John Chapter 5
"After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had." (John 5:1-4)
"After this" refers to after the healing of the nobleman's son in John Chapter 4. This feast was most likely the second Passover of Jesus' ministry the first being shortly after the wedding at Cana (John 2:13). Before this, at the well of the Samaritan woman, Jesus had said to His disciples that it was four months until the harvest. As harvest occurs in March or April, the time of the visit in Samaria would have been about December - January. While that is about the time of the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah) it is unlikely a reference to that feast as it was not one of the feasts where the Jews regularly went to Jerusalem and because, being in winter time (John 1:22), it is unlikely there would have been a crowd of people at the pool of Bethesda.
The next feast, Purim near the end of winter was also not a feast at which there was general attendance in Jerusalem. Passover was the next feast and the most likely of the three annual pilgrimage feasts to be referred to. Although Passover was a few months later than the events of chapter 4, the "after this" of John 5:1 does not specify how long after. Also, the feast is referred to by John using the same term "a feast of the Jews" in the next chapter (John 6:4) where he was talking about Passover a year later.
"Market" is a supplied word. It could have been a reference to the "sheep gate" which is the translation given in most versions.
In leading our discussion group I asked these questions: "Is verse four true? Never mind the possibility that it was added or mistranslated or something; is it logical that it could be true and why or why not? If it was true, what would that say about God, assuming the 'angel' would have been doing it only at God's direction?" Here are some of the answers:
Is God like that? We should take the Bible as it reads but we need to take the whole thing. We should ask "is this reasonable?" In this case, "is it like God?"
The verse presents problems but, fortunately, in this case, the validity of the verse itself is in doubt:
"Important textual evidence may be cited for omitting the words 'waiting for the moving of the water,' and the whole of v. 4." (SDA Bible Commentary vol. 5, p.948)
Other Bible Commentaries and many Bible versions omit the words in question. For example:
"In these lay a multitude of invalids-blind, lame, and paralyzed. ... One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years." (John 5:3-5, English Standard Version - omits verse 4)
"On these walkways lay a great number of the sick, the blind, the lame, and the paralyzed. ... One man there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years." (John 5:3-5, Berean Study Bible - omits verse 4)
It seems like this was all a tradition/superstition but there must have been some basis of fact behind it. Here are some possibilities:
"And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk." (John 5:5-8)
It said in verse 3 that there was "a great multitude" that needed healing. In another case, there was a multitude and He healed them all:
"And the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all." (Luke 6:19)
So why didn't Jesus heal everyone that was there? Likely, He knew it would cause problems with the Jews. The healing of the one man caused trouble enough. He, no doubt, did want to heal everyone there.
"And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath. The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed." (John 5:9-10)
"The Jews" is often a reference, in John, to the Jewish authorities:
This was clearly the leadership and not the Jewish people in general. The Jewish leadership was often in fear of Jesus' popularity:
"And they sought to lay hold on him, but feared the people: for they knew that he had spoken the parable against them: and they left him, and went their way." (Mark 12:12)
This was the first of seven miracles that were recorded as being done on the Sabbath.
"He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk. Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk? And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place." (John 5:11-13)
No doubt, they already knew it was Jesus and they were looking for evidence to build their case against Him.
"Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee." (John 5:14)
"Sin no more" implies perhaps that his condition had been the result of his sins. Does it sound like there is a connection between sins and health? There can be but as a natural consequence, not as an affliction from God as this passage suggests:
The same phrase "sin no more" appears in John 8:11 to the woman caught in adultery.
"The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole. And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day. But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God." (John 5:15-18)
Do you think Jesus purposely healed the man on the Sabbath rather than coming back the next day? What was the rush? He had been in that condition for 38 years and at the pool for perhaps a long time. Jesus often had specific purposes for His miracles beyond just the healing; in this case to clear up misconceptions about Sabbath observance.
That the Jews sought to kill Jesus and there was no record that they punished the healed man in any way suggests who their real target was. They clearly understood the claim He was making regarding His relationship to His Father.
"Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel." (John 5:19-20)
"The Son can do nothing of Himself" indicates that He does not act on His own initiative but always on that of His Father. Jesus' answer continues to the end of the chapter. He had quite a bit to say in the presence of people who wanted very much to kill Him.
"For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will. For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him." (John 5:21-23)
Was Jesus saying that He could raise to life whoever He wanted? It seems that was a legitimate claim as He certainly did raise the dead - Lazarus and others.
He also had the ability to raise the spiritually dead and grant them a new life. (John 3:3)
The question of who judges and/or condemns was discussed in connection with John 3:17.
It could not be a sign of honor to the Father to reject His only Son Whom He had sent. It sounds much like the parable of the "certain householder which planted a vineyard ..." (Matt 21:33) and, when he had sent his son, said: "... They will reverence my son." (Matt 21:37)
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live." (John 5:24-25)
Hearing the word - just physically hearing the sound - does no good unless it is accompanied by faith as discussed in John Chapter 3.
Did the people who built the tower of Babel believe in God? - yes, the flood was a recent memory. But did they trust Him? - no, it seems the tower may have been built to escape any future flood.
"Is passed from death to life." The present tense indicates an immediate possession of eternal life (as opposed to eternal death) which comes with belief:
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life." (John 6:47)
In verse 25, Jesus said that He will raise the saved at the second Coming; a reference to verse 21. "Now is" (v25) means not at that very moment but in His day, back then (he did raise people from the dead during His ministry), not just at the Second Coming. It is like we might say "now we have access to all the information in the world" not necessarily at this very moment but in our day and age, via the internet.
Here is a version which makes verses 24-25 clearer:
"I tell you the truth: whoever comprehends what I am saying, and therefore trusts my Father, will experience complete regeneration of heart and mind, and live forever. He is no longer sick and will not be diagnosed as terminal; he has been delivered from certain death to life eternal. I tell you the truth; the time is now here when all those, whose minds are infected with the lies of Satan that lead only to death, will hear the truth that I, the Son of God, reveal; and all those, who understand and accept that truth, will have the lies dispelled from their minds and will be reconciled to God and live." (John 5:24-25, The Remedy NT, expanded paraphrase)
"For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man." (John 5:26-27)
It is significant that there are so many references to the Son receiving from the Father. In John chapter 5 alone there is:
There is an interesting concept that has parallels in other spiritual applications, that of the Source - Channel relationship between the Father and the Son. This will be discussed in more detail in a future page.
"Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation." (John 5:28-29)
This clearly points to two separate resurrections.
Can they - those in their graves - hear His voice now? - no, they are dead but they (the saved) will hear His voice at the Second Coming.
"I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me." (John 5:30)
This connects back to verse 19:
"Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise." (John 5:19)
Similarly, we can do nothing on our own, as He sustains our very life:
"I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." (John 15:5)
However, we can do all things through the strength He provides:
"I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." (Phil 4:13)
Jesus sought to always do the will of His Father and claimed to always do that:
"And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him." (John 8:29)
"If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true. There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true. Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth. But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved. He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light." (John 5:31-35)
Jesus is here referring to legal testimony at least in some phases of which two witnesses were required. They did not want to believe the relation He claimed to His Father. He is not saying that He is bearing a false witness but that it is not considered true and valid if not backed up by other witnesses. He goes on to show that He does have other witnesses:
The word translated as "burning" can indicate something that is set on fire. John was a secondary source of light being ignited or motivated by the greater light.
"But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me. And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape. And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not." (John 5:36-38)
A person could hear the testimony of John, see the works before having faith but once faith has begun to grow in the heart a person can receive assurance, even greater assurance in the heart which is the witness of the Father through His spirit.
"Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life." (John 5:39-40)
Verse 39 makes more sense as a statement than a command and most versions render it that way, for example:
"You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me;" (John 5:39, NASB)
Is it knowledge of the scriptures themselves that gives life? Hillel, a famous rabbi of the 1st century B.C. is reported to have declared:
"One who has acquired unto himself words of Torah, has acquired for himself the life of the world to come." (Mishnah Aboth 2. 7 Soncino ed. of the Talmud, p.17)
Common Jewish understanding was heavily weighted towards a very legalistic knowledge of and observance of the law - the writings themselves. But, in their misconception of the role of the Messiah, they failed to understand correctly what the Torah pointed to.
"Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself." (Luke 24:25-27)
"The scriptures," of course, refer to only the Old Testament writings. They can be viewed as having clues like a treasure hunt and the New Testament, the revelation of Jesus and through Him, of His Father is like the treasure.
"I receive not honour from men. But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you." (John 5:41-42)
Again, He knew what was in (or what was not in) man. Is that "love of God" (v42) speaking of God's love for us or our love for God? It must be God's love for us. They had love from God (God loved them) but they did not have love for God; they did not appreciate Him or understand His character.
"Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another." (1 John 4:10-11)
"We love him, because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19)
Is that automatic? If He loves everyone doesn't that statement make it sound like everyone should love Him in return?
Is it reasonable to say that "The more God loves us, the more we love Him"? No, it isn't because He loves everyone infinitely with an unchanging love and many do not love Him at all.
It is better understood more like: the more we understand how much God loves us, the more we will love Him. So to obey the command to "love God" (Deut 6:5, Matt 22:37) we need to study and appreciate the revelation of how much He loves us. And that is most clearly seen in the life and words of Jesus. Therefore we should concentrate our Bible study in the gospels which is what this study of the gospel of John is doing.
"And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might." (Deut 6:5)
"Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." (Matt 22:37)
"I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?" (John 5:43-44)
To come in someone's name is to come like an ambassador or a representative. Jesus may have been referring to a Messianic figure to come.
Simon Bar Cocheba Revolt 132-135 AD
"Simon bar Kokhba is portrayed in rabbinic literature as being somewhat irrational and irascible in conduct. The Talmud says that he presided over an army of Jewish insurgents numbering some 200,000, but had compelled its young recruits to prove their valor by each man chopping off one of his own fingers. The Sages of Israel complained to him why he marred the people of Israel with such blemishes. Whenever he'd go forth into battle, he was reported as saying: "O Master of the universe, there is no need for you to assist us [against our enemies], but do not embarrass us either!" ... Bar Kokhba was a ruthless leader, punishing any Jew who refused to join his ranks. According to Eusebius' Chronicon ... he severely punished the sect of Christians with death by different means of torture for their refusal to fight against the Romans." (From: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_bar_Kokhba)
He was received because he did what was expected - he led a revolt against the Romans.
What does it mean for someone to come in his own name? They are not representing anyone else. They are out to make a name (reputation, following) for themselves. Think of Simon being introduced to potential followers. Would it be like: "here is Simon; he is coming in the name of Simon." No, it is not the name that is most important. It would likely be more like: "Here is Simon, he will lead us to cast off the Roman oppressors."
Jesus referred to them as receiving "honor one of another" because they judged themselves by themselves - they considered reputation based on traditions (their own standard) and adherence to them rather than by God's standards of behavior and character. This paraphrase of John 5:43 helps understand what Jesus was saying:
"I have come as a direct revelation of the Father-his thoughts made visible and audible-and you will not accept that the Father is like me, or that I am sent from the Father to reveal him. But if someone comes promoting his own agenda, seeking to make a name for himself, you eagerly accept and praise him because self-promotion is in harmony with your own self-centered hearts." (John 5:43, The Remedy NT, expanded paraphrase)
"Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?" (John 5:45-47)
Moses wrote of the Messiah but they chose or were led to misunderstand much of what came via Moses. "He wrote of me" may be a specific reference such passages as:
"The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; ..."I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him." (Deut 18:15,18)Otherwise, the serpent on the pole, other Old Testament symbols and Moses writings in general, the sanctuary etc. pointed to Jesus.
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