Jesus’ Seven Signs in John (3)

 

pool-of-bethesda

When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? (John 5:6)

            John opens this next section with the phrase “After this.” The second “sign” highlighted by John was the healing of the nobleman’s son (John 4:46-54), and “After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem” (John 5:1, emphasis mine). John does not identify the particular feast. Jesus was careful to observe all of the feast days according to the Law. “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil” (Matthew 5:17). Except for His run-ins with the Pharisees over “breaking the Sabbath,” He did not fail a single commandment.

John is the only Gospel writer to record three Passovers that Jesus observed during His three-year ministry: John 2:13; 6:4; and 13:1. The Jews celebrated Passover in the spring along with Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, and Pentecost. In the fall they celebrated the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles. John mentions Jesus going up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:2). The fall feasts (as well as the spring feasts) were celebrated concurrently, so when John mentions the Feast of Tabernacles, it is understood that the other two are included.

Jesus also observed festivals that came long after the giving of the Law. Jesus traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of the Dedication (John 10:22), what we call Chanukah[1] (Hanukah) today. The feast mentioned in the fifth chapter of John probably had an even older tradition. This too was a celebration not prescribed in the Old Testament Law. Although John does not name it, it was probably the Feast of Purim, which takes place on the 14th of Adar – around mid March. I arrive at this conclusion because in the next chapter, Jesus returns to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover for the second time.

As Jesus walks around the Temple compound, He sees a man lying by the Pool of Bethesda.[2] “Bethesda” is Aramaic and it means “House of Kindness,” or “House of Mercy.” Besides this man, there were many others, but Jesus was drawn to this man. Why? John does not record his malady. Whatever his ailment, John reports that he suffered with it for 38 years (John 5:5). Perhaps the end of the account provides greater insight. After being healed, the man sought out Jesus. “Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.” (John 5:14, emphasis mine). “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10, emphasis mine). If Jesus’ purpose was simply to heal, there were many others there He could have also helped, but Jesus chose this man. “[For] the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

What was this man’s sin that caused Jesus to single him out? Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg commenting on this passage offers some interesting insight. Recent archeological discoveries have associated the Pool of Bethesda with the cult of Asclepion.[3] Asclepius was the Greco-Roman god of healing and wellbeing. If this is the case, the man had placed his faith and hope on a false god for 38 years. No wonder he was disheartened!

“When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?” (John 5:6) Jesus knew that he had been there a long time. As God, Jesus demonstrated His omniscience. He knew everything about this man. So, why did He ask such a seemingly obvious question? Rather than respond with a simple “yes,” note the man’s response (I can almost hear the whining!). “The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me” (John 5:7). Jesus did not allow for his excuses. “Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk” (John 5:8).

As in the previous miracles recorded by John, there was no fanfare with this act. Jesus did not so much as extended hand to help him up. “And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath” (John 5:9, emphasis mine). We do not know if the man was a cripple. Were that the case, I am sure John would have let us know. Instead, all we know is that he had an “infirmity.” Whatever it was left him too weak to walk, but immediately his health was restored. Just like Jesus knew that this invalid had waited for healing by the pool for 38 years, He also knew exactly the nature of his malady. Like a bolt of lightning, the man must have felt the power of God surge through his body so that without hesitation, he stood up, picked up his bed and walked.

Not long after his healing, he was spotted carrying his bedroll by the Pharisees. “The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed” (John 5:10). “He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk” (John 5:11). The man was so excited about having his health restored that he failed to thank or even take notice of Jesus. When he eventually found Jesus, he pointed Him out to them and they sought to kill Him because He healed on the Sabbath. Jesus then affirmed His deity. But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work” (John 5:17). That enraged them even more because He claimed equality with God. “[The] Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath” (Mark 2:28; Luke 6:5).

The Lord Jesus Christ knows each of is intimately. He still heals, and He can do so any time He pleases, not only on the Sabbath, but every day of the week.

NOTES:


[1]  “Happy Chanukah” https://erniecarrasco.com/category/christmas/

[2]  “Sick and Tired” https://erniecarrasco.com/2012/07/15/sick-and-tired/

[3]  Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg, The Jewish Gospel of John: Discovering Jesus, King of All Israel, (Jewish Studies for Christians, Tel Aviv, Israel, 2015), 70-71.

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