Today’s Gospel tells the story of Jesus healing a man who was ill for thirty-eight years. The context of the passage tells us he was crippled. He is healed when the Lord Jesus tells him to “Rise, take up your mat and walk.” The power of God is so vividly displayed to us. He speaks at it is so. St. Paul says He calls into being things that do not exist (Romans 4:17). By the power of His Word, the crippled man is healed, the royal official’s son is healed, the centurion’s servant is made well. We are healed by grace through the power of the same word. Eternal truth is spoken into our temporal reality. Light shining into the darkness. As Augustin says, the infinite being of God so permeates the existence of the finite and contingent that His word is nearer to us than we are to ourselves.
When Jesus speaks to the healed man later in the story, the Lord tells him to not sin anymore, so that nothing worse would happen to him. Considering John 9 and other passages, I don’t think we can interpret this to mean the man’s sin necessarily brought about his illness. Certainly, there are cases where sin can cause physical and mental infirmity. There is something deeper in this passage. Sin and its consequences are worse than the crippling illness suffered by this man. As wonderful as it is to be healed from disease and deformity, there is a surpassing wonder in the forgiveness of sins and being rejoined to God in fellowship.
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