Skip to main content

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.  


Popular posts from this blog

Death Will Lose it's Sting

Our reading from the Narrative Lectionary this week is 1 Corinthians 15:51-57. In these verses, Paul reveals a mystery, that in the end some will be transformed, given a new body, instead of facing death.  In other words death is not one of life's two certain terms.  It seems taxes may be the only guarantee.   " this world nothing can be said to be certain, except  death and taxes ." - Benjamin Franklin. Ok, all jokes aside, these verses are difficult to read.  Paul looks forward to a time when death will have no victory, it will have lost its sting.  But today, we are in the middle of a pandemic, surrounded by death.  Many are scared for their lives, or their loved ones, and too many have already been lost.  Death does not seem to have lost its sting at all, it feels as if it is closing in. When I worked in wilderness therapy I remember holding a child who was desperately trying to kill himself.  We cried together as he struggled to end it, and I struggled

Fool for Christ

Our reading from the Narrative Lectionary this week is 2 Corinthians 5.  Verse 13 stood out to me. If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. - 2 Corinthians 5:13a (NLT) John Wimber, the founder of the Vineyard churches did a famous sermon called "I am a fool for Christ, whose fool are you?".  Reading this week's text reminded me of this wonderful sermon.  Wimber's sermon reminds us that, as christians, we are called to something truly radical.  The christian walk is strange and counter cultural.  Jesus once explained this to his disciples in John 15 "If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. You don't belong to this world, I have chosen you out of it.  That is why the world hates you."   Peter, in a letter to the church, later referred to all of us as strangers just passing through this world.   Do you feel like a stranger?  Do you feel like the world hates you?  Are you a fool for Christ? Here is the thing, you are going t

Looking Back?

"Remember Lot’s wife!  "   -  Luke 17:32 This is one of the shortest verses in the Bible.  Jesus was talking about the terrible circumstances that will be present when he comes back.  He was warning people that they would not see it coming.  People will be going about their business and then suddenly, without warning, chaos will take over.  People will need to flee, and he warns them not to go back for their possessions, for anything.  This is where he says "Remember Lot's wife!".  In desperation he pleads with them to remember the fate of this woman.  To his listeners it would bring to mind the story of Lot and his family fleeing the destruction of Sodom.  They too were warned not to go back for anything, not to even look back, but Lot's wife did look back.  And when she did, she turned into a pillar of salt.   Metaphorically speaking this is often what happens when we look back.  We get frozen in place and we cease moving forward.  I have a childhood frie