Wednesday 20 March 2013

Bible Book:

John 5:1-18 Wednesday 20 March 2013


At the Church of St Anna, in Jerusalem, two pools separated by aportico, with four other porticoes surrounding them, have beenexcavated, and it is possible to imagine this spot surrounded bythose who hope to be healed. Many later manuscripts have an extrafew words in verse 3, and an additional verse 4, which scholarsgenerally think were not part of the original text of the story,but which give an interesting insight into the traditions aroundthe pool and its healing properties: "… waiting for the stirring ofthe water; for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasonsinto the pool, and stirred up the water; whoever stepped in firstafter the stirring of the water was made well from whatever diseasethat person had".

The carrying of a bed is an activity which was prohibited on thesabbath, so John's Gospel's observation that it was the sabbath(verse 9), in the same breath as he describes the healed manpicking up his mat and walking, shows that the healing is movinginto a controversy story. The mention of "the Jews" supports this(v. 10), as John's Gospel typically uses this general term to referto Jesus' opponents within Judaism. As we have already, John'sGospel speaks of 'signs', not 'miracles', so the Gospel relates thesign and the truth towards which it points.

Verse 14 is unsettling - is Jesus suggesting that the man'sillness had been caused by his sin? But elsewhere (eg John9:3), he challenges precisely this idea. Perhaps he is pointingto the need to be healed of more than physical ailments, pointingto consequences which are worse than physical disability.

Jesus' reply to the sabbath controversy is profoundly shocking(verse 17). The divine sabbath rest is understood as eternal - Godhas finished creating and is resting from it. Scripture shows,however, that God does not rest from involvement with people. Jesusis here putting his ministry alongside that of God, as activitywhich cannot stop for the Sabbath, which explains the anger inverse 18!

To Ponder

  • Some of Jesus' healings begin with an appeal for help. This onebegins with his initiative. Should we seek to know and understandour need and ask for God's help in that? Or should we rather waitfor God to identify our need and listen for the offer of healing?Which do you find more of a challenge?
  • Jesus' question to the man is striking: "Do you want to be madewell?" In our attempts to live out kingdom values, do we ask thosewe seek to serve, "Do you want to be helped?" Or do we presume whatconstitutes healing for them?
  • Sometimes, to receive healing (literally or metaphorically) canbe scary, can change our perception of ourselves, and can lead usinto the unknown. Do we want to be made well, or do we prefer thefamiliarity of our limitations?
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