By Tyson Thorne

June 26, 2019

John 14 Large

We come now to the third of six main sections of the Gospel of John. The first was the Prologue, chapter one verses one through 18. The second was The Peaceful First Coming of the Messiah, chapter one verse 19 through four verse 54. This section, chapter five verse one though the end of chapter six, The Controversy Surrounding the Messiah.

Once again Jesus treks to Jerusalem for a feast, probably the feast of Pentecost. There are three feasts each year on the Jewish calendar that require being in Jerusalem: Passover (which is the the last festival where Jesus overturned the money changers tables), Pentecost and, later in the year, Tabernacles. Pentecost occurs 49 days after Passover, so we know that five weeks have passed since he was last in the Holy City. Jerusalem had eight gates entering the city, and near one of these gates (the Sheep Gate) is a pool with supposed miraculous powers. The Pool of Bethesda.

Today, though the gate is not the same as it has been transformed through history, the gate is called the Flower Gate due to the floral designs in its architecture. Yet in Jesus' time it was called The Sheep Gate, so named as a weekly sheep market was held in the plaza just outside the gate. More meaningful for us, however, is what lay just inside the gates, the Pool of Bethesda. When John tells us the story about a cripple waiting to be healed, he leaves out some important information. Of course, when John wrote his gospel everyone in his intended audience knew about this pool; it is only modern readers who benefit from what archaeology has learned.

The man who was about to be healed tells Jesus that every time "the water is stirred up" someone cuts in front of him to receive the healing. This seems odd to us, as we can't help but think why doesn't someone just stir the waters up again for this guy? According to Biblical Archaeology Review, "an angel would stir up the waters of the pool and whoever would enter the water first would be cured." For this reason one couldn't simply tell the attendant to "stir the waters a second time" for the man who had been crippled for 38 years. The angel, unseen, came and went as it pleased.

After hearing the man's complaint, Jesus instructed him to stand, take his mat and walk. As is the case with all but one of Jesus' healing miracles, the recovery was immediate and the man was able to collect his things and go. If this were the point of John's story, this healing of a cripple, that would be the end of the story; but it's not. John provides us a parenthetical statement, that this occurred on the Sabbath, and then continue on with Act 2 of this three act drama.

Overjoyed the man didn't stop to ask Jesus his name and, truthfully, Jesus didn't give him much of a chance. Jesus slipped through the crowd and headed to the temple. So the healed cripple started walking around the city, something he hadn't been able to do in nearly four decades, when the nosy Pharisees spotted him and told him it was wrong for him to carry his mat on the Sabbath. "It's not my fault," he might have said, "the man who healed me told me to." Naturally the religious leaders wanted to know who was usurping their authority, but the man couldn't say. At least not then. Later the ex-cripple sees Jesus at the temple and receives a warning. Jesus tells him, "Look, you have become well. Don't sin any more lest something worse happen to you."

It is important to note that not everyone whom Jesus heals suffers as a result of their sin, but it appears that is the case in this situation. We don't know what the man did, but whatever it was it lead to him being crippled. It might not have been a direct result of the sin, it could have been something that occurred because of the direct action. Just as an example, perhaps the man was a thief. Perhaps someone he robbed recognized him and beat him severely. Whatever the case, Jesus was telling the man not to return to his previous way of life.

Based on the man's reaction of immediately going to the Pharisees and ratting Jesus out, he didn't appreciate Jesus' advice. We enter Act 3 tomorrow.

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