JOHN 5: Walking in Faith

By Stephen W. HiemstraFountain

The LORD God said to the serpent, Because you have done this,

cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field;

on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat

all the days of your life (Genesis 3:14 ESV).

It is hard to fathom the desperation of the man Jesus heals at the pool of Bethesda who had been lame for 38 years.  A friend of mind undertook a statistical study of elderly patients who had broken their hip.  Most of those unable to hip replacements gave up on life and died.  The picture of a man paralyzed for 38 years is a picture of a man in tremendous suffering.

Jesus asks this man a strange question:  Do you want to be healed? (v 6)  The man ignores the question and begins recounting his desperate story.  He obviously does not recognize Jesus or know who he is. Jesus responds:  Get up, take up your bed, and walk (v 8).  The man was healed.  He obeys Jesus’ instruction—take up your bed—and starts walking around with his mat.

This is Jesus’ third miracle after turning water into wine and healing the official’s son (John 2:1-11; 4:46-54).  Both of the previous miracles were in Galilee.  This miracle is in Jerusalem at the site where the walls of Jerusalem were first rebuilt (Nehemiah 3:1), where the city’s cornerstone was laid.  Elsewhere when Jesus talks about the cornerstone that was rejected, he may be referring to this place and this healing (e.g. Matthew 21:42; Psalm 118:22).

The lame man, of course, becomes like a human billboard walking around Jerusalem on the Sabbath with his mat.  Do you think zealous Jews would notice? (Numbers 15:32-38)  Jesus shows that he has a sense of human when he meets the man:  See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you (v 14). The man was sinning (that is, carrying his mat on the Sabbath) only because Jesus told him to do!  Do you think the man knew or cared what day of the week it was?

One of the most meaningful visits that I had with a patient in Providence Hospital last fall was unplanned.  Exhausted, I left the Alzheimer’s unit for a break and sat in the hall.  A woman saw me sitting there feeling sorry for myself, wheeled herself up, and began showing me her new prosthetic leg.  It was beautiful; it was computer programmed; it was her ticket to freedom after so many years in a wheel chair.  She spoke like an excited parrot flying around the room.  It was hard not to get excited with her talk about this new leg.

Once they discovered who had healed the lame man, the Jew leaders accused Jesus of two capital offenses:  healing on the Sabbath and referring to God as his father—equating himself with God (v 18).  The remainder of chapter 5 recites a lengthy defense that Jesus offers in his own words.  It begins with an enigmatic statement:  My Father is working until now, and I am working (v 17).

Are we surprised that the carpenter’s son is learning carpentry?  A first century carpenter was more of what we would call a home builder or developer, not just a worker with wood.  This makes Jesus’ trade as a young man a metaphor for being a creator, as God is pictured in Genesis 1.  Healing the lame is an act of creation.

Jesus identified five witnesses in his defense:  God, John the Baptist, his healings, scripture, and the words of Moses[1].  In his final comments, he accuses his accusers of not believing the words of Moses which instructed them to keep an eye out for another prophet, like himself (Deuteronomy 18:15).

Has Jesus offered you healing?  If so, where’s your rug?

[1] Gary M. Burge.  2000.  The NIV Application Commentary:  John.  Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, page 179.


How was your week?  Do you have anything about your week that you would like to share?  Do you have any thoughts about last week’s lesson?

  1. When did this event occur? Where? Why do we care? (vv 1-2)
  2. What did Jesus ask the paralyzed man? Why does it seem odd?  How does the man answer?  Why is his answer odd? (vv 6-7).
  3. What is peculiar about Jesus’ request? What happened?  (vv 8-9)
  4. Why did Jesus tell the man not to sin anymore? ;=) (v 14)
  5. Jesus repeats an important doctrine twice? What is it?  Why is it important?  Why does it get him into trouble? (vv  16-19)
  6. Jesus applies this doctrine twice? What two applications does he make? (vv 20-29)
  7. What does Jesus say about testimony and witness? (vv 30-40)
  8. What five witnesses does Jesus claim? (vv 30-47)

JOHN 5: Walking in Faith

Also see:

JOHN 6: Bread from Heaven 

Vanhoozer: How Do We Understand the Bible? Part 1 

Roadmap of Simple Faith

Bothersome Gaps: Life in Tension

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site:, Publisher site:


You may also like

Leave a Reply