Whats the sin in John 5?

beggar-of-bethesda

Jesus heals a man at the pool of Bethesda.  Later, he says to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” (v. 14)

So what was the sin?

There is a theology as old as Job that illness is caused by sin. That idea is rebuked by the overall point of Job and by the speech of God at the end.  Then in John 9 Jesus was asked who was to blame for a man being born blind.  Was he to blame or his parents.  Jesus said neither. There was another reason.

So what are we to make of John 5?

Maybe the man was paralyzed from sin. Did he do something to cause it? Was he punished for some sin by being paralyzed?

I was reading the text for what the emphasis is there. What we know about the man is that he, like many, believed that the pool of Bethesda had some kind of healing power.  When the water was “stirred” the first to get in would get cured.  This man had been hoping to win that race for some time – his illness had lasted 38 years.

Just before this story in Chapter 4 is the account of a royal official who approached Jesus about his son who was close to death. He asked Jesus to come to his house, but Jesus simply spoke the word, “Go, your son will live.”  He found out later that at that moment was when his son was healed. This was the second “sign” miracle in John.  The Word of Jesus has power to heal.

Now I wonder if the text is calling us to read the signs.  Rather than looking to a bit of stirred water at a pool in a holy city, look to the Son of God who has, like the Creator in Genesis 1, the power to create by speech.  Has not John called Jesus the “Word” in John 1?

I am thinking that the sin might be a magical faith – the man in John 5 believed the bit about the water in the pool.  Maybe he should have put his faith in God instead.

In the history of religion, there as been a lot of excitement about holy places, holy objects, holy days and holy rituals, when God is not limited in time and place.

Was Jesus saying, something like, quit trusting in magic, trust me.

 

 

 

 

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Sin – a bouquet of words

wildflowers

Sin is a word without much meaning in our culture.  It seems very old fashioned.  Does anyone understand what it means to “live in sin.”  Do we agree that we “sin in word and deed”?

Here in Wisconsin we have lots of words for winter weather – we could just say cold, but we can also say sleet, snow, heavy snow, blizzard, thunder snow (yes that exists), frost, frozen rain, powder, slush, wet, dry, and so on.  Why so many ways to talk about it? because we have it from mid November to Spring. (Basically from the end of the World’s Series to Spring Training.)

The Biblical words for sin are multiple.  Sin can be transgression, corruption, stain, debt, missing the mark, willful, secret, high handed, wicked.

Psalm 32 has a glossary of sorts:  Psalm 32:1-2

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
    whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
    and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

The Lord’s Prayer is rendered two ways in Matthew and Luke

Matthew 6:12

and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.

Luke 11:4

and forgive us our sins,
    for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.

The Bible is the Word of God and it was written by people who were very concerned with a life with God and under his blessing. Hence words that relate to God are common. “theo-logical” – means god (theo) words (logoi).

So while we don’t have “sin” in our cultural vocabulary, we have other words:

unfair, guilty, biased, racist, sexist, specieist, hateful, greedy, crooked, liar, sneaky, selfish, stingy, mean, law breakers, elitist, crude, violent, aggressive, abusive, addicted, willfully ignorant, and verbose to name a few.

So we do believe in sin, but we see it human centered, or centered specifically against ourselves.  We do not see it so much as against God.

Yet, he is not far from us.  We let him sneak back in whenever we talk about justice or fairness.

 

 

 

“Mighty God”

advent_wreath

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Is. 9:6)

This phrase in the Hebrew has the idea of a warrior.  The “Mighty Men of David” were those who rallied to his cause and were battle tested.  And so the babe of Bethlehem grew up to do battle.  How are his enemies?

  • Sin
  • Death
  • The Devil

Here are the results of a discussion on our Adult Class:

Mighty God – Adult Class 12/6/15

The three enemies of humanity are Sin, Death and the Devil. IN class we assigned scriptures to enemies. Note that some verses speak to all three enemies.

  1. Against Sin
  • Romans 3:23-24
  • Romans 8:38-39
  • Galatians 1:4
  • Colossians 1:13
  • Colossians 2:15
  • Colossians 3:5-6
  • Hebrews 2:14-15
  • I John 1:7-9
  • I John 2:2
  • I John 3:1
  1. Against Death
  • Isaiah 25:8
  • Romans 8:38-39
  • I Corinthians 15:25-26
  • I Corinthians 15:57
  • 2 Timothy 1:10
  • Hebrews 2:14-15
  • I Thessalonians 3:13
  • Revelation 1:18
  • Revelation 20:14
  • Revelation 21:14

3. Against the Devil

  • Matthew 12:28
  • John 12:31
  • Acts 10:38
  • Romans 8:38-39
  • Colossians 1:13
  • Colossians 2:15
  • Hebrews 2:14-15
  • I John 2:13-14
  • I John 3:13
  • Revelation 20:1-3
  • Revelation 20:4

 

Isaiah 25:8; Matthew 12:28; John 12:31; Acts 10:38; Romans 1:1, Romans 3:23; Romans 8:38-39; I Corinthians 15:25-26; I Corinthians 15:57; Galatians 1:4; Colossians 1:13, Colossians 2:15; Colossians 3:5-6;  2 Timothy 1:10, Hebrews 2:1`4-15; I John 1:7-9,I John 2:13-14; I John 3:13; Revelation 1:18; Revelation 20:1-3; Revelation 20:14; Revelation 21:4

Ruminations on Sin in the 21st Century

Guilt creates the need for a payment or a punishment.  Here are two examples.

  • A person accidentally backs up over his neighbor’s fence.
  • A mugger beats his victim so he has to go to the hospital.

In the case of the fence, we say that the driver should pay the neighbor to get the fence repaired.  It was accidental, but his action make him responsible.  He owes a debt.  Sin is also like that.  It is an action that creates a debt.  The neighbor would not care who pays for the fence, as long as he is paid.  Maybe the driver’s insurance will take care of it.

In the second case, the mugger does not only need to pay back the money he took. The victim would still want to see the mugger brought to justice.  His crime was so serious that paying money is not enough.  He should go to jail.

We are guilty of both accidents and crimes.  Every one of us has hurt another person is some way.  Children can be cruel to children.  Co-workers gossip about each other.   Employees do not work as hard as they should.   If we kept a list, it would be long.   These actions create a debt.   We owe to justice a punishment that only we should pay.

The payment should fit the crime.  If a poor woman steals a loaf of bread to feed her family, should she go to jail?  No, she should get help – we have programs to help people get food.  Yet, it would be right for her to go, when she has some money, and pay the baker and apologize.

What if someone commits murder and they are given a 30 day prison sentence.  Is that right?  They took a person’s life and all they got was 30 days?  No, the punishment has to fit the crime.