Jesus saw a thirty-eight
year old man lying on his mat at the pool of water
at Bethesda. Because He cared about the man, Jesus
was willing to pay a high personal cost to heal him.
Jesus performed a miracle or "sign" as the apostle
John called them. These "signs" always pointed to
the supernatural power of God in His redeeming
grace. From John’s perspective there was always a
deeper meaning behind the supernatural act of
healing. The act of healing was of secondary
importance. The purpose was to help people recognize
that Jesus was from God. It reveals a deeper
profound truth about the person of Jesus Christ.
Behind the sign is the Son of God.
In the healing of the
paraplegic man we see a sign regarding Jesus as
sovereign over the moral realm of man.
Jesus cared, and He paid
the price. From this day on the religious leaders
were determined to kill Him.
THE SIGN (5:1-9, 14)
Jesus was in Jerusalem
for a religious feast. He went to the northeast
section of the city near the sheep gate, and a pool
which is called Bethesda with its five porches
around the pool (v. 2). Near this pool lay a
multitude of people who were "sick, blind, lame,
withered" (v. 3). The pool of water had an
interesting tradition and superstition attached to
it. A spring at the bottom of the pool bubbled or
percolated at certain times and caused an air bubble
to rise to the top. The superstitious Jews believed
that when this bubbling of the waters happened that
an angel had come down into the water and brought
with him healing power sufficient to cure the first
person who was able to get in the pool after the
waters bubbled. However, there would be enough power
to heal only one person at a time. It was a
ridiculous and cruel superstition, but when you are
down to your last chance you will go for anything.
In their desperation you can see in your mind’s eye
the water suddenly moving, or gushing forth, and the
people scrambling and pushing to be the first one to
get in and hopefully be healed. Perhaps this is
where we get the pagan idea that "God helps those
who help themselves."
Jesus seems deliberately
to approach a certain man who had been a paraplegic
invalid for thirty-eight years and asked, "Do you
wish to get well?" (John 5:5-6). Out of that
miscellaneous group of sick people He chose the one
with the greatest need of the Great Physician. Jesus
did not wait for the man to approach Him. He took
the initiative to help the helpless man.
No one to help
Can you imagine the
effects of thirty-eight years of helplessness on a
person’s physical, emotional, psychological and
spiritual well-being? How do you think it would have
affected you over such a long time? What may appear
as a dumb question on second thought is very
penetrating. There are "secondary benefits" to being
ill. A lot of people do not want to get well. It is
easy to get a lot of attention and pity. Self-pity
sets in and the "poor me" syndrome takes over. Worst
of all is the benefit of not having to assume any
responsibility for the problem or the solution. Some
people lose hope over a long period of time. That is
why we often hear calloused people say, "God helps
those who help themselves."
The response of the lame
man was, "Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool
when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming,
another steps down before me" (v. 7).
This man was absolutely
derelict. What do you do when you "have no man to
help" you? If you look only to men you are
Healing words of
Jesus didn’t pay any
attention to the man’s whine. He told the man to do
the impossible. "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk"
The man’s bed was a mat
or pallet of straw, easily rolled up and carried on
the shoulder. Jesus told him to pick it up and "walk
The man had to be healed
before he could get up and walk. Jesus spoke and the
man was instantly and completely healed. The man
responded and received power to get up and walk.
They man no longer needed
to be carried from place to place.
Jesus told the man to do
the very thing he couldn’t do. He told the man to do
the impossible. That is what He always says. He
brings the soul face to face with the one thing that
seems impossible and commands him to act at that
point. He brings us to the one thing that paralyzes
us, and then enables us to do that thing we cannot
do. This is still the way God does things. Go ahead,
do the thing you fear the most.
What is the impossible
thing you face today? Has the Master issued an
impossible command to you? Do you feel lame? Do you
feel paralyzed at the idea of doing the impossible?
The apostle John tells
us, "And immediately the man became well, and took
up his pallet and began to walk" (v. 9). At once the
man was cured. This man was permanently healed.
