Calvary Road Baptist Church

“HEALED AFTER THIRTY-EIGHT YEARS AND STILL UNGRATEFUL”

John 5.1-16 

Please make your way to the Gospel according to John. 

“The four Gospels deal with the earthly life of the Saviour, but each one presents Him in an entirely different character. Matthew portrays the Lord Jesus as the Son of David, the Heir of Israel’s throne, the King of the Jews; and everything in his Gospel contributes to this central theme. In Mark, Christ is seen as the Servant of Jehovah, the perfect Workman of God; and everything in his Gospel brings out the characteristics of His service and the manner in which He served. Luke treats of the humanity of the Saviour, and presents Him as the perfect Man, contrasting Him from the sinful sons of men. The fourth Gospel views Him as the Heavenly One come down to earth, the eternal Son of the Father made flesh and tabernacling among men, and from start to finish this is the one dominant truth which is steadily held in view.”[1] 

As you read and then reread John’s Gospel certain peculiarities are bound to come to your attention, observations that you take note of but cannot always explain with certainty. One of these peculiarities is water. The word “water” is found seven times in Matthew, only four times in Mark, seven times on only five occasions in Luke, but an amazing twenty times in John’s Gospel account. I will leave it to you to investigate the significance of these references to water.

However, as we turn to the fifth chapter of John’s Gospel, we should note along the way that water is referred to in each of the chapters leading up to this one. In John chapter one water is referred to in connection with John’s baptism and the baptism of Christ by John the Baptist. In John chapter two water is referred to in connection with the wedding feast in Cana and the six waterpots full of water that was turned into wine on the occasion of our Lord’s first miracle. In John chapter three the Lord Jesus Christ makes reference to water while speaking to Nicodemus about his need of being born again, which is what I take to be an allusion to the new covenant.[2] Then there is a passing reference to John’s baptizing near the end of the chapter. In John chapter four, of course, there is Jacob’s well and the conversation our Lord had with the Samaritan woman about water and the water of life, along with a recollection of the miracle our Lord worked back in Cana.

It seems our Lord has now come full circle. Remember that He was in Jerusalem in John chapter three, where He worked some miracles, cleansed the Temple, and spoke one night to Nicodemus. In chapter four He traveled through Samaria on His way to Galilee. Here in chapter five, He is back in Jerusalem once more, the likelihood being that a year to eighteen months has elapsed between John chapters three and five. He was in Jerusalem for Passover in John chapter three, but the feast referred to in John five is not named, and there is a wide difference of opinion among scholars to identify it. I invite you to stand and read along silently while I read from John 5.1: 

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. 

Take a step back from this passage with me to consider what we are presented with. There is no doubt the impotent man experienced a wonderful miracle that resolved a decades-long crippling ailment that had wrecked his life. However, we are not presented in this passage with a man who seems to be overwhelmed with gratitude for the great things the Lord Jesus Christ has done for him, but he is rather overwhelmed with the immediate problems that flooded into his life precisely because the Lord Jesus had worked so wonderfully in his life.

What did happen to him can, after a fashion, happen to anyone whose life has been wonderfully affected by the Savior, as we see from three observations: 

First, OBSERVE THE IMPOTENT MAN’S TERRIBLE PREDICAMENT 

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. 

We begin with the reference to a general time: 

“After this there was a feast of the Jews.” 

Why are we not given more precise information about the timing of this event? Perhaps it is John’s inspired intention to generalize the situation so that the reader recognizes that this type of encounter with Christ, though featuring a miracle, is otherwise not all that unusual from the experiences of others who have encountered the Savior.

Then there is the reference to a general place: 

“and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.” 

Ever notice how the Bible sometimes starts out large and then zooms in? From the creation of the universe in Genesis 1.1, quickly zooming in on the creation of a single individual? That zooming in approach is what occurs here.

The reference then comes to a specific place: 

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

No one who has ever been to Jerusalem wonders where this specific place is. It is fixed in the minds of everyone who has ever been to Jerusalem and is a significant landmark down to this day.

