The Jews were having a feast in Jerusalem and Jesus attended. Which feast it was we are not told and apparently John did not think it significant to the events which took place there. Here we find Jesus standing at the pool of Bethesda near the sheep market or gate. The exact time or location of the sheep market gate is not known either and it is not important to the events that took place there. What is important is the significance of the sign Jesus preformed and its relation to His public ministry. It was another act of Jesus that raised the level of contention between Him and the Jewish leadership. The miracle here bore witness to the divine person of Jesus as the giver of life. The sign manifested the result of having faith in Jesus.
The pool called Bethesda was believed to have the power to heal people. The pool was located in the city near where the Temple was. Archaeologists have uncovered this pool in recent times and to this day many tourists today visit the pool. It was believed that an Angel would come down and stir the water and the first person in the water after it was stirred would be healed. When Jesus came to the pool many where waiting for an Angel to come and stir the water. The scene was a picture of the suffering, selfishness, and sin of the world. This is in contrast with the healing Jesus was able to do and the salvation to man that He alone could offer. Jesus alone is able to repair the waste of humankind and save the lost of this world. The ministry of Jesus is a ministry of redemption.
While chapter five of John’s gospel deals with the Person of Christ the record of this miracle again speaks to the development of faith. Jesus did not heal all of the people at the pool but knowing the hearts found one there that He knew was a man who would have faith.
First Jesus asked the man, “Do you wish to get well?” The man may have lost hope, as he replied that once the water was stirred he would not be able to be the first into the pool. Others would be able to get into the pool first cutting him off. So he had come there thinking that at least he had a chance at the very least. Certainly this showed that he wanted to be healed. Many people know that in their spiritual condition they are deeply engulfed in sin yet they have no expectation of being healed of their sinful condition. They are conscious of their wickedness but they have no hope of redemption. Some have no desire to change their condition as they love their sinful condition, for them a life of holiness and purity is not what they want. They too are at the pool of Bethesda; they may be familiar with the church but have the wrong vision of its true purpose and have no hope of being made whole.
Isaiah tells us in Isaiah 53:2 that Jesus’ appearance was not of a stately form or there was nothing in Him that would attract people to Him. But I believe that when people encounter Jesus they are taken in by His divine nature. The man at the pool was drawn to Jesus, he did want to be healed, and had the faith to obey the words of Jesus.
Jesus first saw the need of the man and then asked him if he would like his need fulfilled. We too as we go about our day see many people with a need, both physical and more importantly spiritual. We should be willing to help in their physical need but we do have the answer for their spiritual need, Jesus. We should, as Jesus, get their attention by asking do you want to be healed.
The man at the pool had been unable to walk for thirty eight years and probably had been laying down all that time. Now Jesus gave the man a command to, “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.” This would have seemed to the man an impossible thing for him to do, as for thirty eight years he had not been able to get up and walk. But the man did as Jesus had commanded and was able to do so. Jesus commanded him to get up meaning that the man needed to take action in order to resolve his condition. Jesus told him to take up his bed which means that once healed he must remove all provision for turning back. It states that what Jesus commands us to do we must go boldly forward with no plan to return to our previous condition. Then Jesus told the man to walk entering into the new way of life. By his faith in what Jesus had told him to do the man received a new life which has been given by our Lord Jesus Christ. When Jesus gives us a command it is always a promise. Whatever Jesus commands us to do He will always give us the power to accomplish our task.
The people who were watching must have been amazed by what had happened but the Jewish leaders were angered by the fact that the man was carrying pallet on the Sabbath. The Sabbath was a holy day and the Jews had added many restrictions as to what a man could do. Their rules explained what work is and they had thirty nine different types of work that a man could not do on the Sabbath. These were mans rules and not Gods. (Exodus 20:8-10) Jesus had told the man to pick up his pallet and walk and it angered the Scribes that Jesus would tell the man to break the Sabbath. Most likely this was just an excuse for the Scribes and they were more taken over with jealousy. They could see the power of God working through Jesus yet they had no power for God to enforce the strict rules of their own making.
