1 Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda[a] 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.  [b] 5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 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.
The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10 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.”
11 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 Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.
16 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. 17 In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” 18 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.
19 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. 20 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. 21 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. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.
24 “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. 25 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. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
- John 5:2 Some manuscripts Bethzatha; other manuscripts Bethsaida
- John 5:4 Some manuscripts include here, wholly or in part, 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 they had.
- John 5:39 Or 39 Study
- John 5:44 Some early manuscripts, the Only One
1 Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda[a] 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. John 5:4 Some manuscripts include here, wholly or in part, 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 they had.
Sometime later, Jesus went to Jerusalem for ‘the Jewish festival.’ The manuscript evidence strongly favors no definite article. We do not know which feast it was. What the author could not remember, he did not invent. It is clear from this that Jesus made a practice of attending the regular feasts, as the Old Testament had commanded, even though with the dispersion of the Jews, the course had become less widespread due to distance and travel problems. John is still concentrating His attention on Jerusalem and Judea.
The pool was renowned for its healing properties, which occurred at various times at ‘the moving of the water’ (v. 7), and the five colonnades had presumably been built around it to aid those seeking healing. Its site is uncertain, but they have excavated a pool that adequately fits the description in Jerusalem. It was ‘near that which pertains to sheep,’ possibly ‘the Sheep Gate’ near the Temple. It probably means ‘place of outpouring.’
Many people with all kinds of disabilities would lie around the pool because the belief was that it had healing powers when there was a stirring in the water (presumably from an intermittent spring).
A note on John 5:4 – John 5:4 is not typically found in most modern translations. Those who include it often note that they do not find it in older or more reliable manuscripts. The disputed text shows an angel would agitate the water of the pool, and the first invalid into the water after that would be healed. This has raised some theological questions, such as why God would make healing into a contest or create such a regular expression of miraculous power.
According to manuscript evidence, the most likely answer is that these words were not part of the original text of the Gospel of John. They might have been written into a margin, as a note, or as a traditional explanation of the pool. At some point, they have inadvertently copied the message into the main body and absorbed it as part of the text.
Ultimately, this is a better example of biblical reliability than biblical weakness. Verses such as John 5:4 represent the most extreme version of “variants” in scriptural manuscripts. The text itself, accepted or not, has no real bearing on any doctrine, belief, or other meaningful faith facts. It’s simply not that important. The Bible is an amazingly well-preserved and well-documented work.
5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked, “Do you want to get well?”
We are not told how Jesus knew he had been there a long time, and they possibly intended it to signify divine discernment. Alternately, Jesus may have asked someone about the man and been informed of his situation, or maybe someone accompanying Jesus, who knew of the man, drew His attention to him. Jesus could have healed him without recourse to him, but His purpose in healing was always to reach the heart, so He involved the man in conversation.
“Do you want to get well?” The question did not need to be asked. Everyone knew the man was carried there because of a slim hope of healing. But Jesus’ idea was not to obtain information but to make the man think about his position and bring him into a condition where he can receive spiritual healing and benefit. In the end, Jesus’ concern was for the man’s spiritual state. Recovery, while essential in what is revealed and desperately sought by the sick person, was secondary. This is the opposite view to that of the world. They would, in most cases, consider the healing more critical and the spiritual aspect second. But Jesus knew that the world’s most profound need was spiritual. This was the part of man that would be affected eternally. It affected his ultimate destiny. Here was where the world needed to be healed, but few sought it. Yet Jesus did not hurry the man into considering such aspects of the case. He knew that the seed must be sown and then be left to germinate. All was in the Father’s hands.
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. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath,
Someone may have brought the man there each day, or he may have been there permanently, but no one was concerned enough to stay with him to help him down into the water. Possibly they had little confidence in the pool’s powers, or perhaps they had previously tried and found it hopeless. There was always going to be someone else there who was more agile. What a sickening position he was in; constant hope and yet hopelessness.
‘When the water is stirred.’ If the explanation in John 5:2-3 is a gloss, this stands on its own as unexplained, but maybe John assumed that any reader would read into his words the significance of them and did not want to publicize a superstition. The ‘moving of the water,’ possibly caused by an intermittent spring, was probably seen by many as a divine phenomenon. Psychological healings no doubt took place.
Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk. The healing was immediate, the more remarkable because his muscles must have atrophied and would need instant restoration. He took up his mattress and walked. Some response was, of course, required. Had the man lain and made no effort, he might have been there for many years. But something about Jesus and what he felt to be happening in his own body made him try, and he found he could walk.
The problem was that it was the Sabbath, and, according to Scribal teaching, to carry furniture on the Sabbath was forbidden. Lifting the man with the mattress was allowable for that would be giving assistance to a disabled man, but just lifting the bed was against the Pharisaic regulations. In general, their principle followed the Law‘s requirements, but they lacked the compassion to differentiate exceptional cases. We probably have a deliberate attempt by Jesus to make the Scribes and Pharisees face up to the inadequacy of their teaching. He did not need to tell the man to carry his mattress, and the fact that He did so was a direct challenge to their beliefs and a declaration of His authority to override Them. Would they attack a situation where the power of God was so clearly revealed?
10 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.” 11 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.
He (the man who had been healed) was spotted by some of ‘the Jewish leaders’ (the representatives of the religious authorities) who stopped him and said to him, ‘“It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”. This was reasonable. They did not at first know the circumstances of the case.
The incident reveals how intransigent the Scribes and Pharisees were in their teaching. They were told two things. ‘The man who made me well’ and ‘said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’. Instead of considering the first and praising God for the miracle of the man’s healing and recognizing that carrying his ‘stretcher’ went with the miracle (hardly a typical case of carrying furniture – God is at work, and the man is returning home from the place of healing) they pedantically go on the attack. It is as though miracles like this were commonplace, whereas they should have quickened their interest in Jesus correctly. Jesus did not want the crowds to react wrongly. They were not as scrupulousas to the Scribes and Pharisees.
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 Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.
Jesus later sought the man out in the Temple area. He did not just want the incident to stop with healing, He was concerned for the whole man. ‘Stop sinning, or something worse may happen to you.’. This might suggest that the illness was associated directly with how he lived, but the exhortation is in the present. ‘Stop sinning.’ He has
not only sinned in the past but continues to the present day. As always with Jesus, the man must face up to his sinfulness. The Judge of the world is here, and the light is shone on the man’s heart and conscience.
The lame man is a character study in himself, someone who was lacking in initiative. He resignedly does nothing about his predicament at the pool and blames those who get in before him. Nor when Jesus made an offer of healing does it seem to have stirred him at all (although he does at least get up when told to). He does not bother to ask the man who healed him who He was. Then when he later finds out, he tells the Scribes and Pharisees, not thinking of the consequences, probably because he feels that he is seen as blameworthy and wants to clear himself. However, they may have left him with the impression that if he could point out the real Sabbath-breaker, he could be spared the punishment that a synagogue court could inflict.
The man told them not that it was Jesus who had told him to carry the bedding but that it was Jesus who had made him whole. He wants Jesus to get the credit and perhaps possibly thinks that now the Scribes and Pharisees will recognize their error. But the Scribes and Pharisees think only of the carrying of the mattress. They ignore the more significant sign. It is typical of man’s fallen state that he can overlook what God does because he is so taken up with petty affairs.
16 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. 17 In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” 18 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.
Initially, the persecution must have taken on the form of some verbal attack, as it leads to a reply from Jesus. However, the way it is put suggests that this is the commencement of a continual process of persecution. Jesus is looked on as a confirmed Sabbath-breaker. Note that ‘these things’ affirm that Jesus is recognized as having flouted the Pharisaic regulations several times. This is only one example.
Jesus’ reply to the charge of breaking the Sabbath is powerful. No one will attack God for working on the Sabbath to maintain the universe and perform miracles (‘works to this day). Why, then, should they attack the One Who uniquely works on God’s behalf, as the miracle proves?
