In the gospels, Jesus was God’s power incarnate. And he was the pillar of strength all the way, even while on earth.

The challenges he faced while displaying his power, even from his religious contemporaries, did not weaken his resolve to fulfill the will of God in its entirety.

A story of his healing work does indicate that it was not he but his fence-sitting ‘admirers’ who were victims of their own unwillingness to believe in him.

Apostle John related the story in great detail in chapter five of his gospel wherein a cripple was instantly healed by Jesus from his disease of 38 years.

Year after year he lay near a pool, apparently without friends and completely paralyzed. None helped him until Jesus saw him.

Yet, before doing the instant miracle on him, Jesus asked him a strange question: Do you want to be healed?

It is easy for physical weakness, mental depression, a sense of hopelessness and despair to take away our willingness to do anything in such circumstances.

We might even be unwilling to believe and obey someone who has the power to heal us and make us whole.

I once asked a research student at a university if he would be willing to become a Christian if his intellectual objections were answered. He had the honesty to admit that he was not willing to believe for other reasons.

Sometimes, man’s greatest barrier to belief is his unwillingness to believe, however convincing reasons for believing might be.

The cripple in the story did not understand how Jesus could help him, but when Jesus spoke to him he obeyed and was healed. He had overcome one barrier to belief.

But he had not bargained on the religious prejudices of some of the Jews who were watching him.

In this story, the Jews had become overly legalistic about observing Sabbath.

The Law had said that the Sabbath day must be different from other days. But the Jewish ecclesiastical leaders were not content with broad principles. They had set out 39 different classifications about the law surrounding routine ‘work.’

Hence, certainly the man who was carrying his bed on the day of his healing was working! It looked as if religious men were once again trying to hinder a man from finding and following the truth.

The writer John gave two reasons for the growing hostility of religious bodies towards Jesus.

First, although Jesus kept the Sabbath in principle, he ignored the petty rules and regulations imposed by the church of his day.

Second, because Jesus claimed to be equal with God.

When the Bible says that God rested on the seventh day, it means that He rested from one form of activity (creation) and continued on to other forms.

It does not mean that from that moment He ceased to be active in the affairs of men. “My Father is working still, and I am working,” said Jesus.

To the Jews, these words made Jesus a blasphemer who was claiming to be equal with God and therefore deserving of death.

The real question is whether Jesus had the right to say such things.

We must be willing to obey the truth when we discover it, and we must be ready to distinguish between religious prejudice and religious principles.

If we don’t, we shall find ourselves diverted from — or hostile to — the truth.

Narayan Mitra is the pastor of Merritt Baptist Church.