As I have been walking through John, I have been examining the story of the lame man healed at the sheep gate. Today I would like to spend some time thinking about Jesus’ interactions with the healed man after the Jewish leaders have already confronted the man. A little warning: this will be a little less story driven and a little more text driven. I use this blog to deal with stories and thoughts as I read through the story of the Bible. This is not intended to be an exposition, just my own meandering journey. So… let’s go.
The story picks up in verse 14, “Afterward, Jesus found him…” Stop right there! Jesus FOUND him. The man who was healed was found by Jesus. Jesus sought him out. We can take heart that Jesus seeks us… we are lost, He is the Shepherd and He seeks us out for redemption. Further, Jesus finds him in the temple. The man who was healed just outside the temple at the pool of Bethesda is walking around the temple. So he rises and walks, and the first place that we find him is in the Temple. So, Jesus heals the lame and they go into the Temple for worship. This is a convicting thought to me. This man who had been lame for 38 years first desires to obey the law. You see, the Law of God says to present yourself to the priests when you are cleaned. However, what would I have done? If I was unable to walk for 38 years, I think I would have gone for a run. But this man turns to worship. As a pastor, I have seen this happen many times. Someone goes through extremely traumatic illness and then they come out of it with a deep desire to worship the Lord. Tragedy and suffering draws people to the Lord. Imagine the man, still grumbling about administrative ineffectiveness, walking into the doctor’s house! But he doesn’t yet understand that it is the Doctor’s home… he is still under the impression that this is just the hospital.
Upon seeing the man in His house, Jesus says, “See you are well! So do not go on continually sinning, so that nothing worse may happen to you.” (my personal translation from the Greek) What an odd thing to say! I imagine the healed guy smiling that awkward confused smile that one encounters when we meet a very polite foreigner who has no idea what we just said. What Jesus said doesn’t really compute. It is certainly a foreboding statement. “Be careful how you live or something worse could happen!” That sounds odd. You’d expect, “walking is pretty cool eh!?” or “did you try jumping yet?” We are not granted those statements. We are instead confronted with a theological statement that is equally pragmatic.
There are many theologians who want to use this verse to say that all sickness is caused by our own individual sin. However, reading a little further in the book of John, Jesus completely rejects this interpretation of sins relationship to sickness in 9:3. Illness might be the consequence of our individual sin, but I don’t think that is what Jesus is getting at here. I think Jesus is warning the man that his life must change. You cannot be healed by Christ and then persist in living in sin. One must have their heart conformed to the image of Christ and begin to live a life that is indicative of a general pattern of righteousness.
The verb that is used for sin is in the present active tense. This means that the verb for sin could be translated “continually sinning.” This is Jesus way of saying, “you cannot remain continually living in sin.” If this is what Jesus is saying, and I believe it is. Then Jesus’ warning is apt. Because one who lives a life of sin and not a life in Christ will have something worse happen to them. That is to say, hell is real and people who do not trust and follow Jesus go there. It’s worse than being sick for 38 years. Remember, we must maintain an eternal perspective! Jesus does not limit his view as we do. We think of what is going to happen in the next 20 or 30 years, whereas Jesus thinks of eternity. So, when we deal with our lives, we must keep our eye on eternity and not merely the consequences we have here.
Immediately that man who was healed by the Messiah went and told the Jewish leaders that Jesus healed him and they got mad at Jesus. They get mad at Jesus and his response is “I’m the Doctor, this is my house, and you’re not doing the job I gave you!” More to come…