“Soar Like Eagles” The Gospel of John #7- Do You Wish To Get Well? John 5:1-18

16 Feb

c5f6b188dcd185fbe7f76b5ab2474b96The first period in the life of Jesus recorded in this gospel contained His claims. He Himself presented some of them through an explicit avowal of Messiahship, some were implicit in the titles ascribed to Him by His friends, and still others were latent in the miracles that He performed.

He claimed nothing less for Himself than Deity. He demanded nothing less from His followers than obedient faith.

Between chapters 4 and 5:1, the following incidents occurred in Jesus’ life:

  1. Returned to Nazareth, taught in the synagogue, and was rejected (Luke 4).
  2. Called four fishermen the second time, and healed many (Matt. 4; Mark 1; Luke 5).
  3. Made the Galilean tour among crowds (Matt. 9).
  4. Healed a leper (Matt. 8).
  5. Healed a paralytic (Matt. 9).
  6. Called Matthew (Matt. 9).
  7. Ran into controversies about eating and fasting (Matt. 9; Mark 2; Luke 5).

Because of His claims, He met opposition. Chapters 6 and 7 will show the development of this opposition in debate and controversy before it broke into deadly conflict.

The subject matter in this Period of Controversy was centered around two events: the healing of the impotent man at the pool of Bethesda and the feeding of 5,000 men in Galilee.

These two differ in character, in scope, in locality, and in response:

– One was negative, for it removed the handicap of a long standing disease. The other was positive, for it provided nourishment for the healthy crowd.

– One pertained to one individual, the other to 5,000 men.

– One took place in Galilee, the other in Jerusalem.

– One evoked the enmity of the Jews; the other brought acclamation of the multitude.


* THE NEED (5:1-5)

“Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. {2} 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. {3} Here a great number of disabled people used to lie–the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. [and they waited for the moving of the waters. {4} 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 he had.]  {5} One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years

There were three Jewish feasts which were feasts of obligation– Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. Every adult male Jew who lived within 15 miles of Jerusalem was legally bound to attend them.

It’s most likely that this feast was Pentecost, since the events of John 6 occur when the Passover was near.  The Passover was in mid- April, and Pentecost was seven weeks later.

Make this special note: Verses 3b and 4 are not found in the latest translations of the original Greek…they aren’t even found in most translations except as a footnote. They were added in the later centuries to explain why the sick were gathered, and listed the superstitious feelings of the people.

Beneath the pool was a subterranean stream which every now and again bubbled up and disturbed the waters. The belief  was that the disturbance was caused by an angel, and that the first person to get into the pool after the troubling of the water would be healed from any illness from which he was suffering.

For 38 years, this pathetic man has lain here in the poverty, the repulsion, and the despair. To us this is mere superstition.  But it was the kind of belief which was spread all over the world in ancient days and which still exists in certain places.

Suddenly, the waters of the pool begin to boil, or bubble, or froth in some way, and pandemonium breaks out. Only one person will be healed per “stirring”—the first one into the pool. Every ailing person there at the pool is in competition with the rest of the multitude who are also hoping for a healing. If and when the waters are actually troubled, no one dares to tell anyone else, for fear they might reach the pool first. Can you imagine the pushing, shoving, and tripping that takes place as every ailing person desperately strives to be the first into the water?

What a pathetic sight, to see cripples crawling, hopping, rolling, clawing their way to the water’s edge. What chaos there would be! And then, even if one person was healed, it would not be the most needy person, because the one with the smallest ailment would be the most likely one to reach the pool first. The most needy person would be the least likely to get into the water first. Therefore, the least needy would probably be the one cured, while all the rest struggle to get out of the pool, get back to their “stations,” and await their next chance. What a very pathetic scene.

In this story we see very clearly the conditions under which the power of Jesus operated.  He gave his orders to men and, in proportion as they tried to obey, power came to them.

(i)  Jesus began by asking the man if he wanted to be cured.  It was not so foolish a question as it may sound.  The man had waited for thirty-eight years and it might well have been that hope had died and left behind a passive and dull despair.  In his heart of heart the man might be well content to remain an invalid for, if he was cured, he would have to shoulder all the burden of making a living.  There are invalids for whom invalidism is not unpleasant, because someone else does all the working and all the worrying.  But this man’s response was immediate.  He wanted to be healed, though he did not see how he ever could be since he had no one to help him.

The first essential towards receiving the power of Jesus is to have intense desire for it.  Jesus says:  “Do you really want to be changed?”  If in our inmost hearts we are well content to stay as we are, there can be no change for us.

(ii)  Jesus went on to tell the man to get up.  It is as if he said to him:  “Man, bend your will to it and you and I will do this thing together!”  The power of God never dispenses with the effort of man.  Nothing is truer than that we must realize our own helplessness; but in a very real sense it is true that miracles happen when our will and God’s power co-operate to make them possible.

(iii)  In effect Jesus was commanding the man to attempt the impossible.  “Get up!”  he said.  His bed would simply be a light stretcher-like frame-the Greek is krabbatos, a colloquial word which really means a pallet-and Jesus told him to pick it up and carry it away.  The man might well have said with a kind of injured resentment that for thirty-eight years his bed had been carrying him and there was not much sense in telling him to carry it.  But he made the effort along with Christ-and the thing was done.

