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When these events were completed, Jesus led His followers to Jerusalem where they would celebrate a Jewish feast[a] together.

Jesus takes His disciples into one of the most miserable places they have ever seen. The suffering and impurity is frightening, but He comes to serve these precious people.

2-3 In Jerusalem they came upon a pool by the sheep gate surrounded by five covered porches. In Hebrew this place is called Bethesda.

Crowds of people lined the area, lying around the porches. All of these people were disabled in some way; some were blind, lame, paralyzed, or plagued by diseases[; and they were waiting for the waters to move. From time to time, a heavenly messenger would come to stir the water in the pool. Whoever reached the water first and got in after it was agitated would be healed of his or her disease].[b] 5-6 In the crowd, Jesus noticed one particular man who had been living with his disability for 38 years. He knew this man had been waiting here a long time.

Jesus (to the disabled man): Are you here in this place hoping to be healed?

Disabled Man: Kind Sir, I wait, like all of these people, for the waters to stir; but I cannot walk. If I am to be healed in the waters, someone must carry me into the pool. Without a helping hand, someone else beats me to the water’s edge each time it is stirred.

Jesus: Stand up, carry your mat, and walk.

At the moment Jesus uttered these words, a healing energy coursed through the man and returned life to his limbs—he stood and walked for the first time in 38 years. But this was the Sabbath Day; and any work, including carrying a mat, was prohibited on this day.

It is impossible to imagine this man’s excitement. His entire life has been defined by his illness. Now he is free from it. Free from the pain and weakness. Free from the depression that gripped his soul. Free, too, from the shame he always knew. Now he does not just walk—he runs and celebrates with friends and family. Everyone is rejoicing with him, except for some of the Jewish leaders. Instead, they drill him with questions as if they can disregard this miracle.

Jewish Leaders (to the man who had been healed): 10 Must you be reminded that it is the Sabbath? You are not allowed to carry your mat today!

Formerly Disabled Man: 11 The man who healed me gave me specific instructions to carry my mat and go.

Jewish Leaders: 12 Who is the man who gave you these instructions? How can we identify Him?

13 The man genuinely did not know who it was that healed him. In the midst of the crowd and the excitement of his renewed health, Jesus had slipped away. 14 Some time later, Jesus found him in the temple and again spoke to him.

Jesus: Take a look at your body; it has been made whole and strong. So avoid a life of sin, or else a calamity greater than any disability may befall you.

15 The man went immediately to tell the Jewish leaders that Jesus was the mysterious healer. 16 So they began pursuing and attacking Jesus because He performed these miracles on the Sabbath.

Jesus (to His attackers): 17 My Father is at work. So I, too, am working.

This issue keeps arising from the Jewish leaders. They do not appreciate the good things Jesus does on the Sabbath. Most Jews cower at the rebuke from these men, but Jesus does not. He is very clear about this. He cares for the poor, the sick, and the marginalized more than He cares for how some people may interpret and apply God’s law. It is easy to follow a set of rules; it is much harder to care for the things of the heart. He also makes it clear that those who follow His path are put on earth to serve. His followers’ service comes out of love for Him. All who follow Him are to love and to serve, especially on the Sabbath.

18 He was justifying the importance of His work on the Sabbath, claiming God as His Father in ways that suggested He was equal to God. These pious religious leaders sought an opportunity to kill Jesus, and these words fueled their hatred.

Jesus: 19 The truth is that the Son does nothing on His own; all these actions are led by the Father. The Son watches the Father closely and then mimics the work of the Father. 20 The Father loves the Son, so He does not hide His actions. Instead, He shows Him everything, and the things not yet revealed by the Father will dumbfound you. 21 The Father can give life to those who are dead; in the same way, the Son can give the gift of life to those He chooses.

22 The Father does not exert His power to judge anyone. Instead, He has given the authority as Judge to the Son. 23 So all of creation will honor and worship the Son as they do the Father. If you do not honor the Son, then you dishonor the Father who sent Him.

24 I tell you the truth: eternal life belongs to those who hear My voice and believe in the One who sent Me. These people have no reason to fear judgment because they have already left death and entered life.

25 I tell you the truth: a new day is imminent—in fact, it has arrived—when the voice of the Son of God will penetrate death’s domain, and everyone who hears will live. 26-27 You see, the Father radiates with life; and He also animates the Son of God with the same life-giving beauty and power to exercise judgment over all of creation. Indeed, the Son of God is also the Son of Man. 28 If this sounds amazing to you, what is even more amazing is that when the time comes, those buried long ago will hear His voice through all the rocks, sod, and soil 29 and step out of decay into resurrection. When this hour arrives, those who did good will be resurrected to life, and those who did evil will be resurrected to judgment.

30 I have not ever acted, and will not in the future act, on My own. I listen to the directions of the One who sent Me and act on these divine instructions. For this reason, My judgment is always fair and never self-serving. I’m committed to pursuing God’s agenda and not My own.

31 If I stand as the lone witness to My true identity, then I can be dismissed as a liar. 32 But if you listen, you will hear another testify about Me, and I know what He says about Me is genuine and true. 33 You sent messengers to John, and he told the truth to everyone who would listen. 34 Still his message about Me originated in heaven, not in mortal man. I am telling you these things for one reason—so that you might be rescued. 35 The voice of John the Baptist, the wandering prophet, is like a light in the darkness; and for a time, you took great joy and pleasure in the light he offered.

36 There’s another witness standing in My corner who is greater than John or any other man. The mission that brings Me here, and the things I am called to do, demonstrate the authenticity of My calling which comes directly from the Father. 37 In the act of sending Me, the Father has endorsed Me. None of you really knows the Father. You have never heard His voice or seen His profile. 38 His word does not abide in you because you do not believe in the One sent by the Father.

39 Here you are scouring through the Scriptures, hoping that you will find eternal life among a pile of scrolls. What you don’t seem to understand is that the Scriptures point to Me. 40 Here I am with you, and still you reject the truth contained in the law and prophets by refusing to come to Me so that you can have life.

Jesus is the source of life, the animating energy of creation that humanity desperately lacks.

41 This kind of glory does not come from mortal men. 42 And I see that you do not possess the love of God. 43 I have pursued you, coming here in My Father’s name, and you have turned Me away. If someone else were to approach you with a different set of credentials, you would welcome him. 44 That’s why it is hard to see how true faith is even possible for you: you are consumed by the approval of other men, longing to look good in their eyes; and yet you disregard the approval of the one true God. 45 Don’t worry that I might bring you up on charges before My Father. Moses is your accuser even though you’ve put your hope in him 46 because if you believed what Moses had to say, then you would believe in Me because he wrote about Me. 47 But if you ignore Moses and the deeper meaning of his writings, then how will you ever believe what I have to say?

Footnotes

  1. 5:1 Perhaps Passover
  2. 5:4 Some early manuscripts omit the end of verse 3 and all of verse 4.