John's Gospel

The Way It Happened

John 5:2, the Sign of Ahaz, part I of II

Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades.

//Seldom does John include a story in his Gospel without a deep theological undercurrent. Today’s verse begins the famous story of the lame man at the pool. He lies waiting for the water to be “troubled,” indicating the presence of a healing angel, and Jesus tells him instead to just get up and carry his mat away. Miraculously healed, the man obeys.

But is there some significance to the location at the pool of Bethesda? This location has a history. Hundreds of years earlier, King Ahaz made a trip to Jerusalem to inspect this pool, to insure that an adequate water supply existed in the case of an attack by the Assyrians.

Ahaz is making plans that do not meet the approval of God, and when he arrives at Bethesda, the prophet Isaiah confronts him. Isaiah offers to provide a sign from God as evidence of God’s direction, and Ahaz refuses, presumably to avoid being presented with evidence that he was in the wrong.

Isaiah provides the sign anyway, in another very famous Biblical passage. The sign Isaiah proposes is that a young maiden will bear a child, and name him Emmanuel.

How does any of this relate to New Testament times? Besides the obvious, that is, of how this child became understood as a prophecy of the birth of Jesus? I’ll let you ponder, and continue the story tomorrow.

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