But the impact of the healing in the first nine verses of John 5 causes a follow up discussion with the Jews; as a result, throughout the chapter the Lord Jesus reveals much truth about Himself. It is therefore a worthwhile study to consider the whole narrative of John 5. In this short article, we will limit our consideration to three scenes: by the pool, in the temple, and the Lord Jesus addressing the Jews. We will conclude with some personal applications for today.
Scene 1 – by the pool
On reading verse 2 of John 5, we may picture a peaceful or even idyllic scene. Located by the sheep-gate in Jerusalem, the pool of Bethesda had five porches, possibly designed to provide shelter from the sun. The scene, however, was far from idyllic; rather it was a sorry spectacle, for John describes ‘a great multitude of sick people’, including the ‘lame’ and the ‘paralyzed’.
The focus, though, is fixed on ‘certain man . . . who had an infirmity thirty-eight years.’ The Lord Jesus ‘saw him’ (v 6), an important reminder that the Lord Jesus deals with individuals. This man couldn’t walk; lacking strength in his legs, he was helpless, looking for another to help him ‘into the pool’ (v 7).
The question of the Lord Jesus – ‘Do you want to be made well?’ – may seem strange to us. Surely the thing the man would have wanted most of all would have been to be well. But the Lord brought the man to admit two vital points:
- He couldn’t help himself
- No one else could help him
The Lord graciously healed him through a simple command to ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’ (v 8). The immediate result set the power of the Lord Jesus apart from medical successes, which would likely require physiotherapy and a long stretch of rehabilitation after thirty-eight years paralysis.
Scene 2 – in the temple
Verse 14 concisely tells of another meeting with the man. That it was the Lord Jesus who ‘found him’ is another reminder that the Lord was personally dealing with his needs. It seems that, whilst the amazing events at the pool brought him life-changing benefits, there was a much more important matter to deal with. ‘See, you have been made well’, the Lord Jesus said, reminding him of how he had been helped physically. The following words – ‘Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you’ – show that the Lord was now dealing with the man’s spiritual condition. Aside from his physical ailment, he, like everyone else, had a sin problem; because of his disobedience he was far away from God. The Lord invited him to change, which would involve being reconciled to God through having his sins forgiven.
To continue in his sins was dangerous. The Lord Jesus contrasted this with his thirty-eight-year physical infirmity: ‘lest a worse thing come upon you’. Much worse than any bodily disability is eternal punishment for sin. Though this man had been healed of his infirmity, the Lord urged him to face up to the greater need.
Scene 3 – the Lord Jesus addressing the Jews
We observed in the introduction that, in the aftermath of the miracle, the Lord Jesus revealed much truth about Himself. This was His remarkable response to Jewish persecution, accusation and hatred towards Him: ‘My Father has been working until now, and I have been working’ (v 17). He identified His own works with God’s works; that is to say, He claimed deity.
The narrative comes to a climax by presenting indisputable witnesses to the divine Sonship of Christ:
- ‘John . . . has borne witness to the truth’ (v 33)
- ‘the works which the Father has given me to finish – the very works that I do – bear witness of Me’ (v 36)
- ‘the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me’ (v 37)
- ‘the scriptures . . . these are they which testify of Me’ (v 39)
To the hostile Jews, the Lord Jesus said, ‘You are not willing to come to Me that you may have life’ (v 40). This is a sad reminder that, despite all His miracles, despite the evidence of who He is and what He is able to do, many ‘are not willing’ to come to Him for salvation.
Let us focus on one verse in which the Lord Jesus clearly explains the gospel:
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life (v 24).
Everlasting life is available to all who hear the word of the Lord Jesus and believe in the Father who sent Him. Hearing and believing include the willingness to lay hold of the words of the Lord Jesus about:
- Himself – Who He is as the Son of God, and what He can do in granting forgiveness of sins because of His death at the cross, where He paid the punishment that sin deserved. He alone has the ability to grant everlasting life.
- Mankind – sinful, guilty in the sight of God and deserving of judgment.
Sadly, the Jewish opponents of the Lord Jesus in John 5 did not believe Him; rather, they hated Him because of His claims.
Personal applications for today
We can draw gospel lessons from this miracle.
The Lord Jesus brought the man to admit he was so helpless that no one else could help him. The man’s infirmity pictures the disease of sin that affects all of humanity. Many are reluctant to admit that they need help from the Lord Jesus, while others look to religion or good works. But the Lord Jesus requires us to confess our helplessness and recognise that He only can save. There is a need for brokenness before the Lord Jesus because of our sin.
Accepting the claims of the Lord Jesus is vital for salvation. He is the only One through whom we can receive forgiveness and eternal life from God. The Lord Jesus paid such a great price for sin in giving Himself at the cross; this is what God’s righteousness demanded in order that men and women could be forgiven.
The personal challenge is this: do you have this everlasting life of which the Lord Jesus spoke? If not, call on Him today to save you from your sins and give you everlasting life. It will cause you to pass ‘from death into life’ (v 24).