Calvary Road Baptist Church

“HEALING THE IMPOTENT MAN” Part 2

John 5.7-8

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.

Throughout the course of His earthly ministry, the Lord Jesus Christ very carefully established Himself as the King of the Jews, who had the right to preside over the nation and to rule in the lives of men.

Think of how the Lord Jesus Christ was introduced to His Own people as the King of the Jews: He was born in Bethlehem in fulfillment of prophecy, He was sought out by wise men from the east who came to pay homage to the One born King of the Jews, He was approved by the voice of His Father and the descent of the Holy Spirit at His baptism in the Jordan River, He passed the crucial test of a series of Satanic temptations during a forty day trial in the Judean wilderness, and He was announced by His forerunner, John the Baptist, who said to the gathered multitudes, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”[1]

One might think that after an introduction like that reasonable men would recognize Him for who He was and would bow down to worship Him. However, sinful men are anything but reasonable men, especially those who occupy positions of prestige and power that might be threatened by the sudden arrival on the religious scene of the One they had for so many centuries prayed and waited for.

That being the case, the Lord Jesus Christ then embarked on a strategy whereby various means of persuasion would be employed to convince people that He should be personally embraced, that His authority should be recognized, and that He should be served with devotion and loyalty.

By means of teaching and working various kinds of miracles, the Lord Jesus Christ established His authority to preach, His authority over disease, His authority over nature, His authority over demons, His authority over defilement, His authority to forgive sins, His authority over traditions, His authority to interpret the Law of Moses, and even His authority over the seventh day of the week, the Sabbath.

Of course, His authority over disease was established by healing disease, just as His authority over nature was established by walking on the water and by calming a storm. He showed His authority over demons by casting them out. In each instance I have mentioned, the Lord Jesus Christ clearly demonstrated His authority.

The text that we are looking at today records my Lord’s activities in connection with His strategy to demonstrate His authority over the Sabbath by healing on the Sabbath, something He did a number of times during His earthly ministry.

All of this adds up to establishing that it is reasonable to be a Christian. It makes sense for a sinner to come to Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of His sins. It makes as much sense today as it did 2,000 years ago when the Lord Jesus Christ spent 3˝ years proving beyond any doubt that He is the Son of God. Beloved, He is the Savior of sinful men’s souls. He is the King of Israel. Moreover, recognize that the highest and most noble activity for which man has been created is to bow before Him as Savior, as King, and as God.

The problem with many people, of course, is the age-old matter of failing to see the forest for the trees, failing to see the big picture because of one’s singular focus on the specifics of what the Bible teaches. To avoid this terrible mistake, do not consider the passage we will look at today in isolation. Though I will only preach on two verses this morning, I feel compelled to caution you to be careful to avoid the mistake of being blind to the overall strategy employed by the Lord Jesus Christ throughout the four gospel accounts to provide the substance upon which saving faith is properly grounded.

As well, look for the Lord Jesus Christ’s use of a sinner’s physical situation to illustrate something which cannot be seen, so that by healing a man of a physical ailment or infirmity the Savior actually draws a parallel to what happens when a sinner is saved from his sins and is made spiritually alive.

These things said, direct your attention to that poor man lying beside the Pool of Bethesda for so many years, helpless and hopeless, no doubt abandoned by family and friends who themselves had given up hope of him ever being healed. Isolated and desolate in the midst of others of the same condition, we notice that the Lord Jesus Christ has approached and is now standing next to the man. We read John 5.7-8:

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.

Though there are two men in the picture we have before us, the impotent man lying on the stone floor and the Lord Jesus standing beside him, explore the text with me from that poor crippled man’s point of view:

First, HIS CONDITION

We know something of the man from the general description of those poor folks who surrounded the Pool of Bethesda found in verse 3, the blind, the halt, and the withered. Additionally, the seriousness of his condition is shown by the duration of his affliction; 38 years. But it is in verse 7 that we find the totality of the man’s condition summed up for us in a single word, impotent. What a terrible sounding word. Impotent. The Greek word used here, the word astheneia, refers to “a state of debilitating illness.”[2] In other words, this man is completely helpless.

