You Don’t Know the Meaning of the Mat: The Provocative Nature of Healing & the Power of God

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as written and recorded by the apostle John. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses thirty-five through forty-one of the ninth chapter. When you come to this particular portion of scripture you will find the narrative and account of the man born blind and being healed by Jesus coking to a close. As you come to this particular portion of scripture you will find that it essentially carried and bite the same characteristics and traits as the fifth, sixth and eighth chapters. What I mean by this is that what we find in the fifth and eighth chapters is a very specific need which Jesus not only identified, but also took the time to minister in the midst of. If and as you read each of these chapters you will find it written and recorded how they each started with Jesus Christ coming face to face with a very Siri fix need that was present before Him—two within the city of Jerusalem, and one within the land and region of Galilee. Beginning to read with the first verse of the fifth chapter you will face to face with Jesus in the city of Jerusalem during the time of a great Jewish feast and coming unto the pool of Bethsaida. There at the pool of Bethdaida there were five porches or colonnades which contained and bore countless blind, lame and half individuals—all who spent their lives living and dwelling within this porches or colonnades waiting for something very specific to take place. That which the countless individuals within these porches or colonnades were waiting for was the stirring or troubling of the water, for the apostle John writes and records how at a certain season an angel of the Lord would come down from heaven and trouble the waters. Whosoever would enter into the waters first after they had been troubled would find and experience healing and wholeness of whatever ailment or illness they had. The narrative within the firth chapter isn’t necessarily about the countless men and women who spent their days living and dwelling within these porches but about one single man who lie within one of these porches waiting for a chance he wasn’t sure would ever come. There was a single man who lived and dwelt within one of these colonnades who not only waited for the stirring of the waters so he could find healing and wholeness, but he also had spent countless times trying to make it down to the waters when they were troubled in order that he might somehow and some way enter into the waters that he might be made whole. The narrative within the fifth chapter of the gospel which John wrote mentions the porches being filled with countless individuals who were not only blind, lame and halt, but also who were waiting for the troubling of the waters, however, it actually transitions to this single man who had been in his condition for thirty and eight years.

I have to admit that I am incredibly intrigued by that which we find and read within this passage of scripture, for what we find within it is a narrative that does in fact begin with countless lame, blind and halt men and women waiting for the season of troubled waters, however, t ends up being about one lowly man who had been in his present condition for thirty and eight years. On this particular occasion—while others were waiting for the waters to be troubled—this man would be approached by Jesus the Christ. There in the midst of the countless others who had needs just as pressing and just as great as his, this man would find himself coming face to face with Jesus the Christ. What’s more, is that not only did this man find himself coming face to face with Jesus, but he also found himself being approached by Jesus and being asked if he would be made whole. The response of this man is actually quite unique and intriguing, for when asked by Jesus whether or not he would be whole, her spikes by saying and declaring that he had no man to help him down into the waters when they were troubled. What’s more, is the narrative of this man would continue to reveal how each time he might make an attempt to make it down into the waters in order that he might be made whole another would step down into the waters before him and would be healed first. Jesus undoubtedly knew and was aware of this particular reality, and perhaps even the tremendous frustration and disappointment that flooded and filled the heart of this man, and while He could have chosen to produce a great healing of multiple men and women within these porches, He chose to heal this one man of his infirmity—an infirmity which he had had for thirty and eight years. After hearing the man’s response concerning years of disappointment and frustration we find Jesus instructing and commanding this man to rise from his place in the midst of the porches and to take up his mat and walk. What I so love about what is found within this passage is that this man had absolutely no clue or idea that the one who was speaking with him was Jesus the Christ. It wouldn’t be until later on in the narrative that we find him coming face to face with the reality that the one before him and the one who healed him was in fact Jesus the messiah. The softly John writes and records how this man immediately rise from his place in the midst of the porches, picked up his mat, and walked as though he hadn’t spent the previous thirty eight years lame and halt in his physical body.

