This is part 11 of 49 parts video series covering the Gospel of John. In this video, Jesus healed a paralyzed man who was invalid for thirty eight years, watch how the Jewish authorities responded to this.
John 5:1-16 (GNT)
JOHN 5: 1-16 (GNT)
The Healing at the Pool
1After this, Jesus went to Jerusalem for a religious festival. 2 Near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem there is a pool with five porches; in Hebrew it is called Bethzatha. 3 A large crowd of sick people were lying on the porches—the blind, the lame, and the paralyzed. 5 A man was there who had been sick for thirty-eight years. 6 Jesus saw him lying there, and he knew that the man had been sick for such a long time; so he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
7 The sick man answered, “Sir, I don’t have anyone here to put me in the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am trying to get in, somebody else gets there first.”
8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your mat, and walk.” 9 Immediately the man got well; he picked up his mat and started walking.
The day this happened was a Sabbath, 10 so the Jewish authorities told the man who had been healed, “This is a Sabbath, and it is against our Law for you to carry your mat.”
11 He answered, “The man who made me well told me to pick up my mat and walk.”
12 They asked him, “Who is the man who told you to do this?”
13 But the man who had been healed did not know who Jesus was, for there was a crowd in that place, and Jesus had slipped away.
14 Afterward, Jesus found him in the Temple and said, “Listen, you are well now; so stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”
15 Then the man left and told the Jewish authorities that it was Jesus who had healed him. 16 So they began to persecute Jesus, because he had done this healing on a Sabbath.
Commentary by Enduring Word
After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had.
a. A feast of the Jews: We don’t know what feast this was, but it was probably one of the major three feasts in which attendance was required.
i. The debate centers on if this was Passover, Pentecost, or Purim. If it was a Passover, then we can date four Passovers in Jesus’ ministry and we know it lasted about 3½ years.
b. A pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda: This pool has been excavated in the area just north of the temple area, and found to have five porches, just as John said.
i. “The expression there is has been thought to import that St. John wrote his Gospel before the destruction of Jerusalem. But this must not be pressed. He might have spoken in the present without meaning to be literally accurate with regard to the moment when he was writing.” (Alford)
ii. There is a crusader-era church near the remains of this pool. “That they [the Crusaders] regarded this pool as that mentioned here is shown by their having represented on the wall of the crypt the angel troubling the water.” (Dods)
c. For an angel went down . . . whoever stepped in first . . . was made well: Many sick and injured people gathered at this pool in hope of healing. Perhaps this hope of healing was real, and God honored a release of faith. Or, it may be that this was merely a hopeful legend; nevertheless, a great multitude of sick people believed it.
i. The words from waiting for the moving of the water through was made well of whatever disease he had are not in several old manuscripts. Nevertheless, the truth of the perception of a healing received by being first in the water is also demonstrated in the words of John 5:7.
ii. “From MSS. evidence, this verse and the last clause of verse 3 seem not to be by John, but to be a very early insertion (as least as early as Tertullian, 2nd century).” (Trench)
iii. At a certain time: Clarke and others believe that this certain time was feast time, perhaps specifically Passover. The idea is that the people gathered around the pool in expectation of healing at the Passover season or other feast seasons. “Once a year only, saith Tertullian. Others (more probably) at all their great feasts, when the people met out of all parts at Jerusalem.” (Trapp)
iv. If there were people genuinely healed by the waters of the Pool of Bethesda, it was one of many unusual occasions healing in the Bible.
· Some were healed by a purified pot of stew (2 Kings 4:38-41)
· Naaman was healed by washing in the Jordan River (2 Kings 5:10-14)
· One was healed by touching the bones of Elisha (2 Kings 13:20-21)
· Some were healed when the shadow of Peter fell upon them (Acts 5:14-16)
· Some were healed when Paul’s handkerchiefs were laid upon them (Acts 19:11-12)
v. God can and does do things in unexpected ways. But something isn’t necessarily from God simply because it is unexpected or unusual.
2. (5-6) Jesus questions a lame man.
Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”
a. A certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years: This man suffered from a paralytic condition for a long time, and apparently was frequently at the Pool of Bethesda in hope of healing. It was a hope that had been long disappointed (thirty-eight years).
b. When Jesus saw him lying there: For some reason, Jesus selected this man among the great multitude of sick people (John 5:3). Jesus was not about to conduct a healing crusade at the Pool of Bethesda, but He was about to miraculously meet this one man’s need.
i. A multitude of needy people were there, yet none of them looked to Jesus. “A blindness had come over these people at the pool; there they were, and there was Christ, who could heal them, but not a single one of them sought him. Their eyes were fixed on the water, expecting it to be troubled; they were so taken up with their own chosen way that the true way was neglected.” (Spurgeon)
ii. Spurgeon pictured the multitude waiting around the waters of the Pool of Bethesda, all of them waiting – instead of looking to Jesus. He thought of how foolish this waiting is for many people.
