The scene is the Sheep Gate, the pool of Bethzada, just outside of Jerusalem. The livestock which will be sacrificed in the Temple are brought into Jerusalem through this gate. No doubt it is a smell place, littered with the excrement of animals. Interesting that Jesus, who is the Lamb of God, soon to be sacrificed for our sins, uses this gate.
There, at the pool, the blind, lame and paralyzed gather hoping to be cured when, as legend attests, an angel stirs the waters of the pool. The first one to immerse himself in the pool will be healed. Those who were sick in any way were not allowed in the Temple, as they were considered unclean. By their own sins or their parents’ sins, they have been condemned by their illness to be outside the community of believers. How different from our own church!
Jesus addresses a man who has been ill for 38 years. He asks the man if he wants to be healed – a rather strange question. The man’s answer is itself unusual. The answer is “yes”, but he explains that he isn’t quick enough getting into the pool, so he has been sick for a long time. Jesus tells the man to stand up, pick up his mat, and the man is healed. What was it about Jesus’ words, about the tone of His voice, or His demeanor that convinced the man to obey? But obey he does. Jesus asks me that same question: “Do you want to be healed?”
The Pharisees see the man carrying his mat in the Temple. It is not lawful to carry one’s mat, as it is the Sabbath. The man makes an excuse as to why he is carrying the mat – Jesus told him to do it – obviously the man believes if someone can make him well after all those years, then he should obey that man. Has any of the Pharisees seen this man before, lying by the sheep gate for 38 years, or did they just avert their eyes as we often do when seeing someone who is ill? More than likely, they would have avoided this area, as it would have made them ritually unclean.
I imagine the man was full of joy as this is the first time in over 38 years he has been inside the Temple. So he spent his time praising God. Did the Pharisees instruct him to find Jesus and let them know who it was who healed him, who told him to carry his mat on the Sabbath?
When the man sees Jesus again, Jesus cautions him not to sin again – it was sin which made him sick – maybe this is a generic statement, or maybe the man did something to make himself sick. Jesus knows what is in the heart of every man and woman. But then Jesus uses “holy fear of God” as a motivation in the struggle against sin, for he tells the man to “sin no more that nothing worse will happen to you.”
When the Pharisees confront Jesus, He tells them that His Father is still working – the act of creating and sustaining creation continues. The Pharisees realized that Jesus was saying that God was His Father, not in the way the Jews would have said that God was their Father but literally.
This is important: 1) hearing Jesus, believing the Father sent Him is necessary to obtain eternal life and 2) The dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.
John testified about Jesus – we saw how the Pharisees questioned John, wanting to know who he was. John testified about Jesus, telling those who would listen that Jesus was the Lamb of God. The Pharisees were curious and puzzled and amazed by John. As Jesus tells the Pharisees, “he was a burning and shining lamp and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.” The Pharisees must have admired John, recognized him as a true prophet sent from God. They saw the works of John as valuable, holy and a testimony to God. But they didn’t believe his testimony about Jesus.
Jesus says that the Father has testified about Jesus through the signs all can see. If you do not believe the signs, God’s word doesn’t abide in you. This would have insulted the Jews, who thought Scriptures provided eternal life – Moses . The Scriptures also testify to Jesus. The Jews refuse to come to Jesus for life.
This from the Navarre Bible – there are three obstacles that keep one from recognizing Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God.
- lack of love for God
- striving after human glory
- prejudiced interpretation of sacred texts
Jesus accuses the Pharisees of all three. They reduced Messianic promises to nationalistic aspirations which closed their souls to Jesus words and actions, and it prevented them from recognizing the ancient prophesies have come true.