The Gospel of John Commentary Chapters 1-11 (by chapter)

John 5 - Jesus - the Lord of Life and Death (and His Authentication)

JOHN 5:1-30 - Jesus - the Lord of Life and Death. 

This was the 3rd Sign Jesus did in the Gospel of John.
v1-2 After this (after the miracle in Cana in John 4, following an extended time of ministry in Galilee, during which time Jesus moved His base to Capernaum - Matthew 4:13, Luke 4:31) there was a Feast of the Jews (this is probably during one of the Feasts in the 7th month, the time of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement and Tabernacles, in 31 AD), and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. 

v3,4 In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralysed, waiting for the moving of the water. 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. 

v5,6 Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity 38 years. 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?" 

v7 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." 

v8 Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up your bed and walk." 
v9 And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, 
and walked. And that day was the Sabbath. 

v10 The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, 
"It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed." 
v11 He answered them, "He who made me well said to me, 
"Take up your bed and walk."' 
v12 Then they asked him, "Who is the Man who said to you, 
"Take up your bed and walk'?" 
v13 But the one who was healed did not know who it was, 
for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place. 

v14 Afterward Jesus found him in the Temple, and said to him, "See, you have been made well. Sin no more lest a worse thing come on you" 

v15,16 The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath. 

v17 But Jesus answered them, "My Father has been working until now, and I have been working." 

v18 Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God. 

v19,20 Then Jesus answered and said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel.

v21-23 For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will. For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgement to the Son, that all should honour the Son just as they honour the Father. He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father who sent Him. 

v24,25 "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgement, but has passed from death into life. Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. v26 For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, v27 and has given Him authority to execute judgement also, because He is the Son of Man. 

v28-29 Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth - those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. 

v30 I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgement is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me. 

 1. The SIGN DEMONSTRATED (v1-9): 
“After this there was a Feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate (the entrance for the sacrificial sheep of the Temple) a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches (this has been discovered just north of the Temple, a double pool with a division, hence the five colonnades). In these (porches) lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralysed, waiting for the moving of the water. 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.   Now a certain man was there with an infirmity 38 years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew (supernaturally) that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, "Do you want to be made well?" (v1-6). 

God chose this man out of a whole crowd for this sign which was designed to reveal Jesus Christ as the Giver of Life to the helpless and hopeless (that’s us!) As He taught later: “As the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom He will”(v21). The Signs were messages to all mankind showing Who He is and What He does. They were designed to back up His claims to be the Son of God. This man was an extreme case: helpless and hopeless. He represents our spiritual state, dead in sin, totally unable to save ourselves. In raising him up Jesus demonstrated His power as Lord over life and death, showing how He wants to work in our life and how He wants us to cooperage by faith. 

The way He worked the miracle is instructive for how He works in us: 
(1) Like this man, we qualify by realising our weakness. We must come to end of our ability,realise our weakness, our helplessness to change, no longer depending on our own ability to gain salvation (life), for sin means we are worthy of death, and under the power of death. We must realise that Christ alone has the power to raise us up.

(2) We must look to God and His power for help and salvation. This man had lost hope, so Christ had to first awaken him out of his passivity, creating a desire and hope for change, for God’s power to work in us. Thus He asked: “Do you want to be made well?” A sick person can lack the desire to recover, preferring the ease of death to the challenges of life. Jesus was getting the man’s attention, awakening him tolook to God, that he became willing to receive His power. 

Likewise, Christ comes to us (as we lie paralysed in sin) and asks by His Spirit: 
“Do you want Me to give you new life?” He awakens our hope and desire for His life to change us. This is the first step of salvation, for if we don’t really desire God to work in us, we will stay the same. He needs our co-operation, our willingness for Him to work in us. He supplies all the power for life and resurrection but we must want it. 


“The sick man answered Him (showing that he wanted healing): 
"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" (v7). 

