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John 5:23a, 9b17 comment (0)

October 10, 2013

By Jay T. Robertson

Related Scripture: John 5:23a, 9b17

Explore the Bible 
Assistant Professor of Christian Ministries, University of Mobile


John 5:2–3a, 9b–17

Taking the Initiative (2–3a)
This lesson encourages Christians to take the initiative in meeting people at their point of need and through this opportunity to introduce them to Jesus. Every Christian is responsible to make disciples, and many opportunities present themselves as believers live their daily lives. Non-Christians show up at the same places many Christians do — ballparks, the office, at school, waiting rooms, church, the mall. Everywhere you go, potentially there are non-Christians there who need a gospel witness.

In John 5 Jesus goes up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. As He enters through the Sheep Gate, a small point of entry on the north wall of the city, He passes by a pool called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. “Bethesda” means “house of mercy,” a fitting term given the desperate state of the people lying there in hope of a miracle cure. This pool is identified as a single large two-pool complex near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem and adjacent to the modern Church of St. Anne. The two pools are separated from each other by a partition. The remains of columns found around this site help confirm that the partition between the pools, along with each of the four sides surrounding the pool complex, likely contained the five roofed colonnades.

As Jesus passes by the pool of Bethesda, He sees an invalid of 38 years. Jesus knows this man has been there a long time, demonstrating Jesus’ omniscience. Jesus asks the sick man, “Do you want to be healed?” He answers Jesus that he has no one to help him into the waters after they have been stirred. The invalid apparently holds to the popular belief that the first person into the pool after the waters have been stirred, and only the first person, would be miraculously healed.

Jesus’ powerful word heals the man. Jesus also instructs the man to pick up his mat and walk. Jesus takes the initiative and demonstrates His sovereign mercy by healing this man. Christians need to take the initiative to reach out to serve people in Jesus’ name.

Dealing with Resistance (9b–13)
The Jewish religious leaders, rather than rejoicing over the man’s healing, criticize him for carrying his bedroll on the Sabbath. Nothing in the Old Testament specifically prohibited such an innocent activity as carrying one’s bedroll on the Sabbath day. The man is violating later Jewish traditions that had developed hundreds of minutely detailed and burdensome rules about what kind of “work” was prohibited, including a code that forbade carrying an object from one domain into another.

The religious leaders want to know who had instructed him to carry his bedroll on the Sabbath day. The healed man does not know, for Jesus had healed him and slipped away in the crowd. The religious leaders hear of the healing and the violation of their code, and they are only interested in the latter. They think they see what is important, but in religious matters there are none so blind as those who are always certain that they see.

Keeping On (14–17)
Jesus meets the man again in the temple complex, a short distance from where the original healing had taken place. Jesus instructs the man to stop sinning lest something worse happen to him. The unavoidable implication is that the bad thing that has already happened was occasioned by the sin that the person must not repeat.

The man runs and reports to the religious leaders that Jesus had healed him. John writes this is why the religious leaders are persecuting Jesus. Jesus’ Jewish opponents put their merely human religious tradition above genuine love and compassion for others, which the Old Testament commands and Jesus exemplifies. When Jesus says, “My Father is working until now, and I am working,” He implies that He, like the Father, is Lord over the Sabbath. The Jews recognize Jesus’ claim to deity and seek to kill Him. Jesus keeps on fulfilling the mission the Father has sent Him to do.

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