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Andy Stanley - Carry On



Have you ever seen a situation and I'm sure most of us have, but have you ever seen a situation where religious rules or religious laws or religious commandments get in the way or are given priority over compassion? You ever seen this? Maybe you've been the victim of this, where sacred men, it's always men, sacred men in sacred places with a sacred text, interpret the text in such a way that they actually take the text and they take their traditions and they use them in such a way to withhold compassion or at worst to actually mistreat another person, you ever seen this? You ever been on the receiving side of this? Ever been guilty of doing that? Because I have.

As a young seminary-educated Pharisee who got so focused on what the text said that I lost sight of who the the text was for, that I got so focused on what the text said that I lost sight of the fact of why it was written and who was behind writing it, that I got so focused on the speck in somebody else's eye or in some cases, a whole group of people's eye, that I couldn't see the log or the log truck in my own eye? And then as I began to read the Gospels and understand the Gospels in a different way I realized pretty quickly, Jesus did not like people like that because they were not like him and they were not Jesus' favorite kind of people and I realized pretty quickly I'm not one of Jesus' favorite kind of people and I had to learn some lessons the hard way, and that's what we're gonna talk about today.

Anyway, we're in part three of this series, it was gettin' kinda heavy there, we're gettin' part three of the series called Bystander and this is the subtitle, is John and the Rabbi from Nazareth and we're tracking along with the gospel writer, John, as he journeys with Jesus. And the most important thing to remember for this series in terms of sort of the big macro lesson is this, that John in the first century did not choose to follow Jesus because of faith. He followed Jesus because of what he saw and because of what he heard. And because of what he saw and heard he arrived at the conclusion that Jesus was his Messiah. And once he acknowledged that Jesus was his Messiah based on what he saw and heard, at that point he placed his faith in Jesus as his Messiah and Savior but he did not follow Jesus because of faith, he placed his faith in Jesus Messiah because of what he saw and because of what he heard.

These are his words, they're way better than mine, this is what he says at the beginning of his gospel. He says, that which was from the beginning, which we have heard, in other words, nobody told us about this, we didn't read this, which we have seen with our eyes, we being the 1st century followers, which we have looked at, and by the way, it wasn't a ghost, this whole thing of Jesus was a ghost, he says, that wasn't true, this was a real person who really came back from the dead, our hands have handled him, he was back. The life, and I guess, I think John struggled with how to say this, we all do, right? The life appeared, what do you mean the life appeared? I mean, all I can say is that Jesus my rabbi, my friend, who I discovered was my Messiah and I discovered, and I embraced him as my savior, its like, all I can say is, he brought life. He just, It was like he was life personified.

I don't know any other way to describe it. The life appeared, and we seen it and testified to it. We proclaim to you, not what we read about and heard about, what we've seen and what we heard from him. And then as an old man some people apparently talked John into documenting his time with Jesus. John, you know, you're not gonna live forever, we hope you do but you're an old man. Would you dictate your story to us? He was probably too old to write, too old to be able to see very well. So he probably dictates his life, his account, his experience with Jesus. And it comes to us as the Gospel of John. But John doesn't give us his story so that we'll simply know what happened. He has an agenda and the interesting thing is this, 2,000 years later, he has an agenda for you and he has an agenda for me. He said, the reason I'm taking the time to get my story out isn't simply that you'll know what happened, I want you to do something with what happened.

These things are written, these specific things that I've chosen to selectively put in my account were written that you might believe, I want you to respond to this. That you might believe that Jesus is the Messiah. I came to the conclusion that Jesus was the long awaited upon Messiah that I had been told about as a little Jewish boy growing up but I never imagined it would happen in my lifetime. That he's actually, and I know you're gonna have a hard time believing this, he would think, as he dictated this but I'm tellin' you, I don't know any other way to describe it. My friend Jesus, my Rabbi, he was God in a body, he was the Son of God. Not like we're all children of God, like in a unique way, like the unique only begotten, he would say, of the Father. And I want you to believe what I believe based on my testimony so that you might put your trust in him and have the same kind of life in his name, that I've discovered, so there's an agenda.

