John 5



The Healing at the Pool (5:1-15)

1-2 In verse 2, John describes a pool called, in the Aramaic38 (or Hebrew) language, Bethesda. He writes that there is in Jerusalem … a pool. Because John has used the present tense here, some Bible scholars believe that this Gospel was written before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. If the Gospel had been written after 70 A.D., John would have written that there “was” a pool.

3-4 Many people in Jesus’ time believed that the water of this pool had healing power. It was said that an angel stirred up the water in the pool from time to time, and as soon as the water was stirred, the sick people waiting near the pool would rush to get into the water. John doesn’t explain how the angel stirred up the water, but it was believed that the one who could get into the water first after it had been stirred would be healed.39

5-6 Jesus learned that there was a man unable to walk, who had been lying by the pool for thirty-eight years. Jesus asked him, “Do you want to get well?” Notice that the man did not go to Jesus; Jesus went to him. The man did not know Jesus was a healer.

7 The man explained to Jesus why he had not been healed: he could not get into the water in time. All his thoughts were on the supposed power of the water, not on the power of Jesus.

8-9 Jesus healed the man instantly and completely (see Mark 2:11). Jesus healed him even though the man himself had no faith. The man had not asked to be healed. He didn’t even know Jesus.

This miracle took place on the Sabbath, that is, Saturday. According to the

Jewish law, one was not supposed to do any kind of “work” on the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11).

10 The Jews—that is, the Jewish leaders—rebuked the man for disobeying this Sabbath law. According to the law, it was illegal even to carry a bed or mat on the Sabbath! That was considered “work”40 (Jeremiah 17:21-22).

The Pharisees and the teachers of the law had added many kinds of regulations concerning what was “work” and what was not “work.” Many of these regulations were not written in the Old Testament. The rules forbidding work were made in order to keep the Sabbath day holy; it was supposed to be a day set aside for worship and prayer and rest. But the Jewish leaders had added so many little rules that the original meaning of the Sabbath had been lost. Because of all these rules, it was no longer possible to do any healing or other good works on the Sabbath.

But Jesus’ teaching was that it was always lawful to “do good” on the Sabbath (see Mark 2:23-28; 3:1-5; Luke 13:10-17 and comments).

11-13 The man who was healed put the “blame” on Jesus for breaking the Sabbath law. He said to the Jewish leaders, “He (Jesus) told me to pick up my mat and walk.”

Then the Jews looked for Jesus but could not find Him. He had disappeared into the crowd that had gathered there. The crowd had gathered because of the miracle that had taken place.

14 Some time later, Jesus met the healed man again. He said to him, “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”From this we can understand that this man’s illness had come about because of some sin.41 Jesus told him that if he continued to sin, something worse would happen to him. That is, he would be condemned at the last judgment and receive eternal punishment.

15 The healed man was very ungrateful to Jesus. Even though he knew that the Jewish leaders were hostile to Jesus, he went and told them that it was Jesus who had healed him.

Life Through the Son (5:16-30)

16 When the Jewish leaders found out it was Jesus who had healed on the Sabbath, they began to persecute Him. The Jews were zealous for the form of godliness, but they denied the power of godliness (2 Timothy 3:5).

17 Jesus reminded the Jews that God is always working. Yes, He created the world in six days and rested on the seventh day (Genesis 2:2-3). But it is also true that God is continuously working. If He stopped “working” one minute, the universe and all life would end. For he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else (Acts 17:25). Since God is “working” seven days a week, so must Christ be working seven days a week. For just as God created the heavens and the earth through Christ (John 1:3), so God sustains the heavens and the earth through Christ (Colossians 1:17). Since the works of Jesus are the same as the works of God, the works of Jesus must take place continuously—even on the Sabbath.

18 Jesus had called God my Father (verse 17). This made the Jews more angry than anything else. They knew Jesus was claiming that God was His Father in a special way—that is, that He and God had the same nature. They knew that Jesus was making Himself equal with God. In the Jews’ mind this was a terrible blasphemy against God. The Jews believed in the one true God,42 a God infinitely greater than any human being. Thus, for any person to claim to be God or to be like God was an insult to this one true God. According to the Jewish law, the punishment for such blasphemy against God was death (Leviticus 24:16). Therefore, the Jewish leaders tried all the harder to kill him (see Mark 3:6; John 10:33).

But in verses 19-30, Jesus showed the Jews that He was indeed equal with God. Their charges of blasphemy were false.

19 In everything Jesus was dependent on His Father, God, and was obedient to Him. The Son can do nothing by himself. At the same time, Jesus had all the authority and power of His Father. … whatever the Father does the Son does also (see Matthew 11:25; John 13:3; 14:10).

20 For the Father loves the Son; that is, He continuously loves Him. The unity and closeness between God and Jesus comes from God’s love for Jesus. That is why God shows Jesus all he does (see John 3:35).

Jesus told the Jews that He would do still greater things than they had already seen, because God will show him (Jesus) even greater things than these. These greater things are Jesus’ work of giving life (verse 21) and judging (verse 22).