The fifth chapter begins and opens up with countless needs which were before Jesus the Christ, as He chose to go to a place that was filled with countless blind, lame and halt men and women. On this particular day, however, rather than healing many—if not all of those—who were in the porches, He chose to heal this one single man. Think about that for a moment, for Jesus could have very easily chosen to empty these colonnades and heal each and every man, woman, and perhaps even child and family that might have been present and represented within them. Instead of healing all those who were present within the colonnades, He chose to heal this one lowly man of an infirmity which had plagued and gripped his body for nearly forty years. What’s more, is that this man’s miracle and healing might have gone entirely unnoticed had he not risen from his place and carried his mat within the city of Jerusalem. Think about it for a moment, for this man’s miracle wax brought to light—not because he could now walk up rightly and was no longer confined to a mat, nor even to the porches at the pool, but because he was carrying his mat. What’s more, is that he wasn’t simply carrying his mat, but he was carrying his mat on the sabbath day. Pause for a moment and consider the fact that this man’s healing and miracle was revealed and brought to light simply because he walked through the streets of Jerusalem with the mat upon which he had lied upon for thirty and eight years. How absolutely and incredibly intriguing and astonishing it is to think about and consider the fact that this man’s miracle ad brought to light simply because the Jews observed that he was carrying his mat on the sabbath day. Upon hearing the words and responses of the Jews, this man was then placed in a position where he would explain and reveal what had taken place within his physical body. It would be when he was confronted with breaking and violating their sacred traditions, rules and regulations that his miracle would have come and been brought to light. Think about it for a moment, for had this man not carried his mat within the streets of Jerusalem after he had been healed, his miracle might have gone unnoticed. What’s more, is that it is an incredibly sad reality when you’re noticed—not for and because of your need, but because of how you are supposedly committing a sin and trespass against the laws and traditions of man. This man was undoubtedly not known because of his need and his being lame and halt for thirty and eight years, but because of his alleged breaking the sabbath rules and traditions of the Jews. Oh please don’t miss and please don’t lose sight of this, for I am convinced that this reality is manifested and continues to take place within countless of our churches—and even within and in the midst of our culture and society in the days and generation in which we live.

The more I sit here this morning and consider that which is found in the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel of John, the more I can’t help but come face to face with the reality that this man had perhaps spent a great portion of his life being unnoticed by those around him—undoubtedly and most likely because he lived and dwelt within the five porches of the pool of Bethsaida. There is not a doubt in my mind that this particular man was not even a consideration in the hearts and minds of others, for he had spent his days living and dwelling within the five porches of the pool of Bethesda. What I find to be so incredibly captivating and interesting about this particular man’s narrative and story is that it wasn’t until he walked the streets of Jerusalem carrying the mat upon which he had lied upon for thirty and eight years, and allegedly violated and broken the Jewish sabbath. YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT CARRYING THIS MAT MEANS! YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT THIS MAT REPRESENTS! Please don’t quickly dismiss and brush past those two statements, for there was a message that was found in the mat, and a message found in the carrying of the mat. As we think about and consider the account of this man’s narrative and story we find that after Jesus had healed him of his infirmity and then withdrawn himself among the crowd of people, this man proceeded to exit the five porches of the pool of Bethesda, and venture into the streets of Jerusalem. I can’t help but wonder what that must have felt like as it must have been like a whole new world had opened up to this man after this divine encounter with the person of Jesus the Christ. Here was this man who had not only risen from his mat, but had also taken his mat and began walking for the first time in nearly forty years and carried the mat wherever he went. It’s absolutely astonishing to think about and consider the fact that what got the attention of the Jews as it concerned and pertained to this man was not the fact that he was once halt and lame, but that he was carrying his mat on the sabbath. What is so incredibly intriguing and captivating about this particular reality is that within the mat and within the carrying the mat there was a message—a message that emphatically declared and proclaimed that for nearly forty years he had been lame and halt, and for nearly forty years he was unable to walk and was confined to that met, and yet on this particular occasion and day—not only was he able to rise from his mat, not only was he able to roll up and carry his mat, but he was also able to walk while carrying the mat. For nearly forty years this man had spent his days lying upon this mat unable to walk, and undoubtedly waiting for that moment in his life when he would by some chance and some miracle receive the healing and wholeness he so desperately desired. On this particular day he encountered Jesus as Jesus not only asked him if he would be made whole, but also commanded him to rise and to take up his mat. This man rose from the place he had been lying, took up his mat, and then left the porches where he had undoubtedly spent a considerable amount of time living in desperation, frustration, and disappointment as he was waiting for the troubling of the waters.

