John – “But Who Do You Say That I Am?” John 5:1-16

Well  we’re finally in chapter 5 after spending nearly 3 months covering chapter 4. I wonder how long it will take to get through chapter 5! LOL! Let’s pray…

Father,

Thank You for Your Word and thank You for being such an awesome God. Thank You for the mercy and grace that You have poured out on all of us even though none of us are deserving of it. Father as we open up Your Word now, we put away all distractions. Our hearts and minds are open to hear what You have to say. Speak Lord for Your servants are listening.  In the saving name of Jesus Christ we pray…Amen!

Do you know the meaning of the words sin, mercy, and grace? To unbelievers, they have no meaning and absolutely no significance to them but as Christians, we better know them and we better realize the significance of them to consider ourselves truly saved! In this post on the 1st part of chapter 5, we will look at all three of them through the story of the healing of a man at a pool by Jesus. We’ll also briefly take a look at something that plagues Christianity as it did back in Jesus’s day…legalism. We’ll be looking at not only what it is but also what it isn’t. A lot of ground to cover again so let’s get started.  As always, the text link for the chapter and the audio are included so you can follow along.

John 5

Let’s take a look at the passage we will be studying in this post…

After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. (2) Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. (3) In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. (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. (5) Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. (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?” (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.” (8) Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” (9) And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath. (10) The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.” (11) He answered them, “He who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your bed and walk.’ ” (12) Then they asked him, “Who is the Man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” (13) But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place. (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.” (15) The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. (16) For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath. … John 5:1-16 NKJV

Let’s take this passage apart now and look at it more closely. …

v 1 – After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

There is some length of time that passes between the end of Chapter 4 and the beginning of Chapter 5 even though the text says after this. John does not cover the events during this time because they are covered in the synoptic Gospels. The feast of the Jews takes place after Jesus’s second visit to Cana. Jesus had met a nobleman there that had came from Capernaum who had a dying son there which Jesus healed. We don’t know what feast this was. According to God’s commandments, there were three feasts that were mandatory for all Jews to attend. They were The Feast of Tabernacles (Booths), The Festival of Weeks, and Passover. Each of these were held in Jerusalem but the feast that John is probably talking about here is Passover. Jesus, being a Jew, would of course have been there. This is important to note because Jesus being God could have claimed an exemption from being there, After all, He is the one who instituted the Passover to begin with but He was teaching the importance of attending religious gatherings. As the writer in Hebrews says…

(24) And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, (25) not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. … Hebrews 10:24-25 NKJV

John’s Gospel is the only one that tells of this miraculous healing that takes place here.

vv 2-4 – (2) Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. (3) In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. (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. 

The Pool of Bethesda was located near the Sheep Gate. The Sheep Gate was appropriately named because this is where people would bring their sacrificial animals through, mainly sheep, to be offered as sacrifices by the priests in the temple. It was about 2 to 3 feet deep and it was mainly used as a place for people to wash their animals, again mainly sheep, before being offered as sacrifices. Up to the 19th century, it was believed that this pool didn’t exist but archaeological finds during that time proved otherwise.

Bethesda in Hebrew means place of mercy but this pool was anything but. The pool had five porches and John tells us that there were a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed. It wasn’t a place of mercy. It was a place of misery and despair! According to the famed Jewish writer Josephus, there were close to 300 of these poor individuals at this pool on a daily basis but this was Passover with millions in attendance so this pool area could have had close to over 3000 of these people when Jesus was there. The King Jimmie translates these people as impotent folk which basically means to be feeble by any sense. These people represent us all in our sinful condition.

These people would hang around the pool area waiting for the moving of the water. Apparently it was believed that an angel would show up and stir up the water and the first person to get into the water was healed of whatever infirmity that he or she had. Most Bible commentators believe that this was actually some type of underground spring that would bubble up and cause this stirring of water. Now whether or not if a person actually was healed when this happened is unknown. What probably happened is one of these people got into the water one day when this happened and was somehow healed, through God’s mercy, and instead of giving the glory to Him, it got around that these waters had some type of magical healing powers and people thronged there. This is much like today’s “faith healers” and the obsession of the Virgin Mary sightings in everything from clouds to potato chips!

vv 5-7 – (5) Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. (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?” (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.”

