|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
5:1-9 We are all by nature impotent folk in spiritual things, blind, halt, and withered; but full provision is made for our cure, if we attend to it. An angel went down, and troubled the water; and what disease soever it was, this water cured it, but only he that first stepped in had benefit. This teaches us to be careful, that we let not a season slip which may never return. The man had lost the use of his limbs thirty-eight years. Shall we, who perhaps for many years have scarcely known what it has been to be a day sick, complain of one wearisome night, when many others, better than we, have scarcely known what it has been to be a day well? Christ singled this one out from the rest. Those long in affliction, may comfort themselves that God keeps account how long. Observe, this man speaks of the unkindness of those about him, without any peevish reflections. As we should be thankful, so we should be patient. Our Lord Jesus cures him, though he neither asked nor thought of it. Arise, and walk. God's command, Turn and live; Make ye a new heart; no more supposes power in us without the grace of God, his distinguishing grace, than this command supposed such power in the impotent man: it was by the power of Christ, and he must have all the glory. What a joyful surprise to the poor cripple, to find himself of a sudden so easy, so strong, so able to help himself! The proof of spiritual cure, is our rising and walking. Has Christ healed our spiritual diseases, let us go wherever he sends us, and take up whatever he lays upon us; and walk before him.
Verses 1-47. -
1. Christ proved, by signs and wonders and testimonies, to be Source of life. Verses 1-9. -
(1) A sign on a paralyzed body and an unsusceptible soul. Verse 1. - The journey to Jerusalem is said to have taken place at the time of "a feast," or "the feast of the Jews." After these things (μετα ταῦτα). Suggesting a number of events, not necessarily connected with each other. (For the latter idea of a period expressed by μετα τοῦτο see John 2:12 and John 11:7, 11; for μετα ταῦτα, see John 6:1 and John 21:1. etc.) There was the feast of the Jews. Now, "the feast" of the Jews could hardly be any other than the second Passover, while John 6:4 would indicate a third. "The feast" referred to in John 4:45 undoubtedly means the first Passover. "A feast" would leave the question open, though by no means excluding positively the second Passover, as the anarthrousness of the word might be chosen with a view to call special attention to it. However, the indefinite ἑορτη has been identified by commentators with every feast in the calendar, so there can be no final settlement of the problem. If the feast be the Passover, then our Lord's ministry lasted a little more than three years. If not, it must be one or other of the feasts that elapsed between the Passovers of ch. 2 and ch. 6 Edersheim, with many others, refuses to accept any chronological hint in John 4:35, and therefore throws the journey from Jerusalem to Galilee a few weeks after the first Passover, in the early summer, and supposes that Jesus returned to the unnamed feast in the autumn. Several critics say of John 4:35, one part of the sentence must be parabolical and the other literal, and that the disciples might be anticipating a spiritual harvest after four months, and Jesus drew from the physically ripening corn fields his comparison. This seems to me entirely contrary to our Lord's ordinary method; and that the disciples were in too carnal a mood to be credited with an anticipation of spiritual results in Samaria at all. Those who think that John 4:35 does give a hint of four months preceding harvest, place the journey between the middle of December and the middle of January. To my mind there is consequently no difficulty in imagining that when those four months should have been spent, and before the regular calling and appointment of the twelve apostles, our Lord should have gone up to the feast - one of the feasts which did summon the adult men to the metropolis. This is the view of Irenaeus, Luther, Cretins, Lampe, Neander, Hengstenberg, Conder, and many others. Wieseler, Hug, Meyer Lance, Godet, Weiss, Farrar, Watkins, think that the Feast of Purim, celebrated on the 15th of Adar (or March) (2 Macc. 15:36), in commemoration of the deliverance of the people from the evil intention of Haman (Esther 9:21, etc.), was that national fast and feast which Jesus thus honoured. Purim was not one of the divinely appointed festivals, but it is also stated that the Lord undoubtedly attended one of the national and recently appointed festivals, that of Dedication (John 10:22). The more serious objection is that it could, if desired, have been celebrated quite as well in Galilee as in Jerusalem, and that the method of celebration seemed contrary to the whole spirit of the Master, and the whole tone of the discourse which followed. It is said that part of the ritual of the feast was the free and frequent gifts made spontaneously by one to another. Westcott prefers the autumn Feast of Trumpets as more suitable on several grounds than the Passover,
(1) because of the absence of the article, - this, however, is very problematical (see Tischendorf, 8th edit.);
(2) because when at the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:2) the incident described in ch. 5 is still in lively recollection;
