JOHN EXEGESIS - Chapter 5
If chapters 2 to 4 can be seen as the opening section of John’s account of Jesus’ public ministry, we now enter into the main body of that account, which seems to end at 10:42. This is so both because 10:40-42 marks a pause and appropriately concludes several related strands of the account, and because the raising of Lazarus in chapter 11 begins the movement toward the Cross (11:53). Hence Brown treats chapters 5-10 as a unit, which he labels “Jesus and the Principal Feasts of the Jews” and subdivides into Sabbath (5:1-47), Passover (6:1-71), Tabernacles (7:1 - 10:21) and Dedication (10:22-39). Look at 5:1, 5:9b, 6:4, 7:2, 10:22. Carson divides them into two sections, divided by the “excursus” of the woman taken in adultery : (i) “Rising opposition” (5:1 - 7:52) (ii) “Radical confrontation” (8:12 - 10:42).
This chapter is, then, probably best seen as the opening part of a larger unit. It contains the third sign, the healing of a man on the Sabbath, with an associated debate and discourse.
Carson rightly notes a growing prominence of opposition (the discourse recorded in ch.5 is the first with a strong element of polemic), but this is balanced by positive responses. John continues to depict the contrast between belief and unbelief, and at the same time to elaborate his picture of the One in whom people are called to believe.
|1 After this 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. 10So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, “It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” 11 But he answered them, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’” 12They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take it up and walk’?” 13 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in the crowd that was there. 14 Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. 16 Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus, because he was doing such things on the sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is still working, and I also am working.”18 For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God. 19 Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. 20 The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished. 21 Indeed, just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomever he wishes. 22 The Father judges no one but has given all judgement to the Son, 23 so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 24 Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgement, but has passed from death to life. 25 “Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself; 27 and he has given him authority to execute judgement, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not be astonished at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and will come out—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. 30 “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge; and my judgement is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me. 31 “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true.32 There is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that his testimony to me is true. 33You sent messengers to John, and he testified to the truth. 34 Not that I accept such human testimony, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. 36 But I have a testimony greater than John’s. The works that the Father has given me to complete, the very works that I am doing, testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself testified on my behalf. You have never heard his voice or seen his form, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, because you do not believe him whom he has sent. 39 “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf.40 Yet you refuse to come to me to have life. 41 I do not accept glory from human beings. 42 But I know that you do not have the love of God in you. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; if another comes in his own name, you will accept him.44 How can you believe when you accept glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the one who alone is God? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; your accuser is Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. 47 But if you do not believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?”||5:1 Essentially a transition verse, placing Jesus in Jerusalem. The variant reading h` e`orth is not likely [UBS4 text: A reading for e`orth without the article, based on better manuscript evidence and more likely direction of alteration – see Metzger], and no attempt to identify the feast is convincing. On this occasion it is the Sabbath setting that matters, rather than the particular feast. 5:2-9a The healing story proper, which focuses on the power of Jesus to raise up (the Sabbath timing is not mentioned until 9b). 2 Both the name and the location details are unclear. This is partly due to structural ambiguity and partly due to varied manuscript evidence concerning the name. As to the first, kolumbhqra is seen as either nominative or dative, hence th||probatikh||as either standing alone or attached, which leaves h` evpilegomenh detached. It seems to me that it is easier to take up the former option, and supply the term “gate” in line with Nehemiah 3:1/12:39. The name is impossible to be confident about, with UBS4 rating bhqzaqa as C, and UBS3 as D [, apart from Metzger, see Barrett, 251-253 for a detailed discussion]. Fortunately very little hangs on this uncertainty. What matters is that this was a pool which showed periodic disturbance and where people came to seek miraculous healing. 3a Sets scene, depicting both the general expectancy and the obstacle to the man Jesus heals. 3b - 4 are almost certainly a later addition, providing an explanation for verse 7 [UBS4: A reading for their omission]. 5 The illness is not specified but verse 7 suggests inability to walk properly, for whatever reason. The 38 years is a detail stressing length of illness, hence Jesus’ compassion and power. Some detect a parallel with the unnecessary years in the wilderness (Deut. 2:14). 