I remember a fictional story I once heard about a young man who was sitting in the hospital with his ailing mother. It went something like this: The monitor started to beep and the loving son began to panic. He ran into the hallway of the hospital in a mild panic and frantically approached the closest person in a white coat he could find. “Sir, I need your help in my mother’s room!” The man in crisp white medical garb responded quickly and followed the frantic man into the room. The man in the white lab coat closely examined the situation looked at the monitors and said, “Well, this is a beautiful room!? How can I help? Perhaps this room could use some new curtains and don’t you think that monitor would complement the paint better on the other side of the bed?” The Son looked incredulously at the older man and barked, “You’re the doctor, what’s wrong with the monitor?!” Surprised at the assumption the man responded, “I’m not a doctor, I’m an interior designer. I’m not the right person for this job.” Slightly confused, the young man asked, “but you are wearing a white coat.” “Oh, yes… do you like it? I found it in the hallway.” The older man responded. “Let me go find you a doctor.” The moral of the story: just because they wear a white coat, doesn’t mean they’re a doctor.
Whenever Jesus heals someone it almost always ticks off those people who do not work in the hospital of God, but wear the lab-coats. In this particular instance, the man Jesus healed in verses 1-9 is confronted by the lab-coat wearing fake doctors who roam the halls of the hospital and yet no nothing of medicine and treatment. He stands up and carries his bed and the interior decorators, which have all kinds of rules for how the room should look and where people should stand in cases of a picture, see him and bark at him for breaking formula. You see, their concern is for the appearance of the hospital itself and not the healing of the patients in the hospital. They are upset that someone would deny the rules they have set up and that this person would dare to be healed out of order!
Now I realize I’m not given the Jewish leaders the credit they deserve. The truth is that most of the Jewish leaders believed that God had commanded that Sabbath was a day in which you were not allowed to do ANY WORK!!! So, in defense of God’s rule, these leaders come running to stop the law breaker. So, I imagine the conversation going like this:
Jewish leaders in white lab coats (JLWL)- “Sir, I know you’re walking and haven’t been able to for a long time… but we have rules here. You see, it is important that you follow our administrative vision or this hospital will start to look like it is not an effective hospital. You’re going to have to put that bed down.”
Healed guy: “What? The doctor just told me to pick it up and walk!?”
JLWL- “What!? You saw a doctor and he told you to do something contrary to the administration’s policies!?”
Healed guy: “Yeah, he healed me and said, ‘pick up your bed and walk.’ So I’m not putting this thing down… the doctor told me to pick it up.” He continues to mutter angrily about flawed administrative policies and obvious oversight of the needs of patients.
JLWL- Interrupting the muttering, “Which doctor was it?”
Healed guy- “I don’t know but when I see him, I’ll come tell you.” Healed guy walks off vowing to write a letter to the chief operating officer about the lack of administrative effectiveness.
The Jewish leaders get upset over this guy walking because he is calling into question their system. If he could be healed without submitting to the rules they believed were required for healing, then their hospital is useless. More than that, if their system is not working, then they are not doctors!
The leaders had become more concerned with the appearance of the hospital over the healing of the patients. You see, they were wearing a white coat, but they are not the doctor. That’s why, when Jesus started to challenge the system and proclaiming that you get healed through Him, the leaders were angry. That’s probably an over simplification, but there will be more to come….