21 The Old Testament teaches that God makes alive … and raises up the dead (1 Samuel 2:6). But here Jesus says that He also gives life. … whatever the Father does the Son does also (verse 19).

The life that Jesus gives is new spiritual life. All men, before they believe, are spiritually dead in [their] transgressions and sins (see Ephesians 2:1 and comment). But Christ has the power to bring them to life. The life that Jesus gives is eternal life. It begins as soon as a man believes in Christ, and it lasts forever (see John 1:4; 3:15,36 and comments). And Jesus gives this life to whom he is pleased to give it. We can’t demand this life; we can’t earn it. We don’t deserve it. We receive it only through the love and grace of the Father and the Son.

22 The authority to judge belongs to God. But He has turned over this authority to Christ. Therefore, on the day of JUDGMENT, which will come at the end of the world, it is Christ Himself who will be our judge (Acts 17:31; 2 Corinthians 5:10).

23 God has given Christ the authority to judge so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Christ must receive the same honor as God receives. In the Jews’ eyes, to say such a thing was blasphemy (see verse 18). But, in fact, they were blind. They didn’t realize that Christ was indeed equal with God. Therefore, they refused to honor Christ. They said, “We honor only God.” But Jesus told them, “He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father.” It’s the same among men: whenever we dishonor a man’s son, we dishonor the man himself.

Here is a deep and important truth. Many people say, “I believe in God. Why is it necessary to believe in Christ also?” It’s necessary because only when we believe in Christ can we truly believe in God. He who does not know Christ cannot fully know God. He who does not honor Christ does not honor God (see Luke 10:16; John 12:44-45; 14:9; 15:23).

24 Jesus here repeats what is written in John 3:15,36. Here He adds that man must not only believe in Christ, but must also believe him (God) who sent Christ. Christ and God cannot be separated: they are one (John 10:30).

Faith in Christ comes from the recognition that Christ is sent from God, that He is one with God. His words are God’s words (John 3:34). Hearing Christ’s word—that is, the Gospel—leads to faith in God Himself (Romans 10:14; 1 Peter 1:21). Christ’s purpose is to bring [us] to God (1 Peter 3:18).

The person who has eternal life has crossed over from death to life. For man there are only two possible states: life or death. A man is either spiritually alive, or he is spiritually dead. He is either in the kingdom of Satan, or he is in the kingdom of God. Only through faith in Christ and God can a person pass from Satan’s kingdom into God’s kingdom.

25 The dead—that is, the spiritually dead—will hear the voice of the Son of God. Among those who live in darkness—in transgressions and sins (Ephesians 2:1)—there will be some in this life who hear Christ’s voice and believe. Those who hear and believe will live (see verse 21 and comment). Jesus said, “The time is coming and has now come when this will begin to happen—the dead will begin to live.”

26 Just as the Father is the source of all life, so the Son (Christ) is also the source of life, both physical life and spiritual life. God has given His own life to Christ (see John 1:4; 3:35; 1 John 5:11). This is why death could not conquer Christ. Because of God’s life within Him, Christ Himself rose from the dead. And because of God’s life within Him, Christ is also able to give life to those who are dead in sin (verse 25).

27 Because Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of Man, God has given Him the authority to judge (see Matthew 28:18; John 5:22; 17:2 and comments). Being the Son of Man, Jesus knows men’s hearts; therefore, He is qualified to judge (see John 2:24-25). Being the Son of Man, Jesus has the authority, glory and sovereign power to execute judgment on all men (Daniel 7:13-14).

28-29 In these verses Jesus is not speaking of this present life; He is speaking of the last judgment, which will occur at the end of the world. He is speaking not only in a spiritual sense, but also in a physical sense. All who are dead and buried will be raised at the end of the world. There will be a resurrection of the bodies of all men, both good men and evil (see Acts 24:15 and comment). The righteous will receive new bodies in heaven. The unrighteous will receive new bodies in hell.

All the dead will rise from their graves at the voice of the Son of God. At that time the Son will judge men according to their works (2 Corinthians 5:10). Those who have done good will obtain eternal life in heaven; those who have done evil will receive eternal punishment in hell.

We must remember two truths. First, salvation comes only by faith, not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9). But, second, we are rewarded or condemned according to our works (see Matthew 16:27 and comment). Works are the proof our faith.

In one sense, our judgment is taking place on earth right now. Because what we do in this life will determine how Christ judges us on that final day of judgment.

30 When Christ judges, His judgment is not independent of God’s judgment. Christ does nothing by Himself (verse 19). “I judge only as I hear,” said Jesus. Christ’s will is the same as God’s will. For that reason, Christ’s judgment is always just and true (John 6:38; 8:16).

As it is for Christ, so it is for us. When we remain in God’s will, our life is righteous. But when we follow our own will and seek to please ourselves, our life becomes unrighteous. In everything let us pray as Christ prayed: “Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36).

Testimonies About Jesus (5:31-47)

31 If Jesus alone had testified about Himself, His testimony would not have been valid;43 that is, it would not have been legally acceptable. According to the Bible, everything must be determined on the testimony of two or three witnesses (Deuteronomy 19:15; Matthew 18:16; 2 Corinthians 13:1). Therefore, Christ alone cannot give a valid testimony about Himself; another witness is necessary.

32 But He has another witness, and that witness is God Himself (John 8:17-18). God had spoken from heaven: “You are my Son” (Mark 1:11; 9:7).

33-35 After saying that God was His main witness, Jesus here mentions the witness of John the Baptist. The Jews had gone to John (John 1:19). Some of the Jews had been attracted by John’s preaching. John testified to the truth (verse 33). He was a lamp showing the way of salvation. If the Jews had believed John fully, they would also have believed Jesus and found salvation.

The Jews couldn’t accept God’s witness directly (verses 37-38). But they could have believed John, who gave the same true witness. Jesus did not need John’s witness to prove He was the Messiah. Jesus does not accept human testimony (verse 34). God’s witness is sufficient. Jesus only mentions John the Baptist to remind the Jews that John had indeed shown them the way of salvation.

36 Jesus’ greatest witness was God (verse 32). But the Jews did not accept God’s witness. Therefore, Jesus mentions still another “witness”—that is, His work. The Jews could see Christ’s work. Christ’s work is the same as God’s work (verse 19). Therefore, Christ’s work testifies or proves that Christ is sent from God (see Matthew 11:2-5). Surely the Jews should have accepted the witness of Christ’s works (John 14:11). And surely today men should also.

37-38 Here Jesus again says: “And the Father … has himself testified concerning me.” God had Himself spoken from heaven (verse 32). He had testified through the prophets, through the Old Testament, through John the Baptist. But the Jews had not heard His voice or accepted His word. They had refused to believe God’s testimony. Because of unbelief, God’s word did not dwell in them. They heard God’s word with their ears, but they did not accept it in their hearts.

The meaning of these verses is this: Only when we believe in Christ can we then accept the witness of God. God has come to earth in the form of Christ. If man rejects Christ, he rejects God (verse 23). And if he rejects God, he rejects God’s witness.

39-40 The Jews prided themselves on their knowledge of the Scriptures, that is, the Old Testament. Yet they didn’t believe the testimony of the Scriptures. The Old Testament spoke clearly of Christ; but when Christ actually came, the Jews rejected Him (John 1:11).

The Jews made a terrible mistake. They supposed that by following the Jewish law written in the Old Testament they would possess eternal life. But they were wrong. Eternal life comes only through faith in Christ (John 3:15). When they rejected Christ, they rejected life (John 3:36).

Notice that Jesus says: “You refuse to come to me.” It is not because of ignorance or poor understanding that men don’t come to Jesus. The reason is because they refuse to come. They love darkness. They do not want to give up their sin (John 3:1920). Ignorance is no excuse for not believing in Christ.

41 Jesus did not accept praise from men. That is, He did not seek the honor and praise of men. He did not try to please men in order to receive their praise. He desired only to please God. Whether men praised Him or not, He did not care.

42 Jesus didn’t want the praise of the Jews, because they did not truly love God. God’s love was not in them (see John 2:24 and comment).

43 Jesus said to the Jews, “… if someone comes in his own name, you will accept him.” The Jews loved to receive honor from men. They gave honor to others, hoping they would be honored in return. They readily accepted others, hoping they would be accepted in return.

Those who come in [their] own name are false prophets. They are of the world. They speak the thoughts of the world. Therefore, the Jews accepted them. But the One who came in God’s name, that is, Jesus, they couldn’t accept. They couldn’t accept Him because He came from a different world.

44 Because the Jews only thought about the praise of men, they had no desire to obtain the praise that comes only from God. They preferred to receive temporary honor from one another rather than lasting honor from God Himself.

Those who love God seek to honor God. Those who do not love God—such as these Jews (verse 42)—seek only their own honor. It is impossible to seek one’s own honor and God’s honor at the same time (see Matthew 6:24 and comment).

45 On the day of judgment, Christ will not have to accuse the Jews, because Moses will accuse them. The writings of Moses will accuse them.44

The Jews set their hope on Moses, their ancient leader. Moses gave them the Jewish law. They thought that by obeying the law they would gain salvation (verse 39). But they didn’t understand the law. No one could follow the law perfectly. Instead, the law showed them their sin (see Romans 7:7-11 and comment). The law condemned them (see Romans 8:1-2 and comment). The law, above all, showed them that they needed a Savior. And Moses prophesied that, indeed, a Savior would come (Deuteronomy 18:15; John 1:45).

46-47 Therefore, the Jews didn’t really believe Moses, because when the Savior about whom Moses had written came, they rejected Him. That is why Moses will be the Jews’ accuser.

If the Jews didn’t believe Moses, whom they respected, how would they believe Christ, whom they hated?