John 5:1-9

Sunday Morning Bible Study

August 16, 2009


James and the Professor … it all started with an email I received a few months ago…

We’ve seen Jesus perform His first miracle, turning water into wine.  We’ve seen Jesus take a trip to Jerusalem where He ran the moneychangers out of the Temple.  We’ve followed Him northward as He met a Samaritan woman by a well.  Last week we saw Jesus healing a nobleman’s son while up north in Galilee.  We’re now going to see Jesus make a trip south again.

5:1-9 Healing at Bethesda

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

:1 feastheorte – a feast day, festival

We were just looking last Thursday night at the various “feasts” of Israel.  These were true “holy-days”, times that God set aside for the people to get together and remember various things about the nation – like the Passover to remember when God delivered them from Egypt, or Tabernacles, to remember when the people lived in tents (“tabernacles”) and God lived in the center of their camp.

We don’t know which of the feasts it was when Jesus makes this return trip to Jerusalem.

:1 went up to Jerusalem – again, remember that Jerusalem is on a mountain.  Going “up” doesn’t refer to going “north” like we think, it’s literally climbing “up” to Jerusalem.

:2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches.

:2 Sheep Gate – a gate north of the Temple, the sacrificial sheep brought through here.

:2 poolkolumbethra – a place for diving, a reservoir or pool for bathing

Play clip “Jerusalem Bethesda”

It was actually two pools of water, and we know their location, north of the Temple mount.  There is an area that’s been excavated near the ancient church of St. Anne’s. 

:2 BethesdaBethesda – “house of mercy”

(Play Bethesda US clip) “Bethesda” trivia:  The Navy’s premier hospital is the “Bethesda Naval Hospital”, named because it is located in Bethesda, Maryland.  The name of the city is derived from an old church called the “Bethesda Meeting House”, named from our place in Jerusalem.

:2 porchesstoa – a covered colonnade, protection from the weather and the heat of the sun.

:3 In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water.

:3 sickastheneo – to be weak, feeble, to be without strength, powerless

:3 paralyzedxeros – dry; shrunk, wasted, withered

:3 waitingekdechomai – to receive, accept; to look for, expect, wait for, await

:3 great multitude

Under these five porches were large numbers of people lying about.

There are some places where Jesus healed everyone that came to Him.

(Luke 6:19 NKJV)  And the whole multitude sought to touch Him, for power went out from Him and healed them all.

In this place, there are a large number of people, but Jesus only deals with this one man.

:4 For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had.

:4 stirred uptarasso – to agitate, trouble (a thing, by the movement of its parts to and fro)

:4 wellhugies – sound; of a man who is sound in body; to make one whole i.e. restore him to health

:4 diseasenosema – disease, sickness

There are some ancient Greek manuscripts that don’t contain this verse.  This is why some of your Bibles don’t have this verse.  Some think that this was added later as an explanation of why the people were there.

In other words, we don’t know for sure that an actual angel came down and healed anybody.  But we do know that people gathered there hoping that it would happen.

:5 Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years.

:5 infirmityastheneia – want of strength, weakness, infirmity

If John told us that this fellow had “Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia”, there might be a couple of people in the world that could identify, but the rest of us would tune out and think that Jesus couldn’t help us.

But John uses a pretty vague word.  I like that.  It could describe me.

:5 thirty-eight years – that’s a long, long time to be sick

It means that he’s had this infirmity for 38 years, not necessarily that he’s been at Bethesda for 38 years.

But the fact that he will give a reason why he hasn’t been healed yet at Bethesda does give us a clue that he’s been there a while.

I hear that some people showed up at Best Buy at 5:00pm on Thanksgiving Day in order to be the first in line on Black Friday so they would be the best promotions.

This guy has been in line for 38 years and still hasn’t gotten into the store.

:6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, "Do you want to be made well?"

:6 wellhugies – sound; of a man who is sound in body; to make one whole i.e. restore him to health

:6 Do you wantthelo – to will, have in mind; to be resolved or determined, to purpose; to desire, to wish

or, “Do you have a desire to become healed?”

or, “Do you really want to get well?”

It might seem like an insensitive question.

Why would the man be there if he didn’t want to be healed?

Jesus usually has the tendency to say just what people need to hear.

Remember the woman at the well, how Jesus zeroed right in on her problem with men?

Is it possible that this man has been actually satisfied inside with not being healthy?

He’s been taken care of somehow for 38 years.
Hey, it’s a living.


Wanting to Change

Sometimes the problem with healing or any kind of change is that we don’t really want what we say we want.
I remember at times as a kid, when staying home from school because of illness, how you get to that point where you’re feeling better, but not quite ready to go back to school.
I came down with a bad cold this week.  When the cold was at its worse, believe me, I wanted to get better.

But I have to admit that after the worst was over, being sick has its benefits.  You get lots of sympathy.  You can watch TV all day.

