This event was also portrayed in Matthew and Mark as well, with some differences. In both, Jesus didn't see the healed man later. Instead, Jesus forgave his sins on the spot:
Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to get well?" "Sir," the invalid replied, "I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me." Then Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk." At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, "It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat." But he replied, "The man who made me well said to me, 'Pick up your mat and walk.' " So they asked him, "Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?" The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, "See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you." (John 5:1-14)
Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven." At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, "This fellow is blaspheming!" Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, "Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins." So he said to the paralyzed man, "Get up, take your mat and go home." Then the man got up and went home (Matthew 9:2-7)
Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, "Son, your sins are forgiven." Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, "Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, "Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk'? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins." So he said to the man, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this!" (Mark 2:3-12)
Why are these Gospels tell this event differently?The details of these events indicate they are likely the same event. All have in common the instruction by Jesus to 'pick up your mat and walk.' But in Matthew and Mark, the emphasis is on Jesus forgiving the man's sins. In John, we find that Jesus connected the disability of the man with his prior sins - and warned him that further sinning would come with further consequences.
This is a rather stark difference, but they are connected. Since in John's version, Jesus tells the man that if he sins in the future, worse will happen, this means there was some purification involved, since he was no longer suffering from what must be his prior sinful activities.
This means that forgiveness was involved in John's version, since he was no longer paralyzed. But John's event explains Jesus' teachings beyond simply healing the man and forgiving sins: Because Jesus links his activities to consequences in the future, this means that his prior activities also produced his paralysis.
This opens up a broader definition of "sinning" - one that is related to consequences. Our actions that harm others have consequences. It is a significant teaching of Jesus that isn't revealed in Matthew or Mark.
Why does Jesus teach about consequences to 'sinning'?In this verse, the word "sinning" is translated from the Greek word, ἁμαρτάνω (hamartanō). This word means, according to Thayer's lexicon, "to be without a share in," or "to miss the mark," or "to err, be mistaken," and "to wander from the law of God."
Because the central law of God is oriented around love for God and love for others, to wander - or miss the mark - is captured within the sense of self-centeredness. Self-centeredness is the diametrical opposite of love.
Furthermore, to act in a self-centered manner and harm others, as a result, encompasses the true essence of "sin."
And as Jesus points out, such activities that harm others have consequences.
This indicates that Jesus taught that there was a connection between the action of sinning and physical reactions such as becoming crippled or worse. This is the fundamental law of the physical world: Cause and effect. How we use our physical bodies will create a reaction: "As you sow, so shall you reap."
This is particular to using our bodies for self-centered purposes. Another word for this is consequence. The physical world is a world of consequence.
Why? This is how the Supreme Being set it up. God set up a world of consequence to help teach us how to improve our consciousness, and evolve spiritually. Why? Because God knows that we will only be happy when we return to our original position as His loving caregiver.
What is consequence learning?Teaching through consequences is a well-known behavioral method in child-rearing. Child psychologists have studied child behavior and found that applying a system of consequences for bad behavior is by far the best method of producing children that head out on the right track.
Why is this? Because consequences maximize learning. When a child does a bad thing, these researchers have discovered, punishing a child can yield a long-term traumatic effect. But this is not true for consequence learning.
In consequence learning, there is a consequence for both good and bad activities. For example, if a child throws food, then they must clean up and even pay for the damage. That is the consequence of throwing the food. If the child does their chores, they get an allowance or time to play.
The Supreme Being has set up the ultimate consequence system within the physical world. When we do something that hurts someone else, we will end up being hurt in precisely the same way that we hurt another. When we do something to help someone else, that also comes back to us.
Is being self-serving so bad?Being self-serving in itself is not necessarily wrong. One can be self-serving to protect oneself. One can certainly be self-serving when it comes to acting responsibly. After all, to survive in this world we must keep the body alive. We must gather food and water, and sometimes that means being competitive.
But when that self-serving activity harms others unnecessarily, this is categorized as sinning by Jesus. The opposite of sin is service to God and love for others. When we act to please God or because we love others, there is no physical consequence created. This is because service to God and loving others lie outside the domain of the physical world. These are spiritual activities.
Since the man had been paralyzed for 38 years (John 5:5) we know from Jesus' statement that something the man had done (sin) previously caused him to be crippled. Since he was crippled since childhood, did he do something during his childhood to cause his being crippled? And what about people who are born crippled? Why are they born crippled?
