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He had been crippled for 38 years. Now that is a long time. Jesus, the Messiah, healed him. Not a problem. Jesus is perfectly aligned with His Father.

  • Jesus has a new plan.
  • It is a new agreement.
  • And when Jesus heals us, we look wonderful.

And it is Good News all the time. God has a goal for us. We should listen to Jesus and not miss it. Who knows what could happen?

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.[1]

(John 5:14)

Later, and more importantly, Jesus finds the man—another instance of divine initiative. The physical healing will not truly be the larger work of eternal salvation unless the man knows it is Jesus who healed him, for salvation requires knowing Jesus.

And where does Jesus find the man? In the temple (a few hundred yards south of the pool). Now 2 Samuel 5:8 says that “the blind and the lame shall not come into the house [‘of the Lord,’ added by the Greek translation of the Old Testament].” And Jews understood this statement to mean that physically disabled people should not enter the temple courts.

That is what made the coming of blind and lame people to Jesus in the temple, and his healing them, so striking in Matthew 21:14. Here, though, the man is already healed; and his presence in the temple and his having walked there—he is no longer at the Pool of Bethzatha—prove his healing. Jesus himself emphasizes the point: “Look! You have gotten well,” as if to say, “You have walked all the way here, carrying your mat, and you are no longer lying on it at the pool. Hurrah!”

  • But then Jesus adds, “Don’t sin anymore lest something worse happen to you.”
  • We know from later in John those physical ailments are not necessarily punishments for sins.
  • There, the disciples will ask Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this [blind man] or his parents, with the result that he was born blind?”
  • Jesus will answer, “Neither did this man sin nor did his parents.”

Here in chapter 5, though, the command not to sin any more implies that this man’s disability was punishment for a particular sin. And that implication is supported by the allusion to the Israelites’ wandering in the wilderness for thirty-eight years, because it was their refusal to enter the promised land at once that led to their wandering as a punishment from God.

What might the command not to sin any meaner to the audience of John’s Gospel back in the first century? John is writing to keep them believing in the true Christian gospel instead of apostatizing over to the heresy of Gnosticism.

  • And one of the branches of Gnosticism taught that if you were one of the elites, one of the select—that is, if you were a Gnostic, somebody who had superior knowledge—you could ignore the moral and ethical rules that ordinary mortals think they must live by.
  • In fact, not only can you break those rules. You should break them, and by breaking them show your superiority.
  • You are not sinning, because the sinning part of you—that is your body—is not a real part of you.
  • It is only your spirit that counts as your true self.

This is the sort of teaching that John attacks in his first letter: “If we say, ‘We don’t have sin,’ we’re misleading ourselves and the truth isn’t in us.… If we say, ‘We haven’t sinned,’ we make him [God] a liar, and his Word is not in us. My children, I am writing to you in order that you not sin.… Everyone who is abiding in him [the Messiah] is not sinning. Everyone who is sinning has neither seen him nor known him [despite the Gnostics’ pretension to knowledge, the very term ‘Gnostic’ meaning ‘knower’].… The person who is practicing sin is from the Devil.… Everyone who has been born from God isn’t practicing sin.” So, John notes that Jesus says to the healed man, “Don’t sin anymore.”

The healing stands for salvation, and salvation means being saved from sin, not only from its penalty but also from its power over your life and conduct. “Lest something worse happen to you”—worse than the thirty-eight years of being an invalid. That sounds bad. What is this worse something? Well, if the healing stands for salvation, eternal life, the worse thing must be damnation, eternal death—an eternity of existence in separation from God, what John calls being lost; for human beings were made to live in communion with God, so that to exist apart from him is absolute ruination. And that will be the fate of those who do not stop the practice of sinning, including those who think they are above the rules.[2]

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Jn 5:14). (2016). Crossway Bibles.

[2] Gundry, R. H. (2010). Commentary on the New Testament: Verse-by-Verse Explanations with a Literal Translation (pp. 373–374). Hendrickson Publishers.

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