How about emotional heartaches or illness?  (Remember it was a kind of vague infirmity)
Are we really ready to get better?
Are we ready to stop hanging on to the bitterness?

Sometimes we actually like bitterness and anger, because we don’t think the other person should get off the hook so easily.

Sometimes we actually enjoy being mad at another person.


I’ve seen marriage break-ups where one person has been victimized by the other, but when the victim finally gets what they’ve been asking for, and the bad one turns, repents, and wants to reconcile, the victim is unwilling to forgive them because they don’t want to give up the anger.  They don’t want to put their guns down.

Don’t start looking around at people who have had long term sickness or problems and decide that they must just like it that way.
This isn’t a catch-all answer.
The issue is one that sometimes we need to ask ourselves; just how bad do we really want to get better?

Are we willing to give up all the attention we get by being “sick”?


Wanting and Prayer

This issue of “wanting” affects our prayer life.
Do you really want what you’re asking for?
I think sometimes we ask people to pray for things, because we know that this is the proper thing to ask for, but we really don’t want it, nor expect it ourselves.
A little book, long out of print, called Expectation Corner, tells of a king who prepared a city for some of his poor subjects. Not far away he constructed a large storehouse where everything they needed would be supplied if they would only send him their requests. There was one condition, however:  they should constantly be on the lookout for his messengers so that when they came with the gifts in answer to their urgent pleas, the petitioners would always be found waiting and ready to receive them.  One faithless subject, not actually expecting to get what he asked for, never watched for their delivery.  One day he was taken to the king’s storehouse; and there, to his amazement, he saw scores of packages that had originally been made ready for him.  The messengers had come to his door, but because he was not looking for them, the king’s gifts never satisfied his needs.
I think you could make a case that this subject must not have “wanted” those things very badly.
I think we need to examine from time to time just how much of our heart is in what we're asking for.
(John 15:7 NKJV)  "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.

desirethelo – to will, have in mind; to be resolved or determined, to purpose; to desire, to wish

Ingredients of answered prayer:

1.  Abide in Jesus

Just stay close to Him, live in Him

2.  The Word in me

Let the Word of God get so close to you, it’s living in you.  It gets its mail at your address.

3.  What do I really “want”?

Frankly, sometimes we just want the wrong things.

When we stay close to Jesus and we let His Word stay close to our hearts, we will find that some of our “wants” will change.

Prayer gets answered when my “wants” match God’s “wants”:

(1 John 5:14-15 NKJV)  Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. {15} And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.

I get a little concerned about some of you thinking that I’m going to give you some sort of magic formula that will guarantee that God will answer your prayers the way you want Him to.  When we come across passages that affect prayer, we want to add these ingredients to our prayers. 

Prayer is not a matter of formulas, but a maturing life.

:7 The sick man answered Him, "Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me."

Sirkurios – he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he has power of deciding; master, lord

to putballo – to throw or let go of a thing without caring where it falls

Sir, I have no man to throw me into the pool”

Is this a true, legitimate response?  Or is the man just making excuses?

Think about it...

In the past, this excuse has conjured up images in my mind that this man is totally paralyzed from the neck down, and must be totally dependent upon somebody to move him.

But that’s not logical.
If the man is totally paralyzed, and has nobody to help him, how has he survived for thirty-eight years?
He’s either not totally paralyzed, or someone helps him.

This leads me to believe that Jesus is really nailing him on the head when He asks him whether or not he really wants to get better.

What he’s really doing is just blaming other people for his own condition.


The Blame Game

Be careful about blaming others for your condition
Ever since the beginning of time, mankind has always been looking for someone to blame his problems on.
Adam blamed Eve.

(Gen 3:12 NKJV)  Then the man said, "The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate."

Eve blamed the serpent.

(Gen 3:13 NKJV)  …The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."

And we’ve been pointing fingers at each other ever since.
I’ve heard husbands blaming their wives for their rotten marriage.

I’ve heard those same wives blame the husbands for their misery.

