John 5


‘Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.” But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’” So, they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?” The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.’ John 5:1-15

The Healing at the Pool

This is the third miraculous sign given in John’s account. Jesus clashed with the religious authorities several times, over healing on the Sabbath, Mark 3:1-6 / Luke 13:10-17 / Luke 14:1-6 / John 9.

It’s not the general principle of the Sabbath that He disagrees with, but rather with the petty restrictions imposed by the religious authorities, which often worked against God’s purpose in giving the people a weekly day of rest.

Here the Jews attack Jesus on two counts, Sabbath-breaking and blasphemy because He puts His own work on the same level as God’s, John 5:17, God’s activity didn’t finish at creation.

The amount of time that passed between the last verse of chapter four and the first verse of chapter five is difficult to determine. The phrase used could indicate any period other than immediately after this, John 2:12.

It doesn’t necessarily indicate a long period of time. If this time were clearly indicated, then we would be able to determine more clearly which feast Jesus had travelled back to Jerusalem for, John 1:1, whatever the feast, it demonstrates the faithfulness of Jesus.

The pool was most likely a mineral water pool similar to those found around the world, John 5:2.


In ‘Bethesda’ or ‘Bethzatha’, there may have been more than one pool in this area or a group of pools with the same name, John 5:2. A pool in this area was excavated in 1871 and found to be 100 metres long, 67-80 wide and 7-8 deep.

It’s possible that a gush of mineral water would flow occasionally from the depths disturbing the water and encouraging those waiting to get in, John 5:7. Such pools are often even today considered to have healing powers, or at least to have some therapeutic value. We call them spa’s today.

The pool was identified by the five covered colonnades, John 5:2, the latter part of John 5:3 and John 5:4 are generally accepted as being additions to the early text and are omitted from modern versions.

It reads as follows, ‘Some manuscripts include here, wholly or in part, paralyzed—and they waited for the moving of the waters. From time to time an angel of the Lord would come down and stir up the waters. The first one into the pool after each such disturbance would be cured of whatever disease they had.”

The text runs quite clearly without them and they add little to the understanding of the situation.

In John 5:5 we see this paralysed man was one among a multitude of invalids, yet he alone is healed. The age of the man is unknown but it seems to have been common knowledge that he had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.

He may have advertised ‘he had been an invalid for thirty-eight years’ to gain a little sympathy. The nature of the invalidity is unknown, but it is more than fair to assume that he was paralysed and otherwise unable to walk.

It may seem strange that Jesus asks, ‘Do you want to get well?’ John 5:6. There were some ‘professional beggars’ around in those days who could lose an easy and even perhaps profitable income if cured, and therefore would not want help.

Obviously, Jesus knew the man’s heart and any man could assume that he would want to get well. It could have been that the man, in his depression after 38 years of being an invalid, had given up the idea of ever being well again. He could lose the living he made from begging or he would have to begin to compete in the job market.

Like many people, long-term invalids can sometimes learn to feel comfortable in their limitations and their familiar environment. Jesus needed to challenge the man’s will and ask the man for faith in himself. It is sad to see a man in such a desperate position with no one to help him all those years.

John 5:7 tells us that as the water stirred, it was each man for himself and as a result, the invalid never had a chance. The water could be stirred by a gush of mineral-rich water, or perhaps someone actually stirred the pool at certain times. Note though that the man didn’t see Jesus as a potential healer, he still had his faith in the pool.

Jesus could well have been touched by the man’s plight as He gives a strong instruction, three imperatives. John 5:8.

1. Get up!

2. Pick up your mat and

3. Walk!

He may have known that it was just tradition that gave him belief in the pool, but Jesus gives a direct instruction which the man immediately follows, John 5:9.

Imagine the joy, no aches and stiffness after all those years, just up and on. Again, notice the healing was immediate and complete, Jesus sometimes chose not to heal completely for His own purpose, Mark 8:22-25.

In John 5:9-13 we see that Jesus is then persecuted for healing on the Sabbath, this is the first real religious hostility He has encountered, the attitude of the individual is important.

