The Agora
Bible Commentary

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John 5

Joh 5:1

A FEAST OF THE JEWS: Another Passover (see note below), since this was 4 months before harvest (Joh 4:35).

John lists all four Passovers in Jesus' ministry: Joh 2:13; 5:1; 6:4; 13:1. Proof of 3 1/2 year ministry.

Joh 5:2

"High on the hill of Zion the immaculately robed priests observed the temple ritual, aloof and impersonal. In the shadows of its walls the halt, the blind and the withered waited for the movement of the water" (MP 86).

Jesus turns from temple to Bethesda. "The true scene of his ministry was not among the subtle analysts of the Law but in the midst of suffering humanity" (MP 89).

SHEEP GATE: The gate through which sheep for sacrifice were brought into Jerusalem: Neh 3:1,32; 12:39. Thus related to Passover.

A POOL... BETHESDA: The "Virgin's Fountain" (Robinson, Conder) -- in Kidron Valley, southeast of Temple Mount. Phenomena of a sudden rushing of water on occasion. Some say that a spring in the temple-area drained through underground strata to this fountain, and its water was sometimes reddened by the blood of the sacrifices (Eusebius). See Isa 7:3 (cp with Isa 7:14 for name "virgin"!); Isa 22:9,11; 36:2 (WGos 139,142).

BETHESDA: Sig "house of mercy" or "house of outpouring".

FIVE: Number of grace, restoration: Num 18:16; Gen 43:34; Lev 26:8. Note 5 titles (Isa 9:6; see vv 20-24n here) and 5 witnesses to Christ (Joh 5:32-47).

Joh 5:3

Vv 3,4: Omitted in various versions, but supported by others. Perhaps in these vv John [or a later editor?] describes the traditional belief without expressing agreement with its superstitious rationale.

A GREAT NUMBER OF DISABLED PEOPLE: Notice: a GREAT number, but only ONE was healed!

THE MOVING OF THE WATERS: Like the parting of the Red Sea!

V 4: Add "it was said" at beginning of verse (Comp).

THE FIRST ONE INTO THE POOL: As at first Passover, Israel was the first to step into the parted Red Sea, and they were "saved"!

Joh 5:5

THIRTY-EIGHT YEARS: The time Israel wandered in the wilderness (Num 14:33,34; Deu 2:14). This man's disabilities excluded him from the congregation (Deu 23:1), like Israel was "excluded" during the 38 years.

Joh 5:6

DO YOU WANT TO GET WELL?: 'Do you have the faith?' (cp v 14).

Joh 5:7

I HAVE NO ONE TO HELP ME: Cp Isa 59:16. Had the poor man at last found the friend who would help him down into the healing waters?

Joh 5:8

GET UP: "Rise!" (cp Mar 2:11). Resurrection is the key (Joh 5:28,29). Christ strengthens our weaknesses: Heb 11:34; Phi 4:13; 2Co 12:9; Psa 29:11; Rom 7:21-25.

Joh 5:9

SABBATH: Exo 12:34.

Joh 5:11

He listened to Christ, and not to the man-made traditions of others. His bed had been a burden for 38 years, but it was certainly not a burden on that glorious day!

Joh 5:12

WHO IS THIS FELLOW?: They conveniently ignore the miracle that has been performed.

Joh 5:13

SLIPPED AWAY: "Ekneuo" = lit, to duck one's head.

Joh 5:14

SOMETHING WORSE: There is a worse consequence of sin than 38 years of paralysis!

Joh 5:15

The healed man acted in good faith, wanting to show to his fellow Jews this great man Jesus.

Joh 5:16

THESE THINGS: Plural: other similar deeds in mind.

THE JEWS PERSECUTED HIM: A continuous verb, suggesting an actual hearing or trial. Christ's first appearance before the Sanhedrin?

AV adds: "and sought to slay him", on good grounds (WGos 142). Cp v 18. "In a sense the Redeemer gave his life that day in the porches of Bethesda for the sake of paralyzed humanity" (DG, BM 91:11).

Joh 5:17

ALWAYS AT HIS WORK: Even on the Sabbath!

Joh 5:18

TRIED ALL THE HARDER TO KILL HIM: This resolve grows more and more dominant: Joh 7:1,19,25; 8:37,40,59; 10:31; 11:50,53.