But don't be confused, John didn't' follow Jesus because of faith, John followed Jesus because of what he saw and he says, now I want you to see what I've seen, and I want you to hear what I've heard. And it's second-hand for you but I want to write it in such a compelling way that you would arrive at the same conclusion I did, even though I was privileged to see it and to hear it and to touch it. And he creates this account around these seven events, these seven events that literally served as seven signs, because Jesus' miracles, they weren't random acts of kindness, they pointed to something, and specifically, they pointed to who he claimed to be because Jesus made incredible claims about himself, I mean he was crazy, unless there was something to substantiate it.

So John said, I'm telling you, I watched him do thing after thing after thing and I realized, these weren't random acts of kindness, they weren't just crazy random miracles, they all had significance, they pointed to something. And at the end, looking back, clearly they all pointed to the uniqueness of Jesus and that's why I arrive at the conclusion I hop you'll arrive at, that he was in fact the Messiah, the Son of God. It's like John saying, this is what convinced me and I hope it will convince you as well.

Now we've already looked at two of these seven signs, today we look at the third one, and if you look in your English Bible, sometimes these sections of the English Bible have headings. And so one of the headings you might find under this particular passage or over this particular passage is Healing on the Sabbath. So if you haven't been with us, and you're just catching up, previously on Bystander, Jesus is a several days journey north of Jerusalem, he's around the Sea of Galilee, in that vicinity, in Cana, actually off to the left if you're looking at a map, from the Sea of Galilee.

So he's way north in Jerusalem, and he and his guys have just done this incredible thing where somebody who'd never met Jesus before comes along and says, I've heard about you, my son is sick, would you come to my home? Jesus says, just go on home, he's fine. And that nobleman had to make the same decision many of us have to make, 2,000 years later, it was foreshadowing, he had to decide whether he could trust Jesus even though he'd only heard about Jesus. And he went home and his son was healed and then Jesus and his posse, for the next five or six days, make their way down to Jerusalem and that's where today's account picks up.

Sometime later, because it took him a while to get there, sometime later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem, even though he went south, they went up, because the city of Jerusalem's on a hill, you cannot get to Jerusalem unless you go up. They went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals and now there is in Jerusalem, John is giving this account, there is in Jerusalem, this is important because it tells us about the time that John gave us his story. And when he gave us this story, this still existed which makes it early, not late.

Many of you lost confidence in the Gospels because somebody convinced you there were written late. If you pay attention to the details, there's no way they were written as late as some want us to believe. There is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate, a pool, which in Aramaic is called, currently, Bethesda, which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. So he describes this in detail because he'd been there and he says this, here, a great number, like a multitude of disabled people used to lie, the blind, he gave us the specifics, the blind, the lame, and the paralyzed. These were the most desperate people, this was the most desperate group of people.

Now you need to understand, in ancient times, doctors were scarce, and doctors didn't know very much. In fact, doctors didn't know much at all, and for one reason, in the 1st and 2nd century, actually before and after, but in the 1st and 2nd century, Rome had a law. And the law was a doctor could not examine a dead body. They could only examine living bodies. So one of the things that the doctors would try to do is to get to a dying body quick enough, imagine this, to do a bit of a autopsy before the body died because once the body was dead, they could no longer mess with a dead body, imagine that world.

So doctors were scarce and doctors were scary. So only rich people had doctors and so most people had to depend on the temples and superstition, temples and superstition. Temples, because maybe the gods would do something for you by accident, maybe the priest would have mercy on you, and superstition. And so this story actually hinges on a superstition. There was a legend that said that there in this pool of water, that every once in a while, an angel would show up and stir the water, and if you were the first one in, you would be healed. And this pool has actually been excavated and there was a reservoir that fed water into this pool, but they discovered, there's actually a natural spring at the bottom. So what probably would happen is occasionally, the spring would bubble up, and when they would see the surface of the water disturbed for no apart reason, they assumed it was an angel, and it was first one in, you know, was gonna be healed.

Now if you can imagine the chaos, this is the blind, this is the severely handicapped, in the way that we would describe it, theses are paralyzed people and these are lame people. So Jesus walks into this area that I promise you, healthy people avoided like the plague, because it was like the plague, it smelled horrible. People were brought and they would just lay there all day long. If they had someone that loved them, someone would take them home at night or take them home in the afternoon. I would imagine this is an area where every once in a while, an official would have to walk through and find the dead bodies and cart 'em off, and Jesus goes to this ara. One who had been there for 38 years, one who had been an invalid there for 38 years, and Jesus sees him.

