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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Reflection on John 5

Today's Gospel is John 5:1-5
The first sign in Cana was the miracle of water made into wine at a wedding feast. That miracle can (and must) be read at several levels. It is a story of the Kingdom, of the Lord providing the "best wine" and shows the "fully-filled-ment" of the Jewish faith in Jesus. The water was used for purification rites, Jesus transforms it into wine. In the discussion with His mother we know His time has not yet come, yet in her faith ("do whatever He tells you") she opens the door for His ministry to begin. The "hour" now looms as Jesus "revealed His glory" (Jn 1:11) in this first sign.

There is much narrative between the Cana signs. Jesus cleanses the Temple (thematically moved to the beginning of the ministry) concluding with the statement that Jesus did not entrust Himself to the people (even the ones who 'believed because of the signs') because He knew what was in their hearts. The word "man" is a bridge. Jesus knew what was in the heart of man, chapter 3 says there was a man named Nicodemus. The dialogue with Nicodemus provides a framework for the problems Jesus will have. People do not, cannot, understand the truth. In love God sent His Son to save the world, but people love darkness and reject the light. The Jewish leaders begin to make it difficult for Jesus, so He goes home through Samaria. From Acts, we know that this was the first external mission field, and it is inhabited by "half breeds" (the descendants of Israel-the Northern Kingdom- who had been intermingled with pagans after the fall of their Kingdom in the 7th Century BC). A woman in a sinful relationship meets Jesus at Jacob's well. At the end of chapter 4, Jesus returns to Cana where He heals the son of a royal official. This is identified by Johan as the second sign in Galilee.

Chapter 5 begins "after this" (second sign) at a "feast of the Jews" (unnamed). The second verse is corrupted and the exact meaning is difficult to ascertain. There is a gate, a pool and sheep (used in sacrifices). Its name (Bethzatha, Bethesda, Bethsaida) is of unsure spelling as various ancient manuscripts also disagree here. However, archaeologists have dug up the pool on the White Father's property near St. Anne's church. It is a it bigger than a football field!

Jesus saw him and knew he had been sick a long time. Jesus begins the interrogation, (thelo, ginomai, hygeis) "is it your intent, desire, do you want" "to become, be made" "whole, sound, healthy" (also used of truth and sound doctrine)? This is important in healing, perhaps even more important in healing today in Jesus name. [Several words are used for healing in the NT, this word hygeis (hoo- ghee- ace) is used by Matthew twice, Mark once and in chapter seven in John.
Lastly in Acts 4:10 "let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, this man stands before you healthy."] 

Let us ponder this. Jesus saw. Jesus knew. The man speaks his need in response to Jesus.
Exodus 3. Moses is with his sheep in the wilderness at Mount Horeb. He sees a burning bush. God speaks to him. "I have seen the misery of my people, I heard their cry, I know their sufferings, I have come down to save them."
See. Hear. Know. God (in Jesus) has come down to save/heal/restore/rescue/make whole!

Jesus who brings salvation to the Samaritans and raises up the child now visits a hopeless invalid who longs to be healed but has no power in himself to make it happen. The promise of God is fulfilled in our midst in Jesus. He sees. He knows. He hears. He comes down among us.

As in Cana, we see a fulfillment of the Jewish Bible. There it was the water of purification, here (water is also present!) Jesus commands the man to pick up his mat and walk---on a Sabbath. The day of rest is now the day of the new creation. Jesus will spend the sabbath in the grave after His crucifixion, but on the first day (eighth day, new creation) Jesus will rise. The cross is the "the Hour" and the hour draws nearer as Jesus does the signs/works of God (the Synoptics employ 'Kingdom' language). The man is left there, healed, and Jesus walks away. "The Jews" (John's word for the leaders/people against Jesus) ask why he is carrying the mat. He replies, "the man who healed me told me to" and he cannot answer their question about His identity.

Jesus returns and finds the man. He makes a politically incorrect statement! "You are healed, do not sin any more" (same is found in Jn 8:11 the woman caught in adultery). Healing is a sign and a calling. We are made whole physically, but spiritual well being cannot be ignored. "Something worse will happen to you," Jesus warns, if you do not stop sinning. Something worse. 
God sent His Son into the world to save the world. Those who "believe" (live a life of obedient, loving trust) in Him will live, but so many love darkness. Jesus comes to heal. We must verbalize our need to Him. When He tells us we are healed, we "must do what He tells you" and pick up the mat (whatever sign of your healing is most appropriate). The man got up and did it because he believed Jesus. Yet, the healing is a sign of something deeper--discipleship, walking after Jesus, following. Jesus also warns that all is not well. Sin is death. Sin is worse. Sin no more. In the healing ministry we are called to repentance. Providentially, I teach this class today and on Sunday I will teach on sin and forgiveness (and repentance). Healing. Repentance. God sees, knows, hear, and comes among us to save!

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