It was the Sabbath, this was the first time, the Sabbath ‘law’ was broken as a result of Jesus’ action in Jerusalem. This wasn’t the law of Moses but the fine hair-splitting type definition that had appeared around the Sabbath.

Sabbath observance, the law of Moses strictly forbade working on the Sabbath, Exodus 20:8-11 / Jeremiah 17:19-27 / Nehemiah 13:15-18. The Jews saw law-breaking, John 1:19 / John 5:33, instead of rejoicing with the man they were looking for fault someone to blame, John 5:10.

They Jewish leaders said to Jesus, ‘the law forbids you’, no it doesn’t, the law forbade work for money but the animals still had to be fed, and the priests still made their sacrifices.

This prohibition applied to that type of burden-bearing which was connected with ordinary labour, secular work, bargaining, and bartering connected with ordinary trade during the week.


For example, if a man had a toothache on the Sabbath, he was forbidden to apply vinegar directly to the tooth, but he could take large quantities of vinegar with his food, and this did not come under the command of work, the Rabbi’s defined work under 39 separate regulations.

When they criticised the disciples for taking a handful of grain on the Sabbath, Matthew 12:1-2, they said that was work because it involved, reaping, threshing, winnowing and preparing a meal.

Dragging a chair along the ground was work, it was classed as ploughing if it made a furrow in the ground that seed could fall into. If your house caught fire you could run outside, but you could only carry out the clothes you were wearing, but if you stripped off and went back in and put on some more clothes and ran out again, that would be all right and you could do that as often as you like.

1 Maccabees 2 tells us of the Jewish revolt against the Syrians when 2000 men were wiped out when they were attacked on the Sabbath and wouldn’t defend themselves. Jesus wasn’t violating the law, only their human traditions.

John 5:11-13 tells us that the man didn’t even know who had healed him, he had no faith in Jesus or the cause, and the healing depended entirely on the power of Jesus Christ. The man evades all the conditions put on potentially healed people of today’s healing ministries.

Although Jeremiah 19:20-21 forbids the carrying of a load on the Sabbath, the Jews ignore the fact that this man had been healed, they did not celebrate with him, and they didn’t even congratulate him.

They immediately persecuted Jesus because of the binding of the law, Jesus sought no payment or thanks for His charity, He didn’t declare Himself or the Gospel, He simply, ‘slipped away into the crowd’, John 5:13.

Jesus ‘found him’, John 5:14, implies that Jesus had been looking for him, John 9:33 / John 1:45. The man’s body had been healed, but his spiritual status hasn’t been mentioned. As a result, Jesus again finds the man and mentions the more spiritual aspects of life and so. He encourages the man to live a more holy life, John 5:14.

This isn’t a threat of physical disability if the man doesn’t behave himself, rather, it is an example of Jesus encouraging the man to prevent his spiritual disablement. Eternal consequences of sin are worse than any illness he has suffered.

Perhaps his illness had been caused by a specific sin and Jesus warns of the more serious consequences than physical ones that await those who face spiritual punishment. If he was to continue, a worse punishment could be the result, this implies being warned about the Final condemnation, he will lose his soul.

The ex-invalid then tells the Jews who it was who healed him, John 5:14, which proves that more occurred in the conversation between Jesus and the man than we are told, Jesus did quite possibly tell him of salvation.

The Authority of the Son

‘So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. In his defence, Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” For this reason, they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these so that you will be amazed. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father. Whoever does not honour the Son does not honour the Father, who sent him. “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.’ John 5:16-29

The Jewish establishment had missed the whole point of the healing, and no mention is made of their reaction to the healing itself.

As the text says, ‘these things’, John 5:16, this tell us that they knew that this wasn’t an isolated incident. Now they believe that they have a good reason for persecuting Jesus, they sincerely believe that He sinned by healing on the Sabbath.

Jesus now claims and emphasises in a special sense a Father and Son relationship with God, John 5:17. To the Jews, this claim is in effect the same as claiming to be the Father, God. God works on the Sabbath by sustaining life and Jesus who is God, also has work to do on that day, equality with God, John 5:18.