Exchanging the geographical for the personal, John next mentions a multitude with grievous personal problems: 

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. 

Oh, the misery of these poor wretches, laying around the pool by the hundreds in hopes of healing for being the first into the water troubled by an angel. However, the very nature of things guaranteed that the most helpless were the least likely to find remedy because of their immobility and the struggle to get down the steep steps to the water. Those who were only mildly disabled in some way could accomplish what the severely crippled or diseased could not hope to achieve.

Our attention is finally fixed on a certain man, one individual among the many who suffered from various tragic maladies: 

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

Again, John provides us with little by way of specific information so as to broaden the application of this incident to as wide a scope as possible. All we know is that he is “a certain man” and that his malady has incapacitated him for “thirty and eight years.” In an era when the average life span was about forty years, this poor fellow has experienced a lifetime of physical suffering without relief. What kind of suffering we are not told, only that it is debilitating. This man is helpless. Therefore his predicament is hopeless. So, what do you do when you have no hope? You do nothing. I know that some people think hopelessness leads to suicide, but I disagree. How does anyone apart from God’s Word know that the next life will not be worse than this life? No. I am of the opinion that it is far more likely that suicide is the result of demonic activity than is hopelessness. The many other desperate people surrounding this one man, whose situations were just as desperate, did not kill themselves, yet they were each of them without hope. 

Next, OBSERVE THE SAVIOR’S SOVEREIGN POWER 

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. 

Seven brief comments related to what we are told here:

First, the Savior saw: 

“When Jesus saw him lie.” 

There were perhaps several hundred others with afflictions surrounding the pool of Bethesda, yet John informs us by the Spirit of God that the Savior saw “him” lying there. There is no suggestion that our Lord did not see the others who were also there, but this is about the Lord Jesus Christ seeing that one man.

Next, the Savior knew: 

“When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case.” 

Of course, the Lord Jesus Christ is omniscient and knows all things, as well as knows about all men. However, the point of John’s narrative is that the Lord Jesus Christ knew about this man, knew everything there was to know about him, and knew he had been in a bad way for a long, long time.

Then the Savior queried him: 

“He saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?” 

While some people wonder why the Lord Jesus Christ asked that man that question, the more important consideration is why the Lord Jesus Christ asked only that man that question. I can think of reasons why the Lord Jesus Christ asked that fellow 

“Wilt thou be made whole?” 

Perhaps to arouse interest. Perhaps to fix his attention. Perhaps to engage him in conversation. The Lord frequently engaged those He encountered with a question. More importantly, however, is why He didn’t step into the midst of the multitudes of sufferers and loudly ask, “Who among you wants to be healed of your affliction? Raise your hand.” May I suggest an answer? The Lord Jesus Christ does not deal with crowds so much as with individuals. Not that He did not feed thousands at a time. Not that He did not preach to thousands at a time. Not to deny that 3,000 were saved on the Day of Pentecost. Just to assert that even when God through His Son Jesus Christ is dealing with many, He is always dealing with each person individually. We are not told what the Savior did with the others who were there. We are not told what His instructions were to the apostles by way of ministry to the others who were there. We are told what He said to one man: 

“Wilt thou be made whole?” 

Should the Lord Jesus Christ ever deal with you He will deal with you in much the same way. It will be just you and Him. Even in a crowded room, when He deals with you, if He deals with you, it will be just Him and you.

Next, the Savior commanded him: 

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

Yes, the impotent man did answer the Savior’s question. But his answer served only to verify what we already know, that his efforts to seek a remedy were fruitless. Hey, maybe that’s why the Lord asked him the question, to clarify in his mind his helplessness. Important to point out in verse 8 is that our Savior commanded him. When the Savior asks questions His questions are conversation starters, provocations to think. He never asks anyone to do anything. The Son of God, the Savior of sinful men’s souls, issues directives, and speaks commands: 

“Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.” 

