Ezekiel 47.1-9,12; Psalm 45; John 5.1-3,5-16
Another singularity of John’s Gospel is that in it alone do we find the chronology of a three-year public ministry of Jesus with his disciples. John has Jesus and his disciples going regularly to Jerusalem to observe the pilgrimage feasts (Passover, Pentecost and Purim). In particular, John articulates three Passovers, all celebrated in Jerusalem. [2.13; 6.1-4; 11.55] Today’s Gospel lesson takes place at an unnamed ‘Jewish festival’. This may have been a fourth Passover in Jesus’ public life, but it could have been at any of the pilgrimage feasts.
The emphasis that John places on water is striking: in four of the seven signs; in Jesus’ nocturnal dialogue with Nicodemus [3.5], in his dialogue with a Samaritan woman [4.1-16], and in his pronouncement in the Temple during one Hanukkah [7.37-39]. Most of all, it is John who records Jesus’ cry of thirst from the Cross [19.28] and that on the Cross Jesus’ side was pierced with a soldier’s spear, bringing an effusion of blood and water. [19.34]
‘Do you want to be healed?’ Jesus asked the paralytic man. Lent—which St Gregory the Great in a hymn called ‘the healing season’—poses that question directly to each of us. ‘Come to the waters’ Jesus invites us. [cf Isaiah 55.1] Water is at once refreshment and danger. Only by disregarding the peril can we receive the promised peace and satisfaction and healing.