· Some wait for a more convenient season
· Some wait for dreams and visions
· Some wait for signs and wonders
· Some wait to be compelled
· Some wait for a revival
· Some wait for particular feelings
· Some wait for a celebrity
c. Do you want to be made well? This was a sincere question. Jesus knew that not every sick person wants to be healed, and that some are so discouraged that they put away all hope of being healed. Jesus dealt with a man who may have had his heart withered as well as his legs. Jesus therefore attempted to build the faith of this man.
i. “It certainly is possible that the man’s long and apparently hopeless infirmity may have given him a look of lethargy and despondency, and the question may have arisen from this.” (Alford)
ii. It is possible that Jesus asked this even as the waters were stirred and people started jumping and diving and rolling into the waters, each hoping for evidence that they were the favored one. The man Jesus spoke with knew that he was not one of the favored, and had no real hope to be healed.
iii. In this man’s particular case, it was reasonable to wonder if he really wanted to be healed. “An eastern beggar often loses a good living by being cured of his disease.” (Barclay) As bad as his current situation was, at least he was familiar with it.
3. (7-9) The man replies and Jesus heals him.
The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath.
a. Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool: The crippled man assumed Jesus knew how things worked at the Pool of Bethesda, and he explained to Jesus why it wasn’t possible for him to be healed. Quite naturally, the man couldn’t think of any other way for his need to be met.
i. The man was an interesting case of hope combined with hopelessness. He had hope, or would never have come to the Pool of Bethesda. Yet once there, he had little hope to be the favored one to win the healing that day.
ii. Another steps down before me: “The man’s answer implies the popular belief that whoever stepped in immediately after the bubbling up of the water was made whole.” (Alford)
iii. “The sick man does what we nearly all do. He limits God’s help to his own ideas and does not dare promise himself more that he conceives in his mind.” (Calvin)
b. Rise, take up your bed and walk: Jesus told the man to do what he could not do. Being paralyzed, it was impossible for him to rise or to take up his bed-mat or to walk. At this moment, Jesus challenged the man to believe Him for the impossible.
i. The bed was not a full-framed bed, but a bed-mat. Morris on the ancient Greek word translated bed: “It is apparently Macedonian in origin and denotes a camp-bed, a pallet.”
ii. It’s easy to imagine that the man’s first reaction was, I can’t do that – why even try? Yet something wonderful prompted the man to say, If this man tells me to do it, I will try. Jesus guided the man towards a response of faith.
iii. “The man might well have said with a kind of injured resentment that for thirty-eight years his bed had been carrying him and there was not much sense in telling him to carry it.” (Barclay)
iv. “He was commanded to take up his bed that he might recognise that the cure was permanent. No doubt many of the cures at the pool were merely temporary.” (Dods)
c. Immediately the man was made well: This happened as the man responded in faith and did exactly what Jesus told him to do, though a moment before this it was impossible to do it. The fact of his healing was confirmed in that he had the strength to carry his own bed-mat and walk with it.
i. “Because Jesus told him, he asked no questions, but doubled up his couch, and walked. He did what he was told to do, because he believed in him who spake. Have you such faith in Jesus, poor sinner?” (Spurgeon)
ii. “He healed the man beside the pool, but without his touching the pool, to show that He could heal without the water.” (Trench)
iii. This shows us that the New Testament describes many different ways people may be healed.
· The elders of the church may anoint someone with oil and pray for them, and they may be healed (James 5:14-16).
· God’s people can lay hands on each other in prayer, ask God for healing, and people may be healed (Mark 16:17-18).
· God may grant someone a gift of healing – either that they are directly healed, or have the power to bring healing to another (1 Corinthians 12:9).
· God may grant healing in response to the faith of the person who desires to be healed (Matthew 9:22).
d. That day was the Sabbath: That all this was done on the Sabbath day will be the source of the controversy that follows.
B. The Sabbath controversy.
1. (10-13) The Jews ignore the miracle and take offense.
