We touched on this a couple of days ago, but I think it deserves a more thorough examination. This has got to be one of the most shocking stories in all Scripture when you think about it. It started off in a unique way by the fact that Jesus actually asked the paralytic whether he wanted to be well. Then, without any apparent faith on the man’s part (another unusual aspect), Jesus sovereignly healed the man. What happened next? The man was caught and by the religious authorities for carrying his mat on the Sabbath. They were nothing if not reliable and predictable—they couldn’t care less that a man had been relieved of years of helplessness and poverty by an instantaneous miracle. No, the most important fact to them was that he was carrying his mat and thus doing work on the Sabbath. They questioned and released him. Here’s where the shocking part comes in: Jesus met him again and confronted him with sin in his life. The former paralytic then proceeded to go back to the religious leaders and rat Jesus out.
The reason why this is so important is because it’s so illustrative of two types of healing, and shows why one is so much more important than the other. The man had been made physically whole: Not only was the cause of his paralysis removed, but years of atrophy were erased as well. But deep within this man were spiritual problems that weren’t dealt with. We don’t know what sin issues the man had—I'd suggest self-pity and bitterness as prime candidates, but it doesn’t matter. Whatever they were, this man didn’t want to face them, as revealed by his betrayal of his benefactor.
Do you realize that Jesus could have banished all physical illness from
with a word of command? Obviously he didn’t—In fact, there were probably hundreds of sick people at that pool that very day, and as far as we know, he didn’t do a thing for them. Why didn’t he? Didn’t he have a heart of compassion for them? Didn’t he care? Of course he did! He was the most compassionate man who ever walked the planet. I mean this literally: Compassion means to “suffer with” someone, and no one took on our sufferings like he did, even before the cross. But that’s not why he came. He didn’t come primarily to get rid of physical disease. He did heal thousands of people, but mainly that was to show who he was, within the strict guidance of his Father’s plan. That’s why John called his miracles ‘signs,” as in pointing to something greater than themselves. Israel
The reason he came was not to deal with the symptoms of our problem (i.e., physical ailments) but the problem itself. You can probably guess what I’m referring to: sin. Our separation from God due to our rebellion against him is the ultimate source of every problem we have, including illness, disease, and infirmity. If Jesus had removed all illness from
, all he’d have brought into being was a nation of healthy sinners still destined for hell. Israel
As I said yesterday, this man holds up a mirror in front of each of us. We are so quick to complain about physical problems, and our Lord does care about those. And he will someday remove them permanently. But that’s not his main priority, and it shouldn’t be ours either. Soul sickness is a whole lot more serious, with potentially eternal consequences.
Lord Jesus, I thank you that you really are the Great Physician. You deal with what really needs to be dealt with—the sin in my heart. Please change my priorities. I need that very badly.