As we read John 5 today, we are confronted with how the quest for holiness and doing things “right” can go terribly wrong. In Judaism, we are taught that it is permissible to break a commandment to save a life. A doctor can work on the Shabbat to heal someone who is dying, because saving a life is more important than the command to not work.
The religious leaders of Yeshua’s time had become so caught up in their pursuit of holiness that their zeal for Torah blinded them to the ultimate goal of Torah – life. As they learned that this man who had been paralyzed for 38 years could suddenly walk, their immediate response was to chastise him for violating Torah. They did not rejoice with the man for his miraculous healing. They did not praise G-d for his goodness and might. They overlooked the work of G-d to stand in judgment of man. They missed the glory of G-d because they decided to be the ones to police everyone’s holiness.
While we are called to hold our fellow believers accountable for their actions, to keep each other on the path in love, this was not what the Pharisees were doing. Their zeal for Torah had become so all encompassing that, when confronted with a miraculous work of G-d, they saw only a violation of Torah. Don’t let your pursuit of holiness blind you to the power of G-d.