The text says, when Jesus saw this particular individual, he asked about him, and perhaps it was because he was the oldest one there. We don't know why but Jesus asked about this one and he learned that he had been in this condition for a long time. And Jesus decides this is an opportunity for a sign. So he leans down, I don't think anybody heard this conversation. He leans down and he asked him the strangest question. And I'm gonna read the question and them I'm gonna ask you the question, and it's not the point of the message, but it's such a powerful question, I just feel like we just need to kind of set it out there for some of us, maybe this is why you're here today or this is the reason you're watching.

Jesus asked, it seems like a silly question, he leans down and I think he probably whispered, he didn't want a lot of people to hear this, and he said, do you want to get well? Do you want to get well? Do you want to get well? Let me ask you, do you want to get well? Not everybody does. Some of you have been complaining and complaining and complaining and you've not done what it takes to get well. Because you know what, sometimes getting well is harder than staying sick. Sometimes getting help calls for more humility than staying sick. Sometimes staying sick, you get things that you won't get if you get well. So let me just ask you and we'll move on, whether it's an actual physical ailment or it's that habit, you keep goin', yeah, yeah, yeah. It's your physical condition, yeah, yeah, yeah, I want it, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, I need to, I need to, I need to, come on, come on.

You should at least answer this question in the mirror when you get home, do you want to get well? And is the reason you haven't gotten well is because you aren't willing to pay the price, because sometimes staying sick, staying in a habit, become being, continuing to be a serial dater where every relationship ends up the same, is easier than getting help? This is a powerful question Jesus asks. Do you want to get well? And here's the thing, if you have the capacity and the potential and the resources and you live in a world where you can get well, as someone made in the image of God, you honor God and you honor yourself and you honor the people that love you, if you will just get some help and get well.

Now back to the story, Jesus decides not to impose his will on this guy, he's not gonna walk up and heal him whether he wants to be healed or not, so he asked, do you want to get well? And as it turns out, this guy, he really wanted to get well. He doesn't know who Jesus is, I love this. Imagine this, you're staring into the eyes of the Son of God, it's just some guy. Sir, he says, sir, the invalid replied, I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I'm laying here, and I noticed the water is stirred, and I'm trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me. And this is terrible, but when I read this, here's what I picture. I just picture what it says, you see these, I mean, it's an awful scene.

And someone finally rolls in or a friend pushes them in and they just, they just go down. I mean, it's an awful thing, perhaps people, I don't know, it's just a terrible image of what happens here, these are desperate people, the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. And then Jesus, still kneeling down, I think again, whispers to him. And he says to this one person, why he chose this one person and not every person, I don't know. He says to this one man, he says, get up, get up. The Greek is interesting, wake up, sometimes it's translated. Sometimes it's translated, rise up. Sometimes it's translated, come to life! Get up, rise up. But what he said next is what made this a sign and not just a random act of kindness, and he says to the gentleman, as the gentleman realizes that this man is serious, whoever this guy is, he says, and by the way, when you get up, pick up your mat and walk.

And John says, as he's dictating this, he's like, I mean, he's remembering this, he was there for this. He said, and at once, like immediately the man was cured and he stood up and he picked up his mat and walked! He rolls up his mat and he walked and he turns around to thank Jesus and Jesus, we find out later, has disappeared into the crowd with his posse. But in asking this man to pick up his mat and walk, he has whacked the hornets' nest on purpose because the day on which he cured this man was the Sabbath. Now on the Sabbath, in Jerusalem specifically, and all the areas around the temple, the Pharisees are walkin' around, making sure nobody's violating the laws of the Sabbath.

And they see this man carrying a mat, and not only is he carrying his mat, he's walking toward the temple. He's planning to go to the temple to give thanks to God, he perhaps has not been to the temple since he was a little boy. Maybe he's not been to the temple in years and yet here he is in the vicinity of the temple. He hears the music, he hears the sounds, he sees the crowds goin' back and forth, and finally he has an opportunity to give thanks to God and to you know, offer a sacrifice if he can borrow some money from someone, we don't know why he's goin' to the temple but it's just the natural place to go. And the Jewish leaders see him carrying his mat and the text says, so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, it is the Sabbath, the law forbids you to carry that mat.

