Leaving the past behind


John 5:1-18


1. Signs which point to Jesus
The New Testament uses three words to describe miracles:

  1. dunamis = the manifestation of God’s power.  The word occurs 38 times in three of the four Gospels and is translated “power”, or “mighty works”.  In John it does not occur at all.
  2. teras = a wonder.  This word describes the effect that the miracle has on those who witnessed it.  It is always translated “wonder”, and occurs three times in three of the Gospels.  Outside of the Gospels it occurs in Acts, Romans, Corinthians, Thessalonians and Hebrews.  It does not occur in Luke’s Gospel; and only once in Matthew, Mark and John. 
  3. semeion = a sign.  This word shows the significance of the miracle.  It occurs in the Gospels 48 times.

All three of the above words occur in one verse (Heb. 2:4):

God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.


In John semeion occurs 17 times.  No other word is used for a “miracle” in John, except on an occasion when it doesn’t point to the work of God (4:48):

47When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.

48“Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”

49The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”


Of all Jesus’ miracles John records only eight; and these are all “signs”, not “wonders” or “mighty works”.


N.T. Wright describes the meaning of Signs in the gospel of John like this,

The whole point of signs is that they are moments when heaven and earth intersect with each other. (That’s what the Jews believed happened in the Temple.) The point is not that they are stories which couldn’t have happened in real life, but which point away from earth to a heavenly reality. – N.T. Wright John for Everyone.

Jesus said,

“You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that…I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

As Wright rightly states, the signs are moments when the distance between heaven and earth is paper thin. They are moments when the heavenly reality becomes earthly reality. The Jews believed that only in the temple was there a connection of heaven and earth. But Jesus brings this now in his person. He is the connection point between us and God.


This is history!

The history of the pool began in the eighth century BC, when a dam was built across the short Beth Zeta valley, turning it into a reservoir for rain water; a sluice-gate in the dam allowed the height to be controlled, and a rock-cut channel brought a steady stream of water from the reservoir into the city.


The reservoir became known as the Upper Pool. Around 200 BC, during the period in which Simon II was the Jewish High Priest, the channel was enclosed, and a second pool was added on the south side of the dam.  There is a popular legend argues that this pool was used for washing sheep.  This is very unlikely due to the pool being used as a water supply and it being 13m deep; so the NIV adds the word ‘Gate’ to make sense of verse 2 as a location finder and not about the use of the pool.


In the first century BC, natural caves to the east of the two pools were turned into small baths, as part of an asclepieion, a healing temple, sacred to the god Asclepius. More details


What happened to verse 4!

These additions were made by later scribes attempting to explain the sick man’s statement in verse 7. Probably a short addition was made first at the end of verse 3 (“and they waited for the moving of the waters”), as a point of reference for the clause “when the water is stirred up” in verse 7. Verse 4 was then added as an explanation (based on popular legend) of why the waters became agitated from time to time: “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.”.


As neither verse 3b or 4 are seen in the earliest and most reliable manuscripts, they have been relegated to a footnote in the latest translations.


2. Do you want to get well?


3. What’s stopping you?

  1. Legalism (v10-11)
  2. Ignorance (v12-15)
  3. Independence (v16-18, Eph 3.14-19)


Thinking about it some more


1. Why is Jesus’ question, ‘Do you want to get well?’, such a penetrating one? Are there ways in which you need to face up to the same question?


2. Why were the Pharisees so vehemently opposed to what Jesus had done?


3. Given the importance for Jesus of his relationship with his Father, why is the ‘Father’ image ‘suffering a degree of eclipse in much contemporary Christian consciousness’?  What can be done to restore the Father’s place in trinitarian thinking?

1 comment to Leaving the past behind

  • Avilahama

    Erm! I think there is a mistake in your profile! You no longer live in Blantisham. I thought you now live in Goddy??? That's the place to be John: Godmanchester – the center of christendom! 🙂 What's the sermon tittle again? 'Leaving the past behind'! Cracking sermon by the way John! I was blessed by it! So come on, change the profile! 😉

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