”Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”
— JOHN 5:7–8
In the spring of 1963, while racial tensions raged in the American South, Martin Luther King Jr. found himself in a jail cell. He was there as a result of being part of the protests that sought to confront the injustices of his day. Some of Dr. King’s Caucasian contemporaries found it unbecoming for an ordained minister to be involved with such protests, and they let him know about their concern. Dr. King dispatched a letter from his prison cell in Birmingham, Alabama addressing those concerns.
Citing the examples of the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles, Dr. King simply stated, “I am in Birmingham because injustice is here.” Essentially, he was rhetorically asking, “Is there any other place I should be?”
In John 5, Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath. He was quickly confronted by the Jewish religious leaders who were upset at Jesus’ clear violation of the law. Responding to their accusations, Jesus said, “My Father is still working, and I am working too.” His response evoked several challenges, but certainly one of them was the idea that wherever there is brokenness, injustice and sickness, you will find the Father, the Son and the Spirit at work. Simply stated: It’s what they do.
Wherever the curse is having its way, wherever darkness and brokenness are winning the day, wherever injustice shows itself, may the Church—the presence of Jesus on earth—be found there. It’s what we do. It’s who we are.
FURTHER SCRIPTURE REFLECTION: JOHN 5:1–8
1. Where do I see injustice? How can I get involved as an instrument of Jesus’ light and redemption?
2. How does Jesus’ healing on the Sabbath make this point even more powerful?
Aaron Gerrard is Lead Facilitator of Ancaster Village Church, a new church community that began in Fall 2011. Visit ancastervillagechurch.ca.
Link to full text of Birmingham Jail letter: abacus.bates.edu/admin/offices/dos/mlk/letter.html