(iv)  Here is the road to achievement.  There are so many things in this world which defeat us.  When we have intensity of desire and determination to make the effort, hopeless though it may seem, the power of Christ gets its opportunity, and with him we can conquer what for long has conquered us.

* THE MIRACLE (5:6-9a)

“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?” {7} “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.” {8} Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” {9} At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.”

Not only would this man’s plight be seemingly hopeless, but the man himself seemed resigned to his fate and had accepted the inevitable. Verse 7 is a further explanation of their superstition: the people believed the angels stirred the water, and the first one in would be healed.

Just think: 38 years of misery, shame, embarrassment and despair; in a split second, it was all history!

No matter how long we have been struggling with some particular sin or situation from our past, Jesus can change it! The real question is: do you wish to get well?


“The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, {10} and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”

Undoubtedly, the witnesses around the pool were bustling with excitement. But the miracle leaves the legalists bristling with anger. When they should have been on their knees in praise, the only thing these Pharisees can do is pull out their principle-book and quote condemnation, chapter and verse.

The law said simply that the Sabbath Day must be different from other days and that on it neither a man nor his servants nor his animals must work; the Jews set out 39 different classifications of work, one of which was that it consisted in carrying a burden.

The Rabbis of Jesus’s day solemnly argued that a man was sinning if:

– he carried a needle in his robe

– if he wore artificial teeth or his wooden leg

– if a woman wore a broach

The authorities levelled their accusations against Jesus.  The verbs in verse 18 are imperfect tense, which describes repeated action in past time.  Clearly this story is only a sample of what Jesus habitually did.

His defense was shattering.  God did not stop working on the Sabbath day and neither did he.  Any scholarly Jew would grasp its full force.

Jesus said:  “Even on the Sabbath God’s love and mercy and compassion act; and so do mine.”  It was this last passage which shattered the Jews, for it meant nothing less than that the work of Jesus and the work of God were the same.  It seemed that Jesus was putting himself on an equality with God.  What Jesus really was saying we shall see in our next section; but at the moment we must note this-Jesus teaches that human need must always be helped; that there is no greater task than to relieve someone’s pain and distress and that the Christian’s compassion must be like God’s-unceasing.  Other work may be laid aside but the work of compassion never.

But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.'” {12} So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?” {13} The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. {14} 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.” {15} The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. {16} So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. {17} Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.”

The Pharisees took this occasion (vs. 16) as one excuse to persecute Him. They disliked Jesus when here the first time (2:18) and were suspicious of His popularity (4:1).

Now they have cause for an open breach. They would watch His conduct on the Sabbath from now on (Mark 2:23; 3:2, 6). Of course, the penalty for blasphemy was death. It is here that the “official persecution” of Jesus began!


“For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.”

The reply of Jesus to these accusations contained not only a new ethical concept of the Sabbath, but also a new theology. Jesus indicated that He made the Father His pattern, and that He felt that the Father’s work constituted sufficient precedent and reason for Him. They understood what He meant, because they sought to kill Him.

Essentially, the indictments of the legalists were two fold:

  1. Jesus broke the Sabbath (vs. 16, 18)
  2. Jesus claimed equality with God by claiming Him as His Father (vs. 17-18).

Ironically, the Pharisees were the guilty ones: they judged Jesus, refused to rejoice or give praise at the healing, and even went so far as to plot Christ’s assassination.

These Jewish leaders are seen for who they are. They suppose that they love God and their fellow man, in obedience to the law of Moses. They think themselves pious, and expect to be the first to enter the kingdom of God. Indeed, they expect a prominent leadership role in that kingdom. And yet when Jesus comes to town and heals a paralytic, their only concern is that the healed man is “walking illegally” (with his mat). They hardly seem to notice or care that the man is “walking”—the paralytic has been healed! And then, because Jesus has performed such a miracle, they begin to persecute the Son of God. When Jesus points out that this is exactly who He is, they redouble their efforts to kill Him. The wickedness of man never ceases to amaze us.

The second thing this incident in John’s Gospel does is to provide the occasion for Jesus to state very clearly (and very early in this Gospel) just who He is.

The most important question you will ever answer is this: “Who is Jesus Christ?” John gives us the answer, clearly. Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who speaks and acts for God, and as God. Jesus Christ is the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” He is the only One through whom your sins can be forgiven, the only way to heaven (John 14:6). Do you believe this?

1 Comment

Posted by on February 16, 2017 in Gospel of John


One response to ““Soar Like Eagles” The Gospel of John #7- Do You Wish To Get Well? John 5:1-18

  1. Dave Halligan

    February 16, 2017 at 5:24 am

    Gary, I want to thank you for writing these articles. I really enjoy them and appreciate your dedication and work that goes into putting these together. You truly have a gift of writing and I just wanted to let you know that these writings are an inspiration for me to keep reading and studying.

    In him,

    Dave Halligan 607-341-2467

    Liked by 1 person


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