“That nothing worse may happen to you” – Meditation on John 5:2-14

2Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. 3In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. 5One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6When 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?” 7The 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.” 8Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” 9 And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.

Now that day was the Sabbath. 10So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” 11But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.'” 12They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. 14Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well!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 5:2-14]

‘That nothing worse may happen to you.’ Nothing worse than what? His invalidity? Is that the worst thing that could afflict this man? I would think that it’s in reference to the immediate antecedent, i.e. sin. “Sin no more, that nothing worse than sin may happen to you.” What could be worse than sin? “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Sin brings death, judgment and punishment. Surely there is nothing worse than what follows sin.

Matthew Henry commented on this passage, “Thirty-eight years’ lameness, one would think, was a thing bad enough; yet there is something worse that will come to him if he relapse into sin after God has given him such a deliverance as this.” What are 38 years of invalidity compared to an eternity without God?

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