Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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JOHN - Chapter 5

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John 5

Supplemental Commentary:

I.  THE PUBLIC MINISTRY OF JESUS  1, 19 -- 12, 50 (continued)

2.  Christ Confirms His Mission  5, 1 -- 6, 72

5, 1-18:  The Cure at the Pool of Bethsaida.    1-9:  The cure.    1.  After this indicates no definite time.  A feast of the Jews: this causes some discussion.  Some important manuscripts read "the feast."  Which feast is meant is important in determining the length of Christ's public ministry.  If the Passover, we must (with 2, 13; 6, 4; 12, 1) allow three full years and some months;  if some other feast near the time of the Passover, such as Purim, two years and some months will suffice.  Of those who think this feast some other than the Passover, the majority prefer Tabernacles (September-October).  Admitting uncertainty, we may hold that the Passover accords better with 4, 35 and 6, 4.  In this case the year between 5, 1 and 6, 4 is not recorded by John.  Jesus went up: His disciples are not mentioned, but the same is true of 7.    2.  The place-name, taken from the local idiom, varies with the manuscripts.  Bethsaida is the form of the Vulgate and of the Latin tradition generally.  Others read Bezatha, Bethzatha or Bethesda.  Such a pool with porches may be seen near the Church of St. Anne, just north of the site of the temple.    3 f.  Awaiting the movement of the water, with all of 4, is wanting in many Greek and Latin manuscripts.  We accept it as part of the Vulgate text, allowing the uncertainty of its origin.  The passage only contributes to the setting, and has no bearing on the miracle.    5.  Early interpreters considered the man a paralytic, which seems justified by 7.  Though infirm for thirty-eight years, he may not have been so long at the pool.    6.  Both our Lord's question and the subsequent miracle display His compassion.    7.  Having always been disappointed, the man had lost hope.  What he says of the stirring of the water requires the statement in 4.  He may be only repeating a popular conviction.    8 f.  Pallet: any cloak or blanket on which the man rested, a better term than "bed."  As a work of mercy, not designed as public evidence, it is not called "a sign."

10-18:  Discussion with the Jews.    10.  Thou art not allowed, etc.  Among the thirty-nine classes of work forbidden on the Sabbath by their tradition was the carrying of an article from one place to another.  The penalty was severe.  The guilt in this case was fixed on the instigator of the act (11-12).    14.  Cf. Matt. 9, 1-8; Mark 2, 3-12; Luke 5, 18-26.  The remission of sin was also an element of this cure.  The warning for the future is a lesson on the cause of the man's disease.    15.  His information was not necessarily prompted by malice.  His very conduct shows great respect for our Lord's power.    16-18.  The effect on the Jews.  Were persecuting denotes an attitude of which this is but one instance, and supposes other occasions, such as in Mark 2, 23-28; 3, 1-6 and parallels.    17.  The words convey a profound revelation; according to St. Augustine, they affirm the union of the Father and the Son in the creation and the government of the world: the Son does what the Father does (this more expressly in 19).    18.  To put him to death reveals the gravity of the persecution; cf. 7, 20.  It becomes their purpose henceforth.

5, 19-30:  Christ's claim to Divinity is that the Father and the Son work together, even in judgment.  It amplifies the claim of 17.  The passage is of great importance to John's thesis.  It is also a link in His demonstration of the Jews' lack of faith, and evidence of the reason for their opposition.

19.  The action of the Father and that of the Son are ultimately one because Their nature is one, even though the Son be here considered as incarnate.    20.  Greater works: the power to give life and to judge.    21.  The raising of the dead, whether in the physical or the spiritual order, is a divine prerogative: cf. Deut. 32, 39; Tob. 13, 2; Isa. 26, 19; Ezech. 37, 1-14; Os. 6, 2 f; etc.  The Son gives life to whom he will: this power is sovereign in the Son as in the Father.    22.  Judgment is another divine prerogative, often announced by the prophets, especially in connection with the "day of the Lord."  The Father's communication of this power to the Son is another note of equality between them.    23.  The practical consequence: the Son must be honored as is the Father.  Vv. 24-30 applies all this to the earthly mission of the Son.    24.  He who hears, i.e., believes.  This faith is the condition of life, the only way of escaping from punishment.    25.  Cf. 8, 43; 9, 27.  The spiritually dead are meant, and their rising to spiritual life through faith in Christ.  Revival from physical death (as in the case of Lazarus) is rather the theme of 28.    26 f.  Cf. 1, 4; 5, 21; etc.  Given to the Son to dispense to others.  Son of Man: a Messianic title, although here without the article.  These attributes of the Word are inalienable from the Word Incarnate.    28.  At this: at all that has been said, but especially in 25.  His power to give spiritual life will be evident when the physical resurrection, in which they believe, will take place at the sound of His voice.  Cf. 1 Thess. 4, 14 ff.    29.  Cf. Matt. 25, 46.  Judgment here is condemnation.  The two groups are already distinguished by their faith or want of faith.    30.  Cf. 5, 19; 8, 15 f.

