Peter Misselbrook's Blog
May 7 2013 - John 5:1-24 – Do you want to be whole?

I began to learn New Testament Greek some 40 years ago. One of the first verbs I learnt was λυω (luo). This was the 'pattern verb' which was used to learn the various forms of the Greek verb (tense, voice, mood, person, number etc.).

The verb λυω has a wide range of meanings, but its basic meaning is to loose or untie (see, for instance, the words of John the Baptist in Mark 1:7). This verb is used in the passage that we have read this morning – in the account of Jesus healing the man who had, for 38 years, spent his days lying beside the pool in Bethsaida. Jesus told the man to pick up his mat and walk away, and the man had done so. But the Jewish leaders who saw the man carrying his mat were angry, first with him, then with Jesus, because he had been healed on the Sabbath. John records that they sought to kill Jesus because "he loosed the Sabbath" (John 5:18).

Does John use the verb in this context with deliberate ambiguity? Here, it means to 'break', in the sense of undoing the integrity of the Sabbath legislation. This was the charge brought against Jesus; he was a Sabbath breaker. But perhaps John intends us to read the accusation in another sense. Jesus is the one who sets the Sabbath free. He is the one who unties and releases people from the entangling burden of Jewish Sabbath regulations and gives Sabbath in all its liberating fullness. He is the one who gives freedom, rest and Shalom to those he touches and enables them to enter the rest of God.

But let me backtrack a little. Jesus’ question to the man at the poolside is fascinating. He asks him, “Do you want to be whole/well?” What a question to ask a man who had suffered for 38 years! Yet the man’s answer is very revealing: he does not say, “Yes. That’s my dearest wish, my greatest longing.” Instead he gives excuses as to why he remains in his present condition. He claims that he has no one to help him get better. His expectations have shrunk to the limits of his diminished life; he could no longer imagine anything different.

Jesus does not respond to his excuses but simply tells him to get up and get on with life – life as it was meant to be lived. All his excuses are swept away, for Jesus stands before him as one able to help him. Jesus is able to give him life in all its fullness; his words, “Get up … and walk”, are words of power.

Jesus has come to set the captives free – free to follow him into life in all its fullness. He has come to untie those things that restrict and disable us. He has come to break our habitual acceptance of a life that is no life. And he invites us also, even commands us, to enter into life – and supplies the power for us to do so.

So the question remains, “Do you want to be whole?” or will you continue with the same old excuses as why you should not live life to the full?

Thank you Lord Jesus for setting captives free and giving life in all its fullness. Thank you that those who trust in you have crossed over from death to life – eternal life. Help me to get up and walk in the path of life that you have opened up for me, not letting anything hold me back or tie me down. Help me to bring something of your healing and wholeness to a broken world that many might find their Sabbath rest in you.

May 7 2019 - 2 Samuel 7 – God's covenant with David

David had brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, but it was still housed in the Tabernacle – a large tent. Meanwhile, David lived in a splendid palace, a symbol that he is there to stay. So David decided that he should replace the Tabernacle, designed to be moved around, with a permanent building for the Ark of the Covenant – a Temple.  The prophet Nathan told David that building a Temple for the Lord would be a good idea, but even prophets can get it wrong when they express their own opinion rather than seeking a word from the Lord. God gave Nathan a very different message to pass on to David.

The Lord's message is a declaration that God is going to fulfil his promises to Abraham through David. The Israelites are now settled in the Promised Land and will no longer be disturbed by their enemies. God has given them rest. And these covenant blessings will continue through David's descendants. His son will build a Temple in Jerusalem for the Lord. The kingdom which God has established through David will last forever.

In response, David pours out his heart in praise to God. His words echo those spoken by God at the foot of Mount Sinai; David says, "How great you are, Sovereign LORD! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears. And who is like your people Israel – the one nation on earth that God went out to redeem as a people for himself, and to make a name for himself, and to perform great and awesome wonders by driving out nations and their gods from before your people, whom you redeemed from Egypt? You have established your people Israel as your very own forever, and you, LORD, have become their God" (2 Samuel 7:22-25, cf. Exodus 19:3-6).

God's promise to David is wonderful. But if we are to understand it within the context of the whole drama of Scripture, we need to add two caveats. Firstly, there is one vital part of the promise of God to Abraham which has not yet been fulfilled; God promised that through him and his descendants, all nations on earth would be blessed. God's words to Israel at the foot of Sinai reminded them that they are called to be a priestly nation, that through them, all nations on earth shall come to know the living God. How will David or a descendant of David be used to bring blessing to all nations?

Secondly, God's promise to bless David's descendants and protect their throne is not unconditional. As 1 Chronicles 28:6-7 makes plain, the continuance of the kingdom is dependent upon the faithfulness of the king. As we continue to follow the history of Israel's kings, we shall see how idolatry and disobedience on the part of the kings led to exile – the loss of the Promised Land. Will a son of David ever appear who will be perfectly obedient to God and who will establish a kingdom that will never be destroyed?

The promises given by Nathan to David point us forward to David's greater son. Jesus is the one of whom God says "I will be his father, and he will be my son... Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever" (7:14, 16; cf. Hebrews 1:5). He is the one in whom all nations on earth shall be blessed.

Thank you heavenly Father that while all earthly kingdoms decay and disappear, the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ increases and shall last forever. Thank you for Jesus' perfect obedience, obedience that took him to the cross for us. Thank you that his is risen from the dead and ascended to your right hand in the heavens where he reigns in glory. Thank you that by your grace and through your Spirit you have called us into the kingdom of your dear Son. Use us to draw others to the Lord Jesus and to rejoice in the life of your kingdom.

Peter Misselbrook