Jesus doesn’t break the Moses given law but the traditions of the fathers who have grown up around that law. As a result of Jesus’ claim, the Jews now wish to kill him for they believe He has committed the act of blasphemy and thus deserves to die, John 5:18. His claim implies that He is God, not next to Him, or with Him, but of Him, the same as Him, united in Him.

In John 5:19-23 we find three themes concerning Jesus.

1. His unity with the Father.

2. His divine authority.

3. The witnesses authenticate His claims. Jesus makes His relationship with the Father very clear, all who were around Him knew exactly what He was saying.

Jesus declared his deity and those who heard, knew and understood. If Jesus is guilty of breaking the Sabbath, then so is God for they are both the same. Jesus is either God or He is a liar and blasphemer, not a sub god or angel.

Jesus is fully aware of the Father’s plans and purposes and the Father shows Him all that He is doing, John 5:19-20. Throughout John 5:19-23, Jesus draws comparisons between Him and the Father and in that way, He emphasises the closeness of His relationship between the Father and the Son.

Notice in John 5:21 that the Jews accepted that God could raise from the dead and give life, Deuteronomy 32:39 / 1 Samuel 2:68 / 2 Kings 5:7. So can Jesus because He asserts that He also is the life-giver ‘the Son gives life to whom He wills.’ John 5:21 / John 14:6. All judgement is entrusted to the Son, Acts 17:30-31 / 2 Corinthians 5:10, this demands honour to be given to the Son and this must have incensed the crowd.

The word, ‘has’, John 5:22, is present tense and means salvation is in Jesus Christ, He will judge. The whole Christian doctrine is excluded from this passage and all is focused on Christ, man is unimportant in his ideas, all is Christ.

In John 5:24 we find the words, ‘Truly, truly’ which are important. Jesus promised eternal life for those who believe in Him, He displays authority to forgive sins and declare men saved, Matthew 9:108 / Romans 8:1.

This passage teaches that all who have accepted the Son have passed from death to life, thus Christians now have eternal life as a reality, John 3:36 / 1 John 5:13. Like a house on mortgage, this life is, or soon will be, available to all who are dead in the spirit, they will all have an opportunity to be reborn.

It’s conditional, in terms of our relationship with Jesus, 1 John 5:11-12 / John 10:27-30, we hope for eternal life, Titus 1:1-2, because in heaven we will enjoy it to the full.

It deals with our ability to see God’s plan, like using a telescope or microscope, the higher the magnification, the more we see, deep wells of knowledge, belief and trust so hold on to Jesus.

Later in John 5:25-29, we see that this speaks of the Son and Judgement. Notice there are two resurrections mentioned.

1. Spiritual, ‘now the hour is coming’, dead in sin, John 5:25, Pentecost, Acts 2 / Ephesians 2:1-5.

2. Physical, ‘all in the tombs’, John 5:28-29, all physically dead, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18.

Note that Jesus has life in Himself, John 5:26 / Acts 24:15. Because of Jesus, mainly because of His nature, He will be the judge of men. And as a result, an entirely fair hearing will be given as he has been a man and has been tempted as a man, John 5:30. Jesus continues to tell the Jews present of great things to come, He indicates an opportunity for all to hear and receive His word.

Jesus has claimed a special relationship with the Father, He has in fact claimed to be of the same substance, a physical explanation of a spiritual relationship, as the Father.

The relationship between the Father and the Son

Father                  Son

A special relationship with Jesus. Jesus calls God ‘My Father’. John 5:17 

The Father does what the Son does. The Son does what the Father does. John 5:19

The Father loves the Son and shows. The Son enjoys perfect knowledge of Him His works the Father. John 5:20

The Father raises the dead. The Son gives life. John 5:21

The Father trusts his Son with judgement. The Son judges. John 5:22

To honour the Father, the Son must be. To honour the Son the Father must be honoured. John 5:23

The Father has life in himself. The Son has life in himself. John 5:26

In John 5:29 we see as always in Scripture, that judgement is on the basis of works, though salvation of course is a gift from God causing the response of faith, Ephesians 2:8-9.

The Jews were right, Jesus was claiming equality with God, John 5:18, but this didn’t mean He was setting Himself up as an independent authority, John 5:19.

