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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[John 5:1–47]

AT the time of a certain festival Jesus went up again to Jerusalem. Now there was at Jerusalem a pond called Probatica, which in Hebrew is named Bethsaida. It was surrounded by a great building which had five porches, under which lay, at times, a great multitude of the sick, the lame, the blind and the infirm, waiting for the movement of the water. For, at certain times, an angel came down into the pond and moved the water; and he who first went down into the pool after the angel’s visit, was cured of his disease.

Among the crowd of those who wished to be healed there was a man who had been infirm thirty-eight years. Jesus, seeing him, was moved to pity, and said to him: “Wilt thou be made whole?” The infirm man answered: “Sir, I have no one, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pond; for, whilst I am coming, another goeth down before me. Jesus said to him: “Arise, take up thy bed and walk!” Immediately the man was healed, and he took up his bed, and went away rejoicing.

This took place on the Sabbath. The Jews, therefore, seeing the man carrying his bed, said to him: “It is the Sabbath! It is not lawful for thee to take up thy bed.” The man answered: “He who made me whole, He said to me: ‘Take up thy bed and walk?’ ”

But the Jews asked again: “Who is He that said to thee: ‘Take up thy bed and walk!’ ” Now the man was not able to tell them, for Jesus had withdrawn from the multitude. Soon after, Jesus met this same man in the Temple, and said to him: “Behold, thou art made whole; sin no more, lest some worse thing happen to thee.” The man then went his way, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him.

The Jews, concealing their envy under the cloak of zeal for the law, persecuted1 Jesus for curing the man on the Sabbath. But Jesus said to them: “My Father worketh until now, and I work.” Hearing this, the Jews sought the more to kill Him, because He not only, as they thought, broke the Sabbath, but also, said that God was His Father, making Himself equal to God.

Jesus then gave them more plainly to understand that He was the Son of God and equal to the Father: “Amen, amen, I say unto you; the Son cannot do anything of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do; for what things soever He doeth, these the Son also doeth in like manner. For the Father loveth the Son, and showeth Him all things which Himself doeth; and greater works than these will He show Him, that you may wonder.

“For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and giveth life, so the Son also giveth life to whom He will. For neither doth the Father judge any man, but hath committed all judgment to the Son, that all men may honour the Son as they honour the Father. Amen, amen, I say unto you, he that heareth My word and believeth Him that sent Me hath everlasting life. Amen, amen, I say unto you, that the hour cometh and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live. Wonder not at this, for the hour cometh, wherein all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God. And they that have done good things, shall come forth unto the resurrection of life, but they that have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.”

Our Lord’s own testimony to His Divinity. In this chapter our Lord openly and clearly asserts and proves His equality with the Father. He is one with Him in nature, in power, and action. “My Father worketh until now, and I work.” He too, like the Father, is Lord of the Sabbath. He, like the Father, has life in Himself and can raise the dead to life. The Jews perfectly understood that He made Himself equal to the Father, and our Lord, far from correcting their interpretation, rather confirmed it in the most solemn manner by an appeal to His works: “Amen, amen, I say unto you &c.”, and finally claimed the same honour and worship as the Father.

Jesus the Judge of all men. The Son of God having become Man and redeemed mankind, it is He who will judge men as to the use and misuse of the grace of Redemption.

God’s unceasing Action (Old Test. I). About this St. Chrysostom writes thus: “If you observe the rising and the setting of the sun, the movement of the earth, the ponds, springs, rivers, rain, in fact the whole process of nature, whether as seen in plants or in our own bodies and those of the beasts, or in any other thing which the hand of God touches, you will recognize the unceasing work of the Father.”

Observance of the Sabbath. “The Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath” (Luke 6:5). He permitted the man to prove the completeness of his cure by taking up his bed and carrying it home—therefore it was lawful for the man to do it.

Eternal and Temporal punishment. Grave sin brings on us both eternal and temporal punishment. Our Lord’s words: “Sin no more, lest some worse thing happen to thee”, are a proof of this.

Relapse into sin. Our Lord warned the cured man not to fall back into sin, because a relapse leads easily to impenitence, and thereby to everlasting damnation.

A type of Baptism. The Pool of Bethsaida was a type of that spring of grace, holy Baptism. As in the one all possible diseases of the body were cured, so in Baptism all possible sins are remitted.

The misery of unredeemed mankind. The condition of the sick man, for so many years miserable and abandoned by all who might have helped him, is, according to St. Augustine, Venerable Bede and others, a striking picture of the misery of unredeemed mankind. Man had turned away from God, and had remained sunk in vice and sin for four thousand years; and there was no one to help him. Then the Son of God had mercy on him and became Man Himself in order to redeem him. He, the Incarnate Son of God, is our helper and comforter!

APPLICATION. Each sin you commit deserves a punishment which you must suffer either here or in Purgatory. Have you ever thought seriously about this? Do you not sometimes say to yourself: “Oh, such and such a sin will hurt no one?” Ah, but it will hurt your own soul, and draw down punishment on you! Do some voluntary penance and guard more carefully against sin for the future.

God works day and night, and every moment, for your good. And you do not thank Him! You do not love Him at all, or, at least, very little!








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