The parallel between this man’s physical condition and the spiritual condition of every sinner is clearly seen by the use of this word, astheneia, translated by the word “impotent” in this verse. If you will turn to Romans 5.6, where the Apostle Paul uses the word to describe the condition of sinners, you will see what I mean.

Notice the opening phrase in Romans 5.6, “For when we were yet without strength.” The context clearly shows this to be Paul’s description of unsaved mankind. Yet our same Greek word astheneia is found in this phrase, translated this time by the phrase “without strength.”

Allow me to read an excerpt from a theological dictionary. I think you will clearly see the connection between our word astheneia, impotent, without strength, and an important Bible doctrine:

Total depravity refers to the extent and comprehensiveness of the effects of sin on all humans such that all are unable to do anything to obtain salvation. Total depravity, therefore, does not mean that humans are thoroughly sinful but rather that they are totally incapable of saving themselves. The term suggests as well that the effects of the Fall extend to every dimension of human existence, so that we dare not trust any ability (such as reason) that we remain capable of exercising in our fallen state.[3]

It is clear, then, that what we see illustrated in the gospel of John by this impotent man, unable to help himself in any way for 38 years, has a spiritual parallel in the helplessness of every sinner. Theologians refer to it as depravity, total depravity. If you are lost, it is your present condition.

Next, HIS CONFESSION

This man the Apostle John describes to us as impotent, responds to the Lord Jesus Christ’s question, “Wilt thou be made whole?” by saying, “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.”

At first glance, you might think this poor fellow’s statement is both truthful and commendable. He seems to indicate that he has given up on his attempts to save himself when he says, “Sir, I have no man . . . to put me into the pool.” But if you carefully consider what he is saying, you will take proper notice of the very next phrase he utters: “but while I am coming.” In other words, his own words betray the condition of his soul. While he seems to be admitting that he is aware of his own depravity, he inadvertently confesses that he is still trying to save himself. As well, it is no surprise that he not only errs by being an impotent man who attempts to save himself, but he is also blind to the identity of the Savior who is standing before him.

Do you see what important truths are revealed by the Savior’s questioning of the sinner? We see that this man’s conscious estimation of his condition is not what he really felt in the depths of his soul. He as much as admitted being depraved, though his continuing his efforts that showed he did not in his innermost being accept his helplessness, even after 38 years.

Additionally, being a man who needed a savior, this man does not recognize the only savior of sinful men’s souls standing before him. Being isolated in his crippled condition from what is going on in and around Jerusalem, he has no idea that there is a Savior walking amongst the people, who not only heals them of their afflictions, but forgives them of their sins.

Are these things a conscientious pastor might want to know about the sinner he is dealing with? Yet both his ignorance of his own impotence and his blindness to the identity of the Savior standing over him were exposed by asking him a single question. Would to God more pastors dealt with the lost in the same fashion as Jesus does here, as pastors in centuries past once did. This man thought he correctly appraised his own condition, while his actual behavior betrayed his thoughts. How important it was that Jesus listened to this man’s words. How important it is for every pastor to listen to sinners, so they can more effectively guide them to Christ.

Finally, HIS “CONVERSION”

This man was impotent. That is, he was utterly helpless to relieve himself of his crippling physical condition, a condition that had overwhelmed him for 38 desperate and destitute years. Yet, when he responded to the Savior’s very simple question, his answer betrayed what might have seemed, at first glance, to be a right admission of his condition. However, his own words reveal a failure on his part to really appreciate his dilemma.

This is so frequently the case with the lost. You know you are lost. You would never argue with anyone by trying to deny your unsaved condition. You have never placed your faith in Jesus Christ for forgiveness and salvation from your sins. However, you still do not appreciate (as the impotent man did not appreciate) the hopelessness of your situation.

