John 5:1-30 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. Upon arriving at Jerusalem, where does Jesus immediately go? See John 5:1-6 (printed below) What does this tell us about our Lord?

After these things there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. (2) Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Hebrew is called Bethesda, and that is surrounded by five covered colonnades. (3) Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. (5) Now a certain man was there, a man who had been an invalid for thirty eight years (6) When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had been in that condition for a long time, he asked him, Do you want to be healed? (John 5:1-6)

John informs us that Jesus went up to Jerusalem on the occasion of one of the great religious feasts (a time when the city would be filled with devout religious worshipers). Then in verses 2-5 John immediately focuses our attention on the Pool of Bethesda (which being translated means, “House of Mercy.”) This is the place where lay a multitude of the sick, the blind, the lame, the paralyzed; it is the place where many came with the hope of being cured; and others came to die. As John continues his narrative, focusing on the Pool of Bethesda, suddenly in the midst of this multitude of pathetic souls we see Jesus! Upon coming to Jerusalem, Jesus immediately singles out the place of greatest need, the place of greatest suffering. This shows our Savior’s heart of compassion and His desire to minister the mercy of God to men.

2. Describe the man whom Jesus approaches. See John 5:5-7 (printed below)

Now a certain man was there, a man who had been an invalid for thirty eight years (6) When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had been in that condition for a long time, he asked him, Do you want to be healed? (7) The invalid answered him, Sir, I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred up. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me. (John 5:5-7)

As we return to John’s narrative, we find that in the midst of this multitude of suffering, one individual is singled out as the object of our attention. He is a man who is helpless: he is in a state of paralysis, thus he cannot get to the healing waters; and he has no one to carry him down to those waters. He is also a man without hope: when Jesus asks him, Do you want to be healed? his only response is, I have no one to help me. Contrast this man’s hopeless resignation with the expectant cries of the blind beggar recorded in Mark 10:46-48, or even the appeal for faith recorded in Mark 9:20-24.

3. What more do we learn about this man? See John 5:10-16 (printed below)

Therefore the Jews said to the man who was healed, This is the Sabbath, so it is not lawful for you to pick up your mat. (11) But he answered them, The man who healed me said to me, Pick up your mat, and walk. (12) They asked him, Who is the man who said to you, Pick up your mat, and walk? (13) But the man who was healed did not know who it was; for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. (14) Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, Look, you are healed; stop sinning, or something worse will happen to you. (15) The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. (16) Because he did these things on the Sabbath, this is why the Jews persecuted Jesus. (John 5:10-16)

Not only is this man a pathetic soul, he is also a very unlovable person. Some time after his healing, Jesus makes a special effort to find him in the temple to give him this stern warning: “Stop sinning, or something worse will happen to you” (verse 14). There is not always a direct correlation between sickness and personal sin (note John 9:1-3); but in this present case it appears that personal sin did play a major role in the plight of this particular man. More of this man’s character is revealed through his interaction with the Jews. When the Jews charge this man with Sabbath-breaking because they observe him carrying his mat in the temple precincts, he immediately puts the blame on Jesus, telling the religious leaders that it was Jesus who instructed him to do so (verses 10-11).

4. How does Jesus respond to the Jews’ challenging question, “Why do you do such things on the Sabbath?” See John 5:17 (printed below)

But Jesus answered them, My Father is working even until now, and so I am working. (John 5:17)

In response to the Jews’ challenging question, “Why do you do such a thing on the Sabbath?” Jesus declares, “My Father is working even until now, and so I am working.” Jesus is saying, I simply watch My Father in heaven, and then I do whatever I see Him doing. In one sense, God rested on the seventh day (Genesis 2:2-3)—that rest became the basis for the Old Testament Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11). But in another sense, God continues to work, even on the Sabbath. What is this work that God continues to perform, even on the Sabbath? Jesus defines God’s continuing work as including His acts of mercy; the work of inviting men and bringing them into His own divine rest and peace (note Matthew 11:28). This miracle performed by the Lord Jesus was not only an act of mercy, it is also a demonstration of what God is like: a demonstration that God is a God of mercy.

5. How does Jesus describe His relationship to God His Father in verses 19-22 (printed below?)

Jesus therefore responded to them by saying, I tell you the truth, The Son can do nothing by himself, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son also does in the same way. (20) This is so because the Father loves the Son and therefore shows him everything that he is doing. Indeed, greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. (21) Just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so the Son also gives life to whom he desires to give life. (22) Neither does the Father judge anyone; rather, he has entrusted all judgment to the Son (John 5:19-22)

In verses 19-20 Jesus emphasizes the fact that He is not working independently; on the contrary, He is revealing the very nature and character of God His Father—Jesus only does what He sees His Father doing. Out of love for His Son, the Father reveals to Him everything that He Himself is doing, so that the Son can do the same works (verse 20a). Furthermore, the Father will show the Son even greater works, “so that men may marvel” (verse 20b)—marvel at the power, the glory, and the mercy of God. What are these “greater works” of which the Lord Jesus speaks? One is the work of giving spiritual life to men (verse 21), and the other is the work of carrying out the final judgment (verse 22).