Well actually it didn't, the law didn't forbid him. Their tradition would forbid him from carrying a mat. It was called the Tradition of the Elders, sometimes it's called the Oral Torah. And the theory was that when Moses came down from Mount Sinai, he came down with a written Torah, and he came down with an Oral Torah that couldn't be written, and he passed it along to Joshua who passed it along to the judges, who passed it along to the prophets. It eventually made its way to the Pharisees. And so the Pharisees had all these extra rules that were like a fence around the written law so that nobody would disobey the written law. But the Oral Torah, the law, the Tradition of the Elders had the same authority, in their minds, and had the same authority in culture as the written Torah. And in this non-written Oral Torah, there were 39 categories of things, not 39 things, 39 categories of things you couldn't' do on the Sabbath. And one of 'em was, you could not carry something from one place to another.

So in their mind, he's violating the fourth commandment of the 10 Commandments. You may remember this one, remember the Sabbath, remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. But the point of this commandment was to take a break from labor, not take a break from love. It was to take a break from your occupation, it didn't' mean you were supposed to take a break from compassion. But this is what happens, this is what happens to all religious people. This is what happens to certain people in every religion when they or when we forget, or when we ignore. This is what happens to any kind of religious person when we forget or we ignore the why behind the what. To be more specific, and to just kind of bother you just a little bit, give you something to think about, or hate me for, whichever way you want to go.

This is what happens, this is what happens when defending a theological system. This is what happens when defending an ideology. This is what happens when defending a political agenda. This is what happens when defending party loyalty or embracing party loyalty takes precedence over the people these things claim to serve. This is what happens when embracing any of this becomes more important than the people these things were designed to serve and benefit. And is very difficult to see in the mirror, and I can prove it. Because most of you agree with what I just said, but most of you immediately began thinking about that other theological system, that other ideology, that other political agenda, that other party. Boy I wish there were more Republicans hearing this. I wish there were more Democrats here, and I wish my mother-in-law was here to this, I'm gonna get my mother-in-law to watch this. Or I need somebody else to get her to watch it 'cause I don't want her to know that I tried to get her to watch it 'cause if I, you know, she wont' listen to me 'cause every time we get together, we talk about politics. But boy, they really need to hear this, Amen, brother.

Here's what Jesus would say, before you Amen, brother, and before you clap, we all need to look in the mirror. We must all be careful, and most importantly, we must all be honest. Because when what's best for people, when what's best for people is no longer what's most important to you, you are at odds with God. When what's best for people is no longer what's most important to me, I am at odds with God. And the reason I say that, the reason I say that is because John, who brings us this story, is also the person that interrupts an earlier story to say, I don't know if Nicodemus ever got it but let me tell you what Jesus was tryin' to explain to him. For God so loved people, for God so loved the world, for God so loved the Jews and the Gentiles, and every race and every gender, for every generation, He loved people so much, He sent His Son, my Rabbi, my Savior, my friend, Jesus into the world, to pay for sins so that everybody could be reconnected with God.

God's priority is the race made in His image. And anything I do, anything I do to hurt another person is a sin. And anything I do to distance another person from God is a sin. And any theological thing or even Scriptural application that gets in the way of somebody being treated with dignity, is a sin. And the reason this is so appropriate to me and for people who do what I do is this, I know the Bible, yes I do. I know the Bible, who about you? And I know it all. I mean, you find me something, you want justification for and give me your whole Bible, I'll find you justification, I'll find you at least four verses you can go back to the office and say, says right here, my preacher gave me these verses. Show your wife, show your, whatever you want to do, it's in there, if you rip it out of context and line it up. And Jesus came to close all those loopholes.

That's convicting, let's get back to the story. So the story continues, they said to this man who'd just been healed, it is the Sabbath! The law forbids you to carry your mat. No, their version of the law, they things they'd added forbid him, kept him from carrying the mat. But he replied, I love this, this is so great. He's go the mat over his shoulder, I mean, he's just kind of gettin' his legs, if you know what I mean. But he replied, the man, he didn't even know he who it is, this is what's so beautiful about this, the man who made me well said to me, pick up your mat and walk. The reason I picked up my mat and walked, it wasn't like I was tryin' to violate the Sabbath, do you even know who I am, where I've been? But the reason I picked it up to walk is because a man asked me to pick up my mat and walk. And guys, while we're talkin', I just want you to know, I opted for the guy who chose to heal me, not the guys who've been ignoring me my whole life, condemning my whole life, and telling me I deserved to lay there for 38 years because either I sinned, or my parents sinned, so you know what, if you're right and I was getting what I deserved, this guy gave me precisely what I did not deserve so I chose to pick up my mat and walk.

