Healing of the Lame Man
John 2-4 was the first cycle and was a travel circuit from Cana to
back to Cana. Now in John 5-10 the cycle has
been identified as a festival cycle built around Jesus being at a variety of
Jewish festivals. Thus we
read, “After these things there was a
feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to ”
(5:1). The name of this feast this was not given;
although there were three feast that required attendance (Deut. 16:16-17). It is at this feast that the first sign
demonstrates the deity of Jesus as the Messiah. In this cycle there is a growing
conflict with the Jewish leadership. Jerusalem
The Circumstances of the Miracle 5:1-5
After some time in Galilee, Jesus came back to
for the feast. The passing of time is clearly indicated in the phrase—“After these things...”—however the
amount of time is indefinite. Keener points out that these chronological and
geographical gaps are a common pattern in John. When
he found Himself at the pool of , meaning the place of mercy or outpouring
(5:2).  It
is mentioned only here in the New Testament. Some have taken the word there is
(petin, present tense) as
evidence that John worte the gospel before the destruction of 70 AD. This is
not necessarily so, for two reasons: First, John commonly uses the “historic
present” for past events. Second,
there is evidence that after the destruction of the city, the pool was used as
a Roman healing sanctuary. Bethesda
Archeology has discovered its location under the property of St Anne’s Church located in the northeast quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. It was really made up of two pools separated by a dike. Each pool was believed to be the size of a football field. There were five porticoes, one on all four sides and one between the two. This upholds that the area was of some size, more than able to handle a multitude of people. Some have held these were merely symbolic for the first five books of Moses, but “the hard evidence excludes the suggestion.”
It is presumably near the sheep gate, however the word gate is not found in the Greek text. The Greek text simply reads probatikos, meaning belonging or pertaining to sheep. It is an adjective and could be nominative or dative tense. If dative it refers to the pool, meaning near the sheep pool. If nominative, it has no modifier, and has been taken to mean sheep market (place) or sheep gate. The majority of scholars, as well as translators, takes it as sheep gate; based on Nehemiah 3:1, 32; 12:39. This was a little opening in the north wall where the sheep were brought into the city for the market.
The pools were the place where the multitude of sick, blind, lame, and withered waited for the so-called miracle waters to be stirred (5:3). Many of the manuscripts omit the last of verse 3 and all of verse 4. Some translations omit the verses completely, while others make note that early manuscripts do not contain the verses. Morris observes that these verses “form a very ancient explanation which has somehow crept into the text. The manuscript evidence makes it certain that it is not part of the original Gospel. But there is no reason for doubting that it explains the presence of the people (cf. v. 7).” However, there is support for it being in the text and included in spite of the critical consensus. Hodges gives the following summation of arguments in support:
The confidence with which modern scholars dismiss John 5:4 from the text of the Fourth Gospel is seriously misplaced. On the contrary, there are excellent grounds for accepting it as both authentic and original. These grounds may be summarized as follows: (1) All known Greek manuscripts of John's Gospel, with the exception of less than a dozen, include the verse. Most of the omitting witnesses are recognized as being textually related to one another in many other readings as well. (2) The antiquity of the passage is vouched for by the citation from Tertullian in the third century and by its apparent inclusion in Tatian's Diatessaron in the second. (3) The reading was widely diffused in both the East and the West as is clearly shown by the evidence of versions and fathers. (4) In view of its unique content and probable connection with the traditions of
itself, the verse is unobjectionable
on stylistic grounds. (5) The deliberate omission of the passage can be
explained as quite possibly motivated by a falsely perceived "pagan
tinge." (6) Finally, the statement about the assembled sick in verse 3,
and still more the response of the invalid in verse 7, demands the presence of
verse 4 in order to make John's text genuinely comprehensible. The Evangelist
is not at all likely to have left this story in the kind of obscurity which the
excision of the verse entails. He is too good a narrator for that.  Bethesda
These arguments have some degree of merit, although the controversy will continue, with the majority for omitting it from the text. I favor keeping it in and simply footnoting that some early manuscripts do not contain the information.
In the midst of this crowd was “a man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years” (5:5). The man is unnamed, but his need is clear. He had been ill for some time. The Greek word is astheneia, meaning weakness, ill health, or infirmity. The exact weakness or illness is not told us. We can deduce that it is some type of paralysis or lameness (cf. v. 7). Some see an allusion to the thirty-eight years that
in the wilderness, interesting but unwarranted. In the context it underscores
the helplessness and hopelessness of the situation. It emphasizes a longtime
illness with no hope of recovery. It is a picture of us in sin.