Jesus had slipped away to avoid confrontation with the scribes. Many times Jesus when He cured people He told them to keep it a secret. (Matthew 9:27-31 Mark 1:40-45) Jesus had healed the man physically and he was able to walk after thirty eight years of being unable. Jesus also wanted to heal the man spiritually and found him in the temple.
In the temple Jesus gives the healed man a warning. “Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you.” It is a sad fact that no matter how much suffering one goes through because of sin it does not make the man a hater of sin. The only safety net in our battle against sin is to have faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We are born with that sin nature and are unable to overcome it without the power of Jesus living through us.
The healed man from the pool left the temple and went and told the Jewish leaders that is was Jesus that had healed him. Instead of rejoicing that Jesus was able to heal this man the Jewish leaders were angry that Jesus was violating the Sabbath rules by working. They went out to persecute Jesus and Jesus answered that His Father is working and so is He. This angered the Jewish leaders so much that they wanted to kill Jesus. Jesus was claiming to be the Son of God, equal to God. The Jews believed in one God but Jesus was not claiming to be God but the Son of God. Either Jesus is the Son of God or a liar and guilty of blasphemy. Man has the same choice today in their acceptance of Jesus, they can either believe in Him for who He is, the Son of God, or consider Him as a blasphemer. There is the only two choices, we wither believe in Jesus or we reject Him.
Jesus claimed to have two divine activities that He shared with the Father, God. As was made known by the healing of the lame man, Jesus was the giver of life. Jesus also told them that He had the authority to judge mankind. Jesus made claim that He was the source of spiritual renewal and life and that He alone could heal the morally depraved. Jesus had the power to raise a soul from spiritual death and the hour was coming that He also could raise the dead from the grave.
Jesus came to save that which is lost but by any man’s rejection of Him he was placing judgment upon himself. Jesus was also the judge in the final judgment of man to come on that last day. This was made clear in His description of the two resurrections. The spiritual resurrection when all believers in Jesus will be resurrected now into a new life in the Spirit of Truth. Jesus also spoke of a bodily resurrection when all those who are in the grave will hear His voice and rise from the grave. Those that have done good shall be resurrected unto life and those who have done evil shall be resurrected unto judgment.
Jesus now states that He does not testify for Himself, one who testifies for Himself has none to declare Him as true. Jesus abides in the Father and does only the will of the Father and if you abide in Jesus then you also abide in the Father. (John 14:9-10) There are four witnesses to the deity of Jesus.
John the Baptist was a witness to the identity of Jesus as he had been the forerunner of Jesus, a voice crying from the wilderness telling everyone to repent and make straight the way for the Lord. The Jews had rejoiced in the message of John the Baptist. They saw him as a great prophet who had witnessed to the very oneness with God which Jesus had just claimed. John the Baptist himself had proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God” and “This is the Son of God.” (John 1:36 John 1:34)
The signs that Jesus was performing was also a witness to Jesus for no one could perform these works without the power of God.
Jesus states there is a greater witness than any man and that is the witness of His Father. But Jesus proclaimed that they did not believe the Father and therefore did not believe in Him.
The Old Testament was a witness to Jesus and most of the prophecy in the Old Testament spoke of the coming Messiah. Many believed they could find their salvation through the scriptures but Jesus made it clear they must yield themselves to Him, as He was the author and source of life.
Finally Jesus finishes by condemning the Jewish leaders for rejecting Him. They claimed to believe the scriptures and felt that accepting Jesus showed a disloyalty to Moses. Jesus argues that real loyalty to Moses would have led them to Him. Moses wrote of Jesus in the Old Testament. Jesus goes on to say that their lack of belief is not because there was not enough evidence but a lack of love towards God. The scribes and Pharisees were seeking the glory of men and were therefore blinded to the real truth of Jesus.
The key to the scriptures is their testimony of Jesus as the Son of God, and faith in Him carries His truth into life.
Isaiah 53:2, Exodus 20:8-13, Matthew 9:27-31, Mark 1:40-45, John 14:9-10