A Bible Lesson on John 5:1-30

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

This is a lesson on one of the miracles of Jesus recorded in John.  It is the third of 8 carefully selected miracles that John records (Matthew records 20, Mark 19 and Luke 20).  It is the second healing recorded in John.  It’s worth reading what John has to say about the first two miracles.  John 2:1-11 records the changing of water into wine at Cana.  In verse 11 Johns says

John 2:11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

For John, miracles are signs leading people to trust in, rely upon, cleave to, believe in, cast themselves upon Jesus.

John 4:46-54 records the healing of the official’s son at Cana.  John says about the healing

John 4:53 The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household.

54 This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.

These first 2 miracles John records were both miracles that Jesus did at someone’s request and helped bring those people to faith.  The healing at the pool in John 5 is different in character from the first one in terms of producing immediate faith.  But it forms the foundation for important revelation concerning Jesus given in the discourse that follows in verses 16-30.

The facts of the healing at the pool are the story of a dull, unappreciative clod receiving unmerited grace from Jesus.

John 5:1 After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

There was a feast of the Jews.  Which feast?  Guesses include Pentecost and the Feast of Trumpets (New Year).

2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades.

3 In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed.

5 One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.

We need to be sure we understand the magnitude of this.  38 years means that this guy has atrophied limbs and nerves that don’t work right any more.  If a modern doctor could somehow magically remove the “cause” of these problems, the effects on the man’s body would remain.

6 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?”

This is no rhetorical question.  “Do you want to be healed?”  We humans would often prefer to wallow in self-pity than have a difficulty genuinely straightened out.  If this guy is healed now, what happens to his begging income?  What’s he going to do with himself?  Has he completely lost hope?  Jesus gives him an invitation to wake up and see that help is right at hand.

7 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.”

This is a dense, crotchety, self-pitying reply.  “It’s no fair, the others get into the pool before me.”  The guy is completely oblivious to Who it is that speaks to him and what He offers.

8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.”

This is a command healing from the Son of God.

9 And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.  Now that day was the Sabbath.

The man picks up his mat, the crude rough bedding of the poor, and walks.  The healing is instantaneous and based on nothing except the mercy and power of God.  There’s no faith here on the part of the man.  This is not done in response to his reliance on Christ.

Note the key issue raised here: it 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.”

These folks are purposely blind.  Only God could have done what was done here.  It is not rational to insist that this is contrary to His wishes expressed in the Old Testament law.  What’s been violated here is not the law of God, but the rabbinical interpretation of that law.  What’s been violated is absolutely not God’s intent for the Sabbath.  God doesn’t break His own laws.  That would be a moral impossibility.

11 But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’ ”

This is an intimidated, cowed response.  Compare the courageous unafraid response of the blind man of Chapter 9!

12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?”

Here is the central question for all of humanity.  Who is Jesus?  John correctly sees this as the central matter for this man and for all of us.  This account frames the question as clearly as it could be framed.

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.

The man who was healed has no clue.  There is no faith in Christ in evidence here at all.

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.”

What does Jesus mean by “Sin no more”?  It’s not completely clear here what is being referred to.  Is it “don’t continue to fail to believe, to fail to recognize who I am?”  Was something he did partially responsible for his situation?  All we know about the man here is his dullness to the One who has healed him and who now speaks to him.  What is clear is that Christ’s warning is about the eternal ramifications of what he does from this point on.

15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him.

The guy identifies Jesus without any understanding of who He really is.  This report to the Jewish officials is not so much malicious as it is simply dull.

In verses 16-30, the blindness of the invalid and the Jewish officials provides the basis for a discourse revealing more clearly who Jesus is.

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.”

This is a direct and unmistakable claim to divinity in the Jewish culture, and the Jewish officials understood it for what it was.  Jesus says “My” Father.  No Jew would say this.  This address is far too intimate.  A Jew praying might say “Our Father,” but never “My Father.”

Then there is what Jesus has to say about working.  The basis of the Sabbath law is, of course, the commandment.

Exodus 20:9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work,

10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.

11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.  …

The LORD rested on the 7th day.  The rabbis held that God wasn’t completely inactive on the 7th, and indeed if He were, all would cease to exist.  They pointed out that people are born and die on the Sabbath, and in both God had to be active, giving life in the first place and dispensing judgment to the dead in the second.  Jesus said “My Father works, I work.”  Jesus was claiming a prerogative belonging only to God.  Listen how Jesus follows up on this in verses 18-30.

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.

The Jewish officials react violently.  They understood Jesus’s claim perfectly.  Calling God His own Father was different from addressing Him as “our” Father.

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.

Jesus declares that He is no rebel, but rather is in perfect harmony with His Father’s purposes and working.  He says it is a moral impossibility for Him to act independently of the Father.  Whatever the Father does the Son does likewise.  Jesus is about to point out two things that they know that only God does, that He does.  What are these 2 things?  Exactly the things that the rabbis realized that God continues to do on the Sabbath.  In verses 20-25 and then again in 26-30 Jesus says that He 1) gives life and 2) judges.  First, in verses 20-25 He speaks of doing these things in the present.  Then in 26-30 He speaks of doing them at the end of time.

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.

Greater works than “these” refers to what?  Is it the immediate case of the healing of the invalid?

21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.

Jesus gives life.  The official’s son in John 4:46-54 was at the point of death, and Jesus told him “Your son will live” and Jesus says plainly that it is He, the Son, who does this.  A there is

22 The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son,

Jesus says that He is judge!  And what is the fundamental nature of this judgment?  It is an implied judgment.

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.

In Jesus, a choice has been laid before all people.  We judge ourselves in how react to that choice.  This is exactly what was said to Nicodemus in John 3:16-21.

Verses 26-30 of this chapter repeat these 2 fundamental points, in relation to the end times.  Jesus gives life and He judges.

26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.

He gives life.

27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.

He judges.

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.

The Jew was clear that resurrection belongs only to God.  This, Jesus says, belongs to Him as the Son.  But there is no conflict, as He acts in complete harmony with the Father.  And His final judgment is ratification of judgment humans make on themselves in this life.  They believe and live accordingly and have life, or they do not.  To not decide for Christ is to bring the horrible inevitable implied judgment.

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.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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