The man went and told the Jews
that Jesus was the one who had made him well.
Therefore, the Jews began to persecute Jesus
because he did this on a sabbath.
In today's gospel, Jesus swoops in from out of nowhere on an old man who has been idling by the Pool of Bethesda for thirty-eight years. He may be the patron saint of loafers who claim disabilities when they are able to work.
Asked if he wants to be healed by an unknown stranger -- a tourist? a journalist? a snooping spy from the religious establishment? -- he replies disingenuously, "Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me."
So do you want to be healed or not?
Jesus heals him anyway and then disappears into the crowd.
When Jesus does reappear the fellow knows who he is and reports him to the authorities, who take up their quarrel with Jesus.
Jesus has healed on the Sabbath. Some rabbis of the time argued that even God worked on the Sabbath, as evidenced by the babies who were born and the people who died on that day. Birth and death are clearly God's bailiwick.
Jesus' healing on the Sabbath, an apparently unnecessary violation of the Sabbath taboo, reveals him as God's Son. No one else would dare to do this:
Amen, amen, I say to you, a son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees his father doing; for what he does, his son will do also. For the Father loves his Son and shows him everything that he himself does, and he will show him greater works than these, so that you may be amazed. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes. Nor does the Father judge anyone, but he has given all judgment to his Son,I don't remember what year it was that I became fascinated with John 5 and it's portrayal of Jesus as the obedient Son of the Father. I can only say this has been a fount of endless reflection for me, and the beginning of my fascination with the neglected doctrine of the Holy Trinity.
Anyone who does not know Jesus as the obedient Son of the Father knows nothing of Jesus and, very likely, his worship is idolatry. Our God is obedient. If your god does what he wants as he wants whenever he wants, you don't know Jesus, much less his freedom.
As we advance deeper into Lent and the Paschal Mystery let us be alert to what the Lord is saying to us and how this encounter might alter everything we thought we knew about faith.