This is a continuation from the previous writing “The healing in John 5” (you might want to read that before reading this) about the man who had been sick for 38 years that Jesus healed, right in the place of his sickness and when healing seemed impossible. The Holy Spirit records for us at the end of John 5:9, “Now it was the Sabbath on that day.” We see something unfold because of this man’s healing, that followed Jesus wherever He went…”Therefore the Jews (Jewish leaders) were saying to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet.” Remember that Jesus was “born under the Law” (Gal 4:4). He who wrote the Law butted heads many times with those who were trying to follow the Law. This situation reveals something about God’s character and about how far from the truth those following the Law had strayed. The leaders here were not happy the man was healed. They aren’t rejoicing in his ability to live again. All they cared about was that he was breaking the Sabbath law by just carrying his pallet or bed-roll. Ex 31:14 states: “Therefore you are to observe the Sabbath, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people.” Then in Num 15 there’s a situation where a man was seen gathering wood on the Sabbath and he was stoned to death. But the Law was given to show man that he cannot keep it all. It was never meant to be a guideline, but a tutor to lead us to Christ (see Gal 3-4). Suffice to say I share this because when Jesus did this miracle of healing, He knew the Law and He also knew how far the human heart had strayed from God Himself. Man gravitates to law and not to grace. Jesus came to usher in the new covenant of grace = He would fulfill all the law for man (who could not) and hence be the perfect sacrifice for our sins! That is just some background to the situation in John 5.
The man who was healed was caught in a trap that the Jewish leaders also tried to snag Jesus in. But here, they know they have what they think is a weakling, rather than Jesus Himself. It does seem that when God moves in our lives, the enemy also makes a counter-move. The devil tries to undo the sound mind Jesus gives us by sending us criticism, complaint, disagreement or outright blame or shame. Hold tight to Him who has done the miracle in your life! I’m sure the man who had been sick for 38 years was fearful of what the Jewish leaders might do to him. Remember the Law said that person should be put to death. We are often confronted with fear when God is on the move in our lives. It’s ok – He understands! If we get into guilt and condemnation just because we’re fearful, that is the work also of the enemy of our souls.
Anyhow, the healed man answered his accusers, “He who made me well was the one who said to me, ‘Take up your pallet and walk.’” (Think about how profound this is given the day and age. The one who gave the Law was in fact telling the man to break that original law, because something greater was in front of him). They asked him, ‘Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your pallet, and walk’?” But he who was healed did not know who it was; for Jesus had slipped away while there was a crowd in that place.” Remember from the previous writing about this man’s healing, that at the pool there were multitudes of sick people around. We don’t know just where these Jewish leaders were, but it’s my guess they were following Jesus around in order to trap him. They were near enough to see the man walk away and question him.
Don’t you think it’s interesting, that Jesus did many miracles without identifying Himself first? Yes, many who came to Him knew who He was and therefore came and asked for healing. But there are others who hadn’t a clue who He was. What grace! What humility! Jesus knew who He was and did not need to lean on His identity (like we do) or pull out His resume of achievements before healing. This is real love – that only desires the good of the other. Jesus knew the Jewish leaders were after Him and I’m sure He didn’t want this man, who He just healed, to be punished for obeying Him. And yet, this is the reality for us as believers many a time. Jesus said we’d be persecuted for following Him, for obeying the truth. It’s not stated here if the Jewish leaders just let the man go, or any other details of their accusation towards him about breaking the Sabbath law. I believe Jesus protected the man and just as He slipped away, the man was able to get away.
Then it gets more interesting…in verse 14 we read, “Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “Behold, you have become well (made whole); do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse may befall you.” Here is the same verse in the Voice translation: “Take a look at your body; it has been made whole and strong. So avoid a life of sin, or else a calamity greater than any disability may befall you.” Hmmm…doesn’t that make you pause? Are you wondering, “Did the man’s sin cause his illness? Is Jesus going to take back his healing if he sins again? Is this meant to scare the man?”