The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.” He answered them, “He who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your bed and walk.’“ Then they asked him, “Who is the Man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place.
a. The Jews therefore said: Throughout his Gospel, John uses the term the Jews in the sense of the Jewish leaders, not of all the Jews in Jerusalem.
i. “Here, as regularly in the Gospel of John, it is important to mark who exactly ‘the Jews’ in question are: in this context they are members of the religious establishment in Jerusalem.” (Bruce)
b. It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed: Carrying a bed (actually a sleeping-mat or a bedroll) was in fact a violation of the rabbis’ interpretation of the commandment against doing work or business on the Sabbath. It was not a breaking of God’s law of the Sabbath, but the human interpretation of God’s law.
i. “The Rabbis of Jesus’ day solemnly argued that a man was sinning if he carried a needle in his robe on the Sabbath. They even argued as to whether he could wear his artificial teeth or his wooden leg.” (Barclay)
ii. “Jesus persistently maintained that it is lawful on the sabbath to do good. He ignored the mass of scribal regulations, and thus inevitably came into conflict with the authorities.” (Morris)
iii. This devotion to the rabbis’ interpretation of the Sabbath law continues in modern times. An example is found in an April 1992 news item: Tenants let three apartments in an Orthodox neighborhood in Israel burn to the ground while they asked a rabbi whether a telephone call to the fire department on the Sabbath would violate Jewish law. Observant Jews are forbidden to use the phone on the Sabbath, because doing so would break an electrical current, which is considered a form of work. In the half-hour it took the rabbi to decide “yes,” the fire spread to two neighboring apartments.
c. Who is the Man who said to you, “Take up your bed and walk”? The Jewish leaders didn’t want to know who healed the crippled man. They wanted to know who told him to carry a bed-mat on the Sabbath day.
i. This probably seemed strange, and perhaps confusing to the healed man. “I was carried to the pool today and if I were not healed I would need to be carried home. That’s a lot more work than me carrying my little bed-mat. In healing me and sending me home, Jesus was saving work on the Sabbath, not making more work.”
ii. To the religious leaders Jesus was the man who broke the Sabbath. To the healed man Jesus was He who made me well.
d. For Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place: Jesus did not want to remain with the commotion surrounding the man’s healing. Because He did not intend to heal the entire multitude, it was better for Him to withdraw.
i. “Jesus spoke the healing words, and then went on among the crowd, so that no particular attention was attracted to Himself, either by the sick man or others.” (Alford)
2. (14-15) Jesus warns the healed man of a greater danger.
Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.
a. Afterward Jesus found him: Jesus found him because He was concerned for his spiritual health (sin no more lest a worse thing come upon you), not only his physical health. Living a life of sin is worse, and will bring a worse result, than being crippled for thirty-eight years.
i. See, you have been made well: “Employs the perfect of the verb, indicating that the cure was permanent. No doubt some of the ‘cures’ that were reported from the pool did not last very long.” (Morris)
ii. “The man’s eight-and-thirty years of illness had apparently been brought on by dissipation. It was a sin of the flesh, avenged in the flesh, that had given him that miserable life.” (Maclaren)
b. The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus: The fact that he reported Jesus to the authorities showed how intimidated the man was by those same religious leaders.
i. “The man who had been healed seems to have been an unpleasant creature…as soon as he found out the identity of his Benefactor he betrayed Him to the hostile authorities.” (Morris)
ii. In theory, the penalties for disobedience on the Sabbath were serious. Dods cites Lightfoot: “Whosoever on the Sabbath bringeth anything in, or taketh anything out from a public place to a private one, if he hath done this inadvertently, he shall sacrifice for his sin; but if willfully, he shall be cut off and shall be stoned.”
3. (16) Jesus defends His Sabbath actions.
For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath.
a. For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him: Remarkably, the healing seemed to make no difference to those who persecuted Jesus. All they could see was that their religious rule was broken, a rule that went beyond the command of Scripture itself.
i. “Inciting others to break the law (as they understood it) was worse than breaking it oneself. Therefore they launched a campaign against Jesus which was not relaxed until his death some eighteen months later.” (Bruce)
ii. The absolute devotion to the traditions of man surrounding the Sabbath can’t be understated. For example, Deuteronomy 23:12-14 tells Israel to practice good sanitation when their armies are camped. Ancient rabbis applied the same principle to the city of Jerusalem, which they regarded as “the camp of the Lord.” When this was combined with Sabbath travel restrictions, it resulted in a prohibition against going to the bathroom on the Sabbath.
b. And sought to kill Him: The anger and hatred of the religious leaders is difficult to explain, apart from seeing that it had a spiritual root. They did not like Jesus, and therefore they did not like God the Father (but also said that God was His Father).
Commentary by Enduring Word
About the Gospel of John. The gospel of John was written to persuade people to believe in Jesus (20:30-31). The opening verses declare that Jesus is God, stressing His unique relationship with God the Father. The book focuses on seven of Jesus’ signs (miracles), to show his divinity. Jesus called people to believe in him, promising eternal life. He proved he could give life by raising Lazarus (ch.11) and by his own death and resurrection. John features Christ’s seven “I am” statements, his encounters with Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman, his upper room teachings and washing of disciple’s feet (chs. 13-16, and his high priestly prayer (ch. 17. It includes the most well-known summary of the gospel (3:16).