Power In The Pool: The Healing Of The Man At Bethesda And Jesus’ Violation Of The Sabbath (Jn. 5:1–18) -- By: Steven M. Bryan
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Power In The Pool:
The Healing Of The Man At Bethesda And Jesus’ Violation Of The Sabbath (Jn. 5:1–18)
The man whom Jesus healed at the pool of Bethesda in John 5 harboured a magical belief that God’s power was at certain times impersonally resident within the water and thus accessible apart from any direct intention or action by God. Similarly the Jews’ response to the man’s healing betrays their belief that, by healing on the Sabbath, Jesus has used God’s power in a way unsanctioned by God and therefore independent of God. In this context, the healing functions as a sign that the actions of Jesus are one with those of God. This sign is subsequently taken up in and explained by the following discourse which likewise has as its central theme the absolute unity which exists between the actions of the Son and his Father.
Much of what Scripture says about God is stated in deliberate contrast to pagan notions concerning the spirits and the operation of spiritual power. In what follows, I will attempt to show that much is gained by attending to the sub-text of anti-pagan rhetoric in the story of Jesus’ healing of the man at the Bethesda pool in John 5. In recent years, a spate of rhetorical studies of this text have detected a number of ‘gaps’ in the narrative.1 These gaps do not escape the attention of traditional exegetes who have, however, tended to regard them as fissures which
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may be used to isolate the text’s sources or to identify stages of textual development as a mirror of a putative Johannine community.2 My contention is that many of these gaps can be filled or at least narrowed by considering the way in which the text correlates the lame man’s magical understanding of the operation of power in the waters of Bethesda with the Jews’ view of Jesus’ power. Listening to the story in this way enables us to understand the text as a unified whole by clarifying the relationship between this particular healing and the following discourse. Though many detect links between the Sabbath controversy and the discourse, the way in which the healing itself functions as a sign that the following discourse explicates requires further clarification. This essay shows how the healing of the man on the Sabbath functions as a sign of the unity between the actions of the Son and the Father, an idea central to the following discourse. It will also provide a more satisfying answer than has yet been given to the puzzling question of why Jesus seek...
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