Red Letter Year: 10/15

John 5.14-24

14 But afterward Jesus found him in the Temple and told him, “Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you.” 15 Then the man went and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had healed him.

16 So the Jewish leaders began harassing Jesus for breaking the Sabbath rules. 17 But Jesus replied, “My Father is always working, and so am I.” 18 So the Jewish leaders tried all the harder to find a way to kill him. For he not only broke the Sabbath, he called God his Father, thereby making himself equal with God.

19 So Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he is doing. In fact, the Father will show him how to do even greater works than healing this man. Then you will truly be astonished. 21 For just as the Father gives life to those he raises from the dead, so the Son gives life to anyone he wants. 22 In addition, the Father judges no one. Instead, he has given the Son absolute authority to judge, 23 so that everyone will honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son is certainly not honoring the Father who sent him. 24 I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and trust God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.”


What grabs me about today’s reading is the amount of practical wisdom here for folks in faith communities centered around prayer and healing, like we are in the Vineyard. The first comes in what Jesus tells the man he healed, linking physical ailments to sin. Jesus will unlink these in John 9, leaving us to understand that sometimes physical ailments have to do with sin and sometimes they don’t. For today, let’s focus on the times when they are linked.

I have prayed for people before who had asked for prayer for a physical condition and as I’m praying for that, I get a sense from the Spirit regarding something sinful. This doesn’t always happen, other times I get a sense of purity or cleanness coming from the person (and some times I get no special sense at all). When I do get a word (that’s what we call it in the Vineyard, it’s short for prophetic word and sounds less scary, though no less weird), I usually try to keep praying with them until the Spirit leads them to make the connection. I have seen other prayer leaders just come out and say it, but I think the Spirit does the best job communicating that sort of thing (or maybe I’m just a bit cowardly). I have prayed for people who have made the connection, confessed their sin, gotten prayer for the sin issue, then to find the pain that brought them to ask for prayer has been healed in the process.

As much as we like to separate things – our bodies from minds, our spiritual stuff from the rest of ‘real’ life, ourselves from each other – we are deeply integrated, deeply connected creatures. The sin we do affects our bodies, our minds, our relationships, everything. Nothing and no one is immune from the effects of our sin. This is why sometimes sin manifests as physical ailments, because sin is not good for us, it does us harm.

The second part of the practical wisdom here is in how Jesus describes his working relationship with the Father. We can learn a lot from this even if it seems a bit self-contradictory:

1a. Jesus can’t do anything without the Father. (v.19)
1b. Jesus gives life to whomever he wants. (v. 21)

2a. Jesus only does what he sees the Father doing (v.19)
2b. The Father tells Jesus everything he is doing (v.20)

3a. The Father doesn’t judge anyone (v.22)
3b. Jesus does what the Father doesn’t (see 2a), he judges people

See what I mean? Maybe not exactly contradictory, but a good case of doublespeak at the least. I want to suggest this as a helpful model posture for those of us who pray for other people. We want to be joining in what the Father is doing. It is important to listen and discern where the Spirit is leading and do that, pray into that, be led by that. But there is still a lot of room for freedom in this. We follow where the Spirit leads, but the Spirit also gvies us a lot of room to do what we want within the parameters of how we’re being led. The Holy Spirit is not our baby sitter or a helicopter parent. Sometimes we get moment-by-moment direction, other times we get the big picture (or a bigger part of it) and know more the general direction than the specifics. Some times we get both, but not usually and not for long. (It’s like I can hear God saying, “Where’s the fun in that?”) And sometimes our praying and ministering for each other does not involve judgment, but other times it does. There are churches that never talk about sin and judgment and there are churches that never talk about anything else. Somewhere in between lies the radical middle we want to walk in. It’s a hard place to find and maintain and it sounds like what Jesus was describing here.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale HousePublishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.