The reply linked His work with God’s work intimately. He said He had the same authority over the Sabbath as God. Because God could work, He could work when He was doing the work of God. His use of the phrase ‘my Father’ was also very intimate. He was putting Himself on God’s side of reality. The implication was that they should see Him as having a unique relationship with the Father, which put Him above men’s interpretations of the Law, a substance they recognize. In this way, Jesus tried to bring them back to considering the miracle. Here was a work of God. Will they not think about its implications? It showed that God was on His side and was pleased with what He was doing. As Nicodemus had said, ‘No man can do these signs that you do except God be with him (John 3:2).
Rather than recognize the situation’s logic, they look for more reasons for attacking Him. They would not let the light in, so their hearts were darkened. Note that they recognized He claimed that God was His Father in a unique sense. That is why He always taught others to say, ‘OUR Father’ (not including Himself) while He spoke of ‘My Father.’ The Pharisees at least recognized that claim, but for the wrong reasons. His claim that His right to work should be compared with God’s concerning the Sabbath was sufficient for them, but His reference to God as His Father confirmed the position. He was a blasphemer. They never stopped to ask themselves how a blasphemer could heal sick men. They simply glossed it over.
So the incident ends with an obvious conclusion, that in it, Jesus has made Himself to be equal with God. This is apparent from His claim to rights over the Sabbath because of His co-working with the Father and the fact that He can call God His own Father. They recognized the implication but failed to acknowledge the consequence of the healing.
19 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. 20 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.
Jesus now expands His statement concerning the paralleling of His working with that of God (John 5:17). He now uses the unique term ‘the Son’ (the one and only.) the Son can do nothing by himself;’ He is now making His claims clear. He points out that His relationship with the Father is such that all He does is done because of Him seeing what the Father is doing. The intimacy of the thought is outstanding. He sees what the Father is doing. He is fully aware of all that God does. And He not only does whatever He sees the Father doing, but He does nothing else. Whatever He does, He does in the same way as the Father. His relationship with the Father is such that His Father loves Him as ‘the Son’ and shows Him all He is doing. No one had ever made such claims. They had to be true or blasphemous. He indicates that He and the Father work in such unison that it was impossible for Him to act without it in line with the Father’s will and actions. The two worked as One, and as the Father is ‘the (unique and only) Father,’ so He is ‘The (unique and only) Son.’
If only they keep their eyes open, they will see more extraordinary things in the future than they have seen up to this point, so that they may marvel. He will perform many signs. (But because they would not be spectacular signs of the kind men like, they would not acknowledge them). Above all, He will take personal responsibility for the world’s judgment and the future resurrection of the dead.
The Jews saw a son as almost the embodiment and extension of his Father. There was a oneness between them that was not true of their relationship with any other. The excellent Son reproduced the life and behavior of his Father. Jesus clarifies that He does not work independently of the Father in anything. He does what the Father does and wills what the Father wills. He is a true Son. He is making the Scribes and Pharisees ask themselves how otherwise they could explain the healing, for it was nothing short of proving what He was saying.
21 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. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.
Just as the Father can raise the dead and give life, both now and in the age to come, He, the Son, claims to have the same power and authority. He had the right to do these things on His own. The context clarifies that He always exercises that will in line with His Father’s will because they always work together. Jesus revealed this power in the raising of Lazarus (chapter 11), which amazed everyone who witnessed it, but the statement goes much further than that. He is claiming to give eternal life to all who believe and to have the power to raise men on the last day. He is offering eternal life through the Spirit and will be the One Who raises men on the last day.
This is not in any secondary way, for He will also be the One Who passes the judgment which determines the manner of their resurrection. Judgment is totally in His hands. This stark claim took the position even further. To be the One to Whom all judgment was committed could only signify that, at the very least, He was God’s favorite and should lead on, with what He has already said, to the recognition of (to them) the unthinkable. That He was God, and yet He is also man, for the world will be judged by ‘that man whom God has ordained’ and resurrected (Acts 17:31).
Why has the Father given this power and privilege to the Son? It was ‘That all may honor the Son as they honor the Father.’ God’s purpose is that He, Jesus Christ, will have equal honor with the Father. This can mean only equality of status and thus oneness of being. Who else could have equal recognition with the Father?
They need to take care of what attitude they bring to Jesus, for ‘Whoever does not honor the Son, does not honor the Father who sent him.’ Because of His relationship with the Father, their attitude towards Him will make their attitude to and position before God clear. As He will say elsewhere, He has revealed God’s power in such a way that to reject His work is to be in danger of blaspheming against the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:22-30).