(3) When God tells you to take some action (a step of faith), don’t be passive but work with God: “Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up your bed and walk."  
And immediately (upon applying his will to move) the man was made well (God’s power flowed), took up his bed and walked” (v8,9). 

Jesus told him to do the impossible, to do what he could not do before. He called upon his faith. Don’t say: “I can’t”, for when He speaks, faith always comes with His words (Rom 10:17) and as you start to act His power will move. As the man applied his will to obey, God’s power came upon him, enabling him to walk. God supplied all the power, but he had to cooperage with God. Don’t say: ‘That small thing God tells me to do, won’t make much difference, what’s the point.’ It is your obedience releases God’s power which makes all the difference.  
 
2. The SABBATH DISPUTE (v9b-16).  
“And that day was the Sabbath. The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, "It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed." 

They should have rejoiced in the healing of this well-known cripple, but they were more concerned about their legalistic interpretation of the Sabbath. God commanded Israel not to work on the Sabbath, but they reduced this to thousands of petty rules. Conflict over the Sabbath was common in Jesus’ ministry, because although He kept the law of Moses, He often broke their man-made regulations. The Sabbath law was simply that men should not work, but the Jews had made it a legalistic burden with detailed rules. So plucking grain or even pulling out a hair was reaping and thus forbidden. Likewise wearing false-teeth or an extra garment or a sowing needle or carrying your bed (like this healed 
 man) was burden-bearing! Sometimes, He defended His actions on the Sabbath, by showing he was not breaking God’s law, but only their petty rules and regulations. He pointed out their approach to the Sabbath was all wrong and that they had completely missed the point. 

He said: ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.’ It was given to man as a blessing, so that He would not have to work every day, but have one day of rest and worship to concentrate on the grace of God and enter into His rest. But they had turned it into a complicated set of legalistic observances, that only pandered to pride if they kept them. 

Christians are not under the law of Moses, but the Sabbath principle still applies. We are not designed for continual work, seven days a week. We need one day of rest and worship or we come under stress and get worn out. As much as possible, Christians should avoid work on Sundays to honour and worship the Lord. 

The penalty for breaking the Sabbath could be death. So in self-defence, in fear of being stoned by the Jews: “He answered them: "He who made me well said to me, 'Take up your bed and walk. " Then they asked him, "Who is the Man who said to you, 'Take up your bed and walk'?" But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place” (v11-13).  

“Afterward Jesus found him in the Temple, and said to him, "See, you have been made well.     Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you" (v14).   Now we discover that his sickness was due to sin. It is not always directly due to a personal sin, but ultimately all sickness and death is the offspring of (original) sin. This word from Jesus shows his outward problem was symptomatic of his inward problem (sin), and that Jesus did not just heal him but also forgave him. So this Sign shows His power over sin and death, and that He wants to save our souls as well as heal our bodies. Jesus has the power to raise us both from spiritual and physical death to eternal life. However we have a choice. If we continue in sin, something worse will happen than mere sickness. Jesus warned him not just of a relapse into sickness, but of the danger of eternal death (hellfire judgement). He confirms this later when He teaches on the meaning of this Sign.   

In this teaching Jesus talks about the ‘greater works’ (of spiritual and physical resurrection) that He will do (that this Sign anticipates and foreshadows), as well as the ‘worse thing’ (judgement) that He will bring upon those who sin (reject His grace). 

“The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. For this reason the Jews (continually) persecuted Jesus and sought to kill Him, because He had (habitually) done these things on the Sabbath” (v15,16). 

3. The SON’S DOMINION - the Message of this Sign (v17-30). In raising up this man (helpless under the power of sin and death) into newness of life, Jesus proved Himself to be ‘the Lord of life and death.’ We will see in His teaching on this Sign that He claims this authority and power in the strongest possible way. Accused of working on the Sabbath, He sometimes defended His actions by showing He was not breaking the Law of Moses but only their foolish traditions (thus healing on the Sabbath is permissible). But this time He defended His actions by claiming Deity, for since God worked on the Sabbath, so must He, for He is Lord:

“But Jesus answered them, "My Father has been working until now and I have been working." Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, for He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His (own) Father, making Himself equal with God” (v17,18). 

