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3. Jesus Healed the Lame Man

Read John 5:1-17

This third sign of God’s glory revealed through Christ was recorded by John directly following the healing of the official’s son. John makes very clear contrasts between certain aspects of these two miracles. In the previous miracle, the official traveled a great distance to seek healing from Christ. His belief in Christ’s ability to heal caused him to take the long journey pursuing Jesus Christ. This same faith in Christ’s words also caused him to return back home assured that God was going to work on his behalf. Physical healing was just a precursor to spiritual healing in his life.

The sign found in John 5 begins by telling us of Jesus Christ’s journey toward Jerusalem to attend another ceremonial feast. At the pool of Bethesda, we are introduced to an invalid who had been lying there paralyzed for 38 years. It’s obvious that Jesus sought out this man even though he was completely oblivious to Christ and was not seeking anything from Him. Appropriately, the name Bethesda literally means “House of Mercy.” Christ certainly shows Himself to be a merciful God toward those who aren’t even aware of His presence or their need for Him.

Jesus addressed this man specifically with an interesting question. “Do you want to be healed?” This question brought to light the true object of the paralytic’s hope and trust. He had been waiting for years by this pool clinging to a superstition that had been widely spread in the area. Believing that an angel would come and stir the waters once per year, he tried in vain to be the first to enter the pool hoping that he would be miraculously healed. As if making an excuse for why he was still paralyzed, he bemoaned the fact that he did not have any man to help him into the water.

Notice Christ’s response to this man’s misplaced faith. He didn’t challenge him on his beliefs or even attempt to defend His own authority or divinity here. He simply commanded the man to take up his bed and walk. Christ’s actions demonstrated clearly that He has divine authority to heal and restore. The healing was immediate, and the man did just as Christ commanded, taking up his bed and walking.

John makes it clear that Jesus performed this miracle on the Sabbath just as He had performed many miracles. His intended audience was different than the previous miracles mentioned. The Jewish leaders reprimanded the man who had just been healed for breaking the Sabbath because he was carrying his bed. They wanted to know who had told him to do such a thing. Interestingly enough, they were less concerned that an amazing miracle had been accomplished than that their man-made rules added to God-given Sabbath commands weren’t being followed.

Jesus again did the pursuing by finding the man whom He had just healed. He warned him to stop sinning so that nothing worse would happen to him. What was the man’s response? It was not one of belief or worship as you see in some of the other miracles mentioned. It doesn’t seem that he responded to Jesus directly at all. Instead, he sought out the religious leaders to confirm that it was Jesus who had healed him. It appears that after waiting for 38 years, he didn’t want to lose this long-awaited opportunity to rejoin community life. All commercial, family, and religious activities were under the control of the religious authorities, and as seen further on in John’s Gospel, those who spoke out in any way against the religious authorities were at risk of complete expulsion from daily community life and public worship. Could it be that the sin Jesus was warning him against was unbelief? After putting trust in superstition and other people in vain for 38 years, he turned again to man-made religion for security rather than to the One who had just healed him with a single sentence.

The remainder of chapter 5 is spent highlighting Christ’s interaction with the Pharisees as He boldly proclaims His union with the Father and authority to judge. He makes it clear that belief in Him is the only way to have a right relationship with the Father. (Consider the “I Am” statement that matches the flow of the verses below.)

“For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 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. 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… 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. And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life, and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. I do not receive glory from people. But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. 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. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? 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. For if you believed Moses, you would believe me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (John 5:22-24, 36b-47)

Study it Out

  1. How does the invalid’s vain attempts to heal himself compare to the sinner’s attempt to make themselves righteous before God? What is the condition of every human apart from Christ according to Ephesians 2:1-10? Who pursues and gives new life according to both passages?
  2. What key aspects of the Sabbath and about Christ’s person and role were the religious leaders missing? See Mark 2:27-28 as a reference.
  3. Take time to read about another healing of a paralytic man found in Mark 2:1-12? What additional aspects of divinity are highlighted here? What aspects of Christ’s divinity are highlighted in the miracle found in this specific study from John’s gospel?
  4. Christ was perpetually challenging the religious leaders. According to John 5:34, why was this? Were there religious leaders who did eventually come to faith in Christ? Who is the most famous of those converts? What does this say about Christ’s mercy as well as His power to seek and save the lost?


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