After the startlingly anti-imperial proclamation by the Samaritans of Jesus as "Savior of the world," Jesus returns to Cana in Galilee, site of the water-into-wine episode. The healing of a royal official's child and the coming to faith of the "whole household" (John 4:53) mark the high-water mark of Jesus' first tour of Palestine. He has joined Samaritans and Jewish officials in Galilee as a believing community.
Having initiated the construction of a new covenant community, Jesus systematically challenges his hearers' loyalty to the prevailing Judean ideology. The escalating confrontation centers around this question: What does it mean to be "children of God"?
Having completed the cycle from Cana to Jerusalem and back to Cana via Samaria, Jesus returns to the capital for an unnamed Judean feast. Jesus will confront many obstacles as he travels to Jerusalem in chapter five, back to Capernaum in Galilee in chapter six, and once more to Jerusalem in chapters seven through 10. All the while, the conspiracy by the Judean officials to kill him will grow in determination. It will be up to readers to take sides in this life-or-death struggle for the hearts and minds of the "people of God."
Chapter five opens with the pathetic plaint of a man suffering for 38 years by the poolside in Jerusalem, waiting for someone to perform the magic trick that will heal him. According to local legend, if a person is placed in the pool when the water moves, that person will be healed. But the indifference of other sick people is so extreme that the man has been lying by the pool without assistance for as long as Israel wandered in the desert!