What is worse than being paralyzed for 38 years?

lame man

There are many people in the world who “believe” in Jesus for the sake of eternity.  He is our safety net and He is in charge of everything after we die.  No one wants to go to Hell and spend an eternity suffering!  So yes!  We are Christians, we believe in Jesus, we have asked Him to save us and when we die He will take us to Heaven.  There are also many people in the world who have a genuine relationship with Jesus.  They know Him, they love Him, they are being transformed by Him, and cannot wait to spend eternity with Him.  To these people, knowing Jesus while alive on Earth is a benefit and getting to spend eternity with Him is the goal – not simply avoiding Hell.

Both of these types of people have a sense of security about the afterlife – some founded, others unfounded.  When addressing the fear of death people regularly say “I am not afraid of what comes after death, but the process”.  My boss’s wife has a fear of bears in the woods.  He one time asked her, “What’s the worst that could happen?” hoping to assuage her fear by comforting her that should she die she would spend eternity with Jesus.  Her witty and honest response was, “the bear could maul me and I could be forced to live my life mangled”.

It’s true, isn’t it.  If our eternity is secure, then most of us fear losing what we have:  our security, our comfort, and/or our health.

Do you remember the story of the man by the pool?  He was paralyzed, “invalid” and lying by the pool of Bethesda waiting for an angel to come and touch the waters of the pool because the first one to enter into the waters after they were stirred would be healed.  Scripture teaches us that there was a multitude of sick, blind, lame and withered people waiting for their chance to be healed (John 5.3).  This man, because he was paralyzed, could never get to the pool fast enough.  Thus he had been waiting for his chance for 38 years.

Thirty-eight years.

We do not know if he was born paralyzed or hurt as a child was was now a middle-aged man, or if he was hurt later in life and was thus an old man having remembered and lost his mobility.  Either way, he had been sitting there, by the pool, amongst a multitude of other hurt and sick people for more than half of the normal life expectancy for a person at the time.

Just waiting, wallowing in his terrible condition.

Jesus approached him and asked him if he wanted to be healed.  It is pretty obvious that the man was seeking to be healed – he was waiting by the pool of miracles for a miracle, and his answer to Jesus was not even a simple yes, but an explanation for why he had missed the opportunity so many times:  he had no one to help him into the pool and he could never be the first one!  Others always beat him in (John 5.7).

What does Jesus do?  He immediately heals the man.  Strangely, however, Jesus disappears into the crowd.  This man had exemplified no faith.  He had not sought out Jesus.  In fact, we learn in the next few verses that the man did not even know who it was that had healed him (John 5.13)!  All he knew was he had been paralyzed for 38 years and suddenly he had been healed.  All is right in the world, right?


Jesus sought the man out later and found him in the temple – a great place to be – and gave him this solemn warning:

“Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you’.”

– John 5.14

Wow.  So often our Gospel presentation is full of promises and pleasantries, how often do we consider the threats of Jesus?  Jesus came in power, but His intention in coming to the Earth was not to heal everyone or bring about the New Earth where sin and suffering cease.  No, He came to “seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19.10).  This is why Jesus did not stand and heal everyone at the pool.  There was a multitude of sick and lame people at the pool.  That means a huge crowd.  And Jesus sought out one man to heal physically, but then He warned him:  “do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you”.

What is worse than 38 years of paralysis in a society that does not care for the broken?  Years of waiting for a miracle and begging for food?  The answer is simply, an eternity in Hell.  Jesus came to save sinners from Hell.  When He comes the second time, He will do away with all suffering, pain, sorrow and sin.  But His first entrance onto the scene was to save sinners from their sin.  Thus He commanded this man “do not sin anymore”, and gave a solemn warning that if this man did not repent from his sins, he would go to Hell.

An eternity in Hell is by far the worst thing that could happen to us.

But yet we live our lives as though Hell does not exist.  Scripture and natural law teaches us that everyone will die (Heb 9.27).  We know that we will all die because the punishment for sin is death (Rom 6.23).  But if we confess our sins and repent from them, we can be saved eternally (Rom 10.9, 1 John 1.9).

We also live our lives constantly praying for health, success, pleasure and comfort – and rarely pray for our hearts, attitudes and Spiritual maturity.  But yet Jesus left the multitude in their sicknesses and ailments, with the expressed intention to save the world from their sins.  Not their calamities.

So let us stop and consider our hearts.  Is Jesus your “get out of jail free” card?  Or is He your Lord and Savior?  Is He taking care of everything after death?  Or is He impacting how you live your life every day?  Do you come to Him for help about your health, your job, your money and pleasure?  Or do you come to Him for help dying to your sin and flesh?  There are times that Jesus will bless us and heal us, give us success, and allow our situations to be made more comfortable.  But there are also times when we will get sick and not recover, we will fail, and we will be made uncomfortable – even for the sake of the Gospel!  This is neither His judgment nor because we have too little faith.  This is because we have not yet entered into the New Earth where these things will pass.  But He will always help us confess, repent and move on from our wickedness and sin.  He came to save the lost, not to make our lives more comfortable.  We are still looking forward to that!

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