Each of these commands is an imperative verb and not a request.[3] The Son of God is not asking this man to do anything. He is telling this man to do three things.

Fifth, the Savior healed him: 

“And immediately the man was made whole.” 

Immediately? Yes, immediately and not gradually. There were times the Lord Jesus Christ worked somewhat gradual miracles, but His miracles were typically immediate, sudden, and complete. Jairus’ daughter was immediately brought back to life. Lazarus was immediately brought back to life. And this man was immediately made whole.

Sixth, the man obeyed Him: 

“and took up his bed, and walked.” 

What do you know? He did what he was told. Isn’t it amazing how people the Lord Jesus Christ does things to and does things for do what they are told? Makes you wonder about those who do not do what they are told, does it not? What more can be said about the man? We see that he is obedient. Beyond that, is he happy? Is he relieved? At this point he is likely stunned, still trying to make sense of what has happened to him.

Finally, in connection with this miracle, this was done on the Sabbath: 

“and on the same day was the sabbath.” 

Some might wonder if the Lord Jesus Christ violated the Sabbath by working on the Sabbath. But that question does not apply here since the Lord doesn’t seem to be doing any work here. His power is so astonishing that He but spoke and the man was healed. That is hardly working. The man’s predicament was terrible. The remedy for the man’s terrible predicament is the Lord Jesus Christ’s sovereign power. I especially focus on the sovereignty of our Lord’s power because He saw only who He sovereignly chose to see, knew what He omnisciently knew, sovereignly asked only the man He asked, sovereignly commanded only the man He commanded, and sovereignly healed only the man He healed. That this episode features the sovereignty of our Lord Jesus Christ would be very difficult to challenge, would it not? 

Finally, OBSERVE THE HEALED MAN’S INGRATITUDE 

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. 

First, the reaction of the Jews: Verse 10 informs us the Jews crabbed at him for carrying his thin rolled-up mat, which was against tradition even if it was not technically a violation of the Law of Moses. Keep in mind that these are likely not run of the mill Jewish people, but religious zealots. Perhaps Pharisees or scribes. Part of the religious establishment.

Next, the response of the man: Confronted by the Jewish legal eagles, while he is still in a state of shock over what has just taken place, in verse 11 he informs them that he was only doing what he was told to do by the man who made him whole. What else should he have done?

Verse 12 shows his answer provokes their querying of him: 

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

But verse 13 reveals the ignorance of this newly whole man. He had no idea who it was who had first commanded him and then immediately made him whole. His world has just been turned upside down, and he has yet to make sense of it.

Apparently, the religious zealots then departed, because afterward the Savior found him and issued him a warning, verse 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.” 

What are we to conclude from this encounter? The “in the temple” location provides us with no specific information. Since the pool of Bethesda is right next to the Temple grounds, this passage might simply mean the man was on his way home when the Savior approached him. Ah, but what He says to him. Three phrases: 

The Savior might be reminding this man after getting his attention that he has recently experienced a miraculous healing. Perhaps He does this so the man will not lose sight of that fact, something he might easily forget because of the distraction of the religious zealots who have set upon him. Sometimes the unsaved crowd jumps all over someone right after a wonderful encounter with the Savior, as happened with this fellow, creating a terrible distraction. 

 

Perhaps here the Savior is clarifying to the man that this entire episode in his life is all about sin. Though salvation itself is a miracle, it is very much not about feeling good about yourself. Salvation is from sin. Keep in mind that it is ever and always about deliverance from sin. 

This is thought by many commentators to be a warning anticipating eternity. And it may very well be. If after an encounter with Christ a person’s relationship with sin does not dramatically change, it may be that he was not saved at all and there will be trouble for him in eternity.

Verse 15 records his subsequent report to the Jews: 

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

He now knows who made him whole, so he goes and tells the legal eagles who are pretending to wield spiritual authority. He has no obligation to report back to them, though he may think he does.