This is like His claim: ‘the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath’. This claim made them even more angry, for they knew He was claiming to be the unique Son of God (with same nature as and equal to the Father). As God was working and giving life, so He must work, for everything the Triune God does, they necessarily do together. As the Son is one with the Father, He works in perfect harmony with Him - that is why He did this healing on the Sabbath. 

The Trinity.  John’s Gospel gives us much important revelation on the Trinity (God is one Being, in three Persons) showing us the relationships in the Trinity most clearly (especially in John 5). 

God chose to reveal His Triune nature through the Drama of Redemption: 
1. In the Old-Testament we see GOD, the FATHER clearly.  The emphasis is on the Oneness of God, though we also see the SON as the Angel (Messenger) and Word (Message) of God, prophesied to become a Man (the God-Man Messiah). 

2. In the Gospels we clearly see GOD the SON (Jesus Christ), one with the Father yet a distinct Person. The Coming of the SPIRIT was prophesied in John 14-16. He would come from the Father through the Son. He is described another Comforter (Helper) like unto the Son, thus He is a Divine Person like the Son, yet a distinct Person from the Son. 

3.
 In Acts and Epistles, we clearly see GOD, the HOLY-SPIRIT - Who is true God yet a distinct Person from both the Father and the Son. 

They (Father, Son and Holy-Spirit) modelled (revealed) to us their eternal Being and relationships in time (through the drama of redemption), so that we may know God. 

“Then Jesus answered and said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of (from) Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.” 

They dance face to face together (c.f: 1:1). The Son perfectly acts out and reveals the will of the Father. The Father initiates and works through the Son. 

“For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel” (v19,20).  This miracle was the Son working out the will of the Father, but it was just a sign of much greater things to comethat the Son will do by and from the Father. 

Now He describes these greater works: 
"For as the Father raises the (spiritually and physically) dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will (as He sovereignly did to the sick man). For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgement to the Son, that all should honour(worship) the Son (as God) just as they honour the Father (as true God). He who does not honour (worship) the Son (as God) does not honour the Father who sent Him” (v21-23). 

He speaks of three Divine Works (that only God can do) the Son will do: 
1. The New-Birth: raising us up from spiritual death, giving us eternal life 
2. Physical Resurrection 
3. Eternal Judgement (which is based on your response to the Son, whether you honour Him as God or not).

These are all acts unique to Deity. 
 

1. All SPIRITUAL LIFE comes from the Father through the Son:
"Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me (the Father) has eternal life, and shall not come into judgement (of condemnation) but has passed from death into life. Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the (spiritually) dead will hear the voice of the Son of God (through the Gospel) and those who hear will live (receive spiritual resurrection in the New-Birth). For as the Father (the Source) has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son (the perfect image of the Father) to have life in Himself (and to be the Source of eternal life to us)” (v24-26). 

2. The PHYSICAL RESURRECTION of all men is by the SON: 
"Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming (still future) in which 
all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth -
(1) those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and 
(2) those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (v28,29). There are two resurrections. The first resurrection is of the righteous unto eternal life. the second resurrection is of the unrighteous unto eternal death (see Revelation 20). Jesus is the Lord of both. These resurrections through the Son are followed by eternal judgement, either for reward or punishment, which is also administered by the Son.

3. All JUDGEMENT is by the SON: “and has given Him authority to execute judgement also, because He is the Son of Man (He is worthy to judge men having lived perfectly as a man, and having died for our salvation)” (v27). Jesus also said: “I can of Myself do nothing (He always acts in dependance on the Father). As I hear, I judge and My judgement is just, for I seek not My own will but the will 
of the Father who sent Me” (v30). 


