This afternoon I was working on getting ready for our study tomorrow morning. We are in John 5. I am behind this week and have not gotten the time into the study that I would like. I had divided the chapter into paragraphs but that is about as far as I had gotten. You know the chapter, it starts at the pool of Bethesda and ends with Christ rebuking the Jews for not understanding the Word. I got stuck in the pool.
Slowed Way Down
It is going to take several days to share what I saw this afternoon. I have read this passage multiple times probably fast forwarded through it to get to the “good part.” The Lord stopped me in my tracks this afternoon.
What’s Not There?
What is the first question that pops in your mind when you read John 5:1? In my notes I wrote, “Which feast.” I spent a few minutes thinking through the timeline to try to figure it out, then remembered that John isn’t necessarily chronological. It dawned on me that it really did not matter. If it had mattered, the Holy Spirit would have had John tell us. But that was not all I saw.
What Shouldn’t Be There?
John 5:3 ends in my Bible with the last phrase in brackets with all of verse 4 inside those brackets. Your bible probably has a similar device. Why? In the earliest Greek manuscripts that have been found, the description of the reason people are at the pool is not in the text. Most scholars will say that this is a late scribal addition to try to explain what John left out. If you read 1 – 5 without the added verse, you have a man laying by a pool with a bunch of other sick people and you are told that he had been ill for 38 years. You do not know yet what is wrong with him.
If you are like me and most others, you want to know. That is probably what drove the scribe to add the explanation. The problem with the addition is that it clouds John’s purpose, it takes the focus off of Christ and onto the surroundings.
What Does That Tell Us?
Working through this a principle emerged. In other scenes at other feasts, more detail is given. We are told which feast is being celebrated, we are told details about the surroundings and why people are there. Here, removing the scribal addition, we are not. The point is when detail that is given other places is not provided the omission is intentional, and it is not required to make the point the Holy Spirit wants to make. The detail given is to be our focus.
I was privileged to equip members of underground churches in a country a couple of years ago. As I typically do I focused our time on 2 Peter. One of the questions in the overview is when was the book written, based on your observation. The answer is in 2 Peter 1:14, toward the end of Peter’s life. One of the men wanted to know how old Peter was when he was executed. I said I did not know. He said he needed to know that to understand the passage. I pointed out that was not the case. In other passages in the Scripture, notably Genesis, 1 and 2 Kings, and 1 and 2 Chronicles we are told the ages of people and are given enough data to determine how old they were when they died. Not so with Peter. So it is apparently not important to know that in order to get what the Holy Spirit wants us to see.
We Have What We Need
2 Peter 1:3 – 4 tells us that God has given us all we need for life and godliness. That includes all we need in the text of the Bible. Secondary sources can be helpful, but most of us go to them much too quickly. We should spend more time in observation. That should be our focus.
Tomorrow I will share the observations I made on John 5:6