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Why did the lame man in John 5:1-15 not know that Jesus healed him, but the blind man in John 9 knew that Jesus healed him?

Neither one asked for Jesus to heal him. The lame man could see, but didn’t recognize Jesus who healed him:

Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. (John 5:13, ESV)

The blind man did not see Jesus when or after he healed him, but knew that Jesus healed him:

He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.” (John 9:11)

The blind man fit into Jesus’ theme of being the light of the world. It was fitting that he recognized Jesus and believed in him. But what is the historical basis?

Perhaps it is because people usually learn names by hearing and not seeing them. The blind man was preoccupied with receiving help from others. He was listening. The blind man picked up on Jesus’ name by hearing, while the lame man was preoccupied with trying to get into the pool to be healed and wasn’t listening.

The lame man was at Bethesda (בֵּית חַסְדָּא) = house of mercy. He was busy with a scheme to heal himself when he needed Jesus’ ability to heal him. Perhaps John included this miracle in his gospel to point out our need for Jesus to save us.

Is this valid hermeneutics? Is there more historical reasons to explain this question?

  • As far as I understand it, the text simply says that Christ vanished or disappeared into the crowd shortly thereafter, and the man was not able to locate him in the multitude. – Lucian Jul 1 at 15:54
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Is this simply not a matter of what social "circles" each therapee moved in?

The crippled man had been at the pool of Bethesda for 38 years and presumably knew very few people apart from those superstitious enough to wait with him at the pool for healing. Jesus had never met him and he did not know Jesus. It was only when Jesus asked that He learned that the man had been an invalid for so long.

By contrast, the man born blind was begging in a prominent thoroughfare and was well known. Reciprocally, the blind man would have heard and become used to many voices and people telling many stories about the great Rabbi, Jesus, who was doing many things. The disciples were familiar enough that they knew he had been born blind without having to enquire after him.

Lastly, I am sure that some details of the story in each case have been redacted for the sake of brevity. It is entirely possible that Jesus or one of the disciples had introduced Jesus to the blind man and this detail was not recorded.

Preachers (quite correctly) make much of these stories because they are dramatic, didactic and pregnant with a plethora of theological overtones. The OP's question suggests one of many of these "overtones".

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I would say that the lame man didn't know that Jesus has healed him because:

  1. There was a feast vs. 1
  2. There was a multitude of people v2
  3. Direct Answer: 13 But the man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away while there was a crowd in that place.

We do not have a direct answer in reference to how the blind man knew Jesus. We just know that he was in the middle of a conversation with Jesus and His disciples and that they called Him, "Rabbi" We can only deduce that he was familiar with his immediate audience at that point.

To answer your later questions about 'good' hermeneutics? I would say we need to let the context drive our conclusions. There is a similar context in both passages in that Jesus heals them on the Sabbath and it sparks conversations between the Jews about who Jesus' identity is. The bigger context of John's gospel is two fold: 1. Jesus is God. 2. These things were written so that the audience would believe and have eternal life. Both healing accounts drive the fact Jesus was God and was Lord of the Sabbath.

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