The Compassion of Jesus 5:6
Jesus was passing the pool when his focus came upon this man. “When Jesus saw him lying [there], and knew that he had already been a long time [in that condition], He said to him, ‘Do you wish to get well?’” (John 5:6). Many of the miracles of Jesus begin by His “seeing” a person (e.g. Luke 7:13; 13:12). Jesus sees and responses with compassion. The verse entails:
- The omniscience of Jesus. He “knew” the circumstances, condition, and history. It is an example of his supernatural knowledge. The Greek word is gnous is to know, whether the action be inceptive or complete and settled.
- His divine knowledge leads to him taking the divine initiative in compassion. He does not wait for the man to call out to him, or approach him. He moves with compassion and goes to the man. He can sympathize with our weaknesses (Heb. 4:15).
- He sees this man’s helplessness and asks if he is willing to get well. While some see this as a test of faith, I see the question as an invitation to faith. This is an offer of His compassionate grace and mercy. He asks everyman who is weak in sin “are you willing?” The sad part is that many are unwilling to get well.
The Concern of the Man 5:7
In answer the man points to his helplessness and hopelessness. He realizes his condition. Whitacre wisely observes:
The man’s answer implies that he wants to be healed, for he explains to Jesus how it can take place. All he needs is someone to help him into the pool at the right time. By explaining the situation to Jesus he seems to interpret Jesus’ question as an offer to help. He is right in assuming that Jesus wants to help him, but it is not in the way he expects.
The Command of Jesus and its Consequence 5:8-9
The help comes in the form of a command: “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk” (John 5:8). At this point the pool fades from sight in the passage; it is unimportant and virtually forgotten. Notice this command circumvents any other form of assistance or work—no human assistance, or healing water—Jesus’ word was more than sufficient. He simply had to trust and obey. While faith is never mentioned in the text, the action reveals its presence. Once acted upon, the man was cured, and accentuates the completeness of the cure. “Immediately the man became well, picked up his pallet and [began] to walk” (5:9). Interestingly, the man in Mark 2 is given the same command (Mk. 2:9) and told to take his mat or pallet (Mk. 2:12). It there any significance to the taking the pallet? Michaels states it is to show his independence and departure from the scene. It can also signify strength replacing weakness, inability with ability, thus a departure from his past condition.
The Charge by the Legalists 5:9a-13
John waits until now to inform us this was done on the Sabbath (5:9a). This is new and crucial information. It sparks a controversy over the observance of the Sabbath, not the healing itself. The charge was not against the healer (Jesus), but the healed (the man). The charge was breaking the Sabbath by carrying his pallet (5:10). They may well be referring to Jeremiah 17:21-27. This passage refers to the type of burden-bearing connected with commerce. Likewise the oral law of the rabbis listed 32 activities not to be done on the Sabbath, one of which was not to take or carry one thing from one domain to another. However, Jesus disregarded the Pharisaic understanding of the Sabbath (5:8-12; cf. 9:14-16).
observes that we must understand “that
Jesus chose this day to cause men to see the sabbath in proper perspective (see
We should observe the following about this charge:
- The word “Jews” should be taken as the religious leaders, not all Jews. After all, the man healed was a Jew as well.
- They wanted to know who gave him the authority to carry the pallet (5:10).
- The man clearly laid the blame on the healer who told him to carry the pallet.
- The man could not identify Jesus; he could only tell them it was a man and that it happened. Jesus keeps a low profile upon healing the man, blended into the crowd (5:12-13).
- They viewed the real culprit as the man who told him to disobey their prohibited rules. They are concerned not for the man who was healed, but for their regulations and the one who told him to disobey them.
- This confrontation ends abruptly, probably because they could not at this time learn who was responsible.
The Challenge of Christ 5:14-15
Later, Jesus again takes the initiative in finding the man. The word “afterward” is meta when used of time means later or afterward. How long afterward is not defined in the text, but the tone of the text indicates later the same day. He finds him in the
Temple, not far from the
pool. The word found and the tone
indicates this was not an accidental meeting, but Jesus intentionally found
him. Jesus will not leave the man in ignorance, although the text never
indicates that Jesus identified Himself. He challenges the man in two ways:
First, to confirm his healing—“you have
become well” (5:14). This is a statement of fact. It is in the perfect
tense indicating the healing was permanent. This is the foundation upon which
the challenge is built. The challenge falls within two sections: First, he
instructs him—“Do not sin anymore.”
The Greek text reads “stop sinning.” This is the first occurrence of the verb
“to sin” by John. The verb is a present tense; showing that Jesus is not
referring to a past completed act, rather but to a present condition. It also
implies a degree of urgency. Laney notes it “commands
the cessation of some act in progress.” This
command takes us somewhat by surprise. Yet, the sin is never identified. Second,
if the command takes us by surprise, much more so does the warning—“so that nothing worse happens to you.” Yet
the clear implication is that the warning is related to the command or
instruction to stop sinning. Failure to stop so leads to something worse
happening. There are three views one can take here: first, it is talking about
additional suffering because of the sin. What a man sows, he reaps. It may
indicate that his physical condition resulted form some sin; however, we must
be careful here since Jesus such is not always so (cf. John 9:2-3). Second, it
speaks of the future judgment after death (probably the most popular view).
