The Daring and Doggedly Dubious Dogmas

John 5:1-18

After these things there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, [waiting for the moving of the waters; for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.] And a certain man was there, who had been thirty-eight years in his sickness. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, ‘Do you wish to get well?’ The sick man answered Him, ‘Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Arise, take up your pallet, and walk.’ And immediately the man became well, and took up his pallet and began to walk. Now it was the Sabbath on that day. Therefore the Jews were saying to him who was cured, ‘It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet.’ But he answered them, ‘He who made me well was the one who said to me, “Take up your pallet and walk.”‘ They asked him, ‘Who is the man who said to you, “Take up your pallet, and walk”‘ But he who was healed did not know who it was; for Jesus had slipped away while there was a crowd in that place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, ‘Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse may befall you.’ The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. And for this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. But He answered them, ‘My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.’ For this cause therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.”

First things first– the portion not in italics is missing in many ancient manuscripts. Was it original or was it added later? We simply don’t know but it does seem to fit into the context of John’s telling of the story but not necessarily what we know about ancient Israel and Old Testament context. Therefore we won’t consider it in depth because it ultimately doesn’t change the surrounding context. Nevertheless, the man was waiting for a stirring of the water, whether real or a superstitious presupposition.

Have you noticed the feasts in John’s gospel account? I ask the question because we’re only in chapter 5 and it is quite possible that Jesus is at the Passover feast again. We don’t know for sure which feast it is about which we read in today’s text. Nevertheless we see that John, while writing semi-chronologically, writes much more thematically and moves very quickly through the ministry of Jesus to focus more on the last week of the life of Jesus, his death, burial and resurrection.

While John moves quickly, skipping months of time, he hits on his themes with a sledgehammer. John doesn’t mince words but is very direct and blunt hitting the highlights hard; sin pelo en la lengua.

Many non-context-considerers have even accused John of being antisemitic because he doesn’t pull any punches. We make no such accusation because we do consider the context and let the lexicon that is the Bible, coupled with the context, translate John’s uses of the word “Jew.”

Before we do let’s consider a relatively unrelated but applicable example of word connotation and generalization. I believe that the United States government oppresses individual’s rights. I believe that the United States government enacts and enforces laws protecting the rights of individuals. True or false? Or is one statement true and the other false? To a degree both statements are true even though they are in conflict with, and contradictory to, each other. I am proverbially painting with a broad brush, generalizing. Yet the context of each statement helps define whether or not I write about a good attribute of the government or a bad attribute. The government is made up of many different people with wide ranging opinions and interpretations of the law. It should remind us of ourselves and Israel.

One more example: I am getting tired of the dogs, all they do is bark all day long. Do I mean every dog in the world or simply the ones near me?

In the same way, John the Jew, apostle of Jesus the Jew, uses the term “Jew” in a way that must be interpreted by the context. We tend to take things to literal extremes so that when we read statements such as, “the Jews were persecuting Jesus,” we think that the entire tribe of Judah was persecuting Jesus.

I know what you are thinking; “Russell P (Felipe en Español), no we don’t, we understand the context and that Jesus was Jewish, therefore it couldn’t be ‘all’ from the tribe of Judah.”

Why then don’t we understand that it was many and the most prominent people of Jewish persuasion who persecuted Jesus? As I am sick of the dogs barking, grouping some dogs, but not all dogs, together, we have to understand that John uses the word “Jew” in very negative connotations at times. I am not an anti-dogite simply because I said, “I am getting tired of the dogs barking.” We need to keep our current cultural climate out and adapt to the historical context, strapping on our proverbial sandals and tunics and understanding the times by way of considering the context, aspirations of author, genre, examples from Scripture and dividing rightly the word of truth. We call this hermeneutical approach, the CAGED method.

En Español: CAPTAR; Considerar el Contexto, Ambición del Autor, Propósito y Tipo de literatura, Agarrar otros ejemplos, Recordar correctamente.