There was a theory that if a woman was pregnant and she went to a pagan temple, her child sinned along with her. If a woman was pregnant and sinned, the child was guilty of the sin because the child was in the mother's womb and the child may pay for the mother's sin, his or her whole life. So we're gonna discover in one of our other incidences with John later on, that they're gonna come, just the disciples are gonna come right out and ask him, Jesus, this person who's blind, I mean, clearly he's blind because somebody sinned. Who sinned, him or his parents? This is just how they thought. So his whole life, the religious system convinced him the reason I'm laying here is because I did something wrong and I have racked my brains, right? I've done, or my parents did something wrong and I've, you know, when they come to visit me, occasionally, we've had, what have I done?

And someone came along and just sort of ignored all of that and healed me. So yeah, I did what he asked me to do. So then they asked the logical question, 'cause they don't know either, who is this guy? So they asked him, who is this fellow who told you to pick up your mat and walk? Who is this man who defies the law and the defiles the Sabbath? Because if this man actually healed you, then he defiled the Sabbath as well because we have another rule, you cannot practice medicine on the Sabbath unless it's to save a life. So he could've waited one day to heal you, so not only are you violation of the Sabbath, he is in violation of the Sabbath too, give us his name, we're making a list. And the man, the text goes on, the man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd. I mean who could make this up, right? Maybe as John recounts this story, he chuckles, because what happens next, this is just my opinion, what happens next I think might be the funniest thing in the entire New Testament.

Now what happens next, I've read so many commentaries. A commentary's a book where smart people write on here's what we think the Scripture means, and you know, I love reading commentaries. I've not read a commentary yet that embraced the interpretation I'm about to give you. So this is just Andy Stanley interpretation of this passage, okay? But the reason I think I'm right is because every commentator on what happens next says this is complicated, it's difficult to understand, we're not sure what Jesus meant, and they have all these theories, and I'm like, you know what? If you would just read this like a human being and not a theologian, it's very evident what happens next. So I'll just read it to you, you'll get this. I think this is hilarious. I think this was, anyway, here's what happened.

Later, later, so this guy goes to the temple, he's carrying his mat, you know? Later, this is so cool, Jesus finds him. He was lookin' for him or he just bumps into him, I don't know. Later Jesus finds him at the temple and he says, see, you are well again. And the guy turns around and he's surprised, he says, it's you, but who are you? You know, he doesn't even know, and Jesus tells him. And then here's the funny part, because Jesus knows he's been accused of sinning, he's been accused of sinning. So Jesus smiles, I think, puts his hand on his shoulder, maybe the shoulder with, has the mat over it and says, stop sinning! Get it? No, okay, stop sinning, better stop carrying that mat around, you evil sinner, you.

Okay, here's the thing. Not only has this guy not done anything wrong, this guy hasn't done anything for 38 years. What a joke that he's being accused of sinning. You better stop sinning. And so all the theologians are tryin' to figure out what sin is Jesus talking about. There's no sin, it's a joke. He's kinda making fun, you better stop sinning. Otherwise, you know, and anyway, they're gonna come after you and this is what Jesus says next, and this is the other thing to get, all can, you know, again, they may be right and I may be wrong but this next line is hilarious. So let me catch you up, you better stop sinning carrying that mat around, ha, ha, ha, or something worse may happen to you. And I think they are just are laughing out loud like what could possibly be worse? Oh no, here come the Pharisees, we're gonna punish you, we're gonna throw you out of the temple. Hey, I haven't been to the temple in 38 years, well, we're gonna... I mean, how do you punish a man who's been laying on his back for 38 years? It's a joke.

