I have often said and heard it said:
If you a point a finger, there are three pointing back at you.
The origin of this snippet of wisdom is believed to be Native American, specifically Navajo. In referring to a human being, the Navajo people use the word, bílaʼashdlaʼii, which translates to the five-fingered one.
My parents taught me, at a very young age, that it is impolite to physically point a finger at another person; yet I have, on more than one occasion, been guilty of the act. To the best of my ability, however, I have adhered to the instruction of my youth.
Christmastime In Crestline
For thirty years, I was employed as a full-time letter carrier with the United States Postal Service in Birmingham, Alabama. My mail route was in an elite section of Crestline; and the majority of my mail patrons were not only friendly, but also financially blessed. During the Christmas season; they were thoughtful and generous in leaving, inside mailboxes, gifts for Donna and me. There was always a plethora of both home-baked and store-bought goodies.
When I left work and arrived, gifts in tow, at home; Donna and I would prioritize—enjoying perishables first and storing, for future enjoyment, non-perishables in our guestroom. Donna’s father once commented that the guestroom, at Christmastime, looked like Vincent’s Market—a local gourmet supermarket that catered primarily to clients of discriminating taste.
The Way The Cookies Crumble
One of my most unforgettable gifts was a plate of home-baked fruitcake cookies, my favorite of all cookies, left inside the mailbox of a senior lady on my route. This was the first time that she had acknowledged, with a Christmas gift, her gratitude for the exceptional, yet humble job I did delivering her mail; and I was overcome with feelings of warmth and gratitude.
As Donna does not care for fruitcake cookies, my sharing with her was not an issue. Over the course of the day, I thoroughly enjoyed the cookies—occasionally reaching over and grabbing, as I proceeded through my route, a cookie to nibble. By the end of the day, there were only a few cookies remaining.
When I returned to the post office; I was informed that a lady, who lived on my mail route, had telephoned wanting to know who was responsible for swiping her cookies from the mailbox. To one of the mail clerks, the lady had explained that the cookies were a gift for her and a friend had left them inside the mailbox. The clerk informed the lady that I was working my route that day, so I would probably be the person to blame for the missing cookies.
The lady left word for me to please, if I had taken the cookies, bring back any that were left as she wanted, at the very least, to taste them. On the drive home from work, I rather sheepishly swung by her house and returned the remaining cookies to the mailbox from which they had been taken.
When Blame Comes Calling
All too often; we find ourselves, individually or collectively, either blaming or being blamed. As targets of blame, we basically have two choices—either we accept the blame or transfer it to another party. The choice, of course, weighs heavily not only on circumstances, but also whether or not we are guilty.
No doubt, accepting the blame for someone else can be commendable. After all, was that not what Jesus did for us? I can’t help but smile when I remember the words of a certain pastor friend who once commented, “Yes, but I’m not Jesus!”
Sabbath At The Pool Of Bethesda
The Pool of Bethesda, also known as the House of Mercy. Located in the Northeast quarter of Jerusalem, the Pool of Bethesda is a short distance from what we now call; in memory of Stephen, a deacon in the church at Jerusalem; Stephen’s Gate. This gate was where Stephen would, for his belief in Jesus, later be stoned to death and become a martyr for his faith.
John 5:1-4 (King James Version)
1 After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
2 Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.
3 In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.
4 For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.
The Pool of Bethesda was once used for washing sheep before they were led to the Temple to be sacrificed. The pool was surrounded by five porticoes, the roofs of which rested on huge columns.
The water in the pool had a widespread reputation for having, when the water stirred, healing properties. The belief was that an angel, at certain times, stirred the surface of the water and anyone who entered the water, at that precise moment, would be healed. In many ways, this premise seemed cruel―with luck being the primary factor in determining who is healed and who is not.
On the Sabbath, a throng of people had gathered around the pool. With all eyes focused on the water; the people did not even notice Jesus, the Divine Healer, as He walked among them. The timeline approximation would have been in the second year of Jesus’ three-year ministry.
Jesus Heals A Paralytic Man
John 5:5-8 (King James Version)
5 And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.
6 When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?
7 The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.
8 Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.
Making His way through the poolside crowd, Jesus’ attention was drawn to a paralytic man who was lying, on a mat, a distance away from the pool. From the Scriptures, we know the man had been a paralytic for thirty-eight years.
Aware that the man had been in his present state for a prolonged period of time, Jesus took into consideration that the man might not be totally committed to getting well. As a paralytic, the man had few obligations. He had a legitimate excuse to not have to work and deal with the stresses of a job.
Jesus also took into consideration that the man had positioned himself not within easy reach of the pool; but where he required assistance to access, if and when it was stirred, the water.
Jesus approached the paralytic man and began a conversation with him. When Jesus asked the man if he wanted to be made whole, you will notice he answered by blaming his failure to obtain healing on lack of help or interference from others.
When Jesus commanded the man to rise, take up his bed, and walk; he did not question, but did exactly as he was told. Not knowing who Jesus was, the man’s obedience was a great display of faith.
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
Unfortunately, however, there is a conundrum! As the man’s healing happened on the Sabbath; even the most menial labor, such as carrying a mat, was forbidden by Jewish law.
John 5:10-13 (King James Version)
10 The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed.
11 He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk.
12 Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk?
13 And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place.
You can imagine the reaction when some of the Jews, most likely Pharisees, saw this man carrying a mat on the Sabbath. They intercepted him and reminded him that he was breaking the law. He explained that he was doing as he had been told by his healer. When asked the identity of said healer, the only answer the healed man could give was that he did not know.
Let’s think about this for a minute. The man did not know who Jesus was, yet Jesus healed the man anyway. This proves that Jesus can and does heal not only those who know Him, but also those who don’t. Praise God? Praise God! Whoever you are and whatever your concerns, Jesus stands ready to help.
Jesus Gives The Healed Man A Warning
John 5:14 (King James Version)
14 Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.
Later, the man encountered Jesus at the Temple and learned His identity. At the pool, Jesus had given the man a healing. At the Temple, Jesus gave the man a warning.
This warning was not in reference to earthly maladies, but the final judgement when all mankind will stand before the throne of God.
I can’t help but wonder what message the man took away from his encounters with Jesus.
We do know that he did go to the Jews and reveal to them Jesus’ identity. In other words, the man was telling the Jews who was to blame for his having carried the mat on the sabbath. Was it the man’s intention to “throw Jesus under the bus”? Only God and the man know for certain what was in his heart.
If you are found, on that coming day when God holds you accountable for your actions or lack thereof, lacking due to your having made a conscience choice to reject Jesus; the only one to blame will be you.
Yours in Christ,
Featured Photo: Bartolomé Esteban Murillo; Christ Healing The Paralytic At The Pool Of Bethesda; The National Gallery; London, England; Oil On Canvas; 1667-1670
To accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, all you need do is open your heart to Him, earnestly repent of your sins, and pray the sinner’s prayer.