The Healing of the Impotent Man (John 5)

Our consideration of the life of Christ now brings us to the second Passover which is alluded to in Luke 6:1, where we read of the disciples going through the corn fields plucking the ears of corn.  The language “the second sabbath after the first” refers to the numbering of the sabbaths between Passover and Pentecost which we read of in Leviticus 23:15-17.  The first Passover of Christ’s ministry is referred to in John 2:13.

There is however a very important incident that we have to fit in before the one in Luke 6, which is not found in Luke, but is found in John 5: namely, the healing of the impotent man.  Let us turn to John chapter 5.  As we have already mentioned, there are 8 signs or miracles specifically recorded in John, each having a spiritual significance.  Jesus did this miracle on the sabbath day, which does not apply to the first two signs.  It is thought that verse 4 is an addition to the original text and therefore should be omitted.  However, opinions vary on this.  One possible explanation suggested in “The Companion Bible” is to read verse 4 as: “For (it was said that) an angel went down at a certain season.”

Let us now turn to verse 1:

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

This was possibly the second Passover of Christ’s ministry, which would make this incident a little earlier than the incident of the disciples walking through the corn fields, which occurred just after the Passover.  What are we being taught by this miracle or sign?  I believe that we are being taught that the Jews of Christ’s day were as impotent as this man.  We shall see this as we consider the miracle.

The pool was called Bethesda, which means “house of kindness, or mercy”.  It had five porches, which could represent both the five books of the law, and grace.  The man was under the law which could not heal him, but he was healed by the grace, the kindness and mercy of Christ.   There was “no man” who could put him into the water.  Let us turn to Isaiah 41:28-29.  Now let us look at chapter 42:1 and 6-7.  There was no man because the Jews were impotent as this man was.  Let us return to John 5:8-12, and 14-16.  Instead of marvelling at the mighty work that Christ had done, all they could do was criticize the man for carrying his bed on the sabbath day—and then they sought to slay Christ because he had done this work on the sabbath day.  But let us note again verses 16-19.  Man was created in the beginning on the sixth day.  Both the Father and Jesus were working on the New Creation, the spiritual creation.  Christ could have healed the Jews spiritually, but they would not.  Let us go back to the incident we considered in Luke 5:17:

“the power of the Lord was present to heal them”.

But they would not be healed as was the case with these Jews in Jerusalem.  The impotent man had this infirmity for 38 years.  Israel perished during their 38 years walk through the wilderness.  So the Jews of Christ’s day would perish in AD70.  They were impotent, they could not walk spiritually towards the kingdom.  As we have to learn to walk as a baby, so we have to learn to walk as a new babe in Christ.  Let us turn to Jeremiah 10:23-24, Hosea 11:3, and Matthew 11:29-30.  Christ could have directed their steps, but they would not.  Christ could have made them whole.  It is perhaps significant that the word “whole” occurs 7 times in the gospel of John.  It means “healthy” i.e. well (in body), true (in doctrine).  It is rendered “sound speech” in Titus 2:8.  This word occurs 6 times in chapter 5, the seventh occurrence is in chapter 7, verse 23.  Let us turn to this.  Jesus is referring back to his healing of the impotent man.  The word “whit” means “whole, all, complete”.  Perhaps this seventh occurrence is pointing forward to the Millennium, when all the faithful will be made every whit whole.  How important it is that now we should be in sound mind and speech, and not as the Jews who were spiritually impotent.  Going back to John 5, Jesus now in the ensuing verses shows the authority and power that he has of the Father to make us every whit whole.  Let us read verses 20-24.  It is suggested that in these verses we have 5 attributes of Christ which are spoken of in Isaiah 9:6.  Let us turn to this, keeping our fingers in John chapter 5.  We see these parallels in the following way in  John chapter 5:

Vs 20—For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself     doeth: and will shew him greater words than these, that ye may marvel” (Wonderful)

Vs 21— “For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so     the Son quickeneth whom he will” (Counsellor)

Vs 22— “For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment to     the Son (The Mighty God (El Gibbor)).

Vs 23— “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.” (the Everlasting Father (the Father of the Age)).

Vs 24— “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 con    demnation; but is passed from death into life” (The Prince of Peace).

We should comment that when Jesus says in verse 24, “he … hath everlasting life”, he is speaking prospectively, “calling things which be not as though they were” (Rom. 4:17).

Then Jesus speaks of his power to raise the dead in verses 25-29.  I would just make two comments.  Where it says, “all that are in the graves,” the word “graves” means “memorial grave”.  It does not mean everybody, but only those who are in God’s book of remembrance.  Furthermore it is implicit in verses 29, that we must rise in our mortal state and both the just and the unjust will rise at  the same time.

Jesus then in verses 31-40 brings forth 5 witnesses of his great power and might, as demonstrated in the healing of the impotent man.  These witnesses are:

  1. Jesus’s own witness (the Emphatic Diaglott rendering of John 5:31 is: “Thou I testify concerning myself, is not my testimony true?”)
  2. John the Baptist
  3. The works which the Father hath given me to finish (i.e. the healing of the impotent man).
  4. The witness of the Father at the baptism of Jesus (Mat. 3:16).
  5. The witness of the Old Testament Scriptures.

In all these things, both the five attributes in Isaiah 9:6 and these 5 witnesses, we see how Jesus was “full of grace and truth”, brought before our attention in the 5 porches of the pool of Bethesda, the house of kindness and mercy.

Jesus’ miracle on the sabbath, and his stupendous claims as a result of this mighty work, absolutely infuriated the Jews, and all they wanted to do was to kill him.  Jesus then condemned them in verse 41-44.  They had not the love of God in them.  They received honour one of another.  The only honour we should seek is that which comes from our Heavenly Father.

Jesus’ final words concerning Moses condemned them even more.  Moses accused them.  Had they believed Moses, they would have believed in Jesus.  They are condemned in the very words which Moses spoke of Jesus in Deuteronomy 18:18-20.  They did not believe in Jesus.  God would require it of them.

This miracle and the words of the Master which followed, truly brings out the greatness of Christ.  I have found, brethren and sisters, that the very consideration of his life gives one an insight into this.  As we consider the Master, he towers above us.  Yet he came in the flesh and was able to sympathise with the feeling of our infirmities.  This miracle on the Sabbath day was a turning point in Christ’s life, and resulted in increased fury and hatred on the part of the leaders of Israel which murderous intent.  Yet he was not deflected.  What great faith Jesus showed!  Truly he was the faithful witness.  His faith is well summarised in the words in Isaiah 50:4-7.

Carlo Barberesi