Verse fourteen tells us
the man was restored physically and spiritually. A
little later Jesus found the man in the temple and
said to him, "Behold, you have become well; do not
sin anymore, so that nothing worse may befall you."
"No longer continue to sin." Goodspeed translates,
"Give up sin."
This man had been living
in sin. It was his lifestyle. Jesus commanded him to
make a break with his sin.
Jesus goes a step further
and tells the man that something worse than physical
illness is in the making if he does not repent.
In this man’s sickness
some sinful life-style caused the illness. "Do not
continue to sin any longer." Montgomery translates,
"Do not go on sinning, lest a worse thing befall
you." Phillips says, "Sin no more or something worse
might happen to you." The permanence of the
suffering was the result of his continuing to sin.
Note very carefully that
this man could not help himself. Only the divine
power of Jesus Christ enabled the man to rise and
walk. This was a miracle that Jesus performed at the
pool of Bethesda.
This miracle is a
remarkable illustration of the spiritual condition
of every individual. You and I cannot help ourselves
spiritually; our salvation depends upon the grace of
God alone. Just as this physically lame man could
not help himself we are utterly helpless in our
sinful condition to influence our salvation in any
individuals lying at the pool were without strength
to help themselves. John describes them as blind,
lame and paralyzed. The poor man said to Jesus,
"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" (v. 7). How sad is the man who
knows only man.
This is a vivid and valid
description of our human depravity without Jesus
Christ. Spiritually, we are sick, blind, lame and
Without Christ we
are lame spiritually
Like the lame man we are
weak, helpless, and powerless as described in Romans
5:6. "While we were still helpless, at the right
time Christ died for the ungodly." "Helpless." The
original word means, "infirm, feeble, unable to
achieve anything great, destitute of power among
men, sluggish in doing right."
When Jesus arrived at the
pool no one rose to greet Him because they were
powerless. No one reached out his hand to greet
Jesus because they were paralyzed. However, we do
see Jesus moving among them and healing the most
helpless and lame sinner.
The Bible makes it
emphatically clear that God does not help those who
help themselves. He helps the helpless. He provides
for the powerless.
We are powerless to stop
sinning without the work of the Holy Spirit
indwelling us (2 Pet. 2:1-6). We are lame
spiritually without the saving grace of God.
God demonstrated His love
toward us at Calvary when we were altogether
unlovely. Christ died for us when we were utterly
helpless. When it was impossible for us to do
anything for ourselves Christ came and died for us
on the cross. There is nothing we can do for
ourselves to satisfy a righteous God.
In Mark 2:1-5 we have a
helpless man who could not come on his own. His
friends tore open the roof and lowered him to the
feet of Jesus. He needed for someone to bring him to
What a powerful
commentary on our human depravity when Jesus
explained, "No one can come to Me, unless the Father
who sent Me draws him" (John 6:44).
Without Christ we
are spiritually blind
Men and women without the
illumination of the Holy Spirit cannot understand
the truth of God (1 Cor. 2:14). The word of God, and
salvation by grace alone by faith alone in the death
of Christ, are foolishness to the spiritually blind.
They are spiritually blind to the truth of God in
Moreover, we are
spiritually deaf until the Spirit of God enables us
to hear the truth of God. That is the work of the
Holy Spirit in our hearts (John 8:43).
Jesus told a great Jewish
religious leader, "Truly, truly, I say to you,
unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom
of God" (John 3:3). The kingdom of God is a
spiritual realm. It cannot be seen with the physical
eyes. But to the spiritually regenerated He gives
On another occasion Jesus
healed a man who had been born blind and then
explained to the hostile religious leaders that they
were spiritually blind to spiritual things as
evidenced by their refusal to believe that Jesus
Christ was the Son of God (John 9:39-41). The healed
blind man saw Jesus, believed and worshipped Him
How can we walk in the
narrow spiritual path of righteousness if we are
blind? And if our friend is spiritually blind we
both fall into the ditch. Spiritually blind people
are following every form of blind spiritual guides
who disguise themselves as angels of light.
