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Chapter 5: Healing at the Pool of Bethesda

The Healing at the Pool on the Sabbath

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[a] called Bethesda,[b] which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed.[c] 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. 10 So the Jews[d] said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” 11 But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’” 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. 14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well!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.” 15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. 16 And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”

Verses 9-10 (John 5:9-10):

Exegesis: In these verses, we encounter the pivotal moment when the healed man takes up his bed and walks, which stirs controversy regarding the observance of the Sabbath.

First, let’s examine the historical context. During the time of Jesus, the Sabbath, or Shabbat in Hebrew, was a sacred day of rest and worship for the Jewish people. It was instituted as a day of remembrance of God’s rest after the creation of the world (Genesis 2:2-3) and was codified in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:8-11).

Now, focusing on the Greek words, the phrase “τὸν κράββατόν σου αἴρει” (ton krabbaton sou airei) is used in verse 10, which translates to “take up your bed” or “pick up your mat.” The Greek word “κράββατος” (krabbatos) refers to a mat or pallet, typically used for sleeping or reclining.

This specific action of carrying his bed on the Sabbath was seen as work and therefore a violation of the Sabbath laws. The Jewish religious leaders were meticulous in their interpretation and enforcement of these laws, and carrying a burden on the Sabbath was considered a breach of the commandment to keep the day holy (Exodus 20:10).

The healed man’s response to the Jews’ rebuke reveals the tension surrounding this healing. He explains that he was simply following the command he received from the one who healed him, emphasizing that he didn’t know who this healer was at that time. This statement highlights the man’s innocence in the matter and shifts the focus to the identity of the healer.

This incident sets the stage for the subsequent verses, where Jesus engages in a dialogue with the religious leaders regarding His authority, His relationship with the Father, and the nature of His work. It becomes a pivotal moment in the Gospel of John, revealing Jesus’ divine identity and challenging the traditional interpretations of Sabbath observance.

In conclusion, these verses provide a crucial backdrop to the broader narrative of John chapter 5. They illustrate the conflict between the miraculous works of Jesus and the rigid interpretations of Sabbath laws by the religious authorities, ultimately leading to a deeper examination of Jesus’ identity and mission.

Jesus Is Equal with God

18 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.

Verse 18 (John 5:18):

Exegesis:

This verse is pivotal in understanding the increasing tension between Jesus and the Jewish religious authorities. It provides insight into the reason behind their intensified efforts to oppose and even kill Jesus.

  1. Contextual Background: To comprehend the significance of this verse, we must consider the broader context of John chapter 5. In the preceding verses, Jesus had performed a miraculous healing at the pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath. This act of healing on the Sabbath had already raised eyebrows among the Jewish leaders, as it was perceived as a violation of the Sabbath laws.
  2. The Accusation: The accusation against Jesus mentioned in this verse revolves around two main points:a. Breaking the Sabbath: The Jewish leaders contended that Jesus was violating the Sabbath by performing acts of healing on that sacred day. According to their strict interpretation of the Law, such actions were considered work and thus forbidden on the Sabbath.b. Claiming Equality with God: The more significant charge was that Jesus was “calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” This statement is profound. By referring to God as His Father, Jesus was asserting a unique and intimate relationship with God, different from the typical Jewish understanding of God as Father to the nation of Israel. This was seen as a bold claim to divinity, implying that Jesus was God’s Son in a way that set Him apart from mere human beings.
  3. Implications of Claiming Equality with God: To the Jewish leaders, Jesus’ assertion of equality with God was nothing short of blasphemy. In Jewish theology, God’s unity and transcendence were fundamental beliefs. Claiming equality with God was seen as a direct challenge to these core beliefs and a threat to the established religious order.
  4. Hostility and Opposition: This verse underscores the seriousness of the situation. The Jewish leaders were not only offended by Jesus’ Sabbath-breaking but also deeply alarmed by His claims of divine sonship. Their response was not just a legal or theological objection but a hostile one, leading them to seek Jesus’ death.
  5. Theological Significance: From a theological perspective, this verse is a critical turning point in the Gospel of John. It foreshadows the central theme of the deity of Jesus Christ, a theme that will be further developed in the subsequent chapters. Jesus’ claim of equality with God is one of the foundational elements of Christian theology and a key point of contention between Christianity and Judaism.

In summary, John 5:18 is a verse of profound theological significance. It encapsulates the escalating conflict between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders, driven by His actions on the Sabbath and His assertion of equality with God. This verse lays the groundwork for deeper theological exploration of Jesus’ divine nature in the Gospel of John.

The Authority of the Son

19 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father[e] does, that the Son does likewise. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. 22 For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

Verses 19-29 (John 5:19-29):

Exegesis:

These verses contain a profound discourse by Jesus, revealing essential aspects of His identity, authority, and His relationship with the Father.