Now listen, here's the punchline for some of us, though. When you recognize who Jesus is, when you, you just follow Jesus and John through the Gospel of John, when you recognize who Jesus is, when you recognize who John, recognize who Jesus is, you will lose your fear of religion and you will lose your fear of religious people. When you recognize who Jesus is, and for some of you, you need to hear this, you are so bound up by guilt, you never ever ever go to church but you are still living with the guilt of a religious system and you can't get passed it. I'm telling you, when you discover who Jesus is, you will lose your fear of religion and religious people. When you choose to follow Jesus, religion will lose its grip on you. Just follow John as he follows Jesus.

So, they have this little moment in the temple, you know, and they guy's like, well, you know, the Pharisees and the leaders that teach the law, they want to know who the guy is. So with his mat, I think still over his shoulder, see if you get this? He works his way over to them, get it? No, okay, see he's got the mat, he's workin' on the Sabbath, he works his way, okay, you didn't get that. Okay, so here's what happened. The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who made him will, which you know, with his mat draped over his shoulder. So, the text goes on, so because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, he's violated the Sabbath as well now, according to their laws and their oral tradition, and the Tradition of the Elders. These things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute Jesus as well.

In his defense, Jesus throws it right back at him, this is brilliant, John must have loved telling this story. In his defense, Jesus said to them, hey, hey, hold on there, you know, my Father, He's always at his work to this very day. In fact, my Father's workin' on this day and I too am working. You know, God doesn't take a day off. I'm just bein' like God. Hey you know, God actually violates your version of the Sabbath, doesn't He? In fact, you could say, guys, if you got in trouble, would you ask for help or would you say, it's the Sabbath, I'll have to wait for tomorrow to pray. No, no, no. Isn't God always at work? Yeah, well I'm just bein' like my Father, like Father, like Son. For this reason, this is amazing, for this reason, they tried to kill him. Not only was he breaking the Sabbath, now he's even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

Who does he think he is? Exactly, that is the question, who does he think he is? When he cleanses the temple, they don't say, what do you think you're doin? They say, who do you think you are? And John, who gives us this Gospel would say to you, as 21st century seekers and thinkers and comin' back and never believe him, first time you've heard this, he would say, come on, if you're gonna wrestle with anything, don't, just wrestle with this question, who do you think he is? Because that's the issue, that's the point of the signs, that's why Jesus did what he did, so people would arrive at the conclusion without him forcing them into his answer. Who do you think you are? This guy's making himself equal with God, exactly. Who would do that? How would you substantiate such a claim?

John says, just keep following me on this journey. Jesus says to them, very truly I say to you, the Son can do nothing by himself. He can do only what he sees the Father doing, because whatever the Father does, that's what the Son does also. My friends, this is an extraordinary statement by Jesus. Here's what he's saying. He's sayin', hey, 21st century people, 17th century people, 14th century people 9th century people, everybody, every generation, every age, every language, hey, do you want to know, do you want to know what God is really like? Do you know how confusing that is? I mean, how do you figure it out, do you look into outer space, do we look at nature, do we look within, you know, how do we know what God is like? And Jesus is sayin', it's simple, just watch me.

Do you know what God would actually say in a circumstance like this? Just listen to me. Do you want to know what God would actually do when confronted with a circumstance like this? Jesus would say, I know it's been complicated in the past, just follow me. And then he says to them, and he says to people like me, he says, gentlemen, I understand why this is confusing for you, because your whole life, you have searched the Scriptures, what we would call the Old Testament, the law and the prophets. You have searched the Scriptures diligently because you think in them you have eternal life. But there is no eternal life in the text. These Scriptures, these very scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have, there's that word again, to have life.

Gentlemen, I understand the confusion but you have opted for the written over the living. You have chosen your interpretation over a living demonstration. And to which he said, and gentlemen, I understand, up until now, you had an excuse. Up until now, all you had was the text, up until now, all you had was the prophets, all you had up until now were all the stories. Up until now, all you had was the wisdom of Solomon and the sayings of David. And all you had up until now were the promises to Abraham and the Sinai Covenant, I understand, but no more! Because to use John's words, he could've said to them, guys, look, the word has become flesh! The Scripture pointed to me, I'm here, I'm standing in front of you. The Word is standing in front of you, and John would say, and that's why I followed and that's why I believed, and that's why in this moment that I'm even dictating this story, all of my life is upside down, my friends are dead, I don't know where half of the apostles are.