It loses quite a bit in translation and I am still working on it but the core ideas are captured. That’s a little pun for anyone who reads Spanish. Therefore with a little background on John absolutely meaning “Jews” when he writes but certainly not all, like I refer to the dogmatic dispensationalists and not the average dispensationalists, we ascertain to whom John is pointing, whether to the dubiously dogmatic or average Jewish person, based upon the context. So let’s dig into the context, remembering the themes we see in John’s gospel account and especially John’s introduction to Jesus.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not ccomprehend it…There was the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh, and tabernacled among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

“After these things there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered.”

“After these things…” ie. the water into wine, “He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple,” “you must be born again,” “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him,” the preparatory baptism, the woman at the well– “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall you worship the Father,” healing of a son in Capernaum while in Cana and a general acceptance in Galilee and a general rejection in Judea.

Jesus is now once again in Jerusalem at one of the feasts. Again, we’re not told which one but it is quite possible it is another Passover, meaning that a year or two has passed since Jesus overturned the tables. Or, it could also only be about a minimum of 50 days. Either way, time has flown by. Again, this is internal evidence that John writes more thematically than chronologically or sequentially. Yet, today’s text did occur “after these things.”

In Jerusalem, at a Jewish feast, on the Sabbath, Jesus walks by the pool of Bethesda and sees many people with various ailments but one man in particular has caught his eye.

“Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered. And a certain man was there, who had been thirty-eight years in his sickness. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, ‘Do you wish to get well?'”

John gives us a little hint as to why Jesus chose this man out of the many. “When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition…” John also reveals to the reader the amount of time a “long time” was; “thirty-eight years in his sickness.” Thirty eight years is is more than a third of the life expectancy to someone living in the United States, in the year 2020. But for a Jewish man, with persistent sickness, in the first century, under Roman rule, this man should have been long dead. Jesus picked the man who was the sickest, most helpless and Jesus had compassion for him. Notice; “‘Do you wish to get well?’ The sick man answered Him, ‘Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.'”

Thirty eight years– who knows how many times he came to the pool, waiting and wishing by the well of water to be made well but the man lacks the ability to get himself into the pool before another. It also appears that Jesus has come to another outcast because we notice that the man has no one to help him into the pool.

The man is sick, and has been for a very long time considering the times in which he lived and has no family or friends willing to wait with him or help him into the pool.

We also notice the man’s lack of faith and what faith he does have, is horribly misplaced. The man admits defeat to Jesus, knowing that there is no way he’s going to get into that pool on his own or even with help. It begs the question, why was he there? The man had faith in a stirred up pool but no faith in regards to getting to the pool when the water was stirred.

Also notice that the man misunderstood Jesus. Jesus asked a question with an obvious answer. We ourselves wonder why the man was there if he knew he wouldn’t be made well because of his inability to get to the stirred water. Nevertheless the answer to our question and the question of Jesus is obvious, the man had a hint of hope and was there for the outside chance that he would be made well. But after thirty eight years, his hope was waning and he highly doubted any healing.

Jesus asked the man a “yes” or “no” question, “do you want to be made well?” His response illuminates our minds to his state of mind; highly doubtful and discouraged with falling faith. “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.”

Clearly the man has been here before and it has never worked. He is broken down and discouraged and doesn’t appear at all to know that he is speaking to the creator of the universe. Hopeless, faithless, sick and downtrodden, the man can’t even say “yes” to Jesus before Jesus speaks again, healing the hopelessness, faithless man.

“‘Arise, take up your pallet, and walk.’ And immediately the man became well, and took up his pallet and began to walk.” Can I go off on a tiny tangent about modern “faith healers?” First, they accept payment for their smoke and mirror, cloak and dagger, sideshows. That’s unbiblical in and of itself, much less the thought that one must have faith and lots of it to be made well. They take one mode and model of Christ healing and ignore the others. They don’t consider the context and because we don’t either, we fall for these slick, snakeoil salesmen. There are arguably more healings in the Bible sans “faith” than there are with “faith.” Nevertheless, most healings mentioned don’t tell the reader either way. Point: Benny Hinn rips verses out of context and deceives many people– ask Justin Peters. Better yet, read your Bible for all its worth utilizing the CAGED, o CAPTAR method. Also watch the documentary, American Gospel: Christ Alone, and let the faithful Justin Peters explain it to you. Benny Hinn’s people know that they can’t truly “heal” anyone, so when someone whose ailment is obvious, like Justin Peters, they are turned away. Watch the documentary, it should be required viewing for all Christians, after they read the Bible cover to cover. No, I am not legalistic but I would suggest that those who disrupt congregational meetings with their opinions, who have not read the Bible, should simply remain seated and silent.