The only result of reporting back to them was the persecution and purpose of the Jews toward the Savior being revealed: 

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

What is clearly stated is that the Jews persecuted the Lord Jesus Christ and engaged in a conspiracy to slay Him because He had done things they didn’t like on the Sabbath day. What didn’t they like? They obviously didn’t like Him healing anyone on the Sabbath day. They paid no attention to the power demonstrated by such a miracle. Their only concern was that it was done on the Sabbath, a clear violation of their traditions if not an actual violation of the Law of Moses. Another consideration not specifically mentioned by John’s Gospel is that healing beside the pool of Bethesda, being so very close to the Temple, might have enraged the religious Jews because the Lord Jesus Christ might be seen as invading their territory by doing such things, not only on the Sabbath, but also doing such things next door to the Temple. In either case, they perceived Him as a threat. 

Let me conclude this message with an application that I have hinted at a bit, that this man’s trouble is not so unusual for someone after an encounter with Christ.

This man didn’t know anything about the Savior. The Savior selected him, saw him, knew of him, questioned him, commanded him, healed him, and then later warned him. Between the healing and the later warning, the man was set upon by the Jews for simply doing what he was told. Think about it. Someone picks you out of a crowd, heals you of an affliction you’ve suffered with for 38 years, and then tells you to get up, pick up your mat, and go home. So you do it. But then you are set upon by zealous fanatics for daring to carry a tiny straw mat on the Sabbath.

How typical. After an encounter with the Savior, the guy is simply doing what he is convinced is the right thing, what he was told to do, but now some unsaved people jump all over him and criticize him. It has the effect of distracting him from the wonderful miracle he has experienced so that now he only has second thoughts about their accusations and the concern that he has somehow done something wrong. I say again, how typical. You hear the Gospel and trust Christ and simply try to do the right thing of going to Church, raising your family right, serving, etc. But the unsaved people who surround you jump all over you for just trying to do right. You go to Church instead of spending time only with family? You spend too much time at Church. You’re raising your kids to be religious weirdoes. Oh, so now you think you’re better than we are? And it never seems to stop.

We don’t know how it ends with this healed man because John’s narrative continues for the rest of the chapter with the spiritual conflict between the Jews and the Savior being the focus. But as we leave the impotent man the Lord made whole we see a guy with so much to be thankful for, but who seems to express no gratitude whatsoever for what the Savior has done for him. To be sure, everything has happened so fast the guy’s head was probably spinning. He is walking home with his mat under his arm, trying to get his mind around the miracle he has just experienced and how that will affect every area of his life, and suddenly he is set upon by critics accusing him of wrongdoing for carrying his mat. For carrying his mat! For doing what the Savior told him to do!

My friend, whether you realize it or not, for most of us it takes time to figure out what the Savior did for us when He arranged that wonderful encounter you had. Most of us don’t know to be immediately thankful because we haven’t quite figured out what happened. The gratitude comes after a bit with most of us. But the religious thugs set upon us, be they coworkers or unsaved family members, very quick to criticize and condemn to prevent us from expressing gratitude to the Savior for what He has done.

There is a reason why you need to be in Church. There is a reason you need the reinforcement of Bible preaching and Christian friendships. It’s to fend off the attacks. It’s to protect you against the assaults. It’s to bolster you when you are set upon the way this guy was set upon. Criticized for carrying a mat. Others are criticized for going to Church or for giving to the cause of Christ. For whatever reason this episode in our Lord’s ministry was recorded for us, it does show us one thing. It shows what can happen following a wonderful encounter with the Savior, an encounter that turns your life upside down for the better, but also leaves you with a whole lot to figure out. The reason for the attacks that are so quick to come even from loved ones? To distract you from praising and thanking the Lord for the great things He has done. Never forget to thank the Lord for what He has done, even when someone criticizes you for doing right.

__________

[1] Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1-vol. edition 1968), Vol 1, page 9.

[2] Jeremiah 31.33-34; Ezekiel 36.26-27

[3] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 229.

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