There can be no doubting now the claims of Jesus. His words differed greatly from those He would use with the crowds. To them, He taught simply yet firmly, allowing the truth about Himself to slowly dawn in their hearts, for He wanted no false disciples. But here He was facing the theologians and put the matter clearly and in theological terms. They have challenged whether He is equal with God, and instead of backing down, He has boldly asserted equality as the Son of the Father. He does the same works as the Father. He has the power to give life following His own will just as the Father has, and they have appointed him judge of all so that all judgment is in His hands, and He has equal honor with the Father. What more could He say?
24 “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.
Personal Note: This is one of my favorite scripture passages in the entire New Testament. When I was teaching John many years ago, this passage “grabbed a hold” of me. It is the ultimate promise of Jesus. I talked with Dr. Wende about its meaning, and to both of us, it means that if you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, your eternal life has already started. Isn’t that a wonderful and comforting thought?
Back to the Lesson: He adds that because He has been given the power to raise men on the last day, He can offer life and certainty now. Those who hear His word (which means hear in the sense of responding to it entirely), and believe Him Who sent Him, something which their response will show to Jesus (v. 23), will immediately have the life of the coming age, eternal life, the life of the Spirit. They do not have to wait for it. It can be theirs now, courtesy of both Father and Son. No Judgment Day will be needed to determine their destiny, and they will have already passed from death to life.
The Scribes and Pharisees earnestly sought eternal life. They believed it could be theirs by strict obedience to the Laws and proved participation in the covenant community before God. Yet they were conscious that they always failed. So they strove harder, and still, they failed. Jesus was now offering to free them from the daily grind of hopeless striving. Let them now believe God as He speaks through the activities of His Son. Let them respond to His words. Then they will receive eternal life now. They will already have passed from death to life.
25 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. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
‘a time is coming and has now reached’ That was the expectancy of the Pharisees, that an hour was coming when men would be raised from the dead for either life or judgment. Jesus tells them that that hour has now come. Because He is there, men can hear His voice and receive eternal life immediately because He is the Son of God.
The claim is momentous and epoch-making. The hour has now come for men to hear the voice of the Son of God and receive life, and it is here now. They are spiritually dead, but they can come alive by responding to Him and receiving life from Him (as the woman of Samaria and her fellow Samaritans had already done). It does not await Pentecost. It does not await the resurrection. He is speaking now, and they can respond currently. He who ‘has the Son has life’ (1 John 5:12). So if they respond, they will receive life now and the guarantee of resurrection on the last day. ‘Spiritual resurrection’ is now possible for those who respond to His words.
The life that He is now offering has its source not only in the Father but in Himself, for He and the Father are one in having and giving life in themselves. He indeed is Himself the source of spiritual life, that life through which men can come to the Father.
Not only does Jesus give life now, but as the Son of Man, He has been given the authority to execute judgment. The connection with the Son of Man shows that the idea is taken from Daniel 7:9-14, where God takes His seat at the Judgment, the court sits in judgment, and the books are opened. Then one, like a son of man, comes before God and is given dominion, glory, and kingship that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him, an everlasting dominion that will not pass away. The right of judgment has been passed on to Him.
In His glorified humanity as the chosen King, Jesus is made the Judge, as Son of Man as well as Son of God, with the power to execute judgment. As the new eternal age’s introducer, He also has the right to decide who will enter it.
Note the distinction between the fact that it is as ‘the Son of God’ that He gives life, something which is God’s prerogative alone, but that it is as ‘the Son of Man’ that He will one day execute judgment. Who better to judge than One Who has Himself lived as a man?
9 “As I looked,
“thrones were set in place,
and the Ancient of Days took his seat.
His clothing was as white as snow;
the hair of his head was white like wool.
His throne was flaming with fire,
and its wheels were all ablaze.
10 A river of fire was flowing,
coming out from before him.
Thousands upon thousands attended him;
ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.
The court was seated,
and the books were opened.
11 “Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. 12 (The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.)
13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man,[a] coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.