The gospel of John tells of the conflicts of Jesus in Jerusalem. The background for today’s dispute took place on his second visit. He stopped near the Sheep Gate where there was a large pond with five paved landings extending into it. It was thought that if a sick person entered the water when it bubbled up they would be cured. A paralyzed man had been there for thirty-eight years hoping he would be so blessed.
Jesus stopped by and asked him, "Do you want to be well?" The sick man said he had no one to put him into the water. Jesus told him: "Rise, take up your mat and walk." He was cured. Jewish authorities questioned him carrying a mat on the Sabbath. He explained: "The man who made me well told me to take up the mat and walk."
At the time, he did not know who Jesus was. Jesus encountered him in the temple and warned him: "You are well, sin no more." He then informed the authorities that Jesus cured him.
That started an official investigation. Strangely, there was no question of the cure, or how the power of God was involved. How dare Jesus cure on the Sabbath and have the man carry his mat?
Jesus claims he is at work just as God, his Father is at work and so is claiming equality with God. The evangelist comments: "The Jews were more determined to kill him (for) speaking of God as his own Father and as God’s equal."
Jesus makes more claims to divinity: "…as the Father possesses life in himself so has he granted it to the Son to have life in himself."
The authorities refuse to hear all this and ignore God’s approval in the manifest cure. They sin against the evident truth!
They will do so again with the cure of the man born blind. Jesus is telling the Jewish authorities that he is the Living God, the Son of God come into their midst.
The Jews will not listen; they will not consider the physical evidence. None are so blind as those who will not see.
This incident is certainly written "that you may believe that the Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God and that through this belief you may have life in his name." That was the concluding sentence of the gospel and tells us who and what Christ is for us.
It is also a warning that we can close our minds to the known truth of what God wants of us. To ignore the known truth, God’s evident command, is a sin said "to cry out for the vengeance of God." The Jews were guilty in closing their eyes to the truth of Christ’s divinity. We can close our eyes to his demands that we keep his commandments. If we believe he is God’s Son, our Teacher and our Redeemer there are consequences that are eternal.
Fr. Fred Sucher, C.P. is retired and lives in the Passionist community in Chicago. For many years he taught philosophy to Passionist seminarians.