We have to take the Bible as a whole but letting the New Testament explain the Old. Paul didn’t pray for Timothy’s stomach issues to be healed or lay hands on him for healing but rather, he told him to drink a little wine, using earthly elements for relief. Paul prayed for his own healing but Jesus responded that his grace was sufficient. God can heal anyone he wishes to heal, with or without faith. Paul had faith and was not healed. Timothy had faith and Paul didn’t even suggest healing to him but management from elements created by God. Justin Peters had faith but Benny Hinn wouldn’t touch him with a ten-foot pole. And in today’s text, the man who had his faith misplaced and dwindled, was healed without even saying “yes.” Consider the context.

“‘Do you wish to get well?’ The sick man answered Him, ‘Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Arise, take up your pallet, and walk.’ And immediately the man became well, and took up his pallet and began to walk. Now it was the Sabbath on that day. Therefore the Jews were saying to him who was cured, ‘It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet.’ But he answered them, ‘He who made me well was the one who said to me, “Take up your pallet and walk.”‘ They asked him, ‘Who is the man who said to you, “Take up your pallet, and walk”‘ But he who was healed did not know who it was; for Jesus had slipped away while there was a crowd in that place.”

Notice the difference between Jesus and Benny Hinn and our modern, charismatic, faith-healers. Jesus simply spoke and immediately the man walked, after thirty eight years. The charismatic collective love to quote John 14:12; “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father,” but what’s the context? Almost as important is that they do not do greater things in light of their percieved meaning of John 14:12. Jesus spoke to the unfaithful and immediately he was healed. Greater than this, according to their understanding, would be something like winking at a pile of bones and having them come back to life.

Sadly, the faith healers have to dance around, play music, blow on people and touch them. It simply doesn’t fit into any contextual concepts or constructs laid out in the Bible, especially not in some of the verses of which they love to rip out of context. Lord willing, we will consider the context of John 14 in the future. It is about the coming of the Holy Spirit and great works but the context is clear, it’s about salvation and not necessarily healing, speaking in tongues or prophesying. Much of it concerns judgment against Jerusalem. Look again at the themes in John and what happens next in today’s text.

“Now it was the Sabbath on that day. Therefore the Jews were saying to him who was cured, ‘It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet.’ But he answered them, ‘He who made me well was the one who said to me, “Take up your pallet and walk.”‘ They asked him, ‘Who is the man who said to you, “Take up your pallet, and walk”‘ But he who was healed did not know who it was; for Jesus had slipped away while there was a crowd in that place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, ‘Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse may befall you.’ The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. And for this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. But He answered them, ‘My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.’ For this cause therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.”

Remember that John the Baptist was Jewish, Jesus was Jewish, John himself and all the disciples were Jewish, the early church was Jewish, the apostle Paul, Timothy, Priscilla and Aquila were all Jewish. When John writes, “for this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus” and “for this cause therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him,” he is not referring to every Jewish person who ever lived. However he is indicting an entire culture of ethnocentric, religious-centric people who happened to be blood descendants of Jacob but not descendants of the “promise.”

Go back to John’s introduction; “He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

The Pharisees and Sadducees, scribes and priests led the people astray in their love for the Law and self righteousness and not grace, compassion and mercy. John, true to his introduction, is building a case for Jesus as YHWH and against the religious, Law-proclaiming but Law-ignoring Jews. What’s worse is that their long-awaited Messiah came to them and they set out to kill him, why? Like our alleged faith healers and modern day false prophets, they misinterpreted their Law, adding to, and taking away from it. Where do we find Moses recording that healing or the carrying of one’s pallet after being healed on the Sabbath is a sin?