The City of Jerusalem is either under siege, or the temple's been destroyed or it's about to be destroyed, nothing in life is good but I'm telling you, I gazed into the eyes of life. And Jesus would say, the guessing is over, the mystery is almost completely solved. I am a living commentary on everything that has come before it all pointed to me, this is your sign. And for us today, this is why the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, are so important. In a world, our world, in a world filled with political and moral and religious and ideological ideas and assumptions and tension, God made it easy, God made it simple, He showed up, He spoke up, and He was clear.

And here's what He was perhaps most clear about, and some of you are gonna love this, and some of you are gonna hate this, and some of you are gonna argue with this, and some of you are gonna try to find exception with this and I understand that because of the way that some of us were raised and the religious circles we were raised in. But as it relates to this particular piece of narrative, as it relates to healing on the Sabbath, as it relates to the religious tension and the ideological tension in the realm versus Jewish tension in the 1st century, the point is so clear.

And if we get this right, the world changes. That's not hyperbole, if we get this right, the world changes. Because once upon a time, a group of disenfranchised Jewish people who had nothing but a dead Messiah that they said rose from the dead go this right. And this is no exaggeration, every skeptic agrees, and the idea I'm about to share, it shaped Western civilization. And it's simply this, that the you beside you, the you beside you at work, the you beside you in traffic, the you beside you at home, the you beside you in the neighborhood, the you beside you right now, on both sides of you, in front of and behind you, the you beside you must take priority over the potentially flawed view because we are all wrong about something.

In fact, I can prove it. If you're over 40, you held some flawed views in your 20s, didn't you? It's like, oh my goodness gracious, yeah. And if you're in your 20s, you're like, not me, when I'm 40, I'm holding my same views, now let me explain it to you. I want you to think about, no, it's okay, I'm not being critical. I want you to think about middle school. Oh well I was a middle-schooler, exactly, now you're a 20-year-old, and then you'll be a 30-year-old. And then you were in high school and think about your views you held in high shool, and you did have somewhat of an excuse, you did not have frontal love development, that makes such a big deal, every parent knows that, right? That's a real thing.

My point is this, come on, let's just he honest. This isn't a Christian thing, this is just a human thing. Haven't your views changed? Haven't your prejudices changed or adjusted? Haven't you changed your attitude about some things because of some experiences? You didn't like that group and you met this guy, you met this girl, it's like, you know I've been wrong, and you know, haven't haven't, don't we all carry some flawed views about a lot of things? The answer is yes. And here's what John would say on behalf of Jesus, I think is what Jesus would say on behalf of his Father, for your benefit. That you, the living, real flesh and blood person beside you, has to take priority over the potentially flawed view that you carry around inside of you. Because your views are gonna change but people are people and they're made in the image of God and they have to take priority over our ever-changing views.

You say, Andy, but you know, aren't there absolutes? Yes, God is an absolute and this what makes it so powerful, here's the thing. See, I don't always know what to believe and neither do you, in fact, our beliefs change. I don't even always know who to believe and you don't always know who to believe. But you read the Gospels, and here's what's incredibly clear, we almost always know what love requires of us, and that's enough.

So I want to leave you with a question. Does your version of religion or politics get in the way of loving people that God loves? If so, you are at odds with God. Let's get more specific. Does your version of Christianity get in the way of loving people God loves? If so, you have the wrong version, and here's why I say that and I don't blink, and as convicting as that is to me, here's why. Because John, this is so amazing, I know I've told you this before, and I'll wrap up, because John is the person that brought us this idea that no one had ever put to paper before John came along. John, again, everything around him is falling apart, things are as bad as they possibly could be and John says to the person writing all of this down, write this down. In a letter to the church, he says, hey, write this down. God is love. God is love.

So when you get on the wrong side of love, you're on the wrong side of God, and if your version of religion or politics or anything else gives you permission to mistreat a person, you're on the wrong side. Does your version of Christianity get in the way of loving people that God loves? Because the power of the Gospel is this, Jesus said, I've come to show you how to get it right. But here's the deal, when you don't get it right, I'm gonna pay for your sin of not getting it right now follow me. What an invitation. It's so powerful, here's the thing and I'm done, we should want it to be true before we're convinced it's true that God is love, and Jesus was God in a bod.
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