Christianity and the Problem of Human ViolenceChristianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 126: Spiritual Healing - The Invalid Man
from Guide to Kingdom Living

True Christian living requires us to live according to Kingdom standards which bring Heaven to earth.

Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 126: Spiritual Healing - The Invalid Man

By Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.

John chapter 5 describes Jesus healing a man who has been an invalid for 38 years. The man was among "a multitude of invalids, blind, lame, paralyzed" (John 5:2) who were at a pool "by the Sheep Gate" (John 5:2), which was the gate through which the sheep destined for sacrifice passed. I agree with Gil Bailey that the juxtaposition of these people and the Sheep Gate was not accidental.5 Ascribing guilt to those with infirmities is a kind of scapegoating, since people regarded infirmity as a sign that the infirmed person or an ancestor had sinned.

What I find most remarkable about this story is the scene in the temple subsequent to Jesus' healing. Jesus found the former invalid there and said to him, "See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse befall you" (John 5:14).

The man evidently planned to make a sacrifice in the temple, presumably to thank God for his good fortune and to reduce the risk that he would once again receive God's wrath in the form of an infirmity. However, Jesus said, "Sin no more". What was the man's sin? I do not think the man's sin was related to his previous infirmity, because Jesus said that the man blind from birth (John chapter 9) was not blind on account of his own sin or that of his parents. While disease can be a consequence of sin (e.g., gluttony), the notion of disease as divine punishment for sin seems to run counter to the image of God as loving and forgiving. Furthermore, if those with diseases and infirmities were suffering the consequences of divine punishment, then the Son's healing would, in effect, be undermining the will of the Father.

I think that we may ascertain the man's sin by noting what the man was doing - participating in sacrifice. Therefore, I think the "sin" to which Jesus referred was sacrifice itself. The man's experience of God's power through Jesus should have provided faith in God's love and goodness; he should not have needed to kill innocent animals in order to satisfy God.

Sacrifice as a means to approach God or to thank God shows a lack of faith in God's love. Consequently, Jesus warned the man to cease sacrificing, lest something worse befall him. That something is having one's life grounded on the lie that we can curry God's favor by sacrificing innocent victims. Wholeness is much more about living with integrity than about being able to walk. Therefore, the story describes how, after this meeting with Jesus in the temple, the man told everyone how Jesus had healed him (John 5:15). Formerly disabled, the man was now truly whole, both physically and spiritually.

Go on to: Part 127: Healing and Faith - The Woman with Perpetual Bleeding
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