MAKING HIMSELF EQUAL WITH GOD: But, as Jesus says, the Father is really greater: Joh 5:19,30; 10:29,33.

Joh 5:19

THE SON CAN DO NOTHING BY HIMSELF: Christ's power is derived from God: Joh 17:4,6,26.

Joh 5:20

Vv 20-24: Christ appropriates to himself the 5 titles of Isa 9:6: "Wonderful" = "amazement" (v 20); "Counsellor" = the judgment of v 22; "Mighty God" (El Gibbor) = "all may honor the Son" (v 23); "Everlasting father" = "as they honor the Father" (v 23); "Prince of peace" = "from death to life" (v 24).

The great miracles of Passover and Exodus, now to be reproduced by Jesus -- who is "commissioned" or "sent" as was Moses.

THE FATHER... SHOWS: A Passover expression: the father proclaims or sets forth to the children (Exo 13:8).

Joh 5:21

TO WHOM HE IS PLEASED TO GIVE IT: That is, of course, to those who believe (Joh 5:24).

Joh 5:22

THE SON: Made by the Father the instrument of Divine judgment: Joh 12:48-50.

Joh 5:23

THAT ALL MAY HONOR THE SON: By becoming his seed (Isa 53:10), his "sons" (Heb 2:12,13), and thus part of his Father's eternal family. Thus Jesus = the "father" of the everlasting age, or "everlasting father" of Isa 9:6.

Joh 5:24

HAS ETERNAL LIFE: But actual eternal life is not a present possession: 1Jo 5:13r. See Lesson, Eternal life now?


Joh 5:25

AND HAS NOW COME: Thus this is a spiritual resurrection (ie Eph 2:1; Rom 6:4) -- while the hour of actual resurrection has not yet come (cp v 28) (CEph 49).

Joh 5:27

AUTHORITY TO JUDGE: Jesus has authority to judge (ie Dan 7:13,14) -- not because he is divine (ie Son of God), but because he is human (ie Son of man). (Cp Phi 2:5-11). Great reassurance in this! See Heb 4:15.

Joh 5:28

DO NOT BE AMAZED AT THIS: Could ref to previous passage rather than following one.

ALL: That is, all kinds (classes, or races) of men. Examples of "all" prob meaning "without distinction" rather than "without exception": Joh 1:7,9; 3:26; 8:2; 12:32; 13:35; Rom 10:13; 1Ti 2:1,2; 4:15; 5:20; 6:17; Heb 2:9.

GRAVES: "Mnemeion" = sepulchres, or marked graves. Not all in "gehenna" or "hades", but all in the specially-marked graves! Thus, here, all who are responsible by reason of knowledge (1Co 4:15; Act 24:14-21); and further qualified by v 29: those who have done good and those who have done evil (many who have lived have not had the knowledge nor opportunity to do either).

Joh 5:31

MY TESTIMONY IS NOT VALID: It may be true, of course, but it is not legally acceptable -- as in a court of law.

Joh 5:32

Vv 32-47: Five witnesses to Christ: John the Baptist (vv 33-35), Christ's works (v 36), the word of the Father (vv 37,38), the Scriptures (vv 39,40), and Moses (vv 45-47). (Just as Moses had five witnesses, the Pentateuch.)

Joh 5:35

A LAMP THAT BURNED: A lamp that shines, as Venus the morning star, the forerunner of the sun. "Luchnos" = a temporary lamp, that ceases when oil runs out. Ct Christ himself in Joh 8:12 (light of the world = the sun). John had said, "He must increase; I must decrease" (Joh 3:30).

FOR A TIME: Or "for an hour" (cp vv 25,28).

Joh 5:36

The works of Jesus were performed through the Holy Spirit that came from his Father (Joh 5:19,30), and they bore witness to Jesus (Joh 8:17,18). He had received the Holy Spirit without measure (Joh 3:34; Mat 3:16; Act 10:38).

Joh 5:37

FORM: "Eidos": appearance.

Joh 5:38

YOU DO NOT BELIEVE THE ONE HE SENT: The observance of Christ's works could make men responsible to his judgment: Joh 15:24; Mat 12:31,32; 11:20-24.

