This passage is an alternate Gospel for the 6th Sunday in Easter, most recently May 22, 2022
Summary: The man does not want to be healed. Jesus must interrupt his self-pity. Hard truth: individuals, communities and societies often are paralyzed. While they may complain about what others have done to them, they have no real desire (or capacity) to heal themselves.
I pray that I can preach a sermon in which I acknowledge how we get trapped in our dysfunction and are unable to move forward without Jesus. Without being so judgemental that I fail to bring the goods, namely, the healing in the name of Jesus!
ξηρος (meaning "paralyzed", 5:3) This word originally meant "dry" (like the Greek translation of Genesis 1:9 for "dry land" uses this word.) Things that were dry became useless, paralyzed, so to speak.
How have parts of your life become dry and paralyzed? How have parts of your community or your congregation? How have parts of society?
υγιης (with the rough breathing this is spelled: hygies, from which we get "hygiene", John 5:6, 9, 11, 14, 15). Jesus brings a person to a state of "hygiene." However, something bigger than germs is going on, as Jesus is looking at the healing of the whole person.
In Greek, this word means "whole, sound, healthy". What really sheds light on what it means is how it is used in Titus to describe, not a body, but a teaching:
- Show yourself in all respects a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, gravity, and sound speech that cannot be censured; then any opponent will be put to shame, having nothing evil to say of us. Titus 2:7-8
This word is paired with "integrity" and "gravity", reminding us that this word does not simply mean "clean from germs."
The context in John's Gospel reveals this is a healing on many levels
- Emotional: Jesus asks him if he wants to be well. He cannot answer this basic question, but is caught in a cycle of blaming others and forming a victim narrative. He cannot heal himself, Jesus must intervene.
- Physical: Now he can walk!
- Spiritual: After the man can walk, he enters the Temple - likely for the first time -- where Jesus finds him (vs 14). Interestingly, Jesus warns him to sin no more! Which makes one consider -- was their something sinful about the state that he was in?
Some Biblical curiosities:
εορτη (feast, 5:1) It turns out that scholars are not certain which festival John references. How one understands which festival has implications though for how one understands the rest of the Gospel. For example, is this a foreshadowing of Pentecost? Is this story somehow a microcosm of the church being born and moving beyond its initial tribal and ritual boundaries? Is it a story of how the waters must be stirred for the church to be reborn? Or that we are waiting, as a church, for someone else to stir the waters but we are called forth to be the church?
Or it is a story about the reading of the Torah? The foundation of God's word is no longer simply the OT Scripture, but Jesus Christ and his revelation?
5:4 Many translations do not include 5:4. This is because most of the best sources for John's Gospel: papyrus 66 and 75 as well as the א, B, D and W codices lack this verse. It certainly helps make sense of the rest of the story. It also speaks of the connection between angels and healing, if not objectively, within the minds of the people. That is fascinating that words of healing and angels are on the margins of the church's canon. Professor Walter Sundberg of Luther Seminary once preached on this verse, focusing on the way in which the edges of the canon and the edges of the church often become sources of renewal.
38 years old. Still don't know why.