The Berean Expositor
Volume 33 - Page 101 of 253
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The Third Sign: (5: 1 - 15).
The Impotent Man.
The beginning of conflict; the Sabbath controversy.
pp. 216 - 221
The record of this sign commences with a reference to a feast of the Jews at
Jerusalem. Commentators, ancient and modern, have suggested almost every Jewish
feast as the one concerned. Irenĉus understood it to refer to the second Passover of our
Lord's ministry. The third would therefore be the one mentioned in John 6: 4, and the
fourth in John 11: 55. This is the view of Luther and Lightfoot. Chrysostom thought that
it would be the feast of Pentecost, Kepler that it was the feast of Purim; and others the
feast of Tabernacles, and the feast of Dedication. The omission of the article before the
word heorte, "feast", makes it unlikely that it was the Passover, and the fact that the feast
of the Dedication was "winter" (John 10: 22) makes it very unlikely, seeing that a
multitude of sick folk were waiting to plunge into the water.
Where John wishes the reader to know what particular feast is in mind, he says so.
Thus John 2: 13 connects the money-changers and the sheep with the observance of the
feast of the Passover.  In John 7: 2 the feast of Tabernacles is specified and, once
again, the utterance of the Lord "in the last day, that great day of the feast" (John 7: 37)
demands the knowledge that it was the feast of Tabernacles, to make it intelligible.
We can therefore rest assured that no lesson is to be drawn from any particular feast
(John 5:), except, perhaps, the fact that the reference to this feast as simply "a feast of the
Jews" indicates the hollowness and barrenness of much that then pertained to the Jew's
The occasion of this third sign was that a pool of water near the sheep market or
sheep gate, known in the Aramaic tongue as Bethesda, and having five porches, was
endowed, at periods, with healing powers, which rightly or wrongly were attributed to the
interposition of an angel who troubled the waters.
It is suggestive that the corresponding sign--that of the healing of the blind man at the
pool of Siloam recorded in  chapter 9:--deals with a pool, the name of which is
interpreted for the reader and, moreover, the healing took place on a sabbath day, as does
the parallel healing to John 5:
Bethesda means, "The house of mercy", and, like Siloam, which we are told means
"Sent", is intentionally introduced by the writer. This word kolumbethra, which means
"swimming pool", occurs five times in the N.T., and in no other passage than John 9:,
the corresponding sixth sign. Why is attention drawn to the fact that the pool was
surrounded by "five porches"? If there were gates or steps they are not mentioned, but
only the porches, which we must therefore consider have special significance. Is it
possible that John saw in the five porches a reference to the Pentateuch, the five books of