Men are spiritually blind
until the Holy Spirit opens their eyes. The blind
could not see Him moving among them until He touched
We are spiritually lame
because we are spiritually blind.
Without Christ we
are paralyzed spiritually
Moreover, there is a
spiritual paralysis that takes hold of a person who
has never come to Christ. We know to do right, but
find ourselves feeling paralyzed, and it impossible
to do what we know to be the right thing to do (Rom.
7:18). We know to be like Christ in our behavior,
emotions and actions, but are powerless until Christ
releases us from our bondage. It is like someone or
something has a strange hold over us.
What is the solution to
such a terrible disease? Christ came to bring
healing to the blind, lame and paralyzed
God’s sovereign saving
grace saves sinners who are blind, powerless and
paralyzed. If our eternal salvation depended upon us
who could ever be saved? Surely not I. What I need
is His saving grace. We do not have strength to pull
ourselves up. We cannot save ourselves. Instead of
waiting for us to rise and come to Him for salvation
He comes to us, opens our eyes, releases us from the
hold Satan has over us, and raises us up together to
be with Him (Eph. 2:5-7). The "Son of Man came to
seek and save that which was lost" (Lk. 19:10).
I thank God every day
that Jesus came to seek me out because I was blind,
lame and paralyzed. It would be an insult to God for
me now that His grace has intervened in my life to
stand and brag about what I have done. The
spiritually sufficient will never be saved. You and
I can never change our spiritual condition, but God
in Christ can.
My sins have been dealt
with in the blood of Jesus Christ, and He has
graciously given me new life through faith in Him.
Has Jesus Christ done the impossible in your life?
Why is this miracle so
important? Because behind the miracle is the sign.
This miracle took place on the Sabbath (v. 9, 16).
It forces us to ask who is this Jesus who healed the
man and saved him. Who is it that tells us to do the
THE SABBATH (5:9b-16)
The apostle John tells us
Jesus was in the habit of healing on the Sabbath.
The only problem was you didn’t do that in Israel
during the time of Christ. There were hundreds of
regulations that governed the Sabbath day in order
to help the people keep it holy. Healing the sick,
even by a word of command was considered work by the
Scribes and Pharisees.
Don’t miss the picture.
One of the conditions of the man being healed was to
pick up his pallet and go home which was a violation
of the Sabbath law. The paraplegic man "immediately"
became well, "and took up his pallet and began to
walk" (v. 9). He grabbed that thing up and took off.
Can’t you see him with joy jumping and skipping with
that bedroll under his arm? Have you been around
anyone like that lately? They will fill your heart
with overflowing joy. Or will they?
There was a group of
religious leaders standing around watching to see if
Jesus was going to heal on that Sabbath. They
approached the man carrying his bedroll and said,
"It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for
you to carry your pallet" (v. 10). The only thing
these Pharisees could see was the mattress! They
never saw the healed man who had been lame for
thirty-eight years. They still don’t. They still see
law, but never grace.
You picked the
wrong day for doing good
The religious leaders
ganged up on the poor fellow. "It’s the Sabbath; you
can’t do that on the Sabbath. You can’t carry your
bedroll on the Sabbath."
That wasn’t the real
problem. The Lord of the Sabbath was the problem for
The healed man responded
to the interrogators, "He who made me well was the
one who said to me, ‘Take up your pallet and walk’"
(v. 11). What else would you say to a man who has
been lame for so long a time? Hey, man this is the
Sabbath. Sorry, but you can’t enjoy this great day
of healing in your life. You just rest right there
Who did this act of
The Pharisees knew where
they were headed with their questioning. "Who is the
man who said to you, ‘Take up your pallet, and
walk?’" The poor guy didn’t know who had healed him
because Jesus "had slipped away while there was a
crowd in that place" (vv. 12-13). After Jesus met
him in the temple the man went away and told the
Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him (v. 15).
Did the grace killers take advantage of him and
manipulate him? Was he even aware of whom Jesus was
before that day? I get the sense that there was a
spiritual battle going on, and he probably wasn’t
even aware of it.
