10. The Jews therefore said to him who had been cured, It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed.11. He answered them, He who made me whole said to me, Carry thy bed and walk.12. They therefore asked him, Who is that man who said to thee, Carry thy bed and walk? 13. And he who had been cured knew not who he was; for Jesus had withdrawn himself, because there was a crowd in that place. 14. After these things, Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, Lo, thou art made whole, sin no more, lest something worse befall thee.15. The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him whole.16. And for that reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he did these things on the Sabbath-day.
10. It is the Sabbath. It was the duty of all to maintain the sanctity of the Sabbath, and, therefore, they justly and properly accuse the man. But, when the excuse offered by the man does not satisfy them, they already begin to be in fault; for, when the reason was known, he ought to have been acquitted. It was a violation of the Sabbath, as we have said, to carry a burden; but Christ, who laid the burden on his shoulders, discharges him by his own authority. We are therefore taught by this example to avoid every rash judgment, until the reason of each action be fully known. Whatever contradicts the word of God deserves to be condemned without hesitation; but, as it frequently happens that there are mistakes in this matter, we ought first to inquire modestly and calmly, that our decision may be sound and sober. For since the Jews, prejudiced by wicked dispositions, have not patience to inquire, they shut the door against judgment and moderation; but, if they had allowed themselves to be taught, not only would the offense have been removed, but they would have been conducted still farther, with great advantage, to the knowledge of the Gospel.
We now see how far the Jews were in the wrong. It is, because they do not admit a reasonable defense. The defense is, that he who had been cured replies that he does nothing but by the command of him who had power and authority to command; for, though he did not yet know who Christ was, yet he was convinced that he had been sent by God, because he had received a proof of his divine power, and learns from it that Christ is endued with authority, so that it must be his duty to obey him. But this appears to be worthy of reproof, that a miracle turns him aside from obedience to the Law. I confess, indeed, that the argument which the man employs in contending with them is not sufficiently strong, but the others are faulty on two accounts, that they neither consider that this is an extraordinary work of God, nor suspend their judgment until they have heard a Prophet of God who is furnished with the word.
13. And he who had been cured knew not who he was. Christ certainly did not intend that the glory of so great a work should pass away, but he intended that it should become generally known before that he acknowledged himself to be the Author of it. He therefore withdrew for a little, that the Jews might have it in their power to judge of the fact itself, without reference to any person. And hence we learn that the cure of this man cannot be ascribed to his faith, since, even after having been cured, he does not acknowledge his Physician; and yet, when he was ordered, he carried his bed, which appears to have been done by the guidance of faith. For my own part, as I do not deny that there was in him some secret movement of faith, so I say that it is clear from what follows, that he had no solid doctrine or clear light on which he could rely.
14. After these things Jesus found him. These words show still more clearly that, when Christ concealed himself for a time, it was not in order that the remembrance of the kindness which he had conferred might perish, for he now appears in public of his own accord; only he intended that the work should first be known, and that he should afterwards be declared to be the Author of it. This passage contains a highly useful doctrine; for when Christ says, lo, thou art made whole, his meaning is, that we make an improper use of the gifts of God, if we are not excited to gratitude. Christ does not reproach the man with what he had given him, but only reminds him that he had been cured in order that, remembering the favor which he had received, he might all his life serve God his Deliverer. Thus, as God by stripes instructs and spurs us on to repentance, so he invites us to it by his goodness and forbearance; and, indeed, it is the universal design both of our redemption and of all the gifts of God, to keep us entirely devoted to Him. Now this cannot be done, unless the remembrance of the past punishment remain impressed on the mind, and unless he who has obtained pardon be employed in this meditation throughout his whole life.
This admonition teaches us also, that all the evils which we endure ought to be imputed to our sins; for the afflictions of men are not accidental, but are so many stripes for our chastisement. First, then, we ought to acknowledge the hand of God which strikes us, and not to imagine that our distresses arise from a blind impetuosity of fortune; and next we ascribe this honor to God, that, since He is a Father full of goodness, He does not take pleasure in our sufferings, and therefore does not treat us more harshly than he has been offended by our sins. When he charges him, sin no more, he does not enjoin him to be free from all sin, but speaks comparatively as to his former life; for Christ exhorts him henceforth to repent, and not to do as he had done before.
Lest something worse befall thee. If God does not succeed in doing us good by the stripes with which he gently chastises us, as the kindest father would chastise his tender and delicate children, He is constrained to assume a new character, and a character which, so to speak, is not natural to Him. He therefore seizes the whip to subdue our obstinacy, as He threatens in the Law, (Leviticus 26:14; Deuteronomy 28:15; Psalm 32:9;) and indeed throughout the Scriptures passages of the same kind are to be found. Thus, when we are incessantly pressed down by new afflictions, we ought to trace this to our obstinacy; for not only do we resemble restive horses and mules, but we are like wild beasts that cannot be tamed. There is no reason to wonder, therefore, if God make use of severer punishment to bruise us, as it were, by mallets, when moderate punishment is of no avail; for it is proper that they who will not endure to be corrected should be bruised by strokes. In short, the use of punishments is, to render us more cautious for the future. If, after the first and second strokes, we maintain obstinate hardness of heart, he will strike us seven times more severely. If, after having showed signs of repentance for a time, we immediately return to our natural disposition, he chastises more sharply this levity which proves us to be forgetful, and which is full of sloth.
Again, in the person of this man it is of importance for us to observe with what gentleness and condescension the Lord bears with us. Let us suppose that the man was approaching old age, in which case he must have been visited by disease in the very prime of life, and perhaps had been attacked by it from his earliest infancy; and now let us consider how grievous to him must have been this punishment continued through so many years. It is certain that we cannot reproach God with excessive severity in causing this man to languish, and to be half-dead, for so long a period; and, therefore, when we are punished more lightly, let us learn that it is because the Lord, in his infinite goodness, moderates the extreme rigour of the punishments which we would have well deserved. Let us also learn that no punishments are so rigorous and severe, that the Lord cannot make additions to them whenever he pleases. Nor can it be doubted that wretched men by their wicked complaints, often draw down upon themselves dreadful and shocking tortures, when they assert that it is not possible to endure heavier distresses, and that God cannot send them any thing more. Are not these things hidden among my treasures? saith the Lord, (Deuteronomy 32:34.) We ought also to observe how slow we are in deriving benefit from God's chastisements; for if Christ's exhortation was not superfluous, we may learn from it that the soul of this man was not yet fully purified from every vice. Indeed, the roots of vices are too deep in us to be capable of being torn out in a single day, or in a few days; and the cure of the diseases of the soul is too difficult to be effected by remedies applied for a short time.
15. The man went away Nothing was farther from his intention than to make Christ an object of their hatred, and nothing was farther from his expectation than that they would rage so furiously against Christ. His intention, therefore, was pious; for he wished to render to his Physician the honor which was justly due to him. The Jews, on the other hand, show their venom, not only in accusing Christ of having violated the Sabbath, but in breaking out into extreme cruelty.