6 Possibly implies special knowledge, although some take the fact that the aorist participle gnouj is used to imply an action of coming to know (hence NIV’s “learned”). But certainly we see here Jesus’ responsiveness to the man’s need. 7 Implies a superstitious religion, and specifically a belief like that provided in vv 3b - 4 (hence we see the ineffectiveness of such religion, in contrast with the effectual power of Jesus). This is certainly not faith in Jesus, but it is evidence of an earnest desire to be healed. 8 It is significant that the word evgeire (here naturally translated as “stand up”) corresponds with evgeirei in verse 21 (where “raises” is the natural translation, since the object is touj nekrouj): this sign corresponds with that discourse, showing Jesus to share the life-giving power of the Father.9a The immediate (euvqewj) effectiveness of Jesus’ word is recorded. As Köstenberger remarks (p.180), “no healing springs, no human assistance was needed – Jesus’ mere word sufficed”. 9b- 15 The controversy which arises immediately as a result of the healing. The attack on Jesus through the man who was healed is seen by many as John’s deliberate parallel with Jewish opposition to the church, which was often directed against sympathetic outsiders. 9b-10 The accusation which begins the controversy, based on rabbinic amplification of the Sabbath law, which included moving an object from one place to another. John’s designation of the man as teqerapeumenoj draws attention to what the Jewish opponents have ignored, cf. pattern in vv 11 - 13. 11-13 An interchange which reveals the determined hostility of Jesus’ opponents and how far the healed man is from adequate faith. But there is irony also: the question in verse 12 (Tij evstin o` avnqrwpoj) is the right one, while the surrounding details point toward the right answer – note the double references both to Jesus’ act of healing and to the effectual words which he used in conjunction with the act. 14 This has occasioned debate, but seems to assume that this man’s illness is related to his own sin (though it is possible to see merely analogy: illness/healing = sinfulness/salvation). Certainly it seems best to see the warning as related to final judgement, given the content of the following discourse. It may well be significant that the verb eu`riskei is used, i.e. Jesus is said to have “found” the man, implying that Jesus takes the initiative to complete his work (of spiritual, not merely, physical healing). But the translation “met”, suggesting an unplanned encounter, is also possible. 15 The man bears testimony, probably for wrong reasons, but it is true nonetheless and further emphasises both the sign and its rejection (through the phrase o` poihsaj auvton u`gih). Ridderbos points out (p.190) that this story runs parallel in several respects with that of the blind man in ch.9, but that the blind man is markedly more responsive. 16 The wrong-headed hostility of Jesus’ opponents further underlined, but now in generalising language (the two Imperfect verbs evdiwkon and evpoiei, plus the plural tauta). The first Imperfect could be inceptive (so, NRSV: “started persecuting”), but this is by no means necessary. 17f These verses connect the specific controversy with the following discourse, anticipating its terms. John invites us to see that the real issue is the identity of Jesus. Michaels (p.89) draws attention to the unusual form (aorist middle) of the verb avpekrinato here and in v.19 (the only two instances among more than 70 occurrences of the verb apokrinomai in this Gospel), and (following BAGD) takes it to suggest a solemn utterance, Jesus’ formal defence of his behaviour. Certainly John is drawing attention to the significance of Jesus’ use of the expression o` pathr mou.The choice required by the textual variant between inclusion and omission of Ivhsouj does not affect the meaning, whereas kurioj would be interesting in this context, but has little support. 5:19-47 A closely-packed passage theologically, focused on the person of Jesus as Son and the work of Jesus as mediator of both life and judgement. Closely related to these is the theme of witnesses to Jesus, and the call for faith in response to such witness. Beasley-Murray suggests plausibly that the shape of 5:17-47 reflects the concern of a missionary apologetic toward the Jews, of the proclamation and justification of the Christian view of Jesus [his general section 4:43-5:47, pp.79-81 is worth reading]. 19 Should be read in conjunction with verse 18: the equality of the Son with God the Father is not an independent divinity, but precisely the dependence and imitation of faithful sonship. Yet this is also a statement of a perfect correspondence of behaviour (and, by implication, of character). The last clause is the first of a series of gar clauses, which together serve to reinforce and expand on the initial statement. This first gar clause essentially repeats the initial statement, but probably links in with the language of evrgazomai and evrga in vv. 17 & 20, thus implying that the evidence of Jesus’ Sonship is to be found in his acts. 20 The first half is the second gar clause: the Son’s ability perfectly to imitate the Father springs from the latter’s full love and confidence. This is reinforced by a kai clause: the Father has yet greater works for the Son to do, works of life-giving and judgement (vv 21f) which go beyond his healing and teaching on this Sabbath. 21 The third gar clause, here introducing an outworking and evidence of the relationship declared in vv 19f: the Son exercises according to his own will the exclusively divine prerogative of raising the dead and giving life. The expression evgeirei touj nekrouj and the sequel of judging suggest that we should take the eschatological sense to be primary, but the use of zw||opoiei in parallel (which is the verb explicitly picked up with reference to Jesus) and the wider Johannine context encourage us to see an anticipatory action in the present. 