Hiroo Onoda refused to come down the mountain. When WW2 ended, Allied planes dropped leaflets to inform Japanese soldiers that the war was over, but Hiroo and two other soldiers refused to believe it. Even in 1952 when planes dropped letters and pictures from family, they still would not believe that the war was over. As one of the longest holdouts, he continued to fight against the Philippine police until 1974. Hiroo had information that the war was over, but he refused to accept it.
John 5 pictures the same kind of obstinacy; a lame man who is waiting to be healed by the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem meets Jesus. You remember Jesus, right? The guy who went around healing people? And here’s the lame man, who’s been disabled for 38 years, waiting for miraculous healing, and surrounded by other sick people who are also looking for help. What do you suppose they talked about? I would imagine they talked about possible remedies for their problems, pain relievers, and potions. This group of people would be intensely interested in anything that would alleviate their suffering. If essential oils existed in the first century, these folks were a ripe customer base. And this guy not only fails to recognize Jesus before he’s healed, he has no idea who he is after Jesus commands him to get up, take his mat, and walk.
The Bible is full of moments that make you shake your head and this one leaves me stunned. How can you be waiting for healing, get healed and have NO IDEA who did it? Jesus later finds the man in the Temple and encourages him to “stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” And the natural question is: “what is the man’s sin?” And the text pictures the answer: unbelief. The man refuses to understand and accept the person of Jesus. The man has experienced divine healing by Jesus and yet does not believe in him. It’s almost like he’s hiding out after the war is long over, and he refuses to surrender, just like Hiroo Onoda.
I think there are people like this all around us. They’re hiding out in the hills and need someone to come up and get them. That’s what happened to Hiroo. In 1974 a young man, Norio Suzuki, set out to find him. It took four days, but he spent time with him to find out what would bring him down the mountain. Hiroo wanted orders. Official orders and nothing less. So, the young man went back to Japan and got the government to find Hiroo’s commanding officer. They sent the officer up to give Hiroo the official word that the war was over and he could stop fighting.
It seems to me that John’s Gospel is the official order for those people in the modern world who are sitting on the fence with respect to Christianity. Get off the fence. Come down from the mountain.