John 5:1-9


Commentary Excerpt by Tom Boomershine

The story of the healing of the man by the sheep gate, Bethzatha, is John's version of the story of the healing a paralytic. John's version is very distinctive and is highly dramatic in relation to the story itself and what follows this story. I will discuss the relationship between this story and what follows in this commentary.

The mnemonic structure of this story is relatively simple. The first episode provides the setting in Jerusalem by the sheep gate. The second episode describes the scene at the pool of Bethzatha: many invalids and a man who had been there for 38 years. It's just fine to really emphasize "THIRTY-EIGHT-YEARS" that he had been laying at this pool. The next episode is Jesus' question to the man—"Do you want to be made well?"—and his response. The final episode is Jesus healing him. The episodes of the story have a very clear structure.

Despair and discouragement were an inherent part of the place where this story occurs:the pool by the Sheep Gate at Bethzatha. The dynamic of the story is that a man who had no hope, endlessly reciting the reasons why he could not be healed, moves from his own despair and discouragement to being healed suddenly after 38 years of laying in wait at the pool unable to get into it.

I suggest that you tell the first two episodes as highly depressing. Don't just report this in an objective tone but rather tell it imagining a place of pain and misery where invalids lay for years at a time in the hope that they might be made well. It's a kind of pathetic hospital because there was no hope for these people.

Jesus' recognition of the man's situation is the first glimmer of light in the whole story.Jesus' question is based on an inside view of Jesus: "When Jesus saw him laying there…"We therefore see the man through Jesus' eyes, and we know what he knew. He knew that the man had been there a long time.

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