The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.  16  For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath.

—John 5:15-16

Jesus’ healing of the paralyzed man at the pool of Bethesda took place on the Sabbath.  The rules-and-regulations-oriented religious leaders, like those of their ilk today, were more interested in dictating what people can and cannot do than in the good that God loves to do—like healing people, even on the Sabbath!

Don’t miss that this healing took place early on in Jesus’ public ministry.  They were already “persecuting Jesus” and seeking to “kill Him,” probably at least two years before Jesus was eventually crucified.  This reveals something about the human heart, particularly the self-righteous religious human heart: it hates Christ and the gospel.  Why?  Because Christ and the gospel declare that even with our religious rule keeping, we are helpless to heal ourselves.  Instead, we need Him to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.  That fact makes man-centered religion that depends on our efforts obsolete.  It dissolves the ability of works-oriented religious leaders to control people—a control they are violently opposed to relinquish.

How sad it is when people miss the kindness of God toward helpless sinners because of insistence on religious rule-keeping and a desire to maintain control over people!