5, 31-47:  Justification of Christ's Claims.  The evidence He offers is not His own word, nor even that of the Baptist, but the Father, the miracles, the Scriptures.  Refusal to accept this evidence is proof of their ill will.  Vv.31 f anticipate the objection that the foregoing claim of parity with the Father must have adequate support.  Cf. 8, 12-19.  He can summon other witness.  Sts. Augustine and Cyril and the Fathers generally hold that this witness is the Father Himself.    33-35.  Although they believed the Baptist, and he bore witness to Christ, Jesus assures them that He neglects that testimony for the present.  I do not receive: I do not  now make use of it.  He was the lamp: cf. 1, 7-9; though not himself the true light, yet the Baptist was a light.  Burning and shining with the heat of zeal and the light of a divine message: Cf. Ecclus. 48, 1.  For a while: their adherence to the Baptist was not long-lived.    36.  The evidence of our Lord's miracles surpasses the witness of John.  Cf. Matt. 11, 4; Luke 7, 22.    37a.  Cf. 1, 18.  Apart from the works, the Father has borne witness in the Scriptures (cf. 38-40).  V.38 seems to require the sense: "but you refuse this testimony, you who never heard God's voice."  Search is better taken in the indicative: you search the Scriptures, looking for guidance to life; they give it by bearing witness to me.    40.  Cf. 2 Cor. 3, 14 f.  The truth was not forced upon them.  Vv.41-47 develop the charge against the Jews in 8, 42 f: they are ill disposed to Christ because ill disposed to God the Father.    V.41 begins by anticipating the objection, you seek to glorify yourself; cf. 1 Thess. 2, 6.    42.  Cf. 1 John 2, 15; 3, 17; 4, 12; 5, 3.  Wanting the love of God, how can you love me?    43.  The proof: you reject God's ambassador.  Another: any false prophet or teacher; cf. Matt. 24, 24; Mark 13, 22; 2 Thess. 2, 10 f.  Some see in this a reference to antichrist.    44.  Cf. Matt. 23, 5; Luke 11, 43.  Behind this unreasonable attitude stand vanity and pride.  Vv.45-47 recur to 39.  No need that Christ accuse them; the Messianic prophecies of the Pentateuch, now fulfilled in Him, make them worthy of arraignment by Moses, in whose writings they profess to trust while remaining obstinate toward Him.
For the intervening development of the public ministry of Christ [that occurred after the events related in this chapter (5) but before the events related in next chapter (6)], read Mark 2, 23 -- 7, 23.


Confraternity Bible:

The Cure at the Pool of Bethsaida  1 After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  2 Now there is at Jerusalem, by the Sheepgate, a pool called in Hebrew Bethaida, having five porticoes.  3 In these were lying a great multitude of the sick, blind, lame, and those with shrivelled limbs, waiting for the moving of the water.  4 For an angel of the Lord used to come down at certain times into the pool, and the water was troubled.  And the first to go down into the pool after the troubling of the water was cured of whatever infirmity he had.

5 Now a certain man was there who had been thirty-eight years under his infirmity.  6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had been in this state a long time, he said to him, "Dost thou want to get well?"  7 The sick man answered him, "Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred; for while I am coming, another steps down before me."  8 Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up thy pallet and walk."  9 And at once the man was cured.  And he took up his pallet and began to walk.  Now that day was a Sabbath.

10 The Jews therefore said to him who had been healed, "It is the Sabbath; thou art not allowed to take up thy pallet."  11 He answered them, "He who made me well said to me, 'Take up thy pallet and walk.'"  12 They asked him then, "Who is the man who said to thee, 'Take up thy pallet and walk'?"  13 But the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had quietly gone away, since there was a crowd in the place.

14 Afterwards Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, "Behold, thou art cured.  Sin no more, lest something worse befall thee."  15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him.

16 And this is why the Jews kept persecuting Jesus, because he did such things on the Sabbath.  17 Jesus, however, answered them, "My Father works even until now, and I work."  18 This, then, is why the Jews were the more anxious to put him to death; because he not only broke the Sabbath, but also called God his own Father, making himself equal to God.

Christ's Claim to Divinity  19 In answer therefore Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of himself, but only what he sees the Father doing.  For whatever he does, this the Son also does in like manner.  20 For the Father loves the Son, and shows him all that he himself does.  And greater works than these he will show him, that you may wonder.  21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom he will.  22 For neither does the Father judge any man, but all judgment he has given to the Son, 23 that all men may honor the Son even as they honor the Father.  He who does not honor the Son, does not honor the Father who sent him.

24 "Amen, amen, I say to you, he who hears my word, and believes him who sent me, has life everlasting, and does not come to judgment, but has passed from death to life.

25 "Amen, amen, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is here, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear shall live.  26 For as the Father has life in himself, even so he has given to the Son also to have life in himself; 27 and he has granted him power to render judgment, because he is Son of Man.  28 Do not wonder at this, for the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs shall hear the voice of the Son of God.  29 And they who have done good shall come forth unto resurrection of life; but they who have done evil unto resurrection of judgment.  30 Of myself I can do nothing.  As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just because I seek not my own will, but the will of him who sent me.

Justification of Christ's Claims  31 "If I bear witness concerning myself, my witness is not true.  32 There is another who bears witness concerning me, and I know that the witness that he bears concerning me is true.  33 You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth.  34 I however do not receive the witness of man, but I say these things that you may be saved.  35 He was the lamp, burning and shining; and you desired to rejoice for a while in his light.

36 "The witness, however, that I have is greater than that of John.  For the works which the Father has given me to accomplish, these very works that I do, witness to me, that the Father has sent me.  37 And the Father himself, who has sent me, has borne witness to me.  But you have never heard his voice, or seen his face.  38 And you have not his word abiding in you, since you do not believe him whom he has sent.  39 You search the Scriptures, because in them you think that you have life everlasting.  And it is they that bear witness to me, 40 yet you are not willing to come to me that you may have life.

41 "I do not receive glory from men.  42 But I know that you have not the love of God in you.  43 I have come in the name of my Father, and you do not receive me.  If another come in his own name, him you will receive.  44 How can you believe who receive glory from one another, and do not seek the glory which is from the only God?  45 Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father.  There is one who accuses you, Moses, in whom you hope.  46 For if you believed Moses you would believe me also, for he wrote of me.  47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?"