I got my head jarred back this morning. Totally caught by surprise by this longish quote. The non-western author, Vishal Mangalwadi, while talking philosophy dips into the Bible to recount a story I read just last week. It is about a sick man Jesus heals in the Gospel of John chapter 5. What kicked back my head this morning was his description of the society of the day, a “social pool of a stagnant, selfish society.” I immediately had this image of a slime green oily pool with flies buzzing around and a stench that was awful.
The quote goes like this:
The man was sick, the treatment was free and within sight, yet he could not get it.
Why not? He explained to Jesus that he did not have anyone to help him into the water when it was stirred. No one cared for him.
Jesus told this man who had not stood for almost four decades to pick up his mat and walk. He did! But it was the Sabbath. In Jerusalem you could forget whether it was Tuesday or Thursday, but no on ever forgot it was the Sabbath. It was forbidden to carry your mat on the Sabbath. The Jewish society was so well organized that in no time the authorities found out that this unknown man had dared to break the sabbatical rule by picking up his bed and walking. An on-the-spot inquiry began. How efficient!
Why was a religious establishment which had not cared for a sick man for thirty-eight years so prompt in caring for its own inhuman rules? I find it hard to believe that they were so keen to enforce the Sabbath legislation because they wanted to please God. I am more inclined to think that one of their interests was to impose a fine and collect a little extra revenue! The sick man had complained to Jesus that his problem was that his society had no compassion. It hadn’t even bothered to enforce a basic etiquette of civilized behavior: first come, first served. The resourceful came late but got healed first.
It was not by mistake that Jesus asked this powerless man to challenge an inhuman society by a deliberate act of defiance. God had provided the stirred-up pool of water for the healing of this man. It was the social pool of a stagnant, selfish society that needed to be stirred up for the man’s healing. Stirring the pool is precisely what Jesus did.
Is there a pool of stagnant, selfish society you can stand up to today?.