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The Healing at Bethesda

From Galilee, Jesus returned to Jerusalem to observe one of the Jewish feasts.[a] Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate,[b] there is[c] a pool called in Aramaic, The House of Loving Kindness,[d] surrounded by five covered porches.[e] Hundreds of sick people were lying under the covered porches—the paralyzed, the blind, and the crippled—all of them waiting for their healing. For an angel of God periodically descended into the pool to stir the waters, and the first one who stepped into the pool after the waters swirled would instantly be healed.[f]

Among the many sick people lying there was a man who had been disabled for thirty-eight years.[g] When Jesus saw him lying there, he knew that the man had been crippled for a long time.[h] Jesus said to him, “Do you truly long to be well?”[i]

The sick man answered, “Sir,[j] there’s no way I can get healed, for I have no one to lower me into the water when the angel comes. As soon as I try to crawl to the edge of the pool, someone else jumps in ahead of me.”

Jesus said to him, “Stand up! Pick up your sleeping mat and you will walk!” Immediately he stood up—he was healed! So he rolled up his mat and walked again! Now Jesus worked this miracle on the Sabbath.[k]

10 When the Jewish leaders saw the man walking along carrying his sleeping mat,[l] they objected and said, “What are you doing carrying that? Don’t you know it’s the Sabbath? It’s not lawful for you to carry things on the Sabbath!”

11 He answered them, “The man who healed me told me to pick it up and walk.”

12 “What man?” they asked him. “Who was this man who ordered you to carry something on a Sabbath?”[m] 13 But the healed man couldn’t give them an answer, for he didn’t yet know who it was, since Jesus had already slipped away into the crowd.

14 A short time later, Jesus found the man at the temple and said to him, “Look at you now! You’re healed! Walk away from your sin[n] so that nothing worse will happen to you.”

15 Then the man went to the Jewish leaders to inform them, “It was Jesus who healed me!” 16 From that day forward the Jewish leaders began to persecute Jesus because of the things he did on the Sabbath.

Jesus Responds to the Jewish Leaders

17 Jesus answered his critics by saying, “Every day my Father is at work, and I will be, too!” 18 This infuriated them and made them all the more eager to devise a plan to kill him. For not only did he break their Sabbath rules,[o] but he also called God “my Father,” which made him equal to God.[p]

19 So Jesus said, “I speak to you eternal truth. The Son is unable to do anything from himself or through his own initiative. I only do the works that I see the Father doing, for the Son does the same works as his Father.

20 “Because the Father loves his Son so much, he always reveals to him everything that he is about to do. And you will all be amazed when he shows him even greater works than what you’ve seen so far! 21 For just as the Father has power to raise the dead, the Son will also raise the dead and give life to whomever he wants.

22 “The Father judges no one, for he has given to the Son all the authority to judge. 23 Therefore, the honor that belongs to the Father he will now share with his Son. So if you refuse to honor the Son, you are refusing to honor the Father who sent him.

24 “I speak to you an eternal truth: if you embrace my message and believe in the One who sent me, you will never face condemnation. In me, you have already passed from the realm of death into eternal life!”

Two Resurrections

25 “I speak to you an eternal truth: Soon the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who listen will arise with life! 26 For as the Father is the source of life, so he has given the Son the power to impart life. 27 The Father has transferred to the Son the authority to judge, because he is the Son of Man.

28 “Don’t be amazed when I tell you these things, for there is a day coming when everyone who has ever died will hear my voice calling them back to life, 29 and they will come out of their graves! Those who have done what is good will experience a resurrection to eternal life. And those who have practiced evil will taste the resurrection of judgment!

30 “Nothing I do is from my own initiative. As I hear the judgment passed by my Father, I execute those judgments. And my judgments will be perfect, because I seek only to fulfill the desires of my Father who sent me. 31 If I were to make claims about myself, you would have reasons to doubt.[q] 32 But there is another[r] who bears witness on my behalf, and I know that what he testifies of me is true.”

John the Baptizer

33 “You have sent messengers to John, and what he testified about me is true. 34 I have no need to be validated by men, but I’m explaining these things so that you will believe and be saved.

35 “John was a blazing, shining torch,[s] and for a short time, you basked in his light with great joy. 36 But I can provide more substantial proof of who I am that exceeds John’s testimony—my miracles! These works which the Father destined for me to complete—they prove that the Father has sent me! 37 And my Father himself, who gave me this mission, has also testified that I am his Son.[t] But you have never heard his voice nor seen his form, 38 nor does his Word truly live inside of you, for you refuse to believe in me or to embrace me as God’s messenger.

39 “You are busy analyzing the Scriptures, poring over them hoping to gain eternal life. Everything you read points to me, 40 yet you still refuse to come to me so I can give you the life you’re looking for—eternal life![u]

41 “I do not accept the honor that comes from men, 42 for I know what kind of people you really are, and I can see that the love of God has found no home in you. 43 I have come to represent my Father, yet you refuse to embrace me in faith. If someone comes in their own name and with their own agenda,[v] you readily accept him. 44 Of course you’re unable to believe in me. For you live to enjoy the praises of others and not the praise that comes from the one true God.

