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John 5:1-9 - If only someone would help me get in the water first

Updated: Apr 6, 2022

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[1] After Jesus healed the son of the official in Capernaum, there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

[2] Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. [3] In these lay many invalids-- blind, lame, and paralyzed. [5] One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. [6] When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, "Do you want to be made well?" [7] The sick man answered him, "Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me." [8] Jesus said to him, "Stand up, take your mat and walk." [9] At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. Now that day was a sabbath.


This is the alternate Gospel selection that can be chosen for a priest to read aloud on the sixth Sunday of Easter, Year C, according to the lectionary for the Episcopal Church. If chosen, it will follow a mandatory Easter reading from the Book of Acts, this Sunday telling of Paul being called by a vision to Macedonia, where we then read: “A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul.” That will precede a singing of Psalm 67, where David wrote: “May elohim give us his blessing, and may all the ends of the earth stand in awe of him.” That pair will lead to the Year C Epistle reading from Revelation, where John was shown: “the assembly of inhabitants has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. The peoples will walk by its light, and the rulers of the flesh will bring their glory into it.”

Verse one of this fifth chapter does not say, “After Jesus healed the son of the official in Capernaum.” Chapter four ended with such a healing; but chapter five begins with the Greek words “Meta tauta,” where “tauta” is the Accusative Neuter Plural form of “touto,” meaning “these.” As a plural designation, John ended chapter four by saying the healing of the official’s son in Capernaum was, “once more the second sign done by Jesus.” Chapter four tells of different things Jesus accomplished in ministry; so, to limit “these” to a single event is wrong. The NRSV begins chapter five as saying, “After this,” so the Episcopal Church has once again been found attempting to rewrite Scripture, to keep the blind from being able to see the truth. As to the capitalization of the word “Meta,” this is a divine elevation that says Yahweh had used Jesus to make changes in Jewish souls, which included his disciples sent out into ministry as an extension of his soul. Therefore, “In accompany with these” works of Yahweh done by Jesus up to this point, it became time for the Sukkot festival in Jerusalem; and, Jesus went there in his ministry for Yahweh.

In verse two, John sets up this event by telling us where it happened. The Sheep Gate and the Pool of Bethzatha were close together, in the northeastern corner of the city. It was outside the Fortress of Antonia, thus outside the walls of Jerusalem. Here is a picture that shows its location.

In the above selection of verses, I have placed the verse numbers in bold type, within brackets. If you carefully observe these numbers, you will find that there is no verse four. In fact, the last segment of verse three has been omitted. In the NRSV presentation of John’s fifth chapter, at the last word translated in verse three they add a footnote that says: “Other ancient authorities add, wholly or in part, waiting for the stirring of the water; 4 for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and stirred up the water; whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was made well from whatever disease that person had.” Here is a picture of how Bible Hub presents the italicized text – as written within angle brackets, thus becoming like an aside or whisper, unworthy of telling anyone about.

When verse three is shown to state “these lay” beside the pool, the missing content is a new sentence (in whisper), explaining “[they lay] awaiting this of this water stirring.” This says the “blind, lame and paralyzed” had been led to that pool and laid on mats, by relatives who believed this pool had healing qualities. Whenever the “waters stirred,” those seeking to be healed needed to be the first into those “waters stirred.” To further explain why the “waters stirred,” verse four was John stating that, still as a whisper, because it does not add to the miracle of Jesus and the lame man; but it shows how faith in miracles of “stirred waters” led those in need of a miracle to await faithfully for a miracle to come in their presence. Thus, verse four says, “an angel indeed according to opportunity descended within this pool , kai stirred this water ; this then first stepped into after this stirring of this water , sound was born , to this even at that time he had been possessed to sickness .