A 2008 Harris Interactive survey sponsored by found that 10 percent of the 2,041 U.S. adults polled were driving a car whose “Check Engine” light was on. An alarming 50 percent of those whose cars were showing signs of an impending breakdown indicated the light had been on for over 3 months. Another 10 percent said the light had been on between 1–2 months. Kristin Brocoff, marketing manager for, says it’s a particularly sobering statistic, because “the U.S. government put the on-board diagnostic system in place to…alert drivers when their vehicle was emitting too many emissions or had a problem. This light can signify something potentially costly and possibly dangerous to the passengers or others on the road. It’s important that drivers treat it seriously.”
The survey found drivers had a whole litany of excuses for ignoring the light. Some turned a blind eye toward the indicator because the severity of the problem seemed questionable due to the car “running fine.” Others pointed to a lack of sufficient funds. Still others simply noted that they just didn’t have time to worry about diagnostics and subsequent repairs.
Brian Lowery, managing editor,; sources: Associated Press, "Ten Percent of U.S. Drivers Have Their 'Check Engine' Light On," (6-10-08), and "Snapshots: How long the light's been on," USA Today (6-22-08
Whatever your excuse is for ignoring the warning light, you are only going to hurt yourself.  And pay some hefty car repair bills later.
On the first day teaching his class of 250 college freshmen, R. C. Sproul carefully explained the assignment of three term papers. Each paper was due on the last day of September, October, and November. Sproul clearly stated there would be no extensions (except for medical reasons). At the end of September, some 225 students dutifully turned in their papers, while 25 remorseful students quaked in fear. “We’re so sorry,” they said. “We didn’t make the proper adjustments from high school to college, but we promise to do better next time.” He bowed to their pleas for mercy, gave them an extension, but warned them not to be late next month. The end of October rolled around, and about 200 students turned in their papers, while 50 students showed up empty-handed. “Oh, please,” they begged, “it was homecoming weekend, and we ran out of time.” Sproul relented once more but warned them, “This is it. No excuses next time. You will get an F.”  The end of November came, and only 100 students turned in their papers. The rest told Sproul, “We’ll get it in soon.”  “Sorry,” Sproul replied. “It’s too late now. You get an F.”  The students howled in protest, “That’s not fair!”  “Okay,” Sproul replied, “you want justice, do you? Here’s what’s just: you’ll get an F for all three papers that were late. That was the rule, right?”  “The students had quickly taken my mercy for granted,” Sproul later reflected. “They assumed it. When justice suddenly fell, they were unprepared for it. It came as a shock, and they were outraged.”
Matt Woodley, in the sermon "The Grieving Heart of God,"
When we get through life only so far by making excuses.  We don’t learn.  We just get better at making excuses.  But we aren’t going to pass the course.

It’s learning to be honest, to accept truth, that brings maturity.

(Eph 4:15 NKJV)  but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head; Christ;

What God is looking for, is for a person who is willing to admit that he’s responsible for his own life.

(Prov 28:13 NKJV)  He who covers his sins will not prosper, But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.

:8 Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up your bed and walk."

:8 bedkrabbatos – a light mattress or pallet which could be easily rolled up and carried under the arm.

Jesus speaks with the authority of a command.

He commands the man to get up and walk.

:9 And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath.

:9  that day was the Sabbath

As we’ll see next week, the timing of this miracle is going to cause some problems for Jesus.

Sometimes, Jesus commands something to be done, and it isn't until the person starts to obey that they are healed.

(Luke 17:12-14 NKJV)  Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. {13} And they lifted up their voices and said, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" {14} So when He saw them, He said to them, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed.

It was “as they went” that they were healed.

Here, the order is different.

Jesus commands the man to pick up his bed.

But He heals him before he can pick up his bed.


Calling and equipping

Jesus won't call you to do something without also enabling you to do it.
He isn't going to ask you to fly without first giving you wings.
Some of you have sensed a special call on your life.

Don't be afraid if it seems impossible or too big at first.

When the time is right, God will have you completely equipped.

Back in 1983 Deb and I first started attending Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa.  I remember meeting with some of the various pastors and talking about my call to the ministry.
I remember once talking with Dave Rolph in the prayer room after a service. He said to me, “Why don’t you just go out and start a church?” I thought he was crazy. That was the last thing in the world I thought I was capable of.


Jesus and me

I find it interesting that here in the middle of a multitude, Jesus deals one on one with this man.
We don’t have a record of anyone else being healed.
Note:  Jesus asks the man to get up by himself!
The man’s excuse was that he had nobody to help him, and Jesus doesn’t ask somebody to come over to help, but asks the man to get up himself.
God can and does use people in our lives to bring healing.
I imagine that Jesus could have said, “Peter and John help this man to his feet”.  But He didn’t.
Sometimes God wants to do it by Himself, just you and Him.
I think sometimes we cheat ourselves out of God's blessings in our lives because we want them to come through a person.
We can fall into the trap of only praying, reading the Bible, and worshipping when other people are around.
Isaiah had an incredible encounter with God.  He wrote,
(Isa 6:1 NKJV)  In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord …

It wasn’t “we saw the Lord”, but “I”.

God wants us to learn to relate to Him one on one.  David knew this.  He wrote,
(Psa 34:4 NKJV)  I sought the LORD, and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears.
No one had a closer relationship with God than Jesus.  Though Jesus prayed with people and fellowshipped with people, He also had a close, intimate relationship with God.
(Mark 1:35 NKJV)  Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.
Cultivate your walk with Jesus. 
It’s important that we are with each other and help each other.
But we also need to learn to relate to Jesus alone.  Learn to pray by yourself.  Learn to read the Bible and listen for His voice.