I have often wondered if some sin that I committed as a child or some sin of my parents resulted in my contracting polio at age eleven. I found some interesting stories in the gospel of John to help me resolve this question. The first healing story is about a man paralyzed for 38 years who is healed by Jesus. The story is gripping and full of detail.
1After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. 3In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralysed. 5One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?’ 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 making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.’ 8Jesus said to him, ‘Stand up, take your mat and walk.’ 9At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. Now that day was a sabbath. 10So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, ‘It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.’11But he answered them, ‘The man who made me well said to me, “Take up your mat and walk.” ’ 12They asked him, ‘Who is the man who said to you, “Take it up and walk”?’ 13Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in the crowd that was there.14Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, ‘See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you.’ (NRSV)
Verse 14 is bothersome to me. One could interpret the words of Jesus to mean that the man could experience an even worse malady if he were to sin again. Is this what Jesus intended or is the greater message that the power of God can now be experienced by this man’s response to being healed after 38 years?
Thanks to Tom Graves I was directed to another passage in John where Jesus is asked directly if a man’s sin or his parents’ sin resulted in the man’s blindness. Jesus answer is found in John 9:1-3.
1As he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" 3Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God's works might be revealed in him." (NRSV)
Now this answer by Jesus is much more settling both to a lawyer and a psychiatrist. I like this answer and it is more conclusive and justifying during this time of year when we reflect on our own sins and strive to measure up on the road to the cross.