At this point, we could delve deeper into “works of the Law” verses “Works of the Spirit.” For time’s sake we won’t but we can think about all we have read and the references made and look at today’s text with an added perspective.

Isaiah writes, “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.”

Paul reiterated Isaiah’s words by quoting Isaiah, “As it is written, ‘THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE. THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN GRAVE, WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP DECEIVING, THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS; WHOSE MOUTH IS FULL OF CURSING AND BITTERNESS; THEIR FEET ARE SWIFT TO SHED BLOOD, DESTRUCTION AND MISERY ARE IN THEIR PATHS, AND THE PATH OF PEACE HAVE THEY NOT KNOWN. THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES.’ Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are aunder the Law, that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.”

John chapter 14 is about the works of the Spirit and salvation. Today’s text is a building block on John’s theme which is found in his introduction. Generally speaking, the Jewish people, especially the hierarchy in Jerusalem, generally rejected Jesus because even though they studied the Scriptures, the misconstrued the meanings and message. They should have used the CAGED method, o en Español, el CAPTAR método.

That’s obviously a little tongue and cheek, the CAGED method is merely a tool which serves as a reminder. Jesus and his Spirit are the only way to salvation and works. Not necessarily works of healing but works of gospel preaching and growth. Back to today’s text.

Did Jesus break the Sabbath by healing? Did Jesus “work” the miracle into being? Jesus spoke and the man was healed, why would they consider that work? Why would they want to persecute Jesus for making a man well? Again, a bad interpretation of Scripture steming from their own sick hearts. Jesus goes on to explain the meaning of working but for time’s sake, Lord willing, well touch more on that next time.

First, they catch the healed man carrying his pallet on the Sabbath and hurl accusations against him, then questioning him. “‘It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet.’ But he answered them, ‘He who made me well was the one who said to me, “Take up your pallet and walk.”‘ They asked him, ‘Who is the man who said to you, “Take up your pallet, and walk”‘ But he who was healed did not know who it was; for Jesus had slipped away while there was a crowd in that place.”

I don’t know about you but I find it funny, and I believe the Lord did too, that Jesus disappeared into the crowd but in this crowd the Dogmatic Jewish leaders, who are clearly hypocritical jerks, picked out and picked on a pallet-carrying man. Do you know how big a pallet was? Neither do I but it certainly wasn’t a queen size mattress. Yet I assume it was noticeably large enough to make the miracle even more impressive. However large, it still seems odd to me that the man who was going to the temple, as we read, which was a very short journey, based on the context and location of the sheep gate, was accosted by numerous people in a crowd and likely a very large crowd; remember that it’s a feast day. Also notice that the man didn’t go home but to the temple, suggesting a smaller sized mat. This also goes to the man’s regained faith and obedience to one he didn’t know.

Jesus told him to pick up his mat and walk and that’s exactly what he did and what he testified to the Jews who accosted him. Can we blame the man for this? Thirty eight years in sickness and he obeyed not the Jewish people but the one who made him well. The water in the pool didn’t make him well and no one else would help him. Yet after being made well he was harassed by the dogmatic, religious people. Another theme in John and one of which is also prevalent in Acts.

From town to town, the apostle Paul went to the synagogues only to be chased out. Then he formed “churches” in these cities, sometimes right next door to the synagogues. As Paul progressed, he would be hounded by the Jewish, religious fanatics who would follow him, stirring up the cities. We see this theme in Jesus in John’s gospel account.

Jesus had much more success in Samaria and Galilee, especially early on. But the dogmatic heard of him and doggedly began hounding him, following him wherever he went. Today’s text is pivotal concerning this behavior. After hounding the man, they finally found the man who did the healing. Jesus was there, at the temple, during the feast and they accosted him as well.

As we continue, lord willing, we will see this theme continue to unfold and build. We will also zoom in on the exchange between the Jews and Jesus and examine the prophecy that points to this.

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