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The man that Jesus healed just outside the walls of Jerusalem went into the city—probably into the outer court of the temple—carrying his pallet (krabbatos) as Jesus had instructed him to do.
John 5:9-11 says,
9 … Now it was the Sabbath on that day. 10 Therefore the Jews were saying to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet.” 11 But he answered them, “He who made me well was the one who said to me, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk’.”
The “Jews” in this case were the temple priests, not the ordinary people. The priests were spiritually blind to what was truly important. Instead of seeing the miracle as a manifestation of the living word in their midst, they could only see the man’s pallet. Years of study and training had caused them to lose the distinction between the law of God and men’s understanding of the law—in this case, their understanding of the Sabbath.
Strong opinions may quickly turn into idols in the heart. The priests in Ezekiel’s time harbored idols in their hearts as well, which were seen when some “elders of Israel” came to the prophet with pre-conceived notions, expecting God and the prophet to confirm and validate them. In other words, the elders did not come to learn the will of God but to convince God that their own opinion was valid (Ezekiel 14:1-3).
So it was also with the priests and elders in Jerusalem when the man who was healed carried his pallet into the city. The elders were so convinced of their established opinions that they were unwilling to be corrected by the truth that was plainly evident in front of them.
But what is it about the pallet that disturbed them so? I have observed in the past how people seem to react strangely and often irrationally when God intervenes directly to manifest Himself in a given situation. When we engaged in spiritual warfare, for example, it seemed that some of the people were suddenly not themselves but were playing a role based on a Bible story. It was as if they had suddenly become actors on a stage. Once I discerned the biblical story being played on the stage, it became relatively easy to know how each actor would play his role and how the story would end.
In the case of the man with the pallet, this was the third sign in the Gospel of John, and so it should not be surprising to find the religious elders playing their role in opposition to the “hero” of the story. God had raised them up as “vessels of wrath” (Rom. 9:21, 22).
The “pallet” (mat, bed) in the story is from the Macedonian word krabbatos, which has a numeric value of 716, or 358 x 2. The numeric value of Messiah in Hebrew is 358. Likewise, the Hebrew word nachash (“serpent”) has a numeric value of 358. The connection is seen in John 3:14,
14 As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.
In comparing and contrasting the serpent with Christ Himself, we see how Christ, in effect, became a serpent. Certainly, that is how the religious elders saw Him. It was really a matter of perspective. Their motives were evil, and so they viewed Him as a blasphemer and Sabbath breaker. But at the same time, He was the cure for the bite of the fiery serpents in the wilderness and for the sin of the world.
The “pallet” in John 5:10 is krabbatos, having a numeric value of 358 x 2. What are the odds of that? The nachash (358) was lifted up for all to see; the Messiah (358) was lifted up for all to see; and now even the pallet (358 x 2) was lifted up for all to see.
The pallet itself had been the invalid’s resting place. It represented the sleep of death. Holding it up for all to see was a statement of triumph and victory over death. It was a sign of life, resurrection and of entering into God’s rest through the Messiah who had appeared to many to be a serpent, a child of the devil.
In each case, the people were required to look upon that which was lifted up in order to be healed. But it was not merely the act of seeing that brought healing. It was a matter of seeing and believing—an act of faith and acceptance.
There were many who saw Jesus on the cross as they passed by on the road to Jerusalem. But because “His appearance was marred more than any man and His form more than the sons of men” (Isaiah 52:14), we know that most of the people followed the custom of casting stones at the face of the accused as He hung on the cross.
Casting stones at the accused showed that they were in agreement with the verdict of the priestly judges who had condemned Him to death. Such people were not healed as they looked upon the “serpent” who had been lifted up. As mortals, they were destined instead to die in their sins from the “bite” of the fiery serpents (nachash). Their salvation would come later after missing the greater blessing and reward of “eternal life,” that is, life in The Age.
So when the man lifted up his pallet, he was, in effect, lifting up Christ for all to see. Those who saw with the eyes of faith were healed; those who saw with blind eyes remained in darkness. The pallet, like the bronze serpent in the wilderness, was a symbol of Christ Himself and the occasion by which men manifested either faith or unbelief. They are either drawn to the light or they prefer darkness. Each side is made evident by their view of the lowly pallet.
So later, as we will see, Jesus explained this in John 5:24,
24 Truly, truly [Amen, Amen] I say to you, he who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life, and does not come into condemnation but has passed out of death into life.
Herein does this third sign correlate with the sixth sign, where Jesus healed the blind man in the ninth chapter of John. Both men represent Israel. The ninth sign portrays Israel in its state of national blindness. The blind man, as we will see later, pictures the same people, for Moses said in Deut. 29:4,
4 Yet to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear.
When Jesus healed the blind man in John 9:7, He was prophesying of a greater event in our own time, when God heals the church that has been blind during its own wilderness journey (40 Jubilee cycles). Hence, both the invalid and the man born blind play the role of Israel under Moses, as well as the church in the wilderness in the Pentecostal Age. These stories give us hope today, for we now live in a post-Pentecostal Age, transitioning into the Tabernacles Age.
John 5:12 says,
12 They [the religious elders] asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk’?”
The elders were not desiring to know who had healed the man. They were not at all impressed with the miracle standing in front of them. Their intent was to find the man who had commanded this ex-invalid to commit a grave sin (in their estimation). Who would dare to undermine the authority of the chosen ones? Who would dare to teach something different about the Sabbath?
John 5:13 continues,
13 But the man who was healed did not know who it was; for Jesus had slipped away while there was a crowd in that place.
Apparently, Jesus had not introduced himself to the invalid. While they may have walked through the Sheep Gate together into the city, they soon were separated, as Jesus knew that there would soon be trouble. He knew that the man would be accosted by carrying his pallet into the city on the Sabbath.
John 5:14 says,
14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you.”
This implies that the man had sinned in his early life, resulting in a 38-year sentence as an invalid. Normally, one should be careful not to attribute sickness to some prior sin, but in this specific case the man was representing Israel. Israel’s sin had been to reject the word of Caleb and Joshua who had urged the people to enter the Promised Land. Israel’s sin resulted in a 38-year sentence, which was their time spent as spiritual invalids (Deut. 2:14).
When we compare this with the man born blind, we find the disciples raising this same question in John 9:1-3,
1 As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was in order that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
When we understand that this man was blind in order to set up the occasion for Jesus’ sixth miracle-sign, it is apparent that neither he nor his parents had caused his condition by some sin. He was blind because God had not given him eyes to see, even as we see with Israel in general in Deut. 29:4. This was purely a matter of the sovereignty of God, for we read the word given to Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 4:11,
11 And the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him dumb or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?”
Hence, at times, depending on the situation, infirmity may come on account of God’s sovereign will, or it may come because a man has sinned. The difference must be discerned spiritually, and this depends on whether or not a person is playing a role that is greater than himself. Such role playing is subject to God’s sovereign will and plan alone and is not something that we are able to control.
Our inability to control our circumstances is a source of agitation and aggravation to many, but we must understand that we did not create ourselves and so we do not own ourselves. The Creator has Potter’s Rights to use that which He has created for His own purposes, and Paul tells us that the clay has no right to question that right (Rom. 9:20, 21).
The advantage of God’s sovereignty is that the outcome is always assured. Coupled with the faith that God is love and that He knows how to work all things together for good (Rom. 8:28), we can rest assured that because Christ was indeed lifted up on the cross, He will assuredly draw (“drag”) all men to Himself.