The Cure At The Sheep Pool
On numerous occasions Jesus healed someone on the Sabbath, which provoked the anger of the Pharisees and the Scribes, the custodians of the Law. The incident in today’s Gospel reading is another of the same.
The scene is at the Sheep Pool, to the north of the city of Jerusalem. The pool was well known as a spring with medicinal waters, which meant that the five porticos around it were crowded with the sick. Periodically the bubbling spring churned the waters, and popular belief had it that whoever descended into the pool at that time was healed. The cripple had been lying by the pool for years, but sadly had no one to take him down into the waters.
Jesus notices the cripple, and asks him – and you wonder if the question was a tease – if he wished to recover. On hearing him say yes, Jesus heals him on the spot and commands him to take up his pallet and walk away.
This cure took place on the Sabbath and the Jews raised an objection: carrying a bed or stretcher was technically “work” and Jews were not permitted to work on the Sabbath. What the former cripple was doing was “wrong”.
But the man argued back, saying “the one who cured me told me to do so. If Jesus could perform this cure, surely it was proper to obey him in this matter too.” So the Jews then turned upon Jesus for disobeying the Law.
In reply, Jesus tells his opponents: “My Father has never ceased working and I am working too.” The reference is to God’s work in creating and sustaining the world, an action which is ongoing. The implication is that Jesus is like God, who does not keep the “Sabbath rest”. Or as Jesus also said in another place, “the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” But to the Jews his comparison with God’s work of creation and sustenance sounded blasphemous, as it implied that Jesus claimed to be God.
This is not the first time, nor will it be the last, when Jesus challenges his opponents to accept his claim to be God’s own Son.
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