The occasion of today’s Gospel story was a festival of the Jews in Jerusalem to which Jesus went up, probably Pentecost, the spring harvest festival. The place where the event in today’s Gospel took place was a pool called either Bethseda, which means House of Mercy, or Beth-zatha, which means House of Olives. Around it were five porticoes where many invalids lay in hope of being cured.
Several years ago when I visited Jerusalem I was taken to see this pool near the site of St. Anne’s Church. Because of the way in which the city grew up around and above that place the actual pool is perhaps 40 or 50 feet beneath ground level. We could see the pool far below us, and what was left of some of the porticoes, with some of the mosaic designs on them, and with pillars that had held up some sort of sheltering roof over the places where those waiting to be healed would be lying in wait of a chance to enter the pool when the waters were periodically troubled by underground surges.
Ezekiel 47:1-9,12/Psalm 46:1-8/John 5:1-18
Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a festival of the Jews because he was, of course, Jewish–and going up to Jerusalem was what you did. Jesus and his disciples were Jewish and thought of themselves as such—the divorce between church and synagogue was still some decades away. Jesus and his followers were still very much grounded in the Jewish tradition.