Calvary Road Baptist Church

“HEALING THE IMPOTENT MAN” Part 1

John 5.1-18

Turn in your Bible to John chapter 5. When you find John chapter 5, stand for the reading of God’s Word:

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

2 Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.

3 In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.

4 For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.

5 And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.

6 When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?

7 The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.

8 Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.

9 And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath.

10 The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed.

11 He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk.

12 Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk?

13 And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place.

14 Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.

15 The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole.

16 And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day.

17 But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.

18 Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.

This passage forms a portion of the record of a brief visit our Lord made to Jerusalem, possibly during the Passover Feast. Verses 1-9 record Christ’s miracle at the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem, where He healed an impotent man. Verses 10-18 deals with the charges of the Jewish authorities and religious leaders immediately after Christ’s miracle. Because the passage is so long, if the Lord permits, I will spend several weeks examining the passage and preparing sermons to present to you. For today, our focus will be on the first nine verses.

Verse 1: “After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.” We cannot be positive which feast John is referring to here. There were three religious days under Mosaic Law in which Jewish men were required to attend observances in Jerusalem. Of these three, two were feasts, Passover and Pentecost. This may be a Pentecostal feast, because John seems to always call out or name Passover whenever it comes around. However, if this is Passover, then our Lord’s earthly ministry of just over three years is accounted for. If it is not Passover, then there are some really large time gaps in His earthly ministry leading up to His crucifixion. At any rate, this is a feast of note in Jerusalem.

Verse 2: “Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.” John draws our attention to a pool called Bethesda, near the sheep gate near the wall around Jerusalem. Though the location of the pool has been located with a high degree of certainty, and I have been to this pool several times, none of the scholars who study such things can reach complete agreement concerning the meaning of the word Bethesda. House of Healing? House of the Olive? House of Mercy? In spite of what many reference Bibles say, scholars are nowhere near unanimous on its meaning.

Verse 3: “In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.” Of greater importance than the name of this pool is the occasion it gives the Lord Jesus Christ to perform an extremely important miracle, and then to make some profound statements. How does the occasion present itself? We see that around this pool are a large number of people with crippling physical problems. “Impotent” means without strength. “Blind” is obvious. “Halt” is crippled, such as with polio. “Withered” is also obvious. These people were waiting for the moving of the water.

Verse 4: “For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.” As you read this verse, you will notice that there is absolutely no indication by John that he is repeating a tradition or a myth. He is faithfully recording a fact. Yet early in the days of Christianity, some copyists began to remove this verse from the copies they transcribed because they thought it sounded preposterous. This explains why your Bible may say concerning this verse, “Not found in earliest manuscripts.” However, verse 7, a verse disputed by no one, supports the statement of verse 4. I would urge you to ask a pastor if verse 4 belongs in the Bible. His answer will tell you much about his confidence in the Bible as the inspired Word of God. What actually did happen was that God sent an angel to stir the water from time to time. The first one in the water after it was moved would be healed. This has an interesting application to religion. Not Christianity mind you, but to religion. Religion visibly helps only those who are apparently not totally helpless. However, what about those who cannot do anything to help themselves? Religion does not help them at all. That is where Christ comes in.

Verse 5: “And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.” What a tragic example of what I have just talked about. Here is a man who has been physically disabled for 38 years. That is for more years than most of you have been alive. This is an example of hopelessness for the helpless. Applied to spiritual things, this would be the drunk. This would be the drug addict. This would be the person who has already committed sex sins. How can he now not be a fornicator?

Once you have already committed a sin, does your guilt vanish because you stop sinning? No. Can you in any way alleviate your condemnation because you stop sinning? Again, no. I make these comments because the physical maladies of those poor souls sitting around the pool of Bethesda are symptomatic of sinners who are dead in trespasses and sins. This impotent man’s condition illustrated just one aspect of the sinner’s dilemma. As he was physically crippled, so sinners are spiritually crippled by their sins.

Verse 6: “When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?” Here we see an example of the Biblical doctrine of election, which is selection. Deny it all you want, but of all of the people that lay beside Bethesda, we are only told that the Lord looked upon this man. It was only this man among all those who surrounded the pool at Bethesda that He asked, “Wilt thou be made whole?” Does this sound like an absurd question? It isn’t. How many people do you know who really don’t want to be helped, don’t really want to be saved from their sins, don’t really want to be enabled to do more than just sit around and bellyache at their misfortune? Therefore, you see, this is a valid question. On the other hand, there are people who want to be whole, but they don’t want to be made whole. They’d rather do it themselves. Christ did not ask this man if he wanted to be whole, but if he wanted to be made whole. Would he place himself into the capable hands of the Potter? This is a valid question. For some, even for some here, the answer to Christ’s question is “No.”