45 “I will not accuse you before the Father. The one who will incriminate you is Moses, the very one you claim to obey, the one in whom you trust![w] 46 If you really believed what Moses has written, then you would embrace me, for Moses wrote about me! 47 But since you do not believe what he wrote, no wonder you don’t believe what I say.”[x]

Footnotes

  1. 5:1 It is difficult to determine with certainty which of the feasts it was: Passover, Tabernacles, or Purim. Most of the ancient expositors taught that it was the Feast of Pentecost. There is no mention of the disciples being with him at this time.
  2. 5:2 Literally “the place of the sheep.” The word gate is not in the Greek text. The sick gathered at the pool were like bruised, wounded sheep, needing healing.
  3. 5:2 The present tense is here in the text indicates that when John wrote his Gospel, the pool of Bethesda was still there. However, by AD 68–70, Jerusalem had been destroyed, along with the temple, by the Roman invasion. This would indicate John’s Gospel has an earlier date of origin than believed. It is likely that John wrote his gospel prior to AD 67.
  4. 5:2 Or Bethesda. In Hebrew, Beit-Hesed, meaning “House of Loving Kindness.” The spelling of this varies from manuscript to manuscript. Some have “Bethsaida,” or “Bethsatha,” or “Belzetha (House of the Olive).” Archaeologists have discovered a deep double pool near St. Anne’s Church in Jerusalem surrounded by five porticoes located near the Sheep Gate, confirming the validity of the biblical account. The Sheep Gate is where the sacrificial animals were brought into the temple. This points us to the Lamb of God whose cross and sacrifice brought us healing. There is a pool of mercy near the Sheep Gate.
  5. 5:2 Or “covered walkways” or “alcoves.” The sick were under the “covering” of the Law (the five books of the Torah). But the Law cannot heal; it wounds and brings death (Rom. 7:9–10). Christ is the healer, the living Torah (Matt. 8:16).
  6. 5:4 The majority of manuscripts do not have v. 4, and a few Greek manuscripts do not even have v. 3. However, the absence of the data found in these verses would leave a tremendous gap in the narrative, leaving unanswered why all these sick people would have congregated at the pool of Bethesda, and making v. 7 very confusing. There remains a strong basis found in a diverse set of manuscripts, both Greek and Aramaic, to argue for the inclusion of vv. 3 and 4 here.
  7. 5:5 Under the shelter of religion, there are the sick and lame and blind who can’t be healed unless they do the work and step into the pool. They are helpless and hopeless so near the Sheep Gate. But Jesus puts none of the law’s requirements upon us for our healing, only to believe in one who is greater than angels (Heb. 1:4). The man had been sick for thirty-eight years, the length of time Israel had wandered in the wilderness. See Deut. 2:14.
  8. 5:6 Jesus knew by divine revelation this man’s situation.
  9. 5:6 Or “Are you convinced that you are already made whole?” The Greek phrase genesthai is actually not a future tense (“want to be healed”) but an aorist middle infinitive that indicates something already accomplished. Jesus was asking the crippled man if he was ready to abandon how he saw himself and now receive the faith for his healing (2 Cor. 5:7).
  10. 5:7 The Greek word kurios means “lord” or “sir.”
  11. 5:9 The healed man took his sleeping (resting) mat with him. The Sabbath was meant to be a day of rest, but the healed man carried his Sabbath “rest” with him. The Sabbath is not a day, but a realm of rest that we carry in our hearts.
  12. 5:10 Or “cot” or “stretcher.” The Aramaic word is “quilt” or “mat.”
  13. 5:12 Malice filled the Jewish leaders. They should have been filled with joy that the man was healed. They should have asked, “Who is the wonderful one who healed you?”
  14. 5:14 Or “Don’t continue sinning any longer.”
  15. 5:18 Jesus did not break the Sabbath, he “loosed” it (literal Aramaic) from the bondage of tradition and man-made rules.
  16. 5:18 They clearly understood that Jesus was claiming God as his Father in a unique way.
  17. 5:31 According to the Mosaic laws, a man’s testimony about himself is inadmissible. See Prov. 27:2.
  18. 5:32 This is the Father (see v. 37). Some believe it to be John because of v. 33. However, Jesus states that he does not need human validation.
  19. 5:35 Or “a lantern of chasing flames.”
  20. 5:37 Or “testified about me.” Jesus was referring to the audible voice that God the Father spoke over Jesus at his baptism. For this reason and the reference to God’s voice, this translation has chosen to make it explicit that it refers to the Father’s testimony at Jesus’ baptism. See Luke 3:21–22. The four witnesses of Christ’s glory are: Jesus himself, John the Baptizer, the Father who spoke over his Son, and the miracles of Jesus.
  21. 5:40 There are five witnesses to Christ’s authority and deity in this chapter. Jesus himself (vv. 25–27), John the Baptizer (vv. 32–34), Jesus’ miracles (v. 36), the Father (vv. 36–38), and the Scriptures (vv. 39–40; see also Ps. 40:7).
  22. 5:43 Implied in the text.
  23. 5:45 Jesus prophesied that Moses, on the final judgment day, will be the one to accuse those who would not listen to the laws and teachings of the Torah, which point to their fulfillment in Christ.
  24. 5:47 Apparently this concluded Jesus’ ministry in Jerusalem at this time. The text does not tell us of his return to the province of Galilee.