So That Nothing Worse May Happen

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. … 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.” (John 5:1-9,14)

We’ve all heard the story of the invalid man whom Jesus heals on the Sabbath. What is important is what few really look hard at – Jesus’ intent behind his words in the last sentence. 

Jesus heals this man, yes. The man was an invalid for thirty-eight years. We don’t know if this man was born an invalid, or if something happened in his life that made him one. All we know is that he was an invalid, and he wished more than anything to get better. He dedicated his life to it. Legend had it that an angel would randomly come and touch the water and produce a ripple. The first person to get into the water when this happens is said to be healed of whatever ails them. And this man watched it religiously, trying desperately to be healed of his ailment, but to no avail.

Then Jesus comes into the scene.

Jesus asks a simple question: “Do you want to be healed?” The man obviously thinks he is referring to Bethesda, and gives an excuse as to why he is still ailed by his condition. Jesus replies, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” He heals him instantly. But what usually catches people’s attention is his statement to him afterward when He finds him again in the temple: “Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.”

Some people I know take this as a warning shot: “Bro, you had a close call. You could have been like this your whole life. Careful what you do, worse could happen.” Or they take it as a threat: “Hey, you were in pretty bad shape. But you’re good now. But watch out – if you misstep, you couldn’t even dream of what I’d have happen to you then.”

I think both of these are wrong.

I think Jesus said this with concern in His voice. I think Jesus genuinely cared about this man. Because, let’s be honest, it hurts God when we sin – but the consequences of sin fall on us, they’re not God’s responsibility. Here, instead of warning or threatening, I think Jesus is imploring the now-healed man to do good, because shady dealing and immorality lead to much worse than just loss of mobility. They lead to loss of life eternal.

I wonder what would happen if you looked at yourself and your life that way – that Jesus is imploring you not to sin because it harms you, not because He is uptight about rules.

Jesus cares about how what you do, and He cares about how you live. He wants you to live well, and do well. He wants you to have life abundant.

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