Third, it could refer to both suffering and judgment. There is no indication of
any repentance; expression of gratitude; mention of faith; indication of salvation;
and no inquiry as to Jesus’ identify. How he now knew it was Jesus the text
does not reveal, but we must presume Jesus identified himself to the man. We
are only told that after this confrontation, the man goes to the authorities to
reveal Jesus’ identity to them (5:15). Could his sin be related to his present
action? It may be, and Jesus is warning him not to continue with it. Carson views this as that
of dullness, not treachery. He goes on to point out that “the motive can hardly be a desire to assign
appropriate praise to Jesus.” However,
Keener is more on point when he becoms a betrayer prefiguring Judas (6:71). It
certainly could not be ignorance since he knew what the leadership was up to
(cf. 5:10-13). All interest in this man ceases at this point. This verse is
transitional and sets up the next section on the Sabbath controversy. It is an
introduction as to reason of the controversy, as seen in the beginning word of
the next section—“for this reason” or
The significance of sign three is at least threefold:
- It reveals Jesus’ deity as Jehovah Rapha (Exodus 15:26)—the Lord of Healing.
- It reveals Jesus as the Lord of the Sabbath; therefore He supersedes the legalism that now characterizes Judaism. He does superior acts.
- It reveals not all who benefited from His gracious and merciful acts were willing to go a step further to obtain salvation by faith. It portrays His sovereignty to work even in those who will not accept him. The signs in John are to call one to faith (cf. John 7:31; 12:37). Likewise, the lack of faith after seeing the signs caused by the stubbornness of disbelieving is also possible and seen (cf. John 10:25; 12:37). They are intended to challenge the readers to turn to God in faith. Thus the signs are linked with the responses they evoke: either to faith or unbelief. This one who is healed represents those unbelieving ones. He may have confessed Jesus as healer, but not as savior.
 Andreas J. Kostenberger, BECNT: JOHN, [
2004], 173. Grand Rapids
 This is the only unnamed one in the Gospels, there are several opinions. For a brief summary see J. Carl Laney: MGC: JOHN [Chicago, Moody Press, 1992], 106. Also D.A. Carson, PNTC: JOHN [
1991], 240-241. Grand Rapids
 Craig S. Keener, THE GOSPEL OF JOHN: A COMMENTARY, [
, Hendrickson, 2010], 1:634. Peabody MA
 See D.J. Wieand, “
THE INTERNATION STANDARD BIBLE ENCYCLOPEDIA, 4 Volumes, [ , Eerdmans, Revised 1979], 1:467-468. Grand Rapids
 D.A. Carson, PNTC: JOHN, [
, Eerdmans, 1991], 241. Grand
 J. Rmasey Michaels, NICNT: THE GOSPEL OF JOHN, [
Eerdmans, 2010]. 288. Grand Rapids
 Keener, 1:634,
 D.A. Carson, PNTC: JOHN,, 242.
 The Sinaitic MS holds the translation as “the reservoir or the pool for sheep, but is so weakly supported it is not adopted by the scholars.” See Frederic Louis Godet, COMMENTARY ON JOHN’S GOSPEL (
reprint 1978], 454. Grand Rapids
 D.A. Carson, PNTC: JOHN,,241. Also see F.F. Bruce, THE GOSPEL OF JOHN, [
Eerdmans, 1983], 121-122. Grand Rapids
 Leon Morris: NICNT: THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JOHN, [
Eerdmans, 1971], 302. Grand Rapids
 Zane C. Hodges, “Problems Passages in the Gospel of John, Part 5: The Angel at
—John 5:4,” BIBLIOTHECA SACRA,
January-March 1979, 39. Bethesda
 Rodney A. Whitacre, IVP NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARY: JOHN, [
Inter-Varsity Press, 1999], 120. Downers Grove IL
 Michaels, NICNT: JOHN, 294.
 William Hendricksen, NTC: THE GOSPEL OF JOHN, [
Baker, 1979], 193. Grand Rapids
 Ibid, 295. (m. Sabbat 7:2).
 Homer A. Kent Jr., LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS: STUDIES IN THE GOSPEL OF JOHN, [
, Baker, 1974], 89. Grand
 Laney, MGC: JOHN, 110.
 Carson, PCNT: JOHN, 246.
 Keener, JOHN, 644.