In this verse four, the use of “angelos” and “katebainen” can also be read as “a messenger [of God]” and “went down.” When an “angel [of God]” is understood to be an “elohim” [in Hebrew], one must realize that Jesus possessed the soul of the “Yahweh elohim” (as stated repeatedly in Genesis 2) that Yahweh placed within the “earth” He formed to be who we call Adam. That says Jesus was also “an angel [of God].” In verse one, John wrote, “Jesus went up to Jerusalem,” where the verb “anabainó” was used and means, “to ascend.” When John used the word “kairon,” which has been translated as “season,” the same word means “opportunity,” but “season” leads one to associate the festival of the Jews as a “season.” The difference that must be seen from this unpublished ‘aside’ written by John, is the healing “angel” that “descended” is more in line with a demon (as a ‘fallen angel’), whereas Jesus was a true “messenger of Yahweh.” Thus, the “opportunity” to heal … only the “first who stepped into the stirred waters” … was not a miracle sent by Yahweh, but one sent by Satan. Those not able to get into the pool first … if many times faithfully gone to the pool, only to miss out, that would lead to weakened faith and even blame of Yahweh being not caring for those most invalid.

In verse five, John’s writing “Ēn de tisanthrōpos ekei” (“Existed now a certain man there”), his use of “tis” – as a writing after the fact – says this “man” was “certain,” meaning his name was known afterwards. The use of “tis” should be read generally as a statement of a Jew known, but more specifically as an individual Jew known. The “certainty” says this “man,” once healed, would become a devoted follower of Jesus. Therefore, John and others who followed Jesus would come to know his name.

[Aside: In the story of three women Christians named Mary landing at the French place now called Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, two men accompanied them, named Maximin and Sidon. Sidon was the man who was born blind that was healed by Jesus at the Pool of Siloam. Maximin was said to have been one of the seventy commissioned into intern ministry by Jesus. Both became servants at the house of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. By seeing that a man had been lame for thirty-eight years (which means he could have been at least forty-to-forty-five years of age at that time of healing), it makes sense that his devotion to Jesus would make him possibly the man healed from being lame, having no learned trade to then turn to. As a servant to the family of Jesus, near Jerusalem (in Bethany), this would make Maximin be “the certain man.”]

In verse six, where John says Jesus saw the man and knew (importantly, from the use of “kai”) how long the man had been there faithfully, this following a statement by John that he had been there “thirty-eight years” says this information was made available to Jesus by the Father. This divine knowledge led Jesus to ask the man (according to the NRSV translation), “Do you want to be made well.” That is a poor translation of the question John wrote of Jesus posing.

The Greek text of the question is this: “Theleis hygiēs genesthai ?” In that, the capitalized “Theleis” divinely elevates this word to a higher question that “want.” The word means, “to will, to wish,” implying in usage: “desire, willingness, intention, and design.” To place this divinely, Jesus asked if the man “Desired.” This then needs to cause one to see “hygiēs” as meaning more than healthy, well, or sound. When the question is about divine “Desire,” that is to cease being a failure in the eyes of Jews, as for some reason shunned by Yahweh, due to being incomplete. Thus, this focus is placed on being “whole.” Then, the verb “genesthai” has little to do with a simply “happening” or “coming” or “being,” but one of being “born anew.” Therefore, what John recorded Jesus asking the lame man is, “Desire you to be born again whole?”

The man then responded to Jesus saying, “Lord , a man not I possess , in order that whenever has been stirred this water , he might rush me into this pool , within which now am coming I , another before of myself goes down .” Here, the man’s reasoning was not a question of “Desire,” but ability. He had nobody who would stay with him, after carrying him to his place by the pool each morning, then carrying him away at the end of the day. Thus, by the time he saw “stirring water,” his attempts to drag his lame body to the pool was too slow to beat someone who had help. The man’s answer said he had thirty-eight years of “Desire,” but he had no “man” who would assist him in having his “Desires” met.

In verse eight, John wrote “Legei autō ho Iēsous,” where two capitalized words bring divine elevation to the NRSV translation: “Jesus said to him.” The capitalization of “Says” is divinely elevated as Yahweh “Speaking” through the Son. It is not simple words being conveyed, but a divine command being “Uttered.” The pronoun “autō” then goes beyond a simple “to him” and “Speaks to his soul” [“himself” => “his soul”] The name “Jesus” means “Yahweh Saves,” so it is through the lips of “Jesus” that the lame man would be “Saved by Yahweh.”

