John 5

The Word Made Fresh

1Some time afterward there was a Jewish festival, and Jesus went again up to Jerusalem. 2In Jerusalem, near the Sheep Gate, there is a pool called Beth-Zatha, which has five covered platforms around it. 3Many blind, lame, and paralyzed invalids lay in them. 4They waited for an angel of the LORD, who would come down from time to time and stir the water. Whoever was first into the pool would then be healed from whatever malady they suffered.

5A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6Jesus saw him and knew he had been there for a long time. He said, “Do you want to be healed?”

7The man replied, “Yes, sir, but I don’t have anyone to put me into the pool when it is stirred. While I’m trying to get there somebody else goes ahead of me.”

8Jesus said, “Stand up, pick up your pallet, and be on your way.” 9Immediately, the man was healed. He gathered up his pallet and began to walk.

That took place on a Sabbath. 10The Jews confronted the man who had been healed. They said, “It’s the Sabbath. It is not lawful for you to carry your pallet.”

11He replied, “The man who healed me told me to pick it up and go.”

12“Who told you to pick it up and carry it?” they asked.

13The man didn’t know who it was because Jesus had disappeared into the crowd. 14But later, Jesus found him in the temple and said, “See, you’re whole now! Don’t take part in any sin so that nothing worse happens to you.”

15The man left and told the Jews that Jesus was the one who had healed him. 16The Jews began pestering Jesus for doing such things on the Sabbath, 17but Jesus told them, “My Father is still at work, so I am at work.”

18After this the Jews looked for ways to have him killed because he was not only breaking the Sabbath, but even called God his Father, making himself equal to God. 19Jesus told them, “The fact is, the Son can do nothing by himself. He can only do what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does the Son will do also. 20The Father loves the Son, and shows him everything he is doing, and will demonstrate even greater deeds, and you will be astounded. 21Just as the Father can restore the dead and give them life, so the Son also gives life to whomever he will. 22The Father doesn’t judge anyone, but has delegated that task to the Son, 23so that everyone might honor the Son as they do the Father. Whoever refuses to honor the Son also does not honor the Father who sent him. 24I’m telling you, anyone who hears my words and believes the One who sent me will have eternal life and won’t come under judgment; instead they pass from death to life.

25 “I’m telling you the truth; the hour is approaching, and is already here, when the dead will hear the voice of God’s Son, and those who hear will live. 26You see, just as the Father carries life in himself, he has caused the Son also to have life in himself. 27And he has given the Son the authority to judge, because he is also the Son of Man. 28Don’t be surprised at this. The time is near when all those who are in the grave will hear his voice 29and will rise – those who have done good will rise to life, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.

30“I can’t do anything on my own. I listen, and I judge, and my judgment is fair because I’m not seeking my own will, but rather I seek the will of the One who sent me. 31If I bear witness to myself, my witness is false. 32But there is another who bears witness on my behalf, and I know his witness is true. 33You sent people to spy on John, and he spoke the truth. 34I don’t accept anyone’s testimony, but I tell you these things so that you might be saved. 35John was a shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice in his light for a little while. 36But my witness is more important than John’s. The things the Father has enabled me to do – and I am doing them – is proof that the Father has sent me. 37And the Father who has sent me has spoken on my behalf. You haven’t heard or seen my Father, 38and you don’t have my Father’s word within you because you don’t believe the Son whom the Father has sent.

39“Oh, you’ll search the scriptures because you think that will earn you eternal life; and the scriptures testify for me. 40But you refuse to come to me to have life. 41I don’t accept human praise. 42But I do know that God’s love is not in you. 43I have come in my Father’s name, and you haven’t accepted me; but if someone comes in his own name, you will accept him. 44How can you believe when you accept praise from one another but don’t search for the glory that emanates from God alone? 45Don’t think that I’ll accuse you before the Father. Moses, the one in whom you hope, accuses you. 46But if you truly believe Moses, you will also believe me because Moses wrote about me. 47But if you won’t believe what Moses wrote, how are you going to believe anything I say?”


1: This is the second trip reported by John that Jesus makes to Jerusalem (see 2:13).

2-9: The Sheep Gate is at the northern end of the city, a primary entry point for visitors coming from that direction. The pool of Beth-Zatha (also called Bethesda) is inside the city near that gate and very near the temple grounds. The poolside is crowded with people suffering from various maladies. They believe (according to verse 4) that an angel periodically stirs the pool, and then there is a rush to be the first one in the water to be healed. Unfortunately, some contemporary versions of the Bible choose to go by more recently discovered, though ancient, manuscripts that do not include verse four. It seems to me that without verse four the conversation between Jesus and the invalid makes no sense. Jesus approaches one man whose condition we are not told except that he has been ill for 38 years – tradition has it that he is paralyzed. He asks the man if he wants to be healed, an odd question given the setting. The man, however, does not answer the question but simply complains that he can’t beat the others to the water because he has no one to help him. Jesus tells him to get up, pick up his mat and walk, which he does.

10-18: The Jews are quick to accuse the man of violating the Sabbath by carrying his mat. When they find out Jesus is the one who told him to do it they are quick to condemn him for healing on the Sabbath. Jesus tells them that his Father doesn’t stop working on the Sabbath, and therefore neither will he. They assume that by “my Father” Jesus means God, and conclude that he is uttering blasphemy by claiming to be God’s son, and they are determined to kill him.

19-24: Jesus launches into a long lecture aimed at the Jews which describes his relationship to God. For John’s readers this is Christology 101. The Son does whatever the Father does. The Father shows the Son everything, and will show him even greater works “than these” — a reference to the healing they have just witnessed. The Father even raises the dead, and the Son has the same power. The Son is authorized by the Father to judge — that is to say, the Pharisees are not authorized to do so. Furthermore, whoever believes him will have eternal life and not be judged. Have you noticed how the theme of eternal life keeps popping up?

25-29: There will be a resurrection. The dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, who is authorized to execute judgment because he is also the Son of Man. This is one of the passages that early Christian theologians used to explain the nature of Christ as being fully human and yet also fully divine.

30: Yet the Son carries out the role of judge only in service to God’s will.

31-38: Jesus tells them that there are three sources of testimony that validate what he is saying. The first source is the witness of John the baptizer (see 1:26-27). The second source, he says, is the work he is doing — the miracles that they have witnessed. The third source is the Father, but since the Father’s word is spoken by the Son they, the Jews, refuse to believe.

39-47: Jesus tells them that they are misusing and misinterpreting the scriptures. Moses will be their judge, he says, because Moses wrote about him (see Deuteronomy 18:15 – “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people.”) but they refuse to believe it.


Jesus faces the same opposition today as he did then – even among those who claim to be Christians. If we say, “I believe,” but then do things contrary to faith, what does belief really mean?