  1. The Son’s Subordination to the Father (Verse 19): Jesus begins by emphasizing His complete dependence on the Father. He declares, “the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing.” This statement underscores the intimate connection between the Father and the Son. It reflects the divine harmony within the Godhead, where the Son acts in perfect alignment with the Father’s will.
  2. Divine Mirroring (Verse 19): Jesus continues by stating that “whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” This highlights the unity of purpose and action between the Father and the Son. The Son’s actions mirror those of the Father, emphasizing their divine oneness.
  3. Divine Revelation and Love (Verses 20-21): Jesus reveals that “the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing.” This divine love results in the Father revealing His plans and actions to the Son. Furthermore, Jesus asserts His authority in granting life, akin to the Father’s power to raise the dead. This divine revelation and life-giving authority are central to His mission.
  4. The Son as Judge (Verses 22-23): Jesus declares that the Father has entrusted all judgment to the Son. This statement highlights the Son’s role in the ultimate judgment of humanity. It underscores that honoring the Son is equivalent to honoring the Father who sent Him. This assertion asserts Jesus’ divine authority and equality with God.
  5. Eternal Life Through Belief (Verse 24): Jesus offers a promise of eternal life to those who hear His word and believe in the One who sent Him. Believers are assured that they will not face judgment but have already transitioned from spiritual death to eternal life through faith in Him.
  6. Resurrection and Divine Voice (Verses 25-28): Jesus foretells an hour when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and experience resurrection. This statement reaffirms His divine authority to grant life and execute judgment. He emphasizes that the power of resurrection resides in Him, mirroring the Father’s authority.
  7. Resurrection Outcomes (Verse 29): Jesus outlines the outcomes of the resurrection, with the righteous experiencing the resurrection of life and the wicked facing the resurrection of judgment. This speaks to the eternal consequences of one’s relationship with Him.

In summary, these verses provide a profound insight into the divine relationship between the Father and the Son, emphasizing their unity of purpose and action. Jesus asserts His authority as the Son of God, the source of eternal life, the ultimate judge, and the voice that will bring about resurrection. This discourse further solidifies the theological foundation of Jesus’ deity and mission in the Gospel of John.

Witnesses to Jesus

30 “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. 31 If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true. 32 There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. 33 You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34 Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35 He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. 36 But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. 41 I do not receive glory from people. 42 But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

Verses 30-47 (John 5:30-47):

Exegesis:

These verses contain a rich discourse by Jesus, focusing on the witnesses to His identity and the reasons for the unbelief of the Jewish religious leaders.

  1. Dependence on the Father’s Will (Verse 30): Jesus asserts His complete dependence on the Father, stating that He can do nothing on His own. His judgments are just because they align with the Father’s will. This emphasizes the unity of purpose between the Father and the Son.
  2. Requirement of Multiple Witnesses (Verse 31): Jesus acknowledges the requirement of multiple witnesses for testimony to be considered valid in Jewish legal tradition. He asserts that if He alone bears witness about Himself, His testimony is not true, underlining the need for corroborating witnesses.
  3. Witnesses to Jesus (Verses 32-34): Jesus affirms that there is another who bears witness about Him, referring to John the Baptist. He acknowledges John’s testimony to the truth. Jesus clarifies that His testimony is not based on human sources but is given to bring salvation.
  4. John the Baptist’s Role (Verses 35-36): Jesus describes John as a “burning and shining lamp” who bore witness to Him. He notes that the people were initially willing to rejoice in John’s light, emphasizing the impact of John’s ministry as a precursor to His own.
  5. Greater Testimony through Works (Verse 36): Jesus declares that His testimony is greater than John’s due to the works the Father has given Him to accomplish. His miraculous works bear witness that the Father has sent Him.
  6. The Father’s Witness (Verses 37-38): Jesus states that the Father who sent Him has borne witness about Him. He highlights that the religious leaders have never heard the Father’s voice or seen His form. Their unbelief is rooted in their failure to have the Father’s word abiding in them and their refusal to believe in Jesus as the One sent by the Father.
  7. The Scriptures as Witnesses (Verses 39-40): Jesus points out that the religious leaders diligently search the Scriptures, believing that they provide eternal life. However, He asserts that the Scriptures themselves bear witness about Him. He emphasizes that their refusal to come to Him hinders them from receiving life.
  8. Rejection Due to Seeking Human Glory (Verses 41-44): Jesus explains that He does not seek glory from people. Instead, He has come in the Father’s name. He recognizes that the religious leaders do not receive Him but are inclined to receive others who come in their own name. Their unbelief is attributed to their desire for human glory and their lack of love for God.
  9. Moses as an Accuser (Verses 45-46): Jesus warns that He will not accuse them before the Father; instead, Moses, in whom they have set their hope, will accuse them. If they truly believed Moses, they would believe in Him because Moses wrote about Him.
  10. The Necessity of Believing Moses (Verse 47): Jesus concludes by emphasizing that if they do not believe Moses’ writings, they will struggle to believe His words. This highlights the continuity of God’s revelation from the Old Testament to His ministry in the New Testament.

In summary, these verses emphasize the diverse witnesses to Jesus’ identity, including John the Baptist, the Father, the Scriptures, and Moses. Jesus underscores the importance of believing in Him as the One sent by the Father for salvation, and the consequences of rejecting Him despite the abundant testimony provided.

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