With the thousands of others, lay a man who had a condition that prevented him from walking. The text says that he had been suffering from this condition for thirty eight years. This probably meant all of his life. Verse 6 says that Jesus saw him lying there. The word saw is the Greek word idon which means to look intently. Jesus just didn’t look casually at the man as if to say “Gee what a shame!”. He looked intently at this suffering man with concern as He did at all of the suffering people there in the pool area. The way Jesus looked at the man and all of the others there is the way He looks at all of us in our sinful condition. There is some life application here. We Christians look at things too casually. If we looked at things more intently and with concern like Jesus does with this man, then we would not allow our country to be overrun by people from pagan nations intent on destroying the foundation of Christianity on which America was founded on nor allow our government to turn America into the idolatrous, pagan, and immoral country that it has become!

There must have been something that attracted Jesus to this man. He must have saw that this man had faith to be healed to make a direct challenge to him. Being God, Jesus had the foreknowledge of this man’s condition and how long He had been in that condition. The way Jesus challenges this man is highly unusual. Jesus asks him…Do you want to be made well?. If you look at the question on the surface, it’s insensitive. Why wouldn’t someone who has been in this kind of condition for that many years not want to be healed? There are three reasons why He asks this question though. The first one is to draw the people’s attention to Him to show that He is the answer not the water that the man and the other lame people were trying to get into. The second reason was to see how serious the man’s faith was to be healed. The most important reason why though was to show the man how helpless he was to help himself.  This is the way all of us are in our sinful condition. We are powerless to help ourselves. Nothing that we can do, no good deed, no level of comfort that we try to seek for ourselves can help us. Only turning our lives over to Jesus Christ and submitting to His will is the only cure for our sinful condition. So Jesus asks all of us this question…”Do you want to be made well?”. He will not cure us if we don’t want it though. If you look throughout the Gospels, Jesus never healed anyone unless they expressed a desire and had the faith for Him to. He never imposed His will on anyone. Only when people came to Him humbly realizing they were powerless to help themselves that He did anything for anyone.

The man however doesn’t exactly come out and say that he wishes to be cured but he does admit to Jesus that he is powerless to help himself by saying…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. It was a pitiful excuse but Jesus took the response as a cry for help and a confession of helplessness from the man.

vv 8-9 –  (8) Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” (9) And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath.  

Jesus gives the command to the man Rise, take up your bed and walk and instead of coming up with another pitiful excuse explaining why he couldn’t, he does what Jesus commands. Jesus never gives us a command without giving us the power to obey it. The man’s bed was not an actual bed like the ones that we sleep on though if it were, it probably would have been a sight to see! LOL! The man’s bed was likely a pad or a light mattress. It is important to note here that this was not a gradual healing over a period of time. This was an instantaneous healing. As Jesus spoke the words to the man, the man’s body was immediately getting life and power back into it. All the man had to do was have the faith to believe he was healed which he did when he obeyed Jesus’s command to get up and walk. What a thrill it must have been for him after so many years of suffering to be healed from this condition! There was a problem though as we look at the last part of verse 9,,,,And that day was the Sabbath…Dah dah D…A…H! LOL!

vv 10-13 – (10)  The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.”  (11)  He answered them, “He who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your bed and walk.’ ”  (12)  Then they asked him, “Who is the Man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?”  (13)  But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place.

Instead of being happy for the man and celebrating his miraculous healing, the Jews confronted the man and told him, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.” The Jews were the Pharisees. The Pharisees can be more or less described as the Jewish religious police. I covered their history back when I did the study of the Book of Jeremiah here in this blog but in a nutshell, they were formed during the Hebrew captivity in Babylon. They started out with the best of intentions offering teaching, help, and comfort to the Hebrews while they were in Babylon but after the captivity and God restored them back into the land, over the years afterwards, they became very legalistic and very hypocritical much like the Catholic priests of today. Jesus at one point calls them out on this fact in this well known passage from Matthew…

(23) “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. … Matthew 23:23 NKJV

Now in defense of the Pharisees, they were just enforcing one of God’s laws regarding the Sabbath. God commanded in Exodus 20…

(8) “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. (9) Six days you shall labor and do all your work, (10) but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. (11) For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. … Exodus 20:8-11 NKJV