I sit here this morning and I can’t help but hear within my heart and spirit an emphatic declaration concerning the mat which this man was carrying, for it’s almost as if this man could have easily spoken up and declared unto those to whom he began speaking with that this mat represented something incredibly personal and something incredibly remarkable within the narrative of his life. This man could have very easily spoken up and declared unto those who would question the carrying of the mat, and even judging him for doing so by declaring that this mat represented something far beyond their understanding, and something far beyond their comprehension. This man could have very easily spoken up and declared unto the Jews who would dare question him, saying that there was a wonderful and powerful message in the mat which he was carrying. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we think about and consider the fact that there was a message in the mat which this man was carrying, for that mat not only represented nearly forty years of lying upon in lame and halt, but also an encounter that he had with the person of Jesus Christ. The mat which this man was carrying on the sabbath—the mat which the Jews rebuked him for carrying on the sabbath—was a powerful testimony of a work which took place within his life there at the porches of the pool of Bethesda. The mat which this man was judged for carrying symbolized and represented nearly forty years of hopelessness, disappointment and frustration, as he had spent close to forty years wondering, waiting, and hoping for the time to come when he would find healing and wholeness from that which he had spent a considerable amount of time contending and dealing with. It’s absolutely and incredibly intriguing to think about and consider the fact that this man was immediately rebuked and reprimanded for carrying a mat on the sabbath—a mat which he had been lying upon for nearly forty years. Consider this absolutely incredible reality, for this man had spent nearly forty years lying upon this mat halt and lame, and on this particular day he encountered the person of Jesus the Christ who had commanded him to rise and to take up his mat and walk. This man did exactly what Jesus had commanded and instructed him to do, and he immediately faced criticism by the Jews—not because he had been healed, but because in the place of healing he was now somehow violating the sabbath. How tragic it is that this man had just experienced a tremendous healing within his physical body, and was able to walk in the streets of Jerusalem for the first time—even with carrying his mat—and yet the first thing he faced and experienced within and from the place of healing was criticism and rebuke from the Jews. Here we find this man being rebuked and criticized by the Jews simply because he carried his mat on the sabbath.

On the one hand I find it absolutely tragic that this man immediately faced judgment, criticism and rebuke for carrying his mat on the sabbath, however, on the other hand, I can’t help but come face to face with the strong sense that it was precisely because of his carrying the mat that this man was able to speak about what had taken place within his life there at the pool of Bethesda. While this man was rebuked and criticized for carrying his mat on the sabbath day, it opened up the door for him to speak freely and candidly about the miracle and healing which took place within his life there at the pool of Bethesda. It was precisely because this man was rebuked and criticized for taking up and carrying his mat within the streets of Jerusalem that we find his narrative involving the ability to testify and proclaim that which Jesus the Christ had done within his life. Even though this man had absolutely no clue who it was who commanded him to rise and take up his mat, and even though this man did not see Jesus immediately after he was healed, he was still able to testify about what Jesus had done within his life. What makes this particular narrative so incredibly intriguing and interesting is that immediately after he had risen from the place where he had lied, he did not immediately receive a revelation concerning Jesus the Christ, nor immediately see the One who had healed him, but rather he faced criticism and judgment simply because he had been carrying his mat on the sabbath. Jesus could have chosen to remain there at the pool of Bethesda with this man and revealed Himself as the Messiah before and unto him, however, the apostle John reveals how Jesus had removed Himself among the crowds of people who were present in Jerusalem at this particular time. We would think about and expect that immediately after this man received healing from an infirmity he contended with for nearly forty years he would receive a revelation concerning Jesus the Christ, however, that is simply not the case in this narrative. What we find—even before Jesus would appear before him again and instruct and command him to go and sin no more lest something worse come upon him—is this man facing intense criticism and judgment because he carried the mat of testimony on the sabbath day. Even before a revelation from Jesus the Christ after he had been healed of his infirmity, this man would face criticism and judgment for allegedly breaking and violating the sabbath. What we must recognize and understand concerning this, is that even though this man immediately faced criticism and judgment for carrying his mat on the sabbath, it was that judgment and criticism which opened the door to his testifying concerning that which Jesus had done within his life—even if he didn’t know that it was Jesus the Christ who had performed the miracle within his life. It was because of the judgment and criticism which was found within this man’s life for carrying his mat on the sabbath day that he was able to take and use his mat as a wonderful and powerful testimony of that which Jesus had done within his life.