Jesus at first gave a one-word command: “Egeire,” which is a capitalized word that is also divinely elevated in meaning. It is the second-person Imperative Active form of the word saying “to raise up.” More than being a command to stand on your feet, it was Yahweh speaking to the soul of the lame man, telling his soul to be made whole and “Rise” as a servant to Him. After that command, Yahweh then spoke through Jesus, saying “remove this mattress of the poor of your soul [“you” of “yourself”] , kai conduct your life [or “live”] .” A “mattress of the poor” was also considered a “camp-bed,” which was for sleeping on when in a tent, while traveling. Beggars would stay in one place so long they would need such a quilted mattress to lay upon, while begging for alms. That becomes a symbolic statement of one being dead to life, due to always being on a bed. The Greek word “aron” is similar to the word “Egeire,” as it too means “to raise, take up, lift,” where the divine essence is to grow to a higher state of being. To “raise up one’s mattress of the poor” is to be the Easter message that says be “raised from the dead.” Thus, when the Greek word “peripatei” is translated as “walk,” the meaning is to begin a path of righteousness;” and, therefore, this is being raised to “life,” from having been dead.

Verse nine is begun by a capitalized “Kai,” which says the information to follow is most important to discern. John then wrote: “immediately was born whole this man”. The great importance to grasp is the words “egeneto hygiēs” are forms of the same words used prior, asking the man if he “Desired to be born whole” of if he “wanted to be well.” Certainly, the same immediacy made the man well, but for a man who had never experienced true “life” before that moment in time, the divine statement of truth says he “was born whole” … and that means body and soul united with Yahweh.

Following a comma mark of separation, with John writing another “kai,” the importance that followed was the man “raised up this mattress of the poor of his soul [“him” or “himself”] kai began to walk [which also means “to live”] ,” The importance noted here is less about a man carrying away the mat he had been laid on, as much as it places important focus on the symbolic crutches in life that human sinners use as an excuse to be dead. By “lifting up his mat” the man ceased being enslaved to the ways of the world. Instead, he began to live righteously, as a soul whole with Yahweh.

Following the period mark that ended that important statement, John then added, “Existed now sabbath within that this day .” Here, it will be the following verses that will make an issue of Jesus having healed a lame man on the Sabbath; but that is not the point to be gained from this sentence being still part of verse nine. The capitalized “Ēn,” which is the third-person Indicative form of “eimi,” means “I am, I exist. It is the same word used to begin verse five, where the man was first introduced, as “Existed a certain man.” As the ending to verse nine, where this certain man has now been healed, to write “Existed now sabbath” says the state of “completeness” had come to this “certain man.” His life have become “whole,” so his soul being joined with Yahweh meant he was at “rest” and at “peace,” no longer lame. This means the use of “hēmera,” which translates as “day,” is less about the “day” of the week,” but more about the “light of day” that Yahweh had brought into his soul, which is the “daylight” of eternal salvation. This sentence ending verse nine says the man’s darkness of mortal death had been born anew as the light of one walking the path of righteousness.

As the alternate Gospel possibility for this sixth Sunday of Easter (which is only made available to be read this one time each three-year cycle), it is important to see the Easter theme of raised from the dead alive and well in this event in Jesus’ ministry. The metaphor is all of us should identify with the lame man, who is always looking for a miracle to come into his life. When he responded to Jesus about his “Desire to be born whole,” he put more energy into explaining, “I would be happy if someone would help me with my faith, because my Desire has never wavered.”

Yahweh sent His son to be his assistant; but instead of throwing him into the pool first, as soon at the water stirred, Jesus was sent to tell him, “You faith has made you whole. Get up, take away your crutch and live your new life for Yahweh.” This is why I strongly believe the lame man remained a servant to Jesus, as the axiom goes: “Scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” Jesus put it as, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The lame man was not like the past ‘pool lottery winners,’ who were healed and then ran away thanking some water stirring angel … once and never again. The lame man is like the way we are supposed to model. Faith personified, through all the crap the world keeps heaping on everyone. We only need someone to help us make it through all the failures. When Yahweh sends us His Son, then we become souls raised from the dead, as well as becoming Yahweh’s helpers in return.

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