many years ago Reverend Miller spoke at a youth revival service in Oklahoma city.  Over 50 youth came forward to get baptized that day.  A little over halfway through one of the youth workers ran up to the youth pastor in a panic.  With stress breaking his voice he explained "Number 37 didn't go all the way under!".  The youth pastor, confused, asked "What?".  The youth worker cried out again "Number 37 didn't go all the way under, his left arm floated up as he was going down.  What are we going to do!".  The youth pastor gave the youth worker's shoulder a pat and said "Trust Jesus!".   When Reverend Miller recalls this story he explains that he sometimes finds the legalistic part of himself wondering if he will meet this youth in heaven one day.  In his mind he imagines a one armed youth extending his hand in a greeting saying "Hi, I am number 37!".  

It is so easy to get caught up in the details and miss the real point.  50 children gave their lives to Christ that day, but this poor youth worker got lost in the details about where Number 37's arm was instead of where his heart was.  In our reading this week the Jewish leaders got caught up on where a mat was instead of where the healer was.  

Our reading is John 5.  Jesus was in Jerusalem for one of the major festivals.  He was visiting a pool that was known for it's healing properties.  Every now and then the water would stir and the sick, blind, and disabled would get in and some of them would be healed.  There was a man there who was stuck on his mat, unable to get up, and Jesus asked him what he was doing there.  The man said he was there to be healed, but he had nobody to help him get in the water.  Jesus healed him, told him to pick up his mat and walk.  The man did as he was told.  When the Jewish leaders saw the man they were angry because he was carrying his mat.  It was the Sabbath and nobody was supposed to be doing any work.  The man explained what had happened and that he was following the directions of the person who healed him, so they got angry with Jesus.  Who was this man that was encouraging people to break the Sabbath by carrying a mat? They were missing the point.  They were so focused on where this man's mat was that they didn't notice the miracle, the proof of God's presence.  

God, help us to honor both the trees and the forest.  Help us to see the point and not get lost in the details.  Help us to see you, standing before us.  Amen.  


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