John 4C/5A Act Like a Heal

Questions: Do we honor God, or are we just impressed? Do we feel Jesus doesn’t honor us? What is he trying to get us to believe? Is there a reason he keeps pushing our buttons?

“Read More” to pursue answers in the Gospel of John.

Lord, make me a Fountain of your Love
Draw me into your holy Presence, that I might know you as my Father
And manifest the image of Christ in this world, and the world to come. Amen.

John 4:43-5:18

Now after two days he departed thence, and went into Galilee.

I’m often impressed by how Jesus is always open to ‘divine interruptions‘, yet never loses sight of his goal. In this case, he deliberately walks out on a rousing success in Samaria to a skeptical hometown crowd:

For Jesus himself testified, that a prophet hath no honour in his own country. Then when he was come into Galilee, the Galilaeans received him, having seen all the things that he did at Jerusalem at the feast: for they also went unto the feast. So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine.

There’s an interesting tension here. Clearly, people are impressed by his works in Cana and Jerusalem, but Jesus (and The Message) imply that it is a superficial allegiance. Still, it is enough to draw the desperate:

And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death.

Yet, Jesus is more chiding than sympathetic:

Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.

Not that it matters:

The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die.

And Jesus responds:

Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth.

Which is enough for the man:

And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way.

And, more importantly, for his son:

And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told [him], saying, Thy son liveth.Then enquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. So the father knew that [it was] at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house.

What exactly does the man (and the household) end up believing? And is “belief” the reason Jesus puts this poor guy through the wringer? Is that fair?

Let’s see if we can pick up some answers in the next passage:

This [is] again the second miracle [that] Jesus did, when he was come out of Judaea into Galilee. After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

John kindly sets the scene for us:

Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep [market] a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.

Now, I don’t know whether the pool worked in general, but it clearly didn’t work for this guy:

And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.

So, Jesus takes pity on him; but ‘pity’ may be the wrong word, since Jesus asks a bit of a rude question:

When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time [in that case], he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?

I mean, duh, why else would he be waiting there for 38 years? But, the man is ready with his excuse:

The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.

I find it fascinating that the KJV (and Greek) describe him as “impotent” — as in lacking strength (not lacking Viagra :-). He has a clear idea of what is required for healing, but lacks the strength to achieve it. Or so he thinks:

Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked:

Dang! Unfortunately, there’s a dark cloud hovering behind this silver lining:

and on the same day was the sabbath. The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry [thy] bed.


He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk. Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk? And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in [that] place.

Whew. So Jesus appears to have dodged that bullet. Right?

Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.

Now, why would Jesus blow his cover like that? And why did he drag “sin” into the discussion? In fact, this leads the man to commit what I would consider a sin:

The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole.

Since it causes quite a bit grief for Jesus:

And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day.

Though, to be fair, Jesus himself heaps fuel upon the fire:

But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.

Oops. Sounds like things are going to get ugly.

We’ll hear Jesus explain himself later in the chapter, but the thing that strikes me most is the provocative way Jesus is acting. Not just to the leaders of the Jews, but even the people who look to him for help. Why?

I can’t help but wonder if this is tied into the problem of “being honored in your own country.” The problem with the familiar is that we have a web of expectations that shape how we interpret various experiences. Surely the Messiah will be kind and give us everything we ask of him. Surely the Messiah will go out of his way to prove himself through miracles. Surely the Messiah will follow the Law the way we follow the Law. Surely God will do what I want, when I want it. No?

Um, no. Jesus appears to be going out of his way to shatter the myths and stereotypes of what a Messiah ought to be. Not only of petty pique, but because his people need to unlearn what they thought they knew in order to learn what truly is.

As do we.


God, I confess that it is very easy for me to get upset when you fail to perform according to my expectations. Father, break me of my bad habits, of both body and mind. Open my eyes, that I may see and believe. I ask this in Jesus name, Amen.