John 5:1-47

Healing at Bethesda. Hearing Jesus’ voice. What have you done? God’s own testimony. Scriptures testify about Jesus. Hope misplaced.

(Bấm vào đây để đọc tiếng Việt)


1 After this there was a Jewish feast, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool called Bethzatha in Aramaic, which has five covered walkways. 3 A great number of sick, blind, lame, and paralyzed people were lying in these walkways. 4 [[EMPTY]] 5 Now a man was there who had been disabled for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and when he realized that the man had been disabled a long time already, he said to him, "Do you want to become well?" 7 The sick man answered him, "Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up. While I am trying to get into the water, someone else goes down there before me." 8 Jesus said to him, "Stand up! Pick up your mat and walk." 9 Immediately the man was healed, and he picked up his mat and started walking. (Now that day was a Sabbath.) 10 So the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, "It is the Sabbath, and you are not permitted to carry your mat." 11 But he answered them, "The man who made me well said to me, 'Pick up your mat and walk.'" 12 They asked him, "Who is the man who said to you, 'Pick up your mat and walk'?" 13 But the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped out, since there was a crowd in that place. 14 After this Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, "Look, you have become well. Don't sin any more, lest anything worse happen to you." 15 The man went away and informed the Jewish leaders that Jesus was the one who had made him well. (John 5:1-15)

Many individuals tend to believe that faith is a prerequisite for healing, and the stronger the faith, the more effective the healing. However, if one closely examines the episode where Jesus encountered a man who had been disabled for 38 years and asked if he desired to be healed, it becomes evident that this notion can be challenged. Instead of expressing faith or even a desire to be healed, the man offered excuses. Nevertheless, Jesus proceeded to heal him despite his reluctance and lack of belief.

Numerous instances in the Bible illustrate Jesus’s capacity to heal people without requiring them to have faith in him. Examples include the healing of the centurion’s servant, as documented in Matthew 8 and Luke 7, the healing of the ten lepers in Luke 17, the healing of the man born blind in John 9, and the restoration of the servant’s ear after Peter had severed it in Luke 22.

These accounts emphasize that God’s healing is not solely contingent on an individual’s level of faith. Instead, it aligns with His divine plan to fulfill His will.


16 Now because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began persecuting him. 17 So he told them, “My Father is working until now, and I too am working.” 18 For this reason the Jewish leaders were trying even harder to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was also calling God his own Father, thus making himself equal with God. 19 So Jesus answered them, “I tell you the solemn truth, the Son can do nothing on his own initiative, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he does, and will show him greater deeds than these, so that you will be amazed. 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomever he wishes. 22 Furthermore, the Father does not judge anyone, but has assigned all judgment to the Son, 23 so that all people will honor the Son just as they honor the Father. The one who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 24 “I tell you the solemn truth, the one who hears my message and believes the one who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned, but has crossed over from death to life. 25 I tell you the solemn truth, a time is coming - and is now here - when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For just as the Father has life in himself, thus he has granted the Son to have life in himself, 27 and he has granted the Son authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. (John 5:16-27)

While Jesus appeared to be breaking the Sabbath, it’s essential to recognize that his actions did not transgress God’s law, as God’s understanding of the Sabbath differed from that of the Jewish leaders. Alternatively, Jesus might have ushered in a new era where the Sabbath no longer entailed refraining from physical activity merely to comply with the law. Instead, it signified abstaining from reliance on human effort to achieve God’s standard of righteousness. By breaking the Sabbath, Jesus declared the obsolescence of the Old Covenant (Hebrews 8:13).

When