As we study the scriptures there are often the obvious lessons that can be seen, but now and again we see some less obvious teachings. There is one such lesson in this section of scriptues. There were a number of times in the scriptures where Jesus healed or ministered to people and attached conditions to the word. We see a situation such as this in this section of the scripture. The Lord healed a man who had been paralyzed for thirty eight years (as discussed in my previous post) but after the healing he attached a condition to his work.
After Jesus had healed the man he went away from him. The Pharisees questioned the man because he was carrying his bed, which he was not supposed to be doing on the Sabbath under the Laws of Moses. When asked who had healed him, the man did not know. Later on Jesus found the man in the temple and we see him speak to the man. “Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” (verse 14)
Today when doctors work on people they will tell them certain conditions, activities and behaviors they should avoid if they are to maintain their health. For example, a person with a cardio disease will be told not to smoke, lose weight and get more exercise.
Here we see that Jesus added a condition to the healing. But the condition he added was more powerful than that of modern doctors. He told the man to sin no more that nothing worse befall him. In these words he was telling the man that he had a responsibility. The healing he had received from the Lord and the health he now had as a result of God's work in him could be undone if he went back to a life of sin. He had a responsibility to change his life, repent of old ways and seek the Lord.
We don't know what this man had done in his life that had caused the Lord to make such a condition, so we can only make assumptions about this situation. It would appear apparent that the man had been living a life of sin for the Lord to have made such a statement. I say this based on another similar situation where the Lord used similar words.
In John 8:3-11 we see another situation where the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery to Jesus to see what he would say about her. Under the law she would have been stoned to death, but we see Jesus showed her compassion by not condemning her. However when he released her to go her way he said, “Go! And from now on, sin no more!” (John 8:11) In this situation it was quite clear that the woman was living in a sinful manner for she was acting in adultery. This the mercy of the Lord was given to her and she was given her life back and given a chance to now live a new life. But the attached condition was that she should not live a life in sin. She should repent and turn her life around.
The fact that the man Jesus healed was also given similar instructions suggests that he too may have been living in a similarly sinful manner. There is no question that all people have sinned and so the same could be said for all of us, but most of the headings the Lord conducted were not conditional as he often said, “Your faith has made you well!” So I can only presume that in this case there was a specific need for this man to turn his life around.
Why add a condition?
Now this begs the question why the Lord would add such conditions as these? Some healings and some of his other works were clearly not conditional but others were.
In my opinion I believe the reasons for these conditions were for the benefit of the people. They had receive the mercy and compassion of the Lord, and so the Lord was instructing them to change their lives to live in accordance with the ways of God. He was telling them to repent of their ways and to turn their life around to live in accordance with the ways of God.
And this aligns with other teachings. John the Baptist taught the people that they should, “Bear fruit that befits repentance.” (Luke 3:8) it is not enough to say that you have repented, you need to act in a manner that aligns with a repentant life. And that means turning away from a life of sin.
Paul also taught in Romans 2:4 that the kindness or grace of God is meant to lead you to repentance. So when the kindness of God was extended to the man who had been healed, and when the kindness of God had been extended to the woman caught in adultery, it was intended to lead them to repentance. All Jesus was doing was emphasizing that point by saying to go and sin no more. They had received the kindness and the grace of God and so should continue to live in that grace by living a repentant life.
A lesson for today
So what can we learn and take from these situations? In the same way we have received the grace of God to forgive our sins, so we too must live a repentant life and not turn back to old ways. We have been released from sin and must not look back.
And the Lord has added other warnings in the scripture about exactly this issue. In Luke 9:62 Jesus said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Think about these words for a minute. A man plowing a field must look forward to ensure the furrows are straight. You cannot plow a straight furrow by looking behind you all the time. Can you imagine driving forward and only looking in the rear vision mirror all the time? You would crash within minutes.
In the same way when the Lord has released you from any kind of bondage, whether the bondage to sin, sickness, infirmity or addiction, don't look back! You must go forward to live in your new life in the grace of God. If you look back at your old life, like trying to drive using only the rear vision mirror, you will crash. You will fail. Ad that is why the Lord told those he ministered to that they should go and sin no more. So too with us we must move forward and sin no more.
Finally, the apostle Peter gave the most graphic description of this situation if a person does turn back and turn away from the Lord. If after receiving the grace of God they choose to return to their life of sin, Peter explains their situation as follows in 2 Peter 2:20-22.
20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.
21 For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.
22 What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”
The Lord has made you clean through his sacrifice and entering into his resurrection in baptism. If you then reject the new life and turn back to the world and the ways of your old life, you are doubly condemned because you should have known better. Thus we must heed the words of the Lord and ensure that we too, “Go and sin no more!”
(Picture sourced from stock.xchng www.sxc.hu/ taken by Bill Ault)
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