This Diving Deeper outline is a basic overview of Jesus’ interaction with the lame man He chose to heal.
- The lesson title comes from the peculiar question Jesus asks the lame man in John 5:6.
- This interaction with the lame man is important in that it leads to Jesus’ articulating a defense of His actions to the Jews.
1) A NEED FOR HEALING
John 5:1–5 (ESV) — 1 After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. 3 In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. 5 One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.
The “after this” in verse 1 could have been as long as 1.5 years after the healing of the Galilean official’s son – Kostenberger.
- John’s Gospel, as we have said, is not primarily concerned with a chronological presentation of Jesus’ life.
- John desires, among other things, to reveal and confirm the evidence for the Messianic claims and divinity of Jesus.
- John 20:30–31 (ESV) — 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Verse 3 is a remarkable verse.
- We are told that a “multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed” were at the pool all hoping to be healed.
- But John goes on to tell us that Jesus signaled out one person and chose to heal him and him alone.
- What about all the rest of those in need of physical healing?
- And for that matter, if the healing was an inroads to a discussion on salvation (John 5:14), why not heal them all to ease all of their suffering and invite all to “Sin no more”?
John Piper says this:
“The point is this: In the first coming of the Son of God into the world, we receive foretastes of his healing power. The full healing of all his people and all their diseases and disabilities awaits the second coming of Christ. And the aim of these foretastes which we receive now is to call us to faith and holiness” – John Piper.
- Philip Yancey puts it like this, “He came to heal our ‘souls’ not our ‘selves’”.
- In other words, at Jesus’ 1st coming healing is the exception, not the rule; Jesus has come to seek and save the lost (similar to the “Two Worlds” lesson about Jesus coming to save at 1st coming and judge at 2nd coming).
These answers seem to address only a general principle about Jesus’ current ministry focus – Healing vs. Saving.
- But as to why Jesus would heal one and not the others, leave it to Paul to address the issue head on and provide an answer that provokes controversy to this day.
- Romans 9:13–16 (ESV) — 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” 14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.
- And, of course, John addressed this notion in his “Born Again” text – 3:8 (ESV) — 8a The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.
Now what about this pool, did it actually heal?
It is doubtful, but with respect to the pool and its healing powers, D.A. Carson makes the following comment about the significance of this third use of “water” in John’s Gospel.
“Just as the water from the purification pots of the orthodox could neither produce nor be mistaken for the new wine of the kingdom (2:1–11), and just as the water from Jacob’s well could not satiate the ultimate thirst of religious people who may have looked to genuine revelation but whose views were widely viewed as aberrant (4:1–42), so the promises of merely superstitious religion have no power to transform the truly needy”.
- Religion can “muddy the waters”.
Verse 4 is also a remarkable verse; it doesn’t exist in the ESV, NIV or NLT.
- Where did it go?
BTW – And speaking of MSS, in verse 2, we are told that the name of the pool is “in Aramaic called Bethesda” (house of outpouring).
- This is an excellent example of how the Dead Sea Scrolls confirm textual criticism and the manuscript evidence.
- The MSS evidence lists as many as 4 different names for this pool with the earliest MSS citing “Bethesda”.
- In 1960 this earliest reading was confirmed by the Copper Scroll from Qumran – D.A. Carson.
2) A NEED FOR SAVING
John 5:5–9 (ESV) — 5 One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” 7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” 9 And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath.
In verse 6, some translations (NIV) say Jesus “learned” about the man’s condition instead of “knew”.
- The meaning behind the Greek word used is that Jesus “became aware” via supernatural knowledge, according to D.A. Carson.
Piper agrees, and about this knowledge demonstrated here, John Piper says the following:
- “When you know Jesus, this is the kind of person you know. A person who knows you perfectly—knows everything about you, inside and out, and all you have ever felt or thought or done” – John Piper.
The Bible provides additional evidence about God’s knowledge of us (omniscience).
- Psalm 139:2–4 (ESV) — 2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. 3 You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. 4 Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
- Hebrews 4:13 (ESV) — 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
BTW – Jesus’ supernatural knowledge, as demonstrated in John’s Gospel, is also one of the many arguments John uses to demonstrate Jesus’ divinity.
- Only God knows everything about everybody.
- Jesus knows everything about everybody.
- Therefore, Jesus is God.
- And this logic was certainly at play with Nathanael and the Samaritan woman, both of whom ultimately responded with belief.
- John 4:39 (ESV) — 39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.”
- John 1:48–49 (ESV) — 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
But in our text today, the lame man had it even better.
- The lame man had the privilege of experiencing directly the power of God.
