For an introduction to this series, click here.
April 22, 2007
This chapter starts with an interesting story about a crippled man at the pool of Bethesda. Pools were very important things in those days, since unless you had an aqueduct or were lucky enough to find a well, pools or cisterns were often the only source of water during the dry season.
This pool had an interesting legend, which is mentioned in a marginal note in the ESV: "An angel of the Lord went down at a certain season into the pool, and stirred the water; whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was healed of whatever disease he had." Apparently this verse, which is included in the text of the King James and New King James, is not included in some manuscripts. However, the ESV includes the man's statement in verse 7: “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.”
I am certainly not in a place to judge whether or not it should be included, but to me looks like a case of the longer reading being the better one. It almost seems like someone (or several someones) didn't like the element of magic in the story and decided to get rid of it. I don't know whether there was ever an angel who actually stirred the water, but apparently plenty of folks believed that it happened, and that is why there were many people sitting (or lying) around the pool.
After Jesus healed him, the man was walking around the temple. Many of his friends are surprised to see him, and word spreads quickly. The religious leaders come to him and ask him who healed him. The man points Jesus out to them. They come to Jesus and question Him, and Jesus replies: "My Father is working until now, and I am working." (5:17) John inserts an editorial comment here: "This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God." (5:18) It is not enough for John to simply quote Jesus' words, because they might be misunderstood. John leaves no doubt that everyone who was there understood that Jesus claimed to be God.
John then records an extended argument by Jesus in which He defends Himself. The climax of Jesus' argument is in verses 39-47. I will let them stand for themselves; they need no comment:
"You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. I do not receive glory from people. But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. I have come in my Father's name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?"