Thus, Jesus is the Son of God, the Source of eternal spiritual life, physical resurrection and judgement. He is the Lord over life and death. If we receive and honour Him as Lord we have life, but if we dishonour (reject) Him we stand condemned. Spiritually, we are like this helpless man in John 5 (he mirrors every man). The Son wants to forgive, heal and restore us. He has the desire and power, if we are willing (as proved by the Sign). He wants to do the greater work of resurrection in and for us, but if we sin (reject Him) a worse thing will come on us (eternal judgement). Such great claims by Jesus, require authentication which He gives in v31-47. 

 

John 5:31-47 - The Son’s AUTHENTICATION. 

He relies on the witness of His Father (v31,32): 
"If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true. (In John 8:14, 
Jesus claims that His testimony to Himself is valid as it is based on His perfect self-knowledge. The point He makes here is that since the Pharisees would not accept it as valid (see John 8:13), He would not rely on it alone). 
There is another (the Father) who bears witness of Me, 
and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true. 

John’s witness (v33-35): 
"You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Yet I do not receive testimony from man (His assurance was not based on John), but I say these things (His reference to John the Baptist) that you may be saved (the Jews were impressed by John as a man of God, so the fact that He pointed to Jesus as the Messiah was a powerful witness).  He was the burning and shining lamp, and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light.”

The Father’s witness: the signs He worked through the Son (v36). 
"But I have a greater witness than John's; for the WORKS which the Father has given Me to finish - the very works that I do - bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.”

The Father’s personal witness: at His Baptism and Anointing (v37). 
"And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form.” The Father spoke out of Heaven and sent the Spirit upon Jesus, thus affirming the Son 

The Father’s witness: through the prophetic Scriptures (v38-40): 
"But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” 

Christ’s words describing those who reject Him (v41-47). 
"I do not receive honour (praise) from men (Jesus loved God above all and looked only to please Him and to receive honour from Him). But I know you (unbelievers in Israel), that you do not have the love of God in you (they had not received God’s love and grace because they trusted in their own works, and so neither did they love God)” (v41,42). I have come in My Father's name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive” (v43).  This will ultimately be fulfilled in the antichrist, whom Israel will receive at the start of the Tribulation to their cost. Jesus came to do God’s will and glorify God, but the antichrist will do his own will and glorify himself). 

“How can you believe, who receive honour from one another, 
and do not seek the honour that [comes] from the only God?” (v44).
Those who primarily look for men’s approval focus on putting on an outward show to impress men, but do not attend to getting their heart right in humble dependance on God (faith) which results in His approval, for “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). The person you want approval from is the one you will look towards, listen to and follow. So if you seek man’s approval, you will not be looking to God in faith for His approval (for you can’t serve two Masters).  Paul also points out that there are two contrasting motivations in the lives of believers and unbelievers: “For he is not a (true) Jew who is one (merely) outwardly... but he is a (true) Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, not in the letter; whose PRAISE is not from men but from God” (Romans 2:28,29). A Jew belongs to Judah which means ‘Praise’.   So the characteristic of a 
true (believing) Jew is one who seeks approval from God rather than men.

Jesus says that the reason they rejected Him is that they were not true believers who constantly look to God, trusting and depending on Him, seeking to hear Him and please Him. Instead they were focused upon their own works, efforts and righteousness seeking the approval of men. As a result they did not recognise God’s grace coming to them in Jesus Christ.  These Jews thought they were secure because they looked to Moses and his law to establish their righteousness (Rom10:3). But no man can find salvation through the works of law, because we are all sinners. The law was given to prepare men for Christ, by revealing sin in the light of God’s perfection, and to point to the way of salvation that comes through Christ. Therefore the Moses they rely on will accuse, rather than applaud them!: “Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you - Moses, in whom you trust. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me.  But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?" (v45-47).

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