Setting

The events and discourse recorded in this passage took place in Jerusalem at the time of a feast. The beginnings of Jesus’ revelations were primarily in Galilee. These included the first and second signs he did in Cana (2:11; 4:54). Now, the scene shifts to Jerusalem, and we begin to see the vehement reaction of the Jews after Jesus heals the man with infirmity. The opposition from the Jews will only intensify starting from this point in the Gospel.

Key Verse

(5:17)

Did You Know...?

1. The Sheep Gate (5:2), originally in the wall north or northeast of Jerusalem, was mentioned in Nehemiah (Neh 3:1, 32; 12:39) and was restored during the rebuilding of the city walls. In Jesus’ day, this was apparently a small opening in the north wall of the temple. The sheep would have been washed in the pool before being taken to the sanctuary. [ref]

2. A pool called Bethesda (5:2): Early traditions speak of twin pools having five porticoes. Archeological excavations have confirmed that the pool was at the foot of Mt. Bezetha. The name Bethesda means “house of mercy.”5/1:467–468 [ref]

3. Your bed (5:8): A mat (krabattos) was the poor man’s bedding. The term is used in distinction from “bed” (klinarion; Acts 5:15). Normally made of straw, it was light and could be rolled up and carried about by any healthy person. [ref]

4. “It is not lawful for you to carry your bed” (5:10): Carrying the bed on the Sabbath was not specifically forbidden in the Old Testament Bible. But according to Jewish tradition, carrying an object “from one domain into another” was considered a violation of the Sabbath. [ref]

Outline

  • The Healing of the Invalid
    (5:1–9)
  • Jesus Enters into Conflict with the Jews
    (5:10–15)
  • Jesus’ Authority to Give Life and to Judge
    (5:16–30)
  • Testimony of the Father
    (5:31–47)

Keywords/Phrases

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General Analysis

  • 1.

    How did the healing of the man with infirmity lead to the Jews’ intent to kill Jesus?

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    The day on which Jesus healed the man was the Sabbath. When the Jews saw the man carrying his bed, they stopped him. As soon as they learned that it was Jesus who had made the man well and had commanded him to take up his bed and walk, the Jews sought to kill Jesus.

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  • 2.

    How did the healing relate to Jesus’ words about receiving life?

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    While the miracle did not involve the raising of the dead to life, the restoration of the health of the sick man unveiled Jesus’ divine authority to grant life to those who are dead in sin. Jesus’ life-giving power would become even more evident in the ‘greater works’ that Jesus would perform later in His ministry (5:20), culminating in the raising of Lazarus to life (chapter 11).

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  • 3.

    List the main teachings in this passage about the relationship between the Father and the Son.

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    1. The Son can do nothing of Himself, but does whatever the Father does (5:17, 19, 21, 30). 2. The Father loves the Son and shows Him all things that He Himself does (5:20). 3. The Father has committed all judgment to the Son (5:22). 4. The Father has granted the Son to have life in Himself (5:26). 5. Jesus as the Son seeks the will of the Father who sent Him (5:30). 6. The Father bears witness of the Son (5:32, 36, 37). 7. The Father has given the Son works to finish (5:36). 8. The Son has come in His Father’s name (5:43).

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Segment Analysis

  • 5:1–15

    1.

    In what ways was Jesus’ miracle of healing this man remarkable?

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    1. This miracle was completely out of Jesus’ initiative (5:6). 2. The long duration of the infirmity had made the man given up all hope of being cured (5:5, 7). Therefore, the healing from such a long term illness that had no cure is remarkable. 3. Jesus healed the man with His words, revealing the authority of His words (5:8). 4. The effect of the healing was immediate (5:9), in stark contrast to the thirty-eight years the man had been sick.

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  • 2.

    How did the man view Jesus’ question, “Do you want to be made well?”

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    The man’s response indicates that he took Jesus’ question as a useless inquiry, since he simply had no hope of being the first to get into the pool. All he could see was the impossible. Compare his response to that of the Samaritan woman in 4:11.

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  • 3.

    Have you ever experienced God’s power when all hopes have died? Share your experience with the group.

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  • 4.

    How had the Jews missed the much more important matter? What does this say about what was in their hearts?

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    They were completely blind to the great miracle that Jesus had performed. They only focused on what they thought was a violation of the Sabbath. All this goes to show that they had no compassion for the sick man’s plight (cf. 5:42). They seemed to be faithful to God’s word (when in fact they were not; cf. 5:38); in reality, they were quick to condemn the man because they wanted to appear righteous before men, not because their hearts were on God (cf. 5:44).

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  • 5.