Disobeying this command was one of the reasons why God sent the Hebrews into captivity in Babylon. So understandably they said amongst themselves, “You know what? This is never going to happen to us again so let’s make sure it doesn’t!” and they became God’s “guardians” of the Sabbath. The problem was that over the years after the captivity, they had “tacked on” so many things that were considered breaking the Sabbath that by the time that Jesus shows up on the scene, there were well over 300 things that you couldn’t do on the Sabbath! Now mind you, these were man made rules and certainly not God’s rules. What God meant was simply don’t work. That meant the kind of work you would be paid for. Simple enough but they took this to extremes. For instance, you couldn’t look into the mirror on the Sabbath! Here was their rationale behind this stupid rule. If you looked in the mirror on the Sabbath and saw a gray hair, you would be tempted to pull it out and if you did, that was labor! You couldn’t wear false teeth on the Sabbath! Yep, back then incredibly they had false teeth and here was the rationale for this. If they fell out of your mouth, you would be tempted to pick them up and put them back in your mouth and then you would be bearing a burden. In Jeremiah, the Lord says…

(21) Thus says the LORD: “Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the Sabbath day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem; (22) nor carry a burden out of your houses on the Sabbath day, nor do any work, but hallow the Sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers. … Jeremiah 17:21-22 NKJV

So they considered this to be bearing a burden. According to their law bearing a burden meant carrying anything that weighed more than a combination of two dried figs so according to their law, this man carrying his mattress or pad was a no no on the Sabbath. He was not only bearing a burden but he was also traveling another no no on the Sabbath according to their law.

Another problem on questioning this man in verse 12, Who is the Man who said to you, “Take up your bed and walk”  was they wanted to question and stone, which was the punishment for breaking the Sabbath, the one who instituted the Sabbath in the first place!

Here’s a question that always gets asked by believers…what about today? Are we required to keep the Sabbath today? Depends on how you look at it. It was, and still is, one of the original Ten Commandments so in regards to that, you can say yes. However, Jesus makes no reference to keeping the Sabbath whatsoever in the Gospels nor is there any referring to it in The New Testament. The only reference to it is made by Paul in two passages regarding legalism. In 1 Corinthians…

(16) So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, … Colossians 2:16 NKJV

And in Romans…

(5)  One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.  (6)  He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks. … Romans 14:5-6 NKJV

The Sabbath was from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday. After Christ’s resurrection however, Christians celebrated the Sabbath on Sunday. Now it’s pretty much blown off altogether in America. However whether you do or you don’t or what day(s) you choose to  observe it is your choice. Before moving on, what is legalism exactly? Simply put it is adding anything to the finished work of Christ on the cross for the basis of salvation. What legalism isn’t however, is confronting people with Biblical truth which many Christians seem to think it is. Coming out against idolatry and immorality in our country or actually doing something about them is not legalism! 

The healed man had no idea who had healed him or where Jesus had gone because Jesus had left because He was drawing a crowd. Why did Jesus split? Two possible explanations. He wanted to get away from the Pharisees so they couldn’t seize Him and question Him and perhaps, stone Him. All throughout John’s Gospel, we see the phrase, His time had not yet come. That time was Jesus going to the cross. Jesus was on a timetable and this wasn’t His time. The other explanation, and the reason I believe why, is because Jesus wanted to draw attention to the miracle and not to who performed it. There’s some life application we can apply to this as well. When we give or offer to serve in whatever capacity, we should make that the focus of people’s attention and not have the focus of the attention on us. Jesus says in Matthew…

“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. (2) Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. (3) But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, (4) that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly. … Matthew 6:1-4 NKJV

Let’s move on and wrap this up…

vv 14-16 – (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.” (15) The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. (16) For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath.

Presumably, Jesus waits for the crowd to thin out and then goes back to find the healed man who no doubt is praising and giving thanks to God for his miraculous healing. My guess is that he was also telling others about it even though he didn’t know who had healed him. Jesus tells him that he has been made well but then He tells him, Sin no more. Apparently this malady that this man suffered from could have been the result of some form of sin in his life. Not every illness is because of sin though. This is the second time the word sin appears in John’s gospel but the first time that Jesus uses the word. It is the Greek word hamartano which means to miss the mark. it is an archery term basically. Let’s say that you and I are given a bow and 10 arrows. All the arrows that you shoot hit the bullseye except for the last one. Guess what? You missed the mark! Now I shoot my 10 arrows and I’m really bad! LOL! Only one of my arrows hits the bullseye and the rest sail off to who knows where! LOL! I too have missed the mark only worse than you did! LOL! So what’s the point here? The point is you may have been a better shot than me but we both missed the mark and that is how God views all of humanity. Sorry folks but in this age of self-importance and touting human accomplishment, all of humanity has missed the mark! We are all sinners! Some of us just sin less than others but we are all still sinners! We as humans have a sinful nature. We are born with it! In Romans, Paul says…