Joh 5:39

This verse is often misquoted, and misapplied. It is not a simple exhortation to "read the Bible"; for one thing, the Pharisees already did this, regularly and diligently. Rather, Christ's words should be read as his rebuke of the "Jews" -- as if to say: 'You search the Scriptures, because you THINK you will find eternal life there. But you refuse to see that those same Scriptures testify of me! And you do not come to me, that you might truly have life.' "In other words, the Pharisees were avid Bible students, but with their self-righteous attitudes and Bible trivia mentality, they had overlooked the most important point of all -- their need for redemption through the coming Messiah. Here in plain view of these Bible students was the culmination of scores of Bible prophecy and yet this escaped the attention of their hardened hearts" (KT).

It is never enough to be knowledgeable in the Scriptures in a theoretical sense. The study of God's Word must lead us to embrace Christ, with our whole heart and mind. Knowledge by itself is sterile. But intimate, personal experience of Christ brings about deep and lasting changes in our lives, and leads on to the eternal life that may be possessed only through him.

"Jesus Christ is the Alpha and Omega of the Bible. He is the constant theme of its sacred pages; from first to last they testify of him... we catch a glimpse of him in the promise of the woman's seed; we see him typified in the ark of Noah; we walk with Abraham, as he sees Messiah's day; we dwell in the tents of Isaac and Jacob, feeding upon the gracious promise; we hear the venerable Israel talking of Shiloh; and in the numerous types of the law, we find the Redeemer abundantly foreshadowed. Prophets and kings, priests and preachers, all look one way -- they all stand as the cherubs did over the ark, desiring to look within, and to read the mystery of God's great propitiation. Still more manifestly in the NT we find our Lord the one pervading subject. It is not an ingot here and there, or dust of gold thinly scattered, but here you stand upon a solid floor of gold; for the whole substance of the NT is Jesus crucified, and even its closing sentence is bejewelled with the Redeemer's name. We should always read Scripture in this light; we should consider the word to be as a mirror into which Christ looks down from heaven; and then we, looking into it, see his face reflected as in a glass -- darkly, it is true, but still in such a way as to be a blessed preparation for seeing him as we shall see him face to face. This volume contains Jesus Christ's letters to us, perfumed by his love. These pages are the garments of our King, and they all smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia. Scripture is the royal chariot in which Jesus rides, and it is paved with love for the daughters of Jerusalem. The Scriptures are the swaddling bands of the holy child Jesus; unroll them and you find your Saviour. The quintessence of the word of God is Christ" (CHS).

Joh 5:41

I DO NOT ACCEPT PRAISE FROM MEN: A recognition, already, that in the human sense his mission was "failing".

Joh 5:42

BUT I KNOW YOU: Cp Joh 5:10,12,16,18.

Joh 5:43

BUT IF SOMEONE ELSE COMES IN HIS OWN NAME: "It has been estimated that in the century before 70 AD there were no less than 64 false messiahs" (WGos 149).

Joh 5:44

HOW CAN YOU BELIEVE IF YOU ACCEPT PRAISE FROM ONE ANOTHER?: "Christ taught here the alarming doctrine that the desire for honor among men made belief impossible. Is this sin at the root of religious unbelief? Could it be that those 'intellectual difficulties' which men blame for their inability to believe are but smoke screens to conceal the real cause that lies behind them? Was it this greedy desire for honor from man that made men into Pharisees and Pharisees into [the crucifiers of Christ]? Is this the secret back of religious self-righteousness and empty worship? I believe it may be. Who will make the once-for-all decision to exalt Him over all? Such are these precious to God above all treasures of earth or sea. In them God finds a theater where He can display His exceeding kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. With them God can walk unhindered, toward them He can act like the God He is" (AWT).

Joh 5:46

Cp Moses, who witnessed to his own authority from God with a shining face (Exo 34:29,30). Cp also Christ at transfiguration (Luk 9:29; cp Luk 22:43; Joh 18:6). Was there here, before the Council, a similar display of glory? (WGos 147)

IF YOU BELIEVED MOSES: Cp Luk 16:19-31; 24:27.

HE WROTE ABOUT ME: Deu 18:15-19.

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