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A miraculous story
A story speaks for itself. A story speaks for more than itself. The Bible does not tell a story just to tell a story. Behind a story there is a world of values. Today’s Gospel is not simply about an account of healing. It also shows the reader who Jesus is. It conveys a message of salvation. As a talented storyteller, John first places Jesus in the context of a Jewish feast and in a traditional healing site. His purpose, however, is to show how Jesus transcends Jewish institutions in order to confirm his unique relationship with God the Father. Being equal to God, Jesus changes people’s lives through words and actions.
Word versus water
Jesus healed the sick man by his word: “rise, take up your mat, and walk.” Instead of being healed by water, the man was cured by Jesus’ word. Thanks to Jesus, the sick man did not need the stirring up of water to be healed. Jesus ordered him to stand up and walk. His word replaced the sign of water and its effect was instant: “immediately the man became well.” Such a word could not come from an ordinary person.
Savior versus Sabbath
The day of that healing was the Sabbath. The once-sick man obeyed Jesus rather than the precept of the Sabbath. He took the mat and went to the Temple even though Jesus did not ask him to go there. Did he want to praise God in that sacred place for his healing? Possibly. Surprisingly, the man did not know who Jesus was, even though he was sick, not blind. Later, Jesus found him in the temple area. The man recognized Jesus as his healer when Jesus said to him: “Look, you are well; do not sin any more, so that nothing worse may happen to you.”
Sin versus salvation
Jesus’ remark was astonishing. He told the man not to sin any more as if sickness were associated with sin. We need to understand that, for Jesus, the healing was also a sign of forgiveness. In the story, the term “be well” was used five times and “be cured” twice. Together they equal seven, the number of perfection, indicating that the healing was complete. It was the healing of the man’s whole being, body and soul. For him, being healed and being saved were one.
Jesus’ healing transcended the law of nature (stirring of water) and the law of Moses (observance of the Sabbath). It showed that human life was not simply regulated by a natural causality or legislative decree. It indicated that behind the miraculous work was the author who created everything and who governed all things. The eternal Creator entered time through the presence of his personal Word. He was always at work even on the Sabbath! As eternal Word of God made flesh, Jesus performed miracles to help us to deepen insight into his personality. He was the healer of the sick. He forgave their sins. By his act of healing, he brought them health and salvation. Through him, the whole of humanity was healed and saved.
Prayer: God of healing, open our hearts and minds to receive your gift of salvation.
Resolution: Think about my way of fulfilling the Sunday obligation.