A Journey Through John – Ch 5

I. A Healing At The Pool Of Bethesda (1-17)

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, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath. 10 So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” 11 But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’ ” 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. 14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. 16 And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” 

Many spend time trying to figure out the exact feast in question here, yet the construction of this epistle lets us know that that is not as important as the location. John is making it clear that there is growing hostility between Jesus and the religious establishment (see v. 18).

The Pool of Bethesda is located on the northeast side of the temple. John marks it’s location by mentioning it is located by “the Sheep Gate”. This was the location in which animals were brought into the temple for sacrifices. Through this gate, the sheep would enter and never leave. Much like the man who has entered the portico surrounding the pool, but has been unable to leave. This man has been stuck in his affliction for 38 years and had been at the pool “a long time”.

Ironically, “Bethesda” means “House of mercy”. So far, the man has found none.

There is probably no coincidence that Jesus is choosing to show mercy in the “house of mercy” where the man has yet to find any. The religious system of the pharisees, had little room for mercy as we see their reaction to the healed man. Jesus is showing that He offers mercy 1) to those who realize their affliction and 2) desire healing.

“When Jesus went to Jerusalem, he did not spend his time in elite hostels; nor did he concentrate his ministry merely in the temple or give attention to the rich and famous who could help him politically and financially with his ministry. He concentrated on people in need, which for the elite of society was part of his problem. In this story he visited the pool below the temple where the helpless dregs of society lay in a pathetic state. Most “proper” people probably avoided places where they had to pass among the sick and suffering both because it was an uncomfortable setting and because of the potential for violation of ritual purity rules. But Jesus went out of his way to visit such a place… Gerald L. Borchert, John 1–11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 231–232.

John highlights the priority of the pharisees for ritual cleanliness several ways in this passage. The location, The festival, The day, The response of the pharisees.

QUES: Where is verse 4? Actually, 3b-4 are seen by most to be a later scribal addition to clarify the setting. In the NASB, it reads, “…waiting for the moving of the waters; for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.”

QUES: Why is Jesus’ question, “Do you want to be healed? such a penetrating one? What are the implications of this man being healed?

QUES: What do you notice about this man’s response in verse 7? What does it tell us about this man?

He is hopeless. He has fit God’s grace into a “first come, first serve” basis. His response gives a feeling of being abandoned by God.

QUES: What does Jesus mean/confront when he says, “Get up, take up your bed and walk.”?

In verses 9-12 open the discussion to focus on the authority of Jesus. This subject can be seen when you peel back the layers of, “Who is the man who said to you, Take up your bed and walk?” and the man’s initial response to the religious leaders, when he says, “The man who healed me, THAT MAN said too…”

“Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you” (5:14). These words are not meant to be a cause-and-effect statement related to his sickness or paralysis. Such a direct identification between personal sin and illness, which was proposed by the disciples in the story of the blind man (9:2), was firmly rejected by Jesus (9:3). The statement of cause and effect in this story, therefore, must be taken as referring to the eschatological correlation between sin and judgment that undoubtedly is the meaning of “something worse” in Jesus’ warning to the paralytic. Gerald L. Borchert, John 1–11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 235.

II. Jesus’ Authority (18-29)

18 This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. 19 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. 22 For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. 25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. 

QUES: Look at verse 18, when Christ refers to God as “His Father”, What does that mean?

“Truly, truly, I say to you” – a syntactic construction used by John to signify importance.

“Although the Jews had focused their hostility on the equality aspect of Jesus’ relation to the Father (5:18), Jesus countered their anger by highlighting his dependency on the Father (5:19). Here then are two perspectives about Jesus: the powerful divine Son of God and the humble Messenger of God. Christian theology always struggles with these two aspects (sometimes called the two personae) of Jesus. The dangerous tendency today of some is to de-emphasize the divine exalted nature, and the tendency of others is to de-emphasize the self-effacing human nature of Jesus. The key is to find the balance between the two…” Gerald L. Borchert, John 1–11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 237.

More simply put, Jesus suggests that his authority is directly connected to and comes from His relationship with God.

v. 21 – Healing a lame man is trivial in nature compared to the authority and power of Christ as seen in the resurrection. Both his and ours.

v. 21 – Jesus has authority over life.

v. 22 – Jesus has authority over judgment. If the one who judges tells a man to take up a mat and walk on the sabbath, who are the religious leaders to say that God objects?

v. 23 – Jesus comes to the heart of the matter. If what Jesus said about himself in the preceding verses is true, then the only appropriate response is to give him honor. See Psalm 2.

QUES: – How do we honor Jesus according to verse 24?

III. Witnesses To Jesus’ Authority (30-47)

30 “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. 31 If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true. 32 There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. 33 You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34 Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35 He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. 36 But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. 41 I do not receive glory from people. 42 But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” 

This section seeks to answer the question we asked earlier. How do we know that what Jesus says about himself is true? Here he calls in some witnesses to testify on his behalf.

  1. John the Baptist (32-35)
  2. His Works (36)
  3. The Father and His Word (37-40)

The chapter closes with a transition which we will cover in more detail next week. The subject: belief.

Verse 41 is important because Jesus is getting to one of the major obstacles the religious leaders faced in coming to Christ.

They sought their own glory. If they desired to bring God glory, they would have heard and responded to the words and works of Jesus.