Scripture: After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.
Now that day was the Sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.'” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. John 5:1-15 ESV
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Observation: Recapping Yesterday’s Daily Focus, Jesus first revisits Cana. When an official from Capernaum learns that Jesus is in Cana, he travels overnight to plead with Jesus to heal his deathly ill son. Initially, Jesus admonishes the official for his weak faith, which depends on signs and wonders, but the official persists. So Jesus tells him to go home, for his son will live. Believing in Jesus’ promise, he returns home, and the next day his servants meet him with the good news that his son is recovering. So the official inquires about the time of his son’s recovery, confirming it aligned with when Jesus promised his son would live. Hence, the power of Jesus’ words sparked a greater faith in the official, who then testified all that transpired to his family, and all believed in Christ.
Today’s devotion marks a break in chronological sequence. Being thematically driven, John does not give as much attention to Jesus’ Galilean ministry as the other three gospellers do. Instead, he chronicles Jesus’ third miraculous sign, which takes place in Jerusalem. While John does not identify which feast, the lack of a definite article would indicate one of the lesser feasts (compared to the Passover). Being more concerned about providing his audience details of the setting, John tells us about a pool near the Sheep Gate with a five-colonnade cover that permitted the wind to blow through. Due to superstition, many invalids congregated at this pool, waiting for a gust to stir the water, believing whoever entered the water first would find healing.
Having supernatural insight, Jesus approaches a particular paralytic who suffered his injury thirty-eight years earlier. Jesus then asks the man what seems to be an impertinent question: “Do you want to be healed?” The man does not answer the question but justifies his state of being, explaining that in his paralytic condition, when the waters stir, some other invalid with better mobility will always make it to the pool first. Unwilling to entertain any more excuses, Jesus commands him to get up, take his bed mat, and walk. Without hesitation, the man gathers his belongings and walks away.
Meanwhile, some spying Jews approach and admonish the man for laboring on the Sabbath (carrying his bedroll). The healed man deflects blame on the miracle worker who commanded him to do so. So the Jews inquire about the identity of this man who gave the command, but the former invalid could not oblige since Jesus did not reveal his identity and disappeared into the crowd. But Jesus later spotted the healed man in the temple and cautioned him to sin no more lest something worse would happen to him. Nevertheless, the foolish man sought to gain favor with the elders and reported to them that Jesus had healed him.
Takeaway: This story presents an intriguing case study of human nature in our fallen world. Jesus knew this paralytic sought healing. So why ask? Two probable reasons. First, Jesus is exposing where this man is placing his faith. Like the other invalids resting by the pool, he put his faith in a superstition (idol). But perhaps Jesus asked a more pertinent question to reveal the man’s will to change. Invalids survived by begging. If he were to experience healing, he would have to overhaul his lifestyle and take responsibility for self-care.
Then there is a fascinating confrontation later at the temple where Jesus warns the healed man to stop sinning lest something worse happens to him. First, we need to note the man never expressed his gratitude toward Jesus. To his credit, however, following Jesus’ command to “go,” the man later went to the temple—perhaps to offer thanksgiving. Regardless, given John makes no mention, we cannot assume his motive. But his later decisions would indicate that his physical healing did not bring spiritual restoration. Failing to heed Jesus’ warning, the man goes to the Jewish authorities and reports Jesus’ name to them to gain their favor (another form of idolatry). His actions again reveal where he has placed his faith: maintaining good standing with the religious power brokers.
Our takeaway? You might be asking at this point how any of us could rise to Jesus’ high standard of sinning no more. And the warning that worse could happen hardly seems like a compelling motivational challenge. But here’s the reality of Jesus’ words: ongoing, unrepentant sin leads to worse things. If we haven’t experienced this reality, we have certainly seen others who have self-destructed.
So how do we process Jesus summarily commanding the man to stop sinning? Our gospeller writes again of this high standard of godly living in his first epistle: No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God (1 John 3:9). The critical clarification here is the practice of sinning. If Christ is in us, and hence his Holy Spirit is sanctifying us, we will repent and desire to cooperate with the Holy Spirit to gain victory over our sin when it is exposed. In other words, we will unequivocally say “Yes!” when Jesus asks, “Do you want to be healed?” For we will yearn for healing to the deepest parts of our minds, bodies, and spirits. And Christ’s grace will abound when we relapse—just as it did for his disciples when they occasionally stumbled while obeying his command to “go” and make more disciples (Matthew 28:19).
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son, who, by his wounds, has healed us to the deepest parts of our minds, bodies, and spirits. And we thank you for your Holy Spirit, who exposes our sins and guides us in righteousness. So would you please help us yearn for healing and fully cooperate with your Holy Spirit, confessing our sins and receiving your grace to help us break the practice of sin? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling