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Do you find the constant allusion to Jesus as ‘meek and mild’, with soft hands and an almost effeminate glance, offensive? I do! Until a few months previously, Jesus was a carpenter/builder in His home town. His hands were calloused and cut, toughened by years of building work, which probably left him fairly muscular. And tough men do not naturally act effeminately – their work generally gives them a physical assurance!

In this chapter we see Jesus, the until-recently tough builder, talking bluntly to the Pharisees. He knew what He was doing and did not shirk from His task. From the start of His ministry, Jesus knew the Pharisees wanted Him dead. Yet, He continued anyway, for He came to earth for a reason and could not stop until that aim was secured. Unlike human beings, who think the best policy is to be diplomatic (someone once said that diplomacy was the ‘art of lying’), Jesus spoke bluntly, frankly, and without pulling His punches. He said what had to be said, regardless of the outcome. Are you this honest (and I do not mean rude)?

Verse 1

  1. After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

“After this” Jesus walked to Jerusalem for the Feast time. This was an holy day involving a feast; possibly connected to the Passover (which would explain why Jesus travelled to Jerusalem).

Verses 2-4

  1. Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.

  2. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.

  3. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.

This is another one of those many details that tend to prove the authenticity of scripture, a local feature that only a witness could testify to. The pool was near the sheep market/gate and was surrounded by, or had as an architectural note, five arches. The place had its own name – Bethesda (‘house of mercy’ or ‘flowing water’).

The Sheep Gate was at the top right corner of the inner walls. Along to the left was the Fish Gate. In the extreme south was even a Dung Gate. (See below, courtesy Another outer wall surrounded the inner walls, which intersected with the lower part of the south side.

The gates of old Jerusalem

During a certain annual period, a large number of sick people gathered around the pool to be healed. We are told that an angel would disturb the water, and this was the sign for the sick to try and enter the pool – but only the first one in would be healed. Note the marks of a miracle here: it was preceded by a sign (troubling of the water); people tried to get into the water to be healed; only the first would be healed; healing (even of terminal diseases) took place instantly. The ‘steps’ shown above are sure signs of miraculous intervention by God, through an angel.

That is, we could doubt a miracle took place, except for the very precise actions that took place in quick succession. The added sign is that it did not matter what caused the person to be ill, even if it was humanly impossible to heal; and the instantaneous nature of the healing is another sign. It was this precision of action that separated true miracles from fake humanly-devised ones.

Verses 5-9

  1. And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.

  2. When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, “Wilt thou be made whole?”

  3. The impotent man answered him, Sir I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.

  4. Jesus saith unto him, “Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.”

  5. And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath.

One man had an ‘infirmity’ for 38 years. His illness was therefore well established. Jesus looked at him and knew how long he had been ill. He asked the man if he wanted to be healed. The man politely told Jesus that as he had no-one to help him get into the water when it was troubled, he did not stand a chance of healing… as he would make his way to the water, someone else would get there first.

Jesus then said something remarkable, and we see His third miracle. He told the man to pick up his portable bed and walk. We cannot tell if the man was healed immediately before standing up, or after he stood. We only know that his condition meant he was usually unable to move much. But, as soon as he stood he was healed totally. Obeying Jesus, he picked up his bed and walked. Significantly, we are told that Jesus did this on the seventh-day sabbath. John, a Jew, knew how important this miracle was! As did the all-seeing eyes of the Pharisees…

Verses 10-13

  1. The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, “It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed.”

  2. He answered them, “He that made me whole, the same said unto me, ‘Take up thy bed, and walk’.”

  3. Then asked they him, “What man is that which said unto thee, ‘Take up thy bed and walk’?”

  4. And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place.

The Jews (we can take this to mean the Pharisees) were quick to take note, and accused the healed man of breaking a sabbath rule – by carrying his bed, which was counted to be ‘work’. The man explained that the One Who healed him told him to pick up his bed and walk. The Pharisees demanded to know who that man was. The healed man had never seen Jesus before so he could not say Who it was. Nor could he point to Him, for by that time Jesus had disappeared amongst the huge number of people around the pool.

Verses 14-18

  1. Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, “Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.”

  2. The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole.

  3. And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day.

  4. But Jesus answered them “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.”

  5. Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the Sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.

The term ‘findeth’ does not necessary mean Jesus went searching for the healed man. The word can also mean to come upon him and this appears to be the sense in this text. We see here a remarkable warning from Jesus, that now the man has been healed, he must not sin again, because if he does, a far worse thing could happen to him. Why should He say this? It is very blunt!

The point is this – the man had been waiting around the pool for years, hoping for a divine cure. He knew, as did all the hopefuls, that the healing was effected through God’s angel, and so his hope was fixed on faith in God. However, many outwardly claim Christ without showing moral or ethical results. They are very happy to accept God’s act of goodness, but are reluctant to stop sinning. And this is what Jesus saw in the man’s heart. He was in the right physical place, but he now needed to be in the right spiritual place.

If we seek God’s goodness and accept it when it comes, then we cannot just carry on in sin! If we do, God can remove His goodness and shower us with far worse things than we previously had experienced. This is a warning that applies to the majority in our churches today! They wear nice clothes for Sunday meetings, and proclaim their love of God. But, when not in the presence of their peers they sin. God does not tolerate this duplicity, and can come down very hard on these ‘fairweather’ believers.

While I issue this warning to others I also issue it to myself, for none of us is free of our ‘old man’ within. If YOU have experienced a goodness from God, do NOT return to your old ways and sin, otherwise God can rescind the goodness and you will suffer the consequences. This is a formidable message to us for this day. Do not ignore it.

We are not told the man’s response to Jesus’ warning, but he left Jesus and told the Pharisees that it was Jesus Who healed him. Was this a churlish reaction to what Jesus said? Or, a naïve action he did not realize would harm Jesus?

Once they knew Who had performed the healing, the Pharisees began their hate campaign against Him (verse 16). They already had the supposed reason to harm Jesus, and now they knew Who He was – the man who not only healed on a sabbath but told the healed man to do work! I have no doubt that these Pharisees were jealous of the One Who could both heal and speak with great authority. But, their hate went far deeper, for they sought his murder.

They began to persecute Him. Obviously, Jesus knew about their hatred and plans, for before He left the temple He spoke to them. What He said further infuriated them, for He again said He was God! We could loosely interpret His words thus: ‘I am doing what my Father has already done’ (which coincides with the situation where Peter could affirm what has already been determined in Heaven).

This almost drove the Pharisees to apoplexy! Note the clarity of this text: the Pharisees wanted to kill Jesus because He broke the Sabbath (in their eyes) AND called God His Father. The import was very clear – He was claiming to be “equal with God” in quality and type. That is, He said He was God/theos (which, in the New Testament always refers to the Trinity).

Verses 19-24

  1. Then answered Jesus and said unto them, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.

  2. “For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel.

  3. “For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son wuickeneth whom he will.

  4. “For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son:

  5. That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.

  6. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”

Jesus “answered” the Pharisees, but where is their question? There need not be a verbal question; Jesus was responding to their previous hatred and accusations. That is, He answered a situation that existed before He spoke (apokrinomai= answered). Knowing their hearts and even their desire to kill Him, Jesus began with ‘verily’, spoken twice; this let them know that what He was about to say was VERY important and true.

Jesus explained that He could not operate or speak unless He was firstly led to do so by the Father, Whom He had witnessed, heard, and seen. (In a human and yet similarly potent way, the Apostles would later say that they only preached what they had seen and heard, thus implying that what they preached was true and without flaw). Jesus said that He could do nothing unless the Father first did it. At first glance it might suggest that Jesus was impotent to act unless the Father agreed to it. This is not what is being said. Jesus was stating the maxim that as the Trinity is three in one, any act done by any of the three had to be agreed upon by all three. Therefore, Jesus acted as He did because of this divine agreement, and could do nothing else.

At this juncture I would remind Christians that when I (or any other called teachers) speak from scripture, stating God’s word, nothing I say can be wrong or of personalized worth. It is bound to be correct and applicable, because I am merely giving what God Himself says. For this reason what Jesus said is applicable in the work and life of all genuine believers called to be pastors, teachers, etc. This is echoed by Paul.

Jesus expanded on His statement – the Father loves the Son and so makes His every wish and action open and observable. This, of course, has to be the case, for each Person in the trinity is God. So, it stands to reason that each Person knows what the other thinks, says and does, in equal measure and understanding.

Then, as if to burn the Pharisees up with even worse hatred, Jesus told them that though He had witnessed the works of God in Heaven, He was about to display even greater works on earth! The aim was to make them ‘marvel’ or be amazed. Sadly, though, this amazement did not translate into belief, which heaped many more coals of condemnation upon their heads.

As the Pharisees heard what, to them, was blasphemy, Jesus made further comment: The Father makes dead people arise to life, and the Son (remember Jesus referred to Himself as the Son) would likewise raise the dead. Though this was a reference to the physically-dead raised by Christ, it also referred to the time when the saved-dead would arise to be with Him in Heaven.

Furthermore, the Father did not judge anyone, but left that to Jesus the Christ. Even so, make no mistake, it does NOT say the Father does not judge at all, only that He left judgment to His Son, and whatever His Son judged was also judged by the Father and the Holy Spirit… because all three are party to the same decisions and acts. The judgment spoken of in this text is about Christ choosing who will be saved (election and predestination). This activity was given solely to Christ.

Why to the Son? So “That all men should honour the Son” (verse 23). The Jews already honoured the Father. Now, the Christ, the Messiah, was on earth, and presented the commands of the Father to those same Jews. As He was the Son, He deserved and required the same honour that was given to the Father: both were equal. Conversely, those who did not honour the Son also did not honour the Father, and stood condemned by their own mouths and hearts. The Father sent the Son; and even before the Son was crucified the Father demanded that men should honour Him, mainly for His words, and partly for the proof of His divinity, the miracles.

Today, we are commanded to honour Christ in the same way, whether or not we see His miracles in our own lifetime, for His very words are powerful and filled with the authority of Heaven. (Be assured that the text is capable of far deeper study).

Verses 25-29

  1. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.

  2. For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself;

  3. And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.

  4. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,

  5. And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

Jesus said that in the very near future and, indeed, right now, the “dead shall hear” His voice and will live. This is not primarily about the physically dead, but those who are spiritually dead. That is, everyone ever born of man. (Which excludes Adam and Jesus). Nekros can speak of the physically dead but not in this case. Jesus is talking about the huge ‘explosion’ of people who would be saved while He was still on this earth, but particularly afterwards. Jesus expected His hearers to accept this statement, because it was true and vital (“verily, verily”).

His next statement also carries the same weight of truth and immediacy: the conjunction ‘FOR’, gar, indicates that the verse is part of the previous statement. The truth given here is another ‘bombshell’ for the already hateful Pharisees – that the Father has life “in Himself” (i.e. He IS life), and this same quality is also in the Son – Himself. Thus, Jesus could give life (both temporal and spiritual). This does not mean that Jesus gave life or any other thing outside of what had already been determined in Heaven; whatever Jesus gave to men was already extant in eternity.

Along with the life, Jesus also had the authority to utter absolute judgment, which He did many times, especially against the Pharisees and other ‘false prophets’ who were misleading the people.

Probably the Pharisees and listening crowds must have looked shocked. This is why Jesus said “Marvel not at this”… ‘Do not be mystified and surprised by what I say, for (as the Jews already knew) it would not be long before the dead would hear His voice – the saved would be resurrected to enter Heaven and the evil would be damned.’ He was referring to His coming again in the clouds, the end of time itself.

Verses 30-35

  1. I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.

  2. If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true.

  3. There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true.

  4. Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth.

  5. But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved.

  6. He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.

Jesus told them He could do nothing of His “own self”, but only said and did what He heard from the Father and saw in Heaven. Because what He heard and saw was just, so would His own judgments be on earth, because they are the exact image of what the Father required. That is, Father and Son agreed perfectly. It would only take one single action done by Jesus that was not eternally agreed upon, to divide the Trinity and destroy the godhood!

This was and is impossible, unlike the belief amongst the Greeks up to that time that the gods on Olympus fought or opposed each other and acted as individuals! This is why Jesus said that if He acted alone then He would be a liar. He meant that as He and the Father were One, everything He did was always in total harmony with what the Father said and wanted.

Jesus then pointed to the work of John the Baptist, who himself testified that Jesus was the Messiah, to be obeyed. The words of John bore the marks of truth, and his witness to Jesus had the same truth.

Yet, He said, He did not rely on any witness of men, though men might speak truly of Him. His words came from the Father, and were divine, so there could be no fault found. This is why men could then have assurance that what was said and done was indeed true. It was the same truth that saved men and women. If the words were of other (created) men then mankind would have no assurance or sign that their ‘gospel’ was true, let alone valid. It is why ALL man-made ‘gospels’ are not just invalid and useless, but godless. The most common man-made invention today is Arminianism, and no matter how close it might sound to truth, it is not truth. Truth is either 100% or it is tainted and, therefore, NOT the truth.

Nevertheless, Jesus praised John for his witness as the greatest of all Old Testament prophets, saying he was a “burning and… shining light”. For a while the Jews enjoyed basking in his light and the godly assurances it gave to them if they repented. Note how Jesus spoke of John in the past tense, either because He already heard of his murder by Herod, or He knew John’s demise was nigh.

Verses 36-40

  1. But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.

  2. And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.

  3. And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not.

  4. Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.

  5. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.

Jesus acknowledged the greatness of John and his work, yet, He said, His own greatness far outshone that of John. This was not a boast but a straightforward fact. Jesus’ work was greater because it came direct from the Father and testified to His divinity and the truth of the Gospel. John could only guide people towards that truth, while Jesus could actually give it. And, Jesus said, He would continue in His work until it was completed. The Father testified that this was so, even though they had never seen or heard Him themselves. This was why they did not have His word (teachings/truths) in their hearts and minds. Their unbelief was historic, for neither did they believe the prophets of the past. In the same way they would not believe Jesus, either, though He manifested thousands of miracles.

Many today say they do not know what the truth is, and do not understand what God says. But, Jesus said they have no excuse – all they needed to do was search the scriptures! This is exactly the counsel for today. God’s word contains EVERYTHING needed by modern men, just as it was sufficient in Jesus’ day.

Heretics and unbelievers tell us that we cannot find God by reading His word. Nonsense! Jesus said that when we read we will find eternal life! The very words testify to the truth of Jesus and what He said and did. Only the spiritually dead or blind cannot see these obvious facts. That is why they refuse to go to Jesus to have eternal life. Thousands upon thousands reject Christ though His words are obviously true. They reject what can make them alive and better.

Verses 41-47

  1. I receive not honour from men.

  2. But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you.

  3. I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.

  4. How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?

  5. Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust.

  6. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me.

  7. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?

Anyone (from earliest times to today) who speaks truth will receive threats, intimidation and hatred. Jesus’ words are true: “I receive not honour from men”. He performed more miracles than could be counted, yet He was hated by those in power. His speech was filled with authority and power. Yet, it was disregarded in favour of personal gain and chagrin. If Jesus, Son of God, Creator of everything, was so treated, how can we who follow imperfectly expect anything different?

Jesus was no wimp! His words were never wasted on diplomacy! He bluntly told the Pharisees ‘I know you – you don’t love God!’ The same disdain should be heaped upon false churches today, including Anglicanism, but most Christians think it ‘unloving’ to do so. They forget (or ignore) what God thinks of these false prophets!

Jesus came on behalf of, and with the fullest authority from, the Father. His words and deeds proved His divinity. The ‘name’ of someone in those days encompassed everything about that person. So, when Jesus said He came in His Father’s Name, He meant that He carried within Himself everything the Father was and is.

As in modern times, leaders, countries and churches readily accept and support men who act on their own initiatives, though all things done by men are flawed and capable of much sin and error. But, Christ is rejected or placed amongst human dignitaries, as though they were His equal! Indeed, when we read books by Christians, they feel obliged to add quotes from fellow human beings as though these add weight to what God has said… otherwise fellow believers will not accept the book in its own right!

Jesus was very aware of this stupidity by mankind, and told them that their unbelief was based on their mutual back-slapping and willingness to be praised by others. How can you believe, He countered, when you reject what God says and accept what other sinful humans say! The Pharisees wanted praise from other men and Roman rulers, and this blinded them from accepting what God told them. Yet, the only honour worth receiving is from God. If the whole world honours a believer, and he receives only one note of praise from God, God’s praise should be worth a hundredfold more to him.

This unjust and sinful attitude did not need Jesus to accuse them… they stood accused by the words and actions of Moses, their earthly father! The Jews and Pharisees trusted Moses, but they ignored the truth he spoke, too. They were therefore guilty by their own admission. And so Jesus asked them openly: ‘If you don’t even believe what Moses told you, how can you believe anything I tell you?’

Jesus was telling them something profound, vital to their eternal souls, yet they preferred human, earthly answers to their sinful lives and beliefs. They refused to believe because their hearts were evil and dark; they were blind men following other blind men. When the Light shone in their eyes they hid from it and slithered into black corners to avoid the contrast between their sinful hearts and the pure Light of God.

Today, how can you possibly believe God’s word, when you mix it with human error and pompous sayings of men? How can you believe, when you stupidly say “You believe this, but I prefer my own version’! This is the attitude of many Christians, who seem to think that their personalized interpretations are equal to any made by men called to teach, whose words come direct from God’s word. This is why they have no weight amongst men, have no authority, have no spiritual power, and no relevance to sinful humanity. It is why Satan is taking full advantage of this void left by superficial believers who refuse to bow to God’s word as it is written.


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Bible Theology Ministries - PO Box 415, Swansea, SA5 8YH
United Kingdom