There he lay when “Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.” Jesus restored the impotent man to health with a conversion-like miracle. He then gave evidence to those around him that he had experienced a real miracle, and that he was really healed. For 38 years he had been afflicted, unable to walk. Then Jesus came one day and commanded him not only to walk, but to take up his bed and carry it, as proof of his miraculous healing.

Notice several things about Christ’s command: First, it was a remarkable command. The poor man had been disabled for so long that it does not appear that he expected to be healed except by being put into the water. Yet the Savior, when He issues a command, can also give the strength to obey it. Next, appreciate that it is our business to obey the commands of Jesus, however feeble we feel ourselves to be. His grace will always be sufficient for us, and His burden will be light. Third, the weak and helpless sinner should put forth his efforts in obedience to the command of Jesus. Never was a sinner more helpless than this man was. Therefore, if God gave him the strength to do His will, so He can all others. If anyone might be expected to say, “I can’t,” in response to Christ’s command, it would be this man. So, we see, our excuses are just that.

You might be curious about the actual thoughts and reactions this man exhibited that immediately led to his conversion. However, such details are not found in this narrative. As in the case of many miracles performed by the Lord Jesus Christ and the gospel history surrounding those miracles, we are not shown every aspect of a sinner’s salvation by means of this great miracle that parallels conversion in so many ways. What we are shown is the sinner’s condition of impotence as it illustrates depravity, the sinner’s confession as it illustrates a misapprehension of his own condition (which also shows depravity), and the command issued by our Lord Jesus Christ that could only be obeyed by someone who had been healed of his infirmity (illustrating the man’s new condition).


As there is a danger in failing to see as much truth as is contained in God’s Word, so also is there danger in trying to see more truth than is contained in God’s Word. The later temptation must be avoided in our text.

It would be rather easy to force truths found in other portions of God’s Word into this sermon, but it would not do justice to our text to do so. Let us focus on what this text shows us, and trust God to use it to persuade you to come to Christ.

Using this narrative as a wonderful illustration of your spiritual condition, my friend, we have seen three things: First, we see your spiritual condition. As he was impotent, incapable of helping himself physically, so you are impotent, incapable of helping yourself spiritually. His physical condition mirrors your spiritual condition. Second, we see your confession. Most of you here today who are lost need little persuading that you are lost. You know you are not a Christian, quite apart from any efforts I might engage in to convince you. Still, your situation mirrors this impotent man’s. Remember, he readily admitted his need for help from another when he said, “Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool.”

However, he then showed a fatal flaw in his understanding of his condition when he said, “but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.” His condition was hopeless, he said his condition was hopeless, but he did not behave as though his condition was hopeless. This showed that he did not truly believe his situation was hopeless, or else he would have given up trying. Yet what he said was “while I am coming.”

The same is true of every sinner, including you if you are not saved this morning. You know you are lost. You know you cannot save yourself, and have admitted as much. Yet, there is a place in your heart where you do not believe your situation is truly hopeless. There remains a corner of your consciousness that clings to the notion that you might still be able to save yourself.

Finally, we saw the aftermath of his healing. Jesus told him to get up, pick up his bed, and walk, and he did just that. That pictures the aftermath of conversion. When a sinner is converted, he receives commands from the savior and complies with those commands. The same will be true of you, should you ever be converted.

We are done with our text for today. Your spiritual situation is mirrored in God’s Word in the condition of this poor man at the Pool of Bethesda. Your confession is also mirrored in our text. What remains to be seen is whether his so-called “conversion” will be your experience.

Just as the Lord Jesus Christ did not wait for every detail of the impotent man’s misunderstandings to be straightened out before healing him, so I am convinced that you will not need perfect understanding of all things spiritual in order to become a Christian. All that is needed is for Jesus, the Savior, to save you from your sins while you are still in your sins.

Is that what you are interested in?

Do you want your sins forgiven?

Do you want to be made whole?

Then perhaps today is the day you will come to Christ.



[1] John 1.29

[2] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 142.

[3] Stanley J. Grenz, David Guretzki & Cherith Fee Nordling, Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms, (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1999), page 37.

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