5:1 After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic  called Bethesda,  which has five roofed colonnades. 3 In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed.  5 One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” 7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” 9 And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.
Now that day was the Sabbath. 10 So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” 11 But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’” 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. 14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. (John 5:1-15 (ESV)
“It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” But evidently it is lawful to harass someone who has just been healed. This Sabbath stuff makes a comeback way too often in the church. People make a big deal out of it in the name of Christ when Christ himself flouted it throughout his ministry. There was a reason for this. I mean people make resting into work with the rules. I find some things to be relaxing that others find to be work. Of course, when it comes to Sunday my greatest hope is a nap after church. Sunday morning is anything but restful for the one preaching. If it is a Richfield Sunday things are even more fun. I find myself taking a five minute nap in the Jeep parked by the grain elevator between Vernon and Eureka. I get that far before I realize I need to shut my eyes before I drive off the road. When Monday comes, I might not be too quick out of bed. But this illustrates a problem with the Sabbath rest bit that was prevalent even in the OT. There were always some that had to work on that day that others could rest, because the rest wasn’t found in lounging around even then. The Priests worked, rabbis worked, soldiers worked, and is a parent’s job ever done? Jesus mocks the Pharisees because he knows they feed their animals and if a donkey falls into a well they go to pull it out.
But people bent on finding salvation in the law latch on to this one. And then they turn it into work, they also turn it into a work. They want to hold this up to God as part of the flesh’s justification of self.
Now the true idea of the Sabbath rest is finally revealed in Jesus Christ who is our Sabbath rest. There was one Sabbath where he did no work, but rested dead in a tomb, and there with that rest he saved the world from sin and death. In him and him alone do we find rest. And there he tells us take up your bed and walk, and so we do walk in the newness of life. Think about the rest, the peace of mind, the joy of this man’s soul as he took up that bed and walked. There wasn’t a thought of work in it. So it is with us healed from sin as this man was. And there is rest, rest in Jesus, knowing that everything has been done for us our salvation is complete. That is the meaning even of moving the Sabbath in Christian worship so it is no longer Saturday but Sunday, the day in which Jesus rose from the dead freeing us from the law. The flouting of the Sabbath is worked into the worship of the Christian celebrating the resurrection. It was a law made to be broken, and it broke with the death of Christ.
So yeah, there is a bit of irony in all that that a person should go to church on Sunday and be lectured on the law and the keeping of the Sabbath, and then denied the Sabbath rest that is Christ, when they are denied the gospel. Denied the gospel. It happens. It happens in reformed church’s that don’t rightly know the gospel to begin with. It happens in Baptist church’s where Sunday after Sunday little children are denied that rest which comes to us in baptism where we are buried with Christ into his death, his Sabbath rest, so that we too might walk in the newness of life like that crippled man. It happens in pietistic Lutheran congregations too, where the gospel is feared and yeah butted out of existence. Most especially it happens when Communion is denied to the believers in Christ. I can’t tell you how many times I have interrupted a perfectly good vacation to go to church with my wife and be denied the forgiveness of sins given and shed for me in Christ’s body and blood. I would have found more rest staying at the beach. People would consider me immoral for that. Well let me tell you something, I consider your congregation to be immoral when it arbitrarily denies the weary traveler the sacrament because it happens to be the third Sunday or the second or whatever Sunday it is that your congregation has decided isn’t worth receiving the gifts Christ bequeathed to his church. If you don’t want it that Sunday then keep your ungrateful self at home, or just sit in the pew. Truth of the matter is, I haven’t ever heard the gospel preached in a congregation where I have been denied the sacrament either. Just an observation I have had. Seems to be some correlation. There is one reason to go to church on Sunday. One reason to fight with the kids and get them up early. One reason to blow off a peaceful morning reading a book or sleeping in, and that is to find a rest that you can’t find anywhere else, a rest for your soul that comes with the peace of God surpassing all understanding. It is to receive the forgiveness of sins in the proclamation of the word and in the reception of the sacrament. It is in these that the Christian finds rest, not in rules about mowing the lawn or playing ball with neighbor kids, but in Christ alone who is your Sabbath rest. In Christ alone who heals you and says take up your bed and walk, walk in the newness of life.