Remember the situation where the 4 friends of a paralyzed man dropped him in front of Jesus in the house and Jesus told the man that his sins were forgiven”? Jesus proceeded to rebuke the Pharisees who were thinking to themselves that only God could forgive sin. Jesus asked them if it was harder to say your sins are forgiven, or to say get up and walk. Jesus healed the man to prove He was God – He had power to forgive AND to heal. Then, recall when a blind man (from birth) was before Jesus and those around asked Him if it was the man’s sin or his parent’s sin that caused his blindness…Jesus said neither but it was to show God’s glory (and the man was given his sight). Remember the book of Job? All his friends were certain that his illness was caused by Job’s sin. And in part, the Old Covenant was based on the idea that “if I do good, I get good, and if I do bad, I get bad.” The Law was based on man’s ability to keep it in order to get God’s blessing. That’s what makes the New Covenant so wonderful – because Jesus came to take all God’s anger and punishment over sin. And after His death and resurrection, God does not (cannot) remember our sin – not ever! (Heb 10:17). We obtain what we do not deserve – His righteousness, forgiveness, eternal life, abundant life etc. all because Jesus got what He did not deserve – suffering, pain, punishment and death.
Jesus found the man “in the Temple.” I think this is perhaps the key to what Jesus told the man. Did the man go to the Temple because he was afraid (due to what the leaders said to him)? He had just had an encounter with God Himself and was healed of his sickness that took away 38 years of his life. He did nothing to earn his healing or even qualify for it by doing anything special = grace. I think he went to the Temple because he was caught between a miracle and the Law – caught between Law and Grace. He did not want to break the Law and didn’t ask to healed on the Sabbath and I doubt he was aware of what day it was in the first place. But Jesus went out of His way to find the man, not to condemn him for his sin (whatever that sin was) but to bring even more healing for the future. The definition of “sin” is to miss the mark, not to hit the target, to miss in your relationship with God. We are all sinners because we all miss the mark of knowing God for who He is fully is and the ability to relate to Him in the way God meant us to. Symbolically, I think Jesus was saying, “Don’t come back here. Don’t come back to the Law looking for God because someone greater than the Law is here now. Don’t relate to God out of fear, but receive Me; receive My grace, and that will give you the ability not to sin anymore. Coming back to the law won’t help you live a godly life – in fact the Law will only strengthen sin. (1 Cor 15:56). So don’t go back to the law for help, instead come to Me and then you will not miss the mark anymore.” Jesus was also warning the man, that the consequences of a life of sin are real. Now that he was healed, Jesus longed for him to escape those real consequences. We don’t know what the man’s sin was and I’m glad we are not told this in detail for we are all sinners. Of course the man would sin again – we all do even after we are saved or a miracle comes into our lives. But here, I think Jesus means, a life of sin, a continuation in sin. But, strength not to sin cannot come from the Law, but only from knowing how forgiven we are in Christ! No amount of willpower can overcome sin. Only a life of following Jesus – receiving His forgiveness, His gift of righteousness, His grace that gives us the power to overcome sin.
The text can give one the impression that this man could lose his healing, but I think rather, Jesus wanted the man to stay away from places or persons that could lead him back into sin. Like an alcoholic for example: if he is set free from alcohol, one of the best things he can do is to stay away from a bar or those friends who would take him to one. One who has been set free from pornography – don’t go see raunchy movies or go places where you will see things that will lead you back into sin. Instead, I think Jesus was telling the man to take a right turn in his life and go in another direction from where he had been before. This is good advice for anyone dealing with continual sin in their lives.
I think the man was still fearful though. Verse 15 records that “The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who made him well.” He knows Jesus’ name at least, and we don’t know if he knew anything more than that. He was still afraid of repercussion from the Jews. Did Jesus come back and take away his healing because of that, even if it made His life harder –of course not! God gives freely, without conditions; even if we reject Him He still loves and gives. “And for this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath.” I think Jesus needed to wake up those around Him from the stupor of hundreds of years of law. He had to show them He was indeed God Himself and that meant taking the law to a higher place than just outward behavior. Healing trumps doing work. Speaking truth trumps carrying your pallet. Helping the hurting shows mercy and God loves mercy!
I have a feeling there is more to be learned from this man’s encounter with Jesus. But read the passage for yourself and see what the Lord would speak to you.