22 The parallel action, again a divine prerogative, of judgment (the last of the four gar clauses). The negative first half should not be understood absolutely, but as saying that God the Father judges no one without reference to the Son. It is nonetheless a very striking statement, since both the OT and later Jewish thought see judgment as the exclusive prerogative of God. 23 To divine function is now added divine honour: Jesus is to receive honour kaqwj (just as) God himself, and from this point failure to honour him in this fashion is a failure to give due honour to God himself. The second half, of course, implies judgment. 24 A pressing home of the implications of all this for those who hear: pistij means zwh aivwnioj, life of the Age to Come; avpistia means coming eivj krisin, and such adverse judgment is linked with qanatoj. But this is a “realised eschatology” (to be balanced by vv 25-29): those who have pistij can enter into life now. 25 The tension declared: the hour of resurrection life is yet to come, but is also already present in the ministry of Jesus. The language here may well be reminiscent of the passage in Ezekiel (37:1-14) about the valley of dry bones, where it is the word of God (Yahweh) through the prophet which gives life. 26 This should be understood in the light of the Prologue, especially vv.2-4: this is not a giving in time but eternity [or it means “the power of life”]. 27 It is for this reason that Jesus has authority to exercise judgment, but also because he is ui`oj avnqrwpou. Without article, hence because he is human (as well as divine, which is already established)? But it is probably still titular, ie as Danielic Son of Man. The absence of articles could be intended to strengthen the echo of Daniel 7. 28f The clearly future dimension, which strengthens the case for a reference to the Danielic Son of Man in v.27. Note that the kai nun evstin of v.25 is not repeated. Jesus gives life and judges now in anticipation of his role at the End. In the context of this Gospel oi` ta avgaqa poihsantej should be understood as designating either simply those who have put their faith in the Son or those whose actions have demonstrated such faith. 30 Resumptive of vv.19f., but applied now to the role of judgment. 31f. A shift from the theme of life-giving and judgement to that of marturia/witness. But there are two points of connection: Jesus is continuing to confront their challenge, which bears on his identity and authority, and he is continuing to reply by appealing to his special relationship with God the Father. That is, given verse 34, he is not yet appealing to John’s testimony but is saying that in his case self-testimony is not unsupported, but is necessarily the Father’s testimony also. 33-35 But Jesus shows himself ready to appeal also to corroborative testimony at a human level, and appeals first to John the Baptist. The terms of verse 35 are strongly positive but probably also imply, certainly in this Gospel, a subordinate place (as a lucnoj, and proj w`ran - for a time). Its language is probably intended to recall Psalm 132:16f. [LXX contains not only lucnoj but also avgalliaomai, and cristoj]. The “for a time” may imply criticism of the Jewish leaders, but could simply describe John’s correct role.36 Jesus now returns to the divine testimony, but in the form in which it becomes accessible to human observation, ie the evrga which he does (picking up the earlier language of “works” and making explicit the implication of v.19). The evgw at the beginning is emphatic, helping to convey the uniqueness of Jesus’ case. 37f The precise reference of 37a is not clear – probably it either refers to Scripture, anticipating verse 39, or is a more forceful restating of verse 36 (a possible use of kai in Greek). It is not clear whether 37b is critical (presumably of a failure to see and hear the Father in the Son) or a statement of fact, but 38 is certainly critical: they fail to receive God’s marturia because they reject Jesus who embodies that testimony. 39f Jesus now explicitly appeals to the testimony of the Scriptures. He acknowledges that they diligently study them, but accuses them of failing to see that they point to him, and thus failing to attain what they desire when it is freely offered to them. Ridderbos (p.204) notes that “the word used here for ‘search’ or ‘explore’ [evraunate] corresponds to a rabbinic term – daraš, cf. ‘midrash’ – which denoted professional study and exposition of the law”, and goes on to infer a criticism of the way in which they study the Scriptures. 41 Jesus reiterates that he is not concerned about human testimony [doxa can mean opinion or reputation or praise, as well as glory], probably to avoid misinterpretation of his concern for their response. 42 Ambiguous, but in context probably accuses them of lacking a love for God, despite their study of the Scriptures. 43f This is made evident by their rejection of Jesus: their concern is really for human doxa (opinion/glory/praise) rather than for God. There is a textual variant in 44b: UBS4 rates inclusion of qeou as B. Significant early mss. omit it, but many include it, and omission of the abbreviated form QU within TOUMONOUQUOU is easy to understand. With or without qeou, but especially with it, the expression tou monou is interesting. It probably makes the point that their concern is for what many people think rather than what the one and only God thinks. 45 This probably alludes to the Jewish expectation that Moses, who interceded in his lifetime, continued to intercede for the Jewish people in heaven. Jesus attacks their wrongly-based confidence both in Moses and in the Pentateuch. 46 Possibly a reference specifically to Deut. 18:15 but it may well be that the effect of the Pentateuch as a whole, and indeed of all the Scriptures, is in mind (given v.39). 47 Jesus implies that his speech has the same authority as the Mosaic writings. Or it may even be, as Köstenberger suggests (p.195), that this is an example of the established rabbinic practice of arguing from the lesser (here, Moses) to the greater (Jesus).|