“Word for Today” – John 5 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

March 23, 2009 at 5:45 am Leave a comment


flu-1The winter of 2004-2005 was a warm one.  But it wasn’t the temperatures outside that were soaring; rather, it was the fevers of countless thousands around the United States as they came down with winter’s most antagonistic ailment:  the flu. The Chiron Corporation, based out of Great Britain and the world’s second leading supplier of the flu vaccine, had its supply suspended by the US government early in the flu season when worries about the safety its vaccine arose.  This left only domestic suppliers distributing the vaccine, effectively cutting our supply of this much needed inoculation in half.  The result?  At nearly every clinic doling out the vaccine, there were long lines full of worried patients hoping to receive their shot first before the preciously scarce supply ran out and the flu wreaked havoc on their health.

In our text for today from John 5, we read of a man who had been invalid for some 38 years (see verse 5).  And although John does not tell us what his precise malady was, we can surmise that he was at least lame, if not paralyzed.

Now, if you read the story of this invalid man carefully, you may have noticed an anomaly in your text.  This man’s story begins in verse one, proceeds to verse two, then on to verse three, and then verse…five?  Yes, verse five.  What’s the deal with this?  Did someone forget how to count?  Was the number four unlucky and so they decided to leave it out, kind of like the thirteenth floor at a Las Vegas hotel?

The modern day chapter and verse divisions of the Bible come down to us from a man named Stephen Langton, who was the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1207 to 1228.  When he first divided John 5 into verses, there was indeed a verse four that read thusly:  “From time to time an angel of the Lord would come down and stir up the waters.  The first one into the pool after each such disturbance would be cured of whatever disease he had.”  Since Langton’s enumeration of this text, however, scholars have discovered better and older manuscripts which leave these words out.  Indeed, even many of the ancient manuscripts which do include them only do so with an asterisk, marking these words as non-original.  Thus, most modern versions of the Bible either include verse four only as a footnote, or not at all.

Despite the fact that these words were probably not part of John’s original gospel, they do provide us with valuable information concerning the superstitious air that surrounded the Pool of the Bethesda.  The legend went like this:  The first one into the pool when it bubbled received the pool’s precious and healing vaccination.  Everyone else was out of luck.  You can imagine the long lines that formed around this pool.  For this pool’s bubbling elixir was scarcer than a flu vaccine.

The problem for the invalid man of John 5, then, would have been clear enough:  Due to his ailment, he could never make it into the pool fast enough to receive its precious healing.  In fact, he could not make it to the pool at all.  Thank God he didn’t need to.  Because rather than making it to the pool, one day, a man named Jesus makes it to him.  And he makes it to him with words of healing:  “Get up!  Pick up your mat and walk” (verse 8).  And the man does.

Is there, or has there ever been, a place in your life where you wonder if will “make it?”  Make it to the next paycheck.  Make it to the next meeting.  Make it through the sickness.  Make it to the end of the week when today’s only Monday.  The promise of John 5 is that the point at which we feel as though we just can’t “make it” is precisely the point at which Jesus makes his way to us.  He makes his way to meet our needs, comfort our pains, and even forgive our sins.  In fact, some time after Jesus heals this man, he meets up with again.  And the way John describes their second encounter is worth noting:  “Later Jesus found the man at the temple” (verse 14).  Jesus sought.  And Jesus found.  He made it to the man he was looking for.  And he’s made it to you too.  So tell Jesus what’s on your mind today.  He’s right next to you to listen and to help.

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Entry filed under: Word for Today.

“Word for Today” – John 4 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com “Word for Today” – John 6 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

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