That which we find within the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel of John might not seem like it has anything to do with what we find in the ninth chapter, however, if you consider both texts side by side and compare them with each other, you will find that there are certain similarities between the two narratives which must be understood. In the fifth chapter of the gospel which the apostle John wrote we find one who had been halt and lame for thirty and eight years being criticized and judged for carrying his mat on the sabbath, and in the ninth chapter of the same gospel we find a man who had been blind from birth not only being rebuked by the Jews, but also being excommunicated from the synagogue because of the words he professed and proclaimed concerning the One who had healed him of his blindness. The man whose narrative we find in the ninth chapter of the New Testament gospel of John had been blind from birth, and on a certain day Jesus came unto and came upon him, made clay from the spittle He had created, anointed his eyes, and instructed him to go and wash in the pool of Siloam. The apostle John writes that the man went his way, washed, and came forth seeing. For the first time in his entire life this man was able to see the world which was before and around him, and for the first time in his entire life a whole new world was opened to him—a world which he previously was not aware of. Oh, sure he heard the sounds of the world, and sure he might have had various interactions with different individuals whom he might have encountered each day, however, there was still this wall and there was still this limitation to the world which was before and around him. This man was in the world, and yet he could not fully experience the world which was before him—simply because he had been blind from birth. Oh please don’t miss and please don’t lose sight of this awesome and incredible reality, for not only was this man in the world, yet unable to see and experience the world, but on this particular day he found himself in the presence of Jesus the Christ who anointed his eyes with clay He had made, instructed him to wash in the pool of Siloam, and upon doing so he came forth seeing. If you continue reading the narratives of each of these men you will find that the activity of Jesus the Christ within their lives took place on the sabbath, and it was precisely because of the activity which Jesus the Christ had done on the sabbath within their lives that they faced judgment and criticism from the Jews. It’s worth noting that while it was true that both men found healing within their physical bodies after entering into the presence of Jesus, and having an encounter with Him, they immediately found themselves being persecuted, judged and criticized by the Jews who could not see past their own traditions and rules and recognize the healing and wholeness provided by Jesus the Christ. In each of these two cases we find the man who had been blind from birth, and the man who had been lame and halt for thirty and eight years facing and experiencing criticism and judgment from the Jews. The man who had been born blind, and the man who had been lame and halt for thirty and eight years each found themselves on the receiving end of the Jews’ religion, legalism, and hypocrisy, as they could not look past the alleged violation of the sabbath.