Jesus has knowledge of God’s plan, John 5:19-20, He has God’s authorization for all He says and does, John 5:19 / John 5:30. He has the power to give eternal life, John 5:21 / John 5:24 / John 5:40, and finally, Jesus has the right and authority to judge all men living and dead, John 5:25-29.

Testimonies About Jesus

‘If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. There is another who testifies in my favour, and I know that his testimony about me is true. “You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light. “I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. “I do not accept glory from human beings, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? “But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?’ John 5:30-47

The word ‘Testify’ or witness, ‘marturia’ means testimony, evidence, which is the great theme in John. He gives evidence to prove who Jesus is and claims to be, that we might have life, John 20:30. He wants quite rational evidence of the acceptance, He wants faith, not credulity.

Can His claims be proven?

Yes, witness after witness and with accurate testimony, it is reasonable and logical, the same applies to His resurrection.

Jesus discredits His own testimony, John 5:31, because the testimony of a man in his own support is invalid in accordance with human standards. Here He accepts these standards while in John 8:14, He invokes higher Godly standards. He specifies the corroboration of witnesses.

1. Another. The Father, John 5:32-37 / Matthew 17:5 / John 8:18 / Mark 9:1-7.

2. The testimony of John the Baptiser, John 5:33-35 / John 1:9-37.

3. Jesus, His works and His miracles, John 5:36 / John 3:2.

4. Jewish scriptures, John 5:39-44 / Luke 24:26-48.

5. Moses testifies, John 5:45-47.

John the Baptiser

John the Baptiser bears witness, John 5:33-35. It appears as if John was quite well accepted and trusted, John 5:35. Now that the true light of life has come, that light to which John testified, John 1:7-10, the Jews have rejected John’s teachings, John 1:11.

The Scriptures

The scriptures bear testimony, John 5:34-40, throughout the prophets and elsewhere, the coming of Christ is proclaimed. The learned men who searched the scriptures are not able to recognise the one they are looking for even when he stands before them. They fail to see Him, life is not found in the scriptures, but is freely available to all in Christ.

The Father

The Father bears testimony, John 5:41-44, pride and falsehood bear testimony to Christ.


In John 5:45-47 we see the most powerful testimony of all, the testimony of Moses. The Torah-loving Jews must have shuddered when Jesus said, ‘Your accuser is Moses’. The Torah indicated the coming of Christ and what His spiritual appearance would be like.

The Jews clung to Moses, but couldn’t recognise the one Moses spoke of, Deuteronomy 18:15-19, this is spiritual short-sightedness. The accusation that they didn’t believe in Moses, John 5:46-47, was indicating the spiritual superficiality of their faith, they were lawyers and philosophers, not spiritual men.

They had many reasons for rejecting Jesus. They were deaf and blind, John 5:14-24 / 2 Corinthians 4:44 / John 5:37. They were unwilling to receive the words of God, John 5:38, the word didn’t find a place in their hearts. Unwillingness to receive is an attitude of the mind, whatever God says should be acceptable to us, Luke 8:15. They had no love for God, John 5:42.

Jesus was saying their refusal to accept Him shows that they have not one scrap of love in their hearts. If they love God and His word, they will know Him, if they see Him, they will see the Father in Him, John 14:1-11.

They preferred man’s praise to God’s, John 5:44 / John 12:42-43. They didn’t seem to honour God, Matthew 26. He is a God of love, 1 John 4:8. but we all have a cross to carry, Matthew 16:24-26.

Is the praise of men more important than the praise of God? No. A person who rightly understands the Old Testament scriptures will be convinced that the Messiah was Jesus the Christ, the anointed one of God.

Mere knowledge of the scriptures is not enough, John 5:39, we need to keep on searching. The scribes wrote copies of the scriptures and had every page numbered, every verse and every line. They calculated the middle letter of each verse that contained all the letters of the alphabet or a certain number of them.

In copying out the original script they were not allowed to do more than one letter without consulting the original again. They knew the scripture but not the Saviour. Moses the lawgiver they loved would become their judge on the last day, John 5:45.

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