At first it was an
unknown, anonymous person who healed the man. The
lame man "did not know who it was" (v. 13). There is
something absolutely beautiful about that statement.
Jesus did not put on a great healing show for the
folks in the audience. In fact, only one person was
healed that day. Were there not others who were
lying about the edge of the pool "sick, blind, lame,
THE SON (5:17-18)
Jesus invaded the moral
realm when He told the man, "Behold, you have become
well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse may
befall you" (v. 14).
Who said to the lame man,
go and sin no more? It was the Savior. Yahweh is
salvation. It is not just physical healing, but
spiritual healing that had taken place. "You will
call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His
people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). That is what
He came to do. That is what He was doing that day by
the pool. How tragic if we see only a physical
healing and nothing more. How even more tragic if we
only see a man breaking some religious leaders’
rules for the day.
The religious leaders
were incensed. It aroused a murderous hatred in
their hearts for Him. "For this reason the Jews were
persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things
on the Sabbath" (v. 16). Jesus was in the habit of
doing these things on the Sabbath. He persisted in
doing these things on the wrong day. They pursued
Jesus with hostile intent to molest, harass, to
chase like a wild animal, to track it down and kill
it. It was a steady, continuing persecution of
Jesus. This was no isolated incident. They would
pursue Him until they killed Him at Calvary.
In this healing Jesus was
claiming to be equal with God the Father. Jesus was
saying that He is the Lord of the Sabbath. The
religious leaders clearly understood Jesus’ claim to
equality with God.
Jesus’ defense rests on
His intimate relationship with His Father. God
cannot break the Sabbath. It was impossible for the
Lord of the Sabbath to break the Sabbath. Jesus
consistently taught that He and the Father had the
closest possible relationship. "I and the Father are
one" (John 10:30). Immediately "the Jews took up
stones again to stone Him" (v. 31). They understood
perfectly the issues in the declarations of Jesus.
Jesus was only doing what the Father is always
doing. He is the Lord of the Sabbath. Jesus was
insisting that He was equal with the Father.
I am just doing
what My Father is doing
Face to face Jesus
answered the religious leaders, "My Father is
working until now, and I Myself am working" (v. 17).
I am just doing what My Father is doing. I am about
My Father’s business. I’m doing what My Father does.
I am doing what He told Me to do. The relationship
between God and Jesus is a Father-Son relationship.
The love of the Father and the obedience of the Son
are perfect. The Son of God was completely
controlled by the Father’s love for Him.
The response of the
religious leaders was, "For this reason therefore
the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him,
because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but
also was calling God His own Father, making Him
equal with God" (v. 18). Isn’t that amazing. They
clearly understood Jesus’ claim to equality with God
the Father. Jesus kept saying that God was His own
Father and they in turn were even more eager to kill
Him for it.
What was the Father
doing? He was giving eternal life. "For as the
Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so
the Son also gives life to whom He wishes. For not
even the Father judges any one, but He has given all
judgment to the Son, in order that all may honor the
Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not
honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent
Him. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My
word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal
life, and does not come into judgment, but has
passed out of death into life" (vv. 21-24). Jesus
promises to give eternal life to those who believe
The Sabbath question
deals with the most vital issues in a person’s
relationship with God. Why all this murderous hatred
toward Jesus? Humanism stresses man’s rules, human
merit, man doing something for himself, man’s
virtues, appearance, performance and status. God’s
sovereign grace stresses man’s depravity,
sinfulness, judgment, salvation by grace through
faith in Jesus Christ. The religious leaders wanted
rules and regulations so they could merit a right
relationship with God. "See how good I am." Sinful
man always wants to do something to influence a holy
God. Keeping a holy day would mask their depraved
hearts. God’s ways are not man’s ways.
That is the real issue.
"My Father," not "our Father."
This is the One of whom
wrote Isaiah, "For a child will be born to us, a son
will be given to us; and the government will rest on
His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful
Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of
Peace" (Isaiah 9:6).