- Jesus’ supernatural knowledge of the man led Him to perform a supernatural physical healing of the man.
- The man who had been an invalid for 38 years was instantly healed by Jesus saying simply, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk (John 5:8).”
Yet, notice something odd, before the healing, Jesus asks the man, “Do you want to be healed? (John 5:6)”
- What is this all about?
There are at least two options available to us here (certainly there maybe more):
(1) The peculiar option available to us here, which takes into account the culture at the time of Jesus and its attitude toward those unable to care for themselves, is that Jesus is being literal.
- Speaking about the blind man in Luke 18:35-43 that Jesus healed, Kenneth Bailey says:
“The difficulty with this profession [begging] is that some visible handicap is necessary. A man with one leg or one arm might manage to support himself by begging on a street corner, but a blind man is virtually guaranteed success. At the same time, a blind man, such as the beggar in this story, has no education, training, employment record or marketable skills. If healed, self-support will be extremely difficult. Indeed, is it not in his interests to remain blind? The grace of God is free but not cheap…” – Kenneth Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes.
- Certainly, the lame man was in the same boat as the blind man.
(2) But I think the best way to get a grasp on the intent of Jesus’ question is to look back to his questioning of the Samaritan woman – Jesus is going deep again, to the spiritual.
- John 4:10 (ESV) — 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”
- Just as physical thirst always returns, so too does the body always grow old.
- If the man had just asked, Jesus could have told him of a body that never grows old.
The problem in today’s text, however, is that the lame man apparently had no desire to go deeper.
- Jesus’ question was designed to reveal the fundamental need for healing that we all have – the healing from sin.
- But the lame man’s response in verse 7, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me”, revealed he apparently had no desire to understand this (more on the man’s response later – it is important).
- He just wanted someone to put him in the pool at the right time.
- And, suffice it to say, “The first step towards wholeness is always a deep desire for it” – D.A. Carson.
- The Samaritan woman expressed her desire by continuing the conversation and engaging Jesus.
- The lame man did no such thing.
But before we get into the lame man’s response, I want to quickly dig into Jesus’ question in verse 14.
John 5:14 (ESV) — 14 “Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you”
- It appears that many believe that Jesus is telling the man that sin will cause him to be sick again.
- But, according to the smart people, what can’t be concluded as axiomatic here is that sin leads to physical illness; at least not always.
- “Jesus himself…rejected simple cause-and-effect explanations (cf. John 9:3; Luke 13:1–5). Nevertheless, though he did not attribute every instance of suffering to sin, Jesus acknowledged that sin may well lead to suffering” – A. Kostenberger.
- But in our text today, “The “something worse” that Jesus threatened probably refers not to a worse physical condition at all but rather to eternal judgment for sin” – A. Kostenberger.
Now, let’s get back to the lame man’s response.
The lame man’s response:
John 5:10–15 (ESV) — 10 So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” 11 But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’ ” 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. 14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him.
(1) After being accused of “working” on the Sabbath, the man deflects blame from himself and puts it on Jesus.
- John 5:11 (ESV) — 11 But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’ ”
- One would think that praise and adulation would be in order not offering up your healer as a scapegoat.
- Of course, Jesus would become our scapegoat in the way it mattered most!
(2) One would think that after being healed; one would want to know who it was that did the healing.
- But, apparently, the lame man didn’t even ask Jesus who he was.
- John 5:13 – “…the man who had been healed did not know who it was”.
- D.A. Carson describes him as being, “so dull he has not even discovered his benefactor’s name”.
- BTW – The rest of the verse 13 is describing a scene in which the lame man couldn’t point out Jesus to the authorities because of the crowd.
(3) When Jesus’ tracks down the healed man and seeks to continue the “conversation” by bringing up the man’s need for spiritual healing (as he did with the Samaritan woman), the healed man blows Him off.
- He apparently does not want to continue the conversation himself.
- But, like the Samaritan woman, he does go and tell others about Jesus.
- John 5:15 (ESV) — 15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him.
- But, what was the difference between his “telling” and the Samaritan woman’s “telling”?
- The man seeks to ingratiate himself to the authorities who were questioning him instead of telling them more about the marvels of Jesus – D.A. Carson.
Lessons for Us:
Do we ever respond to Jesus this way?
- Do we discount the work of Jesus in our lives?
- And even worse, do we bail on Jesus in front of others that we might not look foolish or to ingratiate ourselves to them?
“In the entire pericope there is no expression of gratitude or appreciation toward Jesus from the healed man” – A. Kostenberger.
- Do you show gratitude to Jesus?