(3) because the great events of the Feast of Trumpets, the commemoration of the Creation and the Law giving, correspond with the theme of the Lord's great discourse. The fact that this particular miracle on the sabbath should be referred to a few mouths later in Jerusalem, on Christ's third appearance there, is not improbable, if we bear in mind that Judaean emissaries in Galilee had been bitterly assailing Jesus, on the ground of his persistent determination to heal sickness and hopeless maladies on the sabbath day. This Jerusalem "sign," and the claim he made on the ground of it, had roused the cry, and was still the matter of contention. The claims of the Purim feast turn principally on the fact that, since it occurred, about a month before the Passover, on the 14th or 15th of Adar, this visit might have taken place in the course of the four months referred to in John 4:35, and therefore between the sojourn in Samaria and the Passover of John 6:4, which Jesus diet not attend. Dr. Moulton (assuming the anarthrous form of the ἑορτη) thinks that the feast is left undetermined because there was nothing in it typical of our Lord's work, and fulfilled in his Person. Such a position renders the visit itself strange and apparently unealled for. These long gaps, silences, during which there is no record of event or discourse, constitute a leading feature of the gospel history, and indeed of most of the history of both Old and New Testaments. To my mind there is advantage rather than otherwise in supposing more time than a few months to have been consumed in the Galilaean ministry described in Mark 2 and 3 Tregelles and the Revisers, with Westcott and Hort, have relegated the δευτεροπρωτω of Luke 6:1 to the margin, but; Tischendorf (8th edit.) and Canon Cooke, etc., retain the remarkable expression, on the overwhelming evidence of a host of authorities. If it stand, which we believe it must, then during the Galilaean ministry, and in the interval which preceded the Passover mentioned in ch. 6:4, there is a reference to the proximity of a previous Passover and a previous harvest; the Galilaean opposition to Christ on this question of ritual being at its very height. If so, the feast must have been the Passover. The question cannot be finally settled, and commentators are in hopeless conflict with one another. It must be admitted that the majority of modern critics assume the Feast of Purim to be that intended, and thereby reduce the length of our Lord's ministry from Cana to Calvary to two short years. And Jesus went up to Jerusalem. This was before the formal call of the twelve apostles, and there is no proof that he was accompanied by his disciples. Many of the commentators (and see Weiss, 'Life of Christ,' vol. 2:321) urge that not even John himself was present on the occasion, from the absence of lifelike touches and particularity of incident. There is, however, much detail in the first fifteen verses. The great discourse that follows is not broken into dramatic dialogue, and does certainly present more of the biographer's subjective treatment than other portions of the narrative. It is more conceivable, however, that John did, on grounds mentioned by Caspari (see Introduction), accompany his Lord, and learned, by what he heard of these great words, and by subsequent converse with Jesus, the burden of the mighty revelation. Thoma sets to work in the most dogmatic way, and Weiss with a perfectly different spirit, to demonstrate the identity of the narrative which follows, with the famous story of the cure of the paralytic "borne of four" which occurs in the synoptic narrative. Thoma goes further, and imagines that the supposed healing of the paralytics by both Peter and Paul are also here idealized.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
After this there was a feast of the Jews,.... After Christ had been in Samaria, which was four months ago, John 4:35, and had been in Galilee for that time, and had cured the nobleman's son, and had done other mighty works, the time came on for one of the three festivals of the Jews; either the feast of Pentecost, as some think; or as others, the feast of tabernacles; or rather, the feast of the passover, so called, in John 4:45 since John is very particular, in giving an account of the several passovers, in Christ's ministry:
and Jesus went up to Jerusalem; according to the law of God, which obliged all the males to appear there at that time; and to show his compliance with it, and obedience to it, whom it became to fulfil all righteousness; and this he did also, that he might have an opportunity of discoursing, and doing his miracles before all the people, which came at this time, from the several parts of the land.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Joh 5:1-47. The Impotent Man Healed—Discourse Occasioned by the Persecution Arising Thereupon.
1. a feast of the Jews—What feast? No question has more divided the Harmonists of the Gospels, and the duration of our Lord's ministry may be said to hinge on it. For if, as the majority have thought (until of late years) it was a Passover, His ministry lasted three and a half years; if not, probably a year less. Those who are dissatisfied with the Passover-view all differ among themselves what other feast it was, and some of the most acute think there are no grounds for deciding. In our judgment the evidence is in favor of its being a Passover, but the reasons cannot be stated here.
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