What is written and recorded—both within the fifth chapter, as well as the ninth chapter of the New Testament gospel of John—are absolutely and incredibly remarkable and astounding when you take the time to consider it, for within the accounts of these two men we find them immediately facing judgment and criticism from the Jews—not even because of the healing which took place within their lives, but because of what had taken place on the sabbath day. In the case of the man who had been halt and lame for nearly forty years, he found himself on the receiving end of the judgment and criticism of the Jews simply because he carried his mat on the sabbath day. The man who had been blind from birth faced judgment and criticism from the Jews after bearing witness concerning the work which Jesus had done within his life. In the case of the man who had been halt and lame for nearly forty years, Jesus simply instructed and commanded him to rise and take up his mat, and he was immediately healed. In the case of the man who had been blind from birth, Jesus anointed his eyes with clay he had made from the dirt of the ground, and was instructed to go and wash in the pool of Siloam. In both cases we find these men directly linked and connected to pools and bodies of water, for the man who was halt and lame for thirty and eight years dwelt in one of the five porches of the pool of Bethesda, and the man who was blind from birth was instructed to go and wash in the pool of Siloam. The man who had been halt and lame for nearly forty years received healing immediately, and rose up from the place he had been lying, took up his mat, and proceeded to walk within the streets of Jerusalem. The man who had been blind since birth—after he had gone and washed in the waters of the pool of Siloam—came forth seeing, and walked among the Jews for the first time. Oh, I can’t help but wonder what entirely new world opened up to these two men after finding themselves on the receiving end of healing from Jesus the Christ. The man who was lame and halt for nearly forty years was finally able to move freely within the streets of Jerusalem—even taking up and carrying his mat while doing so. The man who had been blind from birth was able to see the world before and around him for the very first time, and was no longer confined and relegated to begging for alms in the streets of Jerusalem. Both of these men found themselves not only healed after encountering the person and presence of Jesus, but also having an entirely new world being opened to them. Both of these men found themselves being exposed to the world which was always before and around them, yet they were unable to experience it—simply because of that which plagued their physical bodies. Oh, please don’t miss and please don’t lose sight of this awesome and incredible reality, for both of these men found themselves in the presence of Jesus the Christ on the sabbath day, and both of these men found themselves receiving healing after experiencing and encountering the person and presence of Jesus the Christ on the sabbath day.

What I so love and what I so appreciate about each of these men is that although each of them found themselves experiencing criticism and judgment from the Jews in direct response to their being healed of their infirmity—they each had the opportunity to proclaim the work which Jesus the Christ had performed within their lives. It’s quite interesting that the very judgment and criticism these men faced actually opened the door for them to speak freely concerning the work which Jesus the Christ had done within their lives. In the case of the man who had been halt and lame for nearly forty years, his criticism for carrying his mat on the sabbath would open the door for him to speak freely concerning the work which Jesus the Christ had done within his life, and how He had healed him on the sabbath. The man who had been born blind faced and experienced judgment and criticism from the Jews and Pharisees because of his being healed on the sabbath. Oh, I can’t help but feel it absolutely necessary to bring you face to face with each of the testimonies of these men, for their testimonies are not only astounding and remarkable, but also came in direct response to the work which Jesus the Christ had done within their lives. Consider if you will the testimonies which were spoken by these two men in response to the criticism and judgment they experience and received from the Jews in direct response to their healing. The criticism the man who had been halt and lame for thirty and eight years was experienced because of his carrying the mat on the sabbath day, and the criticism which the man who had been blind from birth faced and experienced was in direct response to the words which he spoke concerning what had taken place within his life. Beginning with the account of the man who dwelt in the porches at the pool of Bethesda, and then transitioning to the account of the man who had been blind from birth, consider each of their testimonies concerning the work which Jesus the Christ had done and performed within their lives:

“The jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed. He answered them, he that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk. Then they asked him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk. And he that was haled wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place” (John 5:10-13).

“I am he…A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight…I know not…He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see…He is a prophet…Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see…I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? Will ye also be His disciples…Why herein is a marvelous thing, that ye know not from whence He is, and yet He hath opened mine eyes. Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth His will, him He heareth. Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. If this man were not of God, He could do nothing” (John 9:11-33).

