A word for the heart

with Alan Bailey

John 5:1-23


Pool of Bethesda
The archeological remains of the Biblical Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem. Photo: Wikipedia

Welcome to this Bible Study. Read what I have written slowly. If you have a Bible look up the reference verses given, and allow the Holy Spirit to minister to your soul through them.


In our last study (John Chapter 4) we saw the record of encounters Jesus had with two very different people. One, a troubled lady from the village of Sychar, the other, a royal official whose son was dying. In each case, joy came into their experience as Jesus met their needs. John records that the healing of the official's son was the second miracle that Jesus had performed. The report of Jesus' dealings with people goes on.

Verses 1-4 Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralysed.

There were several feasts a year on the Jewish calendar. Not feasts as we think of them but festivals celebrating events in their history. The pool spoken of was what we would call a spa pool, and had a reputation for healing. Remains of this place are still visible in Jerusalem to this day. Also, the practice of bathing in a spa spring for health is with us today. The Aramaic language spoken of was the main language of the people of Israel at the time.

Verses 5 & 6 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty eight years. 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?"

This poor man had seen many hundreds of hopeful people over the years and had remained hopeful for himself. But he must have almost lost all hope. The question Jesus asked may seem unnecessary to us. We would think "surely he would want to get well." But Jesus so often asked this kind of question as it tested the faith of the sick and needy. Before He performed a miracle He wanted to see confidence and belief in the patient.

Verses 7-9 "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." Then Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk." At once the man was cured: he picked up his mat and walked.

The man's story was somewhat pathetic. The chance of the water helping him was obscure and no-one seemed interested in helping him. A hopeless situation. How abrupt was the change of fortune! After thirty eight years of restriction the man takes up a mattress and walks! How elated he must have been.

Verse 10 The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, "It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat."

The Sabbath was the seventh day of the week and was set aside to be observed as a day of rest. Over the years, the Jews added all kinds of restrictions, calling minor actions "work". In their meanness, instead of being pleased to see a man healed, they took issue about the day calling mattress carrying "work".

Verses 11-13 But he replied, "The man who made me well said to me, 'Pick up your mat and walk.'" So they asked him, "Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?"

The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away in the crowd.

We can imagine that this man was bewildered, perhaps feeling that all that was happening was unreal. As for the identity of Jesus, he had no idea.

Verses 14 & 15 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." The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.

This word of warning that Jesus gave to the man is beyond us to fully understand. Jesus must have known or learned about him to make the comment. Something worse than being paralysed would be bad indeed. The Jews were beginning to know about Jesus and were soon to hear a great deal more.

Verses 16-18 So because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted Him. Jesus said to them "My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I, too, am working." For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill Him; not only was He breaking the Sabbath, but He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.

The Jews claimed to live by the Law of Moses and they expected all Jews to do the same. Though they accused Jesus of breaking the law, He never did. It was just their unreasonable interpretation of it that caused strife. But now they are hearing what they think of as blasphemy—a man claiming to be equal with God. In that culture, a son had equal footing with his father, one being in a sense an extension of the other. They were not wrong about this claim. In many ways Jesus made it clear that He was one with God the Father.

Verses 19 & 20 Jesus gave them this answer. "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by Himself; He can only do what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does, the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows Him all that He does. Yes, to your amazement he will even show Him greater things than these."

By saying these things, Jesus is affirming His oneness with God the Father. The Father and Son are as close as words can describe. They know each other completely and act in unity. This is revelation of who Jesus is and what God is like. But the hearers find it all so incredible. The notion of a God-man is foreign to their thinking. But Jesus is not going to make it any easier for them.

Verses 21-23 "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. Moreover the Father judges no-one but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father. He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father who sent Him."

We need to see that no-one could make greater claims than these. To say that He gives life as God gives life is a huge claim. Then to say that all judgment is His, is to say that He is God by nature, doing what only God can do; that is, judge all creation.

The genuineness of His words will be seen in this Gospel of John. The proof of the truth is displayed.

The Jews now have the question before them "are we persecuting God?" We can see that this is in fact what they are doing. How serious is that?


John's Gospel is known as a "teaching" Gospel. There is so much recorded here of the teaching of Jesus.

How valuable it is to all of us. We are enlightened about so much that is important, affecting our lives and the eternity we face.

Pay close attention to what Jesus says. His words are truth and life. He is Master and Lord.

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