Verse 7: “The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.” This man has been approached by the Lord Jesus Christ. Sinners did not seek Him, but He came to seek and to save that which was lost. When asked, this fellow’s answer indicates that he realizes that he must have aid from another for relief from his problem. In the spiritual realm, this is often characterized by the belief that you need a priest before you can be saved. Not true. Though others may be present and may share divine truth with sinners, salvation is only a two-party arrangement. The Savior and the Sinner.

Verse 8: “Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.” Man’s deliverance from sin, of which this scene is a tremendous picture, comes not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. The Lord, having purposed to do a work, moves right through the man’s ignorance, and commands him to “Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.” As far as we know, this is all done in the period of a few seconds, without emotionalism, shouting, or fanfare.

Verse 9: “And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath.” Apparently, without any word being spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ, the man was immediately made whole, after which he obeyed his Savior’s command. The obedience followed the Lord’s work and the Lord’s Word. Obedience did not precede Christ’s miracle of healing with a view to meriting it. The man did nothing to receive this blessing.

Because of time constraints, if the Lord wills, we will take up our exposition of this passage at this point next Sunday.

SERMON:

There are eight miracles performed by the Lord Jesus Christ in John’s gospel account.[1] I am of the decided opinion that each of His miracles found in John’s gospel illustrates an important aspect of salvation, using miracles in the physical realm to shed light for our understanding about the miracle of salvation in the spiritual realm. That said, allow me to set the stage for the pathetic situation into which our Lord Jesus Christ inserts Himself. The pool of Bethesda was a blessing to those wretched people so wracked by the consequences of sin in the human condition that they suffered blindness, disfigurement, and crippling.

An angel would occasionally stir the water so the first one in the pool might be healed, but what benefit was that to those who were the most crippled? Imagine, if you will, the pool of Bethesda being a picture of the Law of Moses. It was a wonderful blessing in many respects, but of no use to those with the greatest needs. Close your eyes and imagine the suffering, the tragic scene before you, the helpless, and hopeless who had given up all real hope of remedy. Imagine the sounds, the moans, the groans, and the many other noises of sickness.

All a man needed was a man to help him into the water first, but who had such a friend? People had to earn a living. They could not sit there day after day with their crippled or afflicted loved one or acquaintance. Therefore, you see, each man or woman was all alone, isolated, helpless, and completely without any real hope.

How similar that physical landscape is to the spiritual landscape of all mankind. Isolated. Helpless. Crippled by sin. Thoroughly incapable. Alone. And, no doubt, lonely.

Our attention turns to one man, who has been afflicted for 38 years. Thirty-eight years! Was he overcome as a boy, and had no memories of running and playing with his friends? Or was he struck down as an adult, now removed from his wife and children? Who knows the cruel particulars of his situation? What we do know is that after being there for countless days, and months, and years, with the awful running on of sameness, and the mind-numbing routine of unabated suffering, Jesus approaches. The impotent man had no idea that his life would never be the same.

Take note of four things:

First, TAKE NOTE OF CHRIST’S OBSERVATION

Verse 6 begins with these words: “When Jesus saw him . . . .”

Did the Lord Jesus Christ see anyone else beside the pool of Bethesda? He must have seen the many others lying there. He had to step over them, or walk past them, to approach this impotent man. However, John mentions only “Jesus saw him.”

Why are we only told, “Jesus saw him”? Why is there no mention of anyone else? John mentions no one else because no one else is the object of Christ’s special attention. No one else is the object of Christ’s special affection. No one else will be the object of Christ’s special activity.

Understand that this is no accident. As well, know that there is no such thing as coincidence. God’s providence placed that impotent man near the pool of Bethesda, just as it was the conscious choice of the Lord Jesus Christ to journey south from Galilee to Jerusalem during the feast days, and to come this day to the pool of Bethesda.

Where the man’s attention was directed is not known. What he had been looking at is a mystery to us. Did he see Jesus first, or did Jesus fix His eyes upon the impotent man first? We do not know. None of this is important. What is important is that Jesus saw him as He saw no other that day.

Next, TAKE NOTE OF CHRIST’S KNOWLEDGE

What John specifically tells us is that “When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case.” However, what we know from the entire testimony of God’s infallible Word is that “Jesus saw him . . . and knew.”

You see, Jesus Christ is the omniscient Son of God. Of course, He knew the impotent man had been suffering his affliction for a long time. Of course, He knew it had been 38 years. However, because we are considering the Lord Jesus Christ, keep in mind that He knows so much more than that.

What did Jesus know of the man He fixed His gaze upon? He knew it all. Every ache. Every pain. Every disappointment. Every hurt feeling. Every betrayal. Every dashed hope. Every unfulfilled expectation. Every wound. Every shivering cold night. Every suffocating hot day. Every taunt by cruel children. Every lie told him by family members who promised to come and visit again soon. Every moment of panic. Every dashed dream. Every realization of utter hopelessness. Every feeling of insignificance.