    What does Jesus’ warning to the man in verse 14 teach us about mercy and repentance?

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    We do not know what sins the sick man had committed or whether his sickness was the result of his sins. But we should bear in mind that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). As such, we all, like the sick man, must heed Jesus’ warning. Despite the man’s sin, the Lord Jesus reached out to him and delivered him from his years of infirmity. But He also reminded the man of the even more terrible consequence if he remained in sin. Likewise, God had mercy on us and delivered us despite our sins. But this does not mean that He condones our sins. Having received the grace of salvation, we ought to live a life worthy of our repentance so that we will not fall under God’s fiery judgment (Heb 10:26–31).

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  • 5:16–30

    6.

    What were the two charges the Jews leveled against Jesus?

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    See 5:18.

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  • 7.

    Explain Jesus’ response to the Jews’ persecution and to the accusation pertaining to the Sabbath (v. 17).

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    Jesus justified His work of healing by saying that He was acting on behalf of God the Father, even though they thought that He had violated the Sabbath. Their accusation was false because God’s law never forbade doing good on the Sabbath. Jesus did exactly what God the Father would do and had been doing, i.e., to show His love and mercy, and He would not cease to do so just because it was a Sabbath day. The Jews who opposed Jesus distorted the spirit of the command to rest. Instead, they laid external prohibitions that God had not intended. If they had recognized that Jesus was God and that He Himself was the Lord of the Sabbath, they would not have condemned the guiltless but would have given glory to Him for His wonderful works (cf. Mt 12:1–8).

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  • 8.

    How can we receive life, according to the Lord Jesus?

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    We need to hear the Lord’s word and believe in the Father (5:24, 25).

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  • 9.

    Why does Jesus speak of judgment side by side with life?

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    Judgment is the flip side of everlasting life. Whoever does not accept the word of Christ and cross over from death into life comes under judgment (5:24; cf. Jn 3:18).

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  • 10.

    How do life and judgment apply to both the present and the future?

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    Judgment is present in the sense that whoever does not accept the word of the Lord already comes into judgment (5:24; the verb “come” is in the present tense in Greek), for God’s wrath abides on the unbeliever (Jn 3:36). Jesus also declares that now is the hour when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and live (5:25). This means that those who are spiritually dead are raised to a new life through faith in the word of the Lord Jesus. Thus, the result of believing or rejecting Christ takes place even in the present. But the final outcome of the judgment will be fully revealed at the future resurrection. Those who have done good will resurrect to life, whereas evildoers will resurrect to condemnation (5:28, 29).

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  • 11a.

    What is the primary claim of Jesus in this section in terms of His identity?

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    He, being the Son, is in complete unity with the Father and carries total divine authority. By calling God His Father and Himself the Son, Jesus claims to be in a unique relationship with God. That is why the Jews interpreted His words as making Himself equal with God (5:18).

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  • 11b.

    What should we do in view of His identity?

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    We need to honor Jesus as God by hearing His word and trusting in Him (5:23, 24).

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  • 5:31–47

    12.

    What witnesses does Jesus call on to testify of Him?

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    Jesus makes mention of John (5:33), His own works (5:36), and the Scriptures (5:39) as His witnesses. He also cites Moses as an accuser of the unbelieving Jews (5:45, 46). But above all, the greatest witness and one who carries ultimate authority is the Father (5:36).

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  • 13.

    Along with studying the Scriptures, how can we let God’s word abide in us?

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    The attitude and actions of the unbelieving Jews showed that God’s word did not abide in them (5:38), even though they diligently studied the Scriptures (5:39). If we wish to have God’s word abiding in us, we need to have a sincere desire to seek and obey God’s will (5:30, 44). Then the words in the Scriptures will truly speak to us and work within us to carry out God’s will.

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  • 14.

    What sins did Jesus reveal about the unbelieving Jews?

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    1. God’s word did not abide in them (5:38). 2. They did not have the love of God in them (5:42). 3. They received honor from one another but did not seek the honor from God (5:44).

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  • 15a.

    What does it mean to seek honor from men instead of from God?

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    When a person is after honor from men, his superficial good deeds are motivated by the praise of men (cf. Mt 6:1, 2, 5, 16). He does not make an effort to search his heart and deeds to find out what God thinks of him.

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  • 15b.

    How does this hinder faith in Christ?

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    If our motive is after glory from men, then we will be blind to the truth. Naturally, we cannot accept the word of God nor be in tune with His works, because we measure the things we hear and see by the standards of men, not of God. This was what was happening to the Jews. They seemed to be so careful to keep the Sabbath, only to appear righteous before men, but they were oblivious to God’s desire for mercy and to His great work of salvation.

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