(10) As it is written: “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NO, NOT ONE; (11) THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS; THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS AFTER GOD. (12) THEY HAVE ALL TURNED ASIDE; THEY HAVE TOGETHER BECOME UNPROFITABLE; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, NO, NOT ONE.” … Romans 3:10-12 NKJV

In Isaiah, the prophet says…

(5)  You meet him who rejoices and does righteousness, Who remembers You in Your ways. You are indeed angry, for we have sinned— In these ways we continue; And we need to be saved. (6) But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away. … Isaiah 64:5-6 NKJV

In America though there is no such thing as sin anymore. No sinners either. We have victims and freethinkers instead. Gone are the fire and brimstone messages on sin and its consequences in churches and instead it’s all about Jesus’s love for everyone. Yes He does love everyone but there is a price to pay for sin without God’s forgiveness. How do we get that forgiveness? By grace. Grace is undeserved favor. Let’s go back to the archery example. Suppose someone was to gather up the arrow that you shot that missed the bullseye and gathered up all of mine that missed as well and stuck them into the bullseye. That’s what you call grace. We didn’t deserve it but someone had mercy on us and did that for us and that’s what God did when He sent His Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross. He did it for all of us so we could be forgiven of our sin but only if we accept that free gift of grace!

Jesus finds the man in the temple who was probably no doubt praying and thanking God for the miracle that had just happened to him. Perhaps he was also in the temple praying for forgiveness because he had broken one of the Pharisees precious laws on the Sabbath. The point is, the man was in the temple where he should have been. Now Jesus tells him to Sin no more lest a worse thing come upon you. Notice that Jesus doesn’t say “Sin as little as possible” but “Sin no more”. Jesus is making it quite clear how He views sin. Any form of it is intolerable and unacceptable to Him especially sinning under grace. People who are saved should not return to their former way of life. Some Christians seem to think that they can do whatever they want after they are saved but Paul cautions about this way of thinking. In Romans, Paul says…

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?  (2)  Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? … Romans 6:1-2 NKJV

Bottom line people who think they can do whatever they want after coming to Christ to be saved probably aren’t!

So what could be worse than the affliction that this man suffered from all of his life? Try eternal damnation which is probably the point that Jesus is trying to make here as well.

The man immediately goes out and tells people that Jesus is the one who made him well. His witness for Christ begins almost immediately without fear or repercussions and he doesn’t disappear into a synagogue for years of teaching. He wants people to know right away who is responsible for his new condition. He tells them what he knows and what no can question…his testimony! You don’t need years in a seminary to tell others about Jesus. To put it in the words of the slogan of Adidas…”Just do it”! If you don’t have a testimony, then get one!

Some have believed that the man went out and told others to deliberately put the Savior’s life in danger. That thinking though is absolutely ludicrous! The text does say that they sought to kill Jesus from then on because He had violated the Sabbath but there is no evidence in the text that suggests the man had anything to do with it.

We covered a lot of ground and to close this out, let’s summarize. We as believers have to be merciful. Showing mercy to others does not mean that we compromise Biblical teachings and condone others sinful behaviors and idolatry though and sinning under grace is a no no . The most important takeaway here though is that we are all sinners and if you haven’t experienced the saving power of Jesus Christ to be forgiven of your sin, you need to do that today! I love what F.B. Meyer said in his commentary on this chapter…

Are you a withered soul? Healing and wholeness are in Christ for you. Receive from Him the power that waits to flow through your wasted muscles. Believe that it is passing through you, and act accordingly. Spring to your feet, roll up your bed, and carry that which has so long carried you.

Let’s pray…

 

Heavenly Father,

Thank You for the wonderful gift of grace that You have given us in sending Your Son Jesus Christ to die on a cross so that we can all be forgiven but only if we accept that free gift. Father, help us to live more holy and productive lives pleasing and acceptable to You. As Paul says in Romans to present our bodies as a living sacrifice holy and acceptable to You which is our reasonable service for such a wonderful gift of grace. Lord, help us to be more like You to be more merciful to others especially to those who don’t know You and help us give our testimony to them to help them realize Your wonderful power to change lives. Help us change lives today! In the name of Jesus we pray…Amen!