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©Michael Player

Chapter 5:1-18 (ESV)

Posted on July 31, 2023  - By Chris LaBelle  

Chapter 5:1-18 (ESV) - After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed [waiting for the moving of the water; for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and stirred the water: whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was healed of whatever disease he had]. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.

Now that day was the Sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

Question to consider: Why do you think Jesus asked the man whether he wanted to be healed?

The time reference, “after this”, referred to the time of a Jewish feast after Jesus did his second sign, healing the son of the official from Capernaum. John doesn’t say what feast this was, but his previous trip to Jerusalem was for the Passover so it’s possible it was Shavuot (Feast of weeks). Also called Pentecost, it was seven weeks after Passover and celebrated the giving of Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai. The word Bethesda means “House of Mercy”, and the pool was located near the Sheep Gate which led into the city from the north. The Sheep Gate was the first one rebuilt during the time of Nehemiah (chapter 3), and it was the only one consecrated. It was used to bring in the sheep for sacrifice which were first washed in the pool of Bethesda. It is worth noting that Jesus used this gate whenever He entered Jerusalem except for His triumphal entry.

The bracketed portion in today’s scripture is to note that the superstition about an angel moving the waters was not included in some of the earlier manuscripts, but I think it provides some context concerning the mental state of the paralyzed man. After 38 years of being confined to a mat, he appears to have lost any hope of being made well. The fact that he was never able to make it to the pool without someone stepping in front of him suggests that he had no friends or family to help get him into the pool. Even so, the idea that he was dependent on an opportunity to enter the pool for healing meant that he had forsaken his faith for superstition. Unlike the throngs of people who came to Jesus for healing, this man seemed to have no knowledge of Him or hope that a priest or rabbi would take notice of him (unless of course it was to excoriate him for carrying his mat on the Sabbath). 

It seemed rather odd that Jesus would ask him if he wanted to be healed, but if the man had faith in God, I’d think he would have asked Jesus whether He was a man of God who could heal him. Instead, he looked only to the pool for healing. It is interesting that Jesus later found him in the temple and gave him the warning about falling back into sin. The piety that comes from receiving a miracle seems to fade over time if someone does not kindle their spark of faith.

It seems rather incredible that the religious rulers would elevate the violation of their Sabbath traditions above the miracle that had been done for the man. If you look at my study of Mark 3:1-6, I dive a little deeper into the traditions concerning the healing of the man with the withered hand. Jesus didn’t violate the Law of the Sabbath. He went against the Pharisees’ traditions concerning it. They may have thought their traditions were on par with the Law, but we’ll find out in the coming chapters that this was not the case.

They also plotted against Jesus for calling God “Father”, recognizing that in doing so, Jesus was proclaiming to be the same nature or essence as God. Ordinarily, I would agree that such a thing was blasphemy, but this was the one case when it was true, and Jesus proved it by restoring the man’s health.


Dear heavenly Father, help us to discern Your truth and rightly handle Your word so we do not fall prey to popular superstitions and strange theologies. May we not be like the religious leaders in this passage who failed to see You working in the world. Amen.