It might not seem like these two narratives have anything to do with each other, however, I would strongly disagree that such a statement and such a reality is neither true, nor accurate. If and as you read the narratives of each of these men your ill find and be confronted with the tremendous reality that not only did both men find themselves in the presence of Jesus the Christ, but both men found healing in the presence of Jesus—and that on the Sabbath day. The man who had been lame and halt for thirty and eight years found himself facing the judgment and criticism of the Jews because he had taken up and was carrying his mat on the sabbath, and the man who had been blind from birth faced criticism and judgment from the Jews in direct response to the testimony which he proclaimed concerning the one who had anointed his eyes and wrought healing within this physical body. What is interesting and unique about each of these narratives is that immediately following the healing which was wrought and produced within their lives—neither men immediately found themselves within the presence of Jesus the Christ. Although each of them received healing after being present within the presence of Jesus—neither one would immediately know and understand that it was Jesus who had healed them and produced the work which was manifested within their lives. That which is found within each of these narratives is not only about healing in the presence of Jesus, and not only about the incredible power of testimony which each men shared within their lives, but each of these men found themselves facing judgment and criticism immediately following their being healed after being in the presence of Jesus the Christ. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this particular reality, for to do so would be to miss and lose sight of that which still takes place and is still experienced in many of our circles today. The man who had been halt and lame for nearly forty years was immediately criticized and judged by the Jews because he was carrying his mat of testimony on the sabbath, and the man who had been blind from birth was immediately criticized by the Jews and the Pharisees—not only because they could not understand what had taken place within his life, but also because of the testimony which was present within his life. Both men found healing after being in the presence of Jesus the Christ, however, neither men would immediately know and understand that it was Jesus the Christ who had produced the work which took place within their lives. What’s more, is that it wasn’t necessarily the fact that Jesus healed these men that provoked the Jews, but the fact that Jesus had chosen to heal these men on the sabbath day. In fact, the ninth chapter concludes with Jesus speaking unto the blind man about blindness, and the Pharisees taking offense to the words which he spoke because He was implying that they were blind—though not blind in the physical and natural sense, but blind in a spiritual sense. Oh that we would read the words which are found within these passages and that we would come face to face—not only with the work which Jesus does within our lives, but also with the fact that there might very well be times when the work which Jesus does within our lives might naturally and immediately offend those before and around us. Notice that it was the fact that the first man carried his mat on the sabbath that originally opened the door to the Jews being offended with the work which Jesus did, for it took place on the sabbath.

I still cannot escape the fact that in the case of the man who had been halt and lame for nearly forty years, it wasn’t the fact that he had been healed the Jews took notice of, but the fact that he carried his mat on the sabbath day. This was not the case for the man who had been blind from birth, for those who knew him and those who had previously seen him not only knew that he was blind, but also that he was one who sat and begged for alms. Now, no longer was this man blind, but this man no longer had to beg for alms, for he was moving about freely among the Jews, and within the city of Jerusalem. What we must recognize within the narratives of each of these men is how quickly and how immediately the power and presence of the living God and upset and offend religion, legalism and hypocrisy. What’s more, is that each of these narratives brings us face to face with the tremendous reality that more often than not, the work(s) of God can very well offend the logic and mindset of religion, and those who find themselves in the clutches and grip of religion. There is a strong dichotomy and a strong contrast found within these passages between the power and presence of the living God to heal men and women, and the religion of the Jews and Pharisees. If there is one thing we must recognize and understand when reading the narratives of these two men, it’s that more often than not the power and presence of the Lord can readily and easily offend the religious spirit and the religious mindset, and can throw it into a complete and utter uproar. Even more than this, we find it written within these two passages that more often than not healing and the miraculous power of the living God can expose, reveal and bring into light the religious spirit, and the fact that religion and the religious spirit can’t handle the power and presence of the living God. There was a quote from a popular Tom Cruise move concerning truth and being unable to handle the truth, and when I read the words which are found in each of these narratives, I can’t help but come face to face with a similar reality—namely concerning healing and the power of God, and how there are many who are unable to handle the power and presence of the living God, and can’t handle healing in their midst. Oh that we would read each of these narratives and would come face to face with and understand just how provocative the power and presence of the living God is—and not only how provocative the presence and power of God is, but also how provocative the power of witness and testimony are in the company and presence of religion.

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