Jesus told His own
disciples later, "He who has seen Me has seen the
Father. . . Do you not believe that I am in the
Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I
say to you I do not speak of My own initiative, but
the Father abiding in Me does His works" (John
14:9-10; cf. 5:18-23; 10:29-30, 37-38; 14:8-11).
The powerful message
Jesus was driving home was that He alone displays
the unique characteristics of God. This aroused a
murderous hatred on the part of His enemies. It
still does even in our day. You can say that Jesus
is one of many saviors, or a good moral teacher, or
one of many ways to get to heaven, and no one will
be displeased, but that is not the option He give
us. From this point on in the life of Jesus they
were determined to put Him to death.
The world hates it when
you tell them, "There is salvation in no one else;
for there is no other name under heaven that has
been given among men by which we must be saved"
(Acts 4:12). Nothing has changed since that day
Jesus proclaimed through the healing of the lame man
that He is the Son of God, and the only savior of
mankind. The unbelieving world shouts, "Be
tolerant!" However, the truth is there is no
other name that will bring everlasting life. All
other names whispered in your ear will send you to
an everlasting hell.
Jesus and the Father’s
will can never run counter to each other. They are
perfectly one in attitude, desire, goals, motives,
volition and purpose. It is a unique Father—Son
relationship. The love of the Father and the
obedience of the Son are in perfect tune.
PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS
Since God is at work all
about us we need to get a vision of God in His
How tragic that religious
people could get lost with a man carrying his
bedroll and do not see the glory of God all about
them. Here was a man suffering for thirty-eight
years, and all they could see was someone breaking a
religious rule. Don’t get manipulated into a
becoming a grace killer. They are just as busy going
about Satan’s work today as they were in Jesus’ day.
When you see God doing something in a person’s life,
get out of the way and let Him alone get the glory.
Everything He does is based upon His grace alone,
and therefore He alone gets all the glory. Do we
affirm the grace of God, or do we tend to be narrow,
bigoted, nit-picking enemies of grace?
How can we be at rest
when all about us are people suffering because of
Jesus saw hurting
humanity, and He was willing to pay the price to get
involved. Do you thank Him every day for His
willingness to go to the cross and pay our sin debt?
He cared enough to get involved in our sin problem.
When we have seen God the
Son we have also seen God the Father.
To see one is to see the
other. Our heavenly Father is a compassionate God
who cares about you and me. He has demonstrated His
love by sending His Son to die for our sins while we
were still spiritually blind, lame and helpless. He
extends His grace and mercy to each of us today.
Jesus has the authority
from the Father to execute judgment and to give life
because He is the Son of God.
Jesus Christ claims
authority to give eternal life to all who call upon
Him. But He also has the authority to judge all who
reject Him as their Savior. "For just as the Father
has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also
to have life in Himself; and He gave Him authority
to execute judgment, because He is the son of Man"
When you see yourself as
spiritually blind, lame and paralyzed you are
qualified to find healing in the Son.
Two classes of people are
seen in this passage of Scripture. One group was so
self-possessed that they made a decision to kill
Jesus. They were deeply religious. They thought they
were doing the right thing. They even thought they
were doing God a favor by killing His Son.
Of all the people there
that day only one man was healed. He could not save
himself. God does not help those who help
themselves. He helps those who cannot help
themselves. Too many people are trying to save
themselves. Many are trying to add something to
their religious life so they will be acceptable to
God. It can never work because we are lame
spiritually, blind spiritually and spiritually
paralyzed by our sin and depravity.
Will you acknowledge your
need today and cast yourself upon the saving grace
of God in Jesus Christ? He gives life, eternal life
to all who will come to Him. "Truly, truly, I say to
you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead
shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and those
who hear it shall live" (v. 25). Is He speaking to
you right now? Heed His pleading voice in your heart
right now and believe on Him. Ask Jesus Christ to
save you right now while His Spirit is speaking to
Title: John 5:1-18
Who is Jesus?
Series: People in
the Life of Christ