22nd April 2018: John 5v1-18 – The power of Jesus’ words and the gift of life

With apologies, we didn’t succeed in capturing the audio from Alan’s message.
Here are his notes, in the hope that they’ll inspire you to read the passage and guide your understanding.

The healing at the pool (on the Sabbath)


Some time later … Between chapters 4 & 5 of John’s Gospel, Jesus ministered throughout Galilee, particularly in Capernaum. he had been calling certain people to follow Him, but it was only after this trip to Jerusalem that He chose His 12 disciples from among them.

3 festivals required all Jewish males to come to Jerusalem:

  1. Passover & unleavened bread.
  2. Festival of Weeks (Pentecost)
  3. Festival of tabernacles.

We aren’t told which festival was happening at the time, but to be honest it isn’t relevant to the event we are reflecting on anyway. The point of this account is not the detail of the religious festival to be observed, rather the main purpose of this occasion is Jesus’ healing of the man and the purpose of the healing is the basis of a message for the people, all people … The miracle illustrates what Jesus was to say in 5.24,

“very truly I tell you, whoever hears my words and believes the one who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life”

– the miracle demonstrates the Power of His Word & the gift of life.

Sheep Gate – Pool of Bethesda located near the North East corner of the old city of Jerusalem.


Why does the passage jump from verse 3 to verse 5?

Whilst some ancient manuscripts contain a second part to verse 3 and a verse 4 (see KJV) the oldest and most reliable manuscripts don’t, so when the scholars compiling more modern translations were working on the text they decided to omit v3b & 4. It’s curious really because the missing verses are at least helpful in setting the scene for the miracle that was to take place, but there is no escaping their omission from the best primary sources.

Different views of whether pool of Bethesda was just a superstitious place where not much, if anything happened really and the people waited there in vain hope. Others maintain there must have been something in this otherwise why would a disabled man lay there for 38 years waiting for the waters to stir if nothing was occurring. … he must have seen some healings / supernatural activity!?

v5-6: Do you want to get well?

38 years disabled. Every day laid by the pool. This man’s disability and his waiting by the pool was his way of life, his identity. Did he still have hope? Had he lost all hope? Was he resigned to the fact that this is what it was going to be like for ever? Was he even happy enough with his situation? People would have given aid, food, a little money, enough to get by. Being well would mean needing to work and be self-sufficient, a complete change of life?

v7: the man’s reply / excuse

“But no one helps me … Every time the waters stir I try to get to the water but someone beats me to it”.

Instead of responding, “Yes! Of course I want to be well” the man made excuses.

“So long had he been in this position that his will was as paralysed as His body” (Wiersbe)

Do you want to be made whole, to be closer in your relationship with God? To be free from hindrances and able to engage with His mission in the world? Are you prepared to do what it takes to fully engage in the life in all its fullness Jesus came to offer you?

Those you are praying for, have you lost hope, is your will paralysed because of the time that has passed, have you stopped believing, expecting? Breakthrough could be just round the corner, it only takes a moment, it only takes a word from Jesus.


Jesus’ word again!



Evidence the man wanted to be transformed … he obeyed Jesus’ words and “got up, picked up his mat and walked!” He was healed at once. (Amazing faith, especially when you consider the man didn’t even know at this stage who was talking to him!)


Challenge from the religious leaders. Evidence of a man disabled for 38 years miraculously healed and all the religious leaders can do is complain about when it happened and tell the man he shouldn’t be carrying his mat, which incidentally was not breaking any old testament law, but was one of 39 extra laws added by the Scribes & Pharisees of things you could not do on the Sabbath.

The man’s relationship with Jesus is unclear. No solid evidence of putting trust in Him etc. (no talk of sins being forgiven as elsewhere) Is it possible to encounter Jesus, be miraculously healed and not be saved?

But if this reading / critique is fair, he wouldn’t be the first person to gratefully accept a gift but ignore the giver.

Do you and I give Jesus the credit, the glory, the thanks the praise for all he does for us? Or are we happy to receive his love and gifts without necessarily focussing our attention on Him and what He requires of us?

v11-13: Man & leaders’ dialogue

Why did the man tell the leaders it was Jesus? Was he afraid of any punishment he may face? Just thought he was (innocently) filling a gap in the religious leaders’ knowledge?

v14 -15

The man went straight to the temple to be in the presence of God and worship / learn. (Note Jesus bumps into him there later that day!) I wonder if the man had ever been able to worship at the temple (stigma attached to physical disabilities etc.)

Not a claim that sinning will necessarily lead to physical ailments (as was / is a common belief: my friend who is deaf often gets told that she needs to ask for forgiveness, she must have sin in her life, or that she needs to be healed. Be very careful. Rather, Jesus is saying here, your physical state is not the most important state, your state before God, your spiritual state is what really matters, and to be made right with God in that respect requires forgiveness of your sins and you to live life differently, following Jesus not your own agenda. ‘something worse may happen to you’ … eternal separation from God.

16-18: The Authority of God’s Son

16 – Jewish leaders ‘persecute’ (tried to kill, hurt, hound…) Jesus because of his healing on the Sabbath. They didn’t prosecute the man for breaking the law but they ‘persecute’ Jesus for working / healing on the Sabbath. This is where the official persecution of Jesus began that ultimately led to his crucifixion.

17 – Jesus gives an account for His behaviour (in his defense):

“My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I too am working.”

Jesus makes himself equal with God because He is God (this is a theme of John’s Gospel).

Jesus’ miracles / signs are AN INSTANT  DEMONSTRATION OF WHAT GOD IS ALWAYS DOING. God’s nature at work in the world is always turning water into wine; Jesus did it instantly. Through His power in nature, the Father is always, slowly healing broken bodies; but Jesus healed immediately. Nature is repeatedly multiplying bread from sowing to harvest; but Jesus multiplied it immediately with His own hands.

That was it … enough for the religious leaders. For that reason, claiming to be the Son of God, they tried all the more to kill him.


God’s word to us. To give us life. Application for us here and now.

“Love God with everything. Love neighbour with Everything. Love Self”

“Love one another – then others will see we’re His disciples!”

Love your church family. Then others will see. PRAY.

Do not just hear this word and deceive yourself. Let’s live it. Do it. Amen.

Featured image by Oarabile Mudongo (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.