John 5:1-14


Great Commission Church
John 5:1-14
Intro: Today’s text is the third of 7 miraculous signs Jesus performs in John’s Gospel (water into wine, ch.2; healing the nobleman’s son, ch.4). Now we come to the man at the pool. We might be tempted to despise this ingrate since he betrays Jesus. He is somewhat of a Judas figure, and John shows us the full picture of God’s love, a love that excludes no one (3:16).

John 5:1 After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 
John 5:2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. 
John 5:3 In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. 
John 5:4 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. 

In this story the Lord Jesus visited the pool near the temple where the helpless dregs of society lay in a pathetic state.

Pool of Bethesda – was a double pool, each was a trapezoid in shape. Length = 318 ft; width over 200 ft; whole structure was enclosed by porches on each side, with a fifth porch over the area dividing the two pools.

Most devout Jews typically avoided places where they had to pass among the sick and suffering for two reasons: (1) it was an uncomfortable setting (2) the potential for violation of ritual purity rules. 

But Jesus went out of his way to visit such a place.

John 5:5 Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. 
John 5:6 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?”

Christ picked a very sick man who had been an invalid for 38 years. What hope did he have? Only the faintest superstition that if he could somehow get into the water after it was stirred, things might change for him. 

Otherwise, the low quality of life he had known for nearly 4 decades would be the same life that would kill him.

How did Jesus know that this man had been sick for so long? In ch.1 He knew all about Nathanael before meeting him; in ch.2 He “knew all men” and “what was in man”; in ch.4 He knew the details of the troubled love live of the woman at the well

Jesus performed the first two miracles in John because others requested His help (Jesus’ mother asked about the wine; nobleman asked about his son). This miracle in John 5 happens at the Lord’s initiative.


SURPRISE #1: A bizarre question for a disabled person

illus: working the register at Fred’s Store; asking a lady when her baby was due…

Although Jesus knows the man has been ill for a long time (and also knows what is in his heart), He still asks the man if he wants to get well. 

John’s Gospel stresses both divine sovereignty and human responsibility. With this strange question, Jesus shows us not only His sovereign approach to healing but also how important the man’s will is.  

By asking the question, Jesus intends to reveal the sick man’s heart. 

What would we say to Jesus if He asked us whether we wanted to be healed of whatever has been troubling us? Do we want to keep our addictions? Do we prefer to manage our sins? What is really in our hearts? 

It seems like a silly question—of course he would want to be healed. But what if he has grown accustomed to his disability? What if he’s comfortable with it now? What if he might prefer the pain he knows to the fear of the unknown, with its new responsibilities?
People are often happy in their sins, at least for a while.

Luke 5:31 Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 
Luke 5:32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

God finds each of us as helpless as this man.

John 5:7 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.”

The man’s situation felt hopeless. How did he answer the question? He said it wasn’t desire he lacked. He did not have the means to be healed. Without strength and without friends, he could not be helped when the pool water was stirred.

Someone else always beat him to the pool, but for some reason he still came to the pool hoping someone might show up to help. 

John’s commentary: while the man cannot get to the pool, Jesus can get to him.

John 5:8 Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” 
John 5:9 And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath. 

If the pool had really been God’s healing agent, Jesus could have just helped the man in the water first after the angelic stirring. 

But the words “Rise, take up your bed and walk” emphasize that Jesus was the source of divine healing, not some kind of wave pool. 

When you are really sick, miracle is preferable to magic.

What must this man have been thinking as he felt the healing power of God flow through his emaciated body? Not only was his crippling disease taken away, but his muscles were given back their strength.

The healing was done without the pool and without an angel. The Son of God who was at work!

This is one of those healing miracles that Jesus performed without any sign of faith on the part of the beneficiary (others being the healing of the paralytic carried by four friends; healing of Malchus’s ear after Peter sliced it off).

How little is needed on our part for God to work in our lives! 

SURPRISE #2: A dramatic healing miracle for a solitary sufferer

Unlike the paralytic in Mark 2:1–12 who is dropped in front of Jesus through a hole in the roof, this one is picked out by Jesus from amongst the many other invalids.

Think about it: What do we call a place where sick people gather hoping to be made well? Hospital. The pool of Bethesda was an ancient hospital of sorts. There were suffering people all around it. Why didn’t Jesus heal all of them?

When the man was healed and then took up his mat and walked, we might think the story had come to an end. But there is a dramatic clue that the story is about to head in a new direction. “And that day was the Sabbath.”

The story had been a wonderful example of the light of God’s grace in Jesus. But now a dark side of the story is introduced.

John 5:10 The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.”

SURPRISE #3: A heartless objection to a compassionate healing

The exchange betrayed the Jewish leaders’ shallow understanding of theology; they focused on the carried mat, not the new legs.

These Jews hear of the wonderful healing and of the formal breach of their code and are interested only in the latter.  They were not concerned for the man’s improbable joy. Not everyone accepts merciful acts with gratitude (cf. the nine lepers of Luke 17:17–18).

The religious leaders were scandalized that their tradition had been breached. 

The Law of Moses said that no one could work on the Sabbath, and the rabbis had developed their own rules defining work.

39 types of work forbidden on the sabbath, which are recorded in the Mishnah:

illus: The main classes of work are forty save one: sowing, ploughing, reaping, binding sheaves, threshing, winnowing, cleansing crops, grinding, sifting, kneading, baking, shearing wool, washing or beating or dyeing it, spinning, weaving, making two loops, weaving two threads, separating two threads, tying [a knot], loosening [a knot], sewing two stitches, tearing in order to sew two stitches, hunting a gazelle, slaughtering or flaying or salting it or curing its skin, scraping it or cutting it up, writing two letters, erasing in order to write two letters, building, pulling down, putting out a fire, lighting a fire, striking with a hammer and taking out aught from one domain to another. These are the main classes of work: forty save one. (Šabbat 7:2)

The man was in trouble because he had been healed!
John 5:11 He answered them, “He who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your bed and walk.’ ”
John 5:12 Then they asked him, “Who is the Man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 
John 5:13 But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place. 

The man was in a bind now. He shows no sensitivity to the spiritual reality of what was happening. 

First, he tried to evade any responsibility for violating tradition by saying he was just following orders. He attempts to shift the blame to the one who healed him. (Remember Adam? “the woman you gave to me…”)

Second and most unfortunately, the man reported Jesus to the authorities! He goes so far as to try to gain favor with them (v.15 “The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well”).

John 5:14 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.”

SURPRISE #4: A stern warning from the Lord about the direct consequences of sin

Jesus had already dealt with the man’s physical infirmity; now he addressed his spiritual condition. It is common in healing miracles for physical transformation to lead to spiritual transformation.

Some tragedies in Scriptures are seen as the outcome of specific sins. (Acts 5:1-11; 1 Cor 11:30)

The apostle Paul connects sinning with physical illness and even death in 1 Corinthians 11:29–30.

1 Cor 11:29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 
1 Cor 11:30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.

The unavoidable implication is that the bad thing that has already happened was occasioned by the sin which the person must not repeat.

In practical terms it seems wise to take any illness or calamity as an occasion to examine your conscience, which we should be doing daily anyway. 

It is possible John is also telling us that the reason Jesus chose this invalid out of all the others who were waiting for the waters to be stirred, was precisely because his illness, and his alone, was tied to a specific sin.

Here we see the Lamb of God at work, taking away the sins of the world, forgiving even those who will go on to betray him.