Why are some people born crippled or born into poverty?Past life research over the past fifty years has accumulated a large amount of data indicating that most of us have occupied previous physical bodies. A substantial amount of scientific evidence of past lives was documented by Dr. Ian Stevenson, a medical doctor and professor of research at the University of Virginia, Department of Psychiatric Medicine.
Over several decades of research, Dr. Stevenson and his associates clinically studied thousands of children who accurately recalled in detail a previous lifetime. This research was soon corroborated by the results of many other researchers.
Past-life memory was only accidentally discovered by Dr. Stevenson, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Virginia. Being a conservative psychiatrist and professor, Dr. Stevenson had no prior belief in the transmigration of the self before these accurate past-life accounts began unfolding.
The research documented children who detailed previous lifetimes as historical persons, describing events with a clarity and experience only possible from having lived personally in that situation.
The research did not stop there. The scientists then researched the historical accuracy of the statements heard by children, to confirm whether (1) the subject could have known these facts otherwise, and (2) whether the facts can be confirmed as being historically accurate. In both instances, the evidence supported transmigration.
Though undoubtedly controversial, the research has been thoroughly peer-reviewed and clinically supported.
In addition, many other studies have documented similar findings. Many studies have utilized hypnotherapy - by M.D.s and/or licensed psychiatrists - to assist with the recall of a past life - with similar results after investigation of the historical person.
Some thirty scientific books and hundreds of scientific papers have been written to document these research studies. Dr. Stevenson’s research itself spanned over thirty-seven years and documented at least 2,500 cases of previous life recognition by children who accurately remembered their past lives.
Dr. Stevenson's corroborated research indicated that past life recollection fades by about age seven. Before that age, children will often speak spontaneously about their previous lives as historical individuals, recalling historical details decades old and otherwise unknowable.
Dr. Stevenson wrote several books on the subject, presenting the evidence in a clinically rigorous and scientific manner (Tucker 2005; Stevenson 1997). As mentioned, a number of other scientists have documented regressing patients into verifiable past lives, including Dr. Helen Wambach (1978), Dr. Morris Netheron (1978), Dr. Edit Fiore (1978), Dr. Bruce Goldberg (1982), Dr. Joel Whitton (1986), Dr. Brian Weiss (1988), Dr. Christopher Bache, Dr. Winafred Lucas (1993), Dr. Marge Rieder (1995; 1999) and a number of others.
Some of the studies targeted particular periods or events among subjects. Dr. Rieder, for example, documented regression sessions with certain patients that revealed historical information regarding Millboro, VA — a pivotal village during the Civil War. Dr. Rieder’s patients accurately described many detailed elements of the war and the town, including the uncovering of previously unknown hideaways and tunnels used during the civil war in Millboro.
Did Jesus teach transmigration?The evidence points to yes. Not only in this statement but elsewhere. For example, in John 9, Jesus was asked by his disciples:
"Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" (John 9:2)Let’s consider the question asked carefully. Why did Jesus’ disciples ask this question? First, we should consider that multiple disciples asked this question and not just one ‘rogue’ disciple. This means that it was a question that arose from an understanding between Jesus and his disciples from Jesus’ teachings.
In other words, it was assumed that before the man was born, he had the ability to sin. In other to have the ability to sin, the man must have had a previous physical body. Why? Because as Jesus taught previously, sinning was an action brought upon by the flesh. In other words, the person must have had a prior physical body in order to have sinned before he was born.
Note also that Jesus did not ridicule or criticize this question. He took it in stride. He did not say, “what a preposterous question.” What he said was:
"Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of Him who sent me.” (John 9:1-3)Because Jesus accepted that the man could have previously sinned, he admitted that the man must have lived prior to his being born into that body - since he was born blind. While he is saying that the activities of his previous life did not cause his blindness, Jesus is acknowledging that they could have. Jesus is saying that there was another purpose to the blindness other than as a consequence of his previous activities — previous to being born blind: A purpose arranged by God.
Jesus also directly admitted transmigration when he said that John the Baptist had appeared in a previous lifetime:
But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished." (Matthew 17:12)
Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist. (Matthew 17:13)The bottom line is that the physical world is a place of consequence and learning, created by God. Although it is hell (yes, this is hell), the physical world maintains a perfect mechanism for teaching us the consequences of our actions; and it is this mechanism that causes the suffering we see in the world today (in other words, we cause our own suffering). This is all part of God's lesson plan, meant to help each of us evolve spiritually.
Should we learn life's lessons, and evolve spiritually, and re-develop our love for God, we will leave the physical world and these temporary bodies behind, and return to the spiritual world, because "flesh gives birth to flesh and the Spirit gives birth to the spirit." (John 3:6)