5 July 2017

John 5:1-18

“Do you want to be made well?” (v. 6)

Psalm: Psalm 31:1-8



The scene of this incident has been excavated and the pool with its porticoes and steps down can still be seen. Verse 4, printed in the margin in most modern Bibles, is not part of the original text but was inserted in manuscripts at a later stage. But it probably preserves the belief of the time, that when the surface of the water was disturbed (by the bubbling of an intermittent spring?) one could be healed of a disability. But this man could never make it in time.

Our passage falls into two parts, an account of the man's healing (verses 1-9), and a description of the reaction (verses 10-16). In the first part we see Jesus healing simply by his word, but, knowing that in John's Gospel Jesus' mighty works are always signs pointing to the deeper significance of Jesus, we should see this episode as an illustration of his life-giving power.

As elsewhere in John's Gospel, however, Jesus' action immediately provokes reaction that leads on to debate. We see the beginnings of it in verses 10-16, and it continues throughout the chapter. "The Jews" is standard terminology in John's Gospel for the official reaction to Jesus (he was himself a Jew of course, as also was the man healed). It was explicitly forbidden to carry a bed on the Sabbath. It is one of many examples of Jesus setting aside the law to respond immediately to human need.

Verse 14 is puzzling because elsewhere Jesus refuses to attribute suffering to sin (John 9:3). Perhaps we should see in "nothing worse" a reference not to physical suffering but to the day of judgement.

To Ponder

  • To what extent is there still a danger that we may allow religious principles to stand in the way of response to human need? Try to think of examples.
  • The healing at the pool has often been seen as a parable of salvation from sin. Explore what this might mean in your own experience.
  • Is there a danger that you may prefer to put up with something that limits your potential rather than face the challenge of changing things? How might you rise to the challenge?

Bible notes author

The Revd Brian Beck

Brian Beck is a Methodist minister, now retired, and a former president and secretary of the Methodist Conference. A large part of his ministry has been spent in theological education, both in Limuru, Kenya, and in Cambridge, England..