However, these things are not all Jesus knew of the man. He also knew of the man’s sins. Every lie. Every act of theft. Every covetous thought. Every hateful thought of revenge. Every violation of the Sabbath. Every failure to love the Lord His God with all his heart, with his entire mind, and with all his soul. Every act of unkindness toward others suffering beside the pool of Bethesda alongside him.

Keep in mind that Jesus also knew of God’s anger toward the impotent man. He knew that God had a rightful claim to punish him for his sins, for his transgressions, for his offenses. He knew that no illness, no disease, no affliction, gave the impotent man, or anyone else, the right or the justification to sin against God. Thus, He knew the impotent man’s certain fate. He knew the afflicted man was bound for Hell without His intervention.

Third, TAKE NOTE OF CHRIST’S QUESTION

“Wilt thou be made whole?”

What a revealing question this is, and what profound wisdom prompts it. Whatever theologians might argue about concerning the matter of man’s free will, keep in mind that clear evidence is presented here that the Lord Jesus Christ is asking the man’s desire. Does this man want to be made whole?

This question exposes the man’s heart. Yes, he does want to be made whole, but his desire is to make use of the means that is familiar to him. He said, “Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.” In effect, the man is expressing his desire to be saved by means of the efforts of another. This is good, as far as it goes, for it shows that the man has given up all hope of saving himself. If his 38 years as a cripple has taught him anything, it has taught him that he cannot save himself, which may be why the Lord Jesus Christ waited 38 years to ask this question.

As ready as the man is to be saved by means of another’s efforts, he still believes his only hope is in the water after the angel has stirred it. In other words, he knows the bad news that he cannot save himself, but he has not heard the good news that Jesus saves, and that Jesus does not need water to work miracles.

Church of Christ people believe in baptismal regeneration, and Roman Catholicism teaches that original sin is removed by means of christening. However, the Lord Jesus Christ here passes up an opportunity to show that water figures significantly in the miracle of salvation by using no water when dealing with this man lying beside the pool of Bethesda.

He asks the man a question, and the man’s answer reveals that he (after all those long years as a helpless invalid) is seemingly ready to rely upon someone else to bring about his healing.  More on this in my next sermon in this series.

Finally, TAKE NOTE OF CHRIST’S COMMAND

“Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.”

Our text does not record the actual working of Christ’s miracle. By that I mean that when Lazarus was raised from the dead we know it was in response to Christ’s command, “Lazarus, come forth,” John 11.43. However, our Lord’s command to the impotent man can only be obeyed after he is healed. Prior to Christ’s miracle of healing the man was in no condition to rise, or to take up his bed, or to walk.

What do we learn from this? We learn that the Lord Jesus Christ worked a wonderful miracle in the impotent man’s life, completely healing him of his infirmity, without saying a word. The command to “Rise, take up thy bed, and walk” could only be complied with after the miracle had been worked.

So, what things can we learn from this wonderful miracle? Several things, at least. First, though the Lord Jesus asked the man if he wanted to be healed, He did not ask the man’s permission to heal him. He just healed him. Second, the Lord Jesus Christ seems to have healed the man without saying a word or motioning with any gesture. He just did it, with the results of the miracle being immediately obvious. Third, the Lord Jesus Christ issued no command to the man to effect his healing, but waited until the man was healed to issue commands that could then be obeyed.

When all these things are considered together, we see that this miracle was performed without any cooperation from the impotent man. He thought nothing, said nothing, and did nothing to bring about his complete physical healing.

Let me bring this home and apply to you some lessons about salvation that we learn from the healing of this impotent man.

First, the Lord Jesus Christ looked upon, knew about, and approached this man, and not visa versa. Salvation is not conceived of or initiated by the sinner. As John 1.13 says, “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Second, the man was not saved until after he was convinced beyond any shadow of doubt that he could not save himself, but must be saved through the efforts of another. Be mindful that those efforts of another can only be the saving work of Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross and not the religious exertions any priest. “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” First Timothy 2.5.

Third, the man was saved by means of a direct miracle, and did not result from him asking for anything, deciding anything, or in any way effecting or deserving that miracle. Be mindful that this in no way conflicts with what Paul said to the Philippian jailor, that to be saved he must “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.”

When a man actually believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, or responds to Christ’s command to “Come unto me,” the Bible clearly shows this to be a saving response to the good news that Jesus saves.

So, my friend. Here you are, lying beside your own pool of Bethesda, impotent for who knows how long. For this man, it was 38 years of physical infirmity. For me, it was 23+ years of spiritual infirmity. How long has it been for you? However long it has been for you, the question to ask you is “Wilt thou be made whole?” Do you want to be saved? Do you really want deliverance from your afflictions, from your sins?

Like the impotent man, you must know that your salvation must come from another, for it will never come from you, either in whole or in part.

Therefore, I challenge you this morning to come to Christ.



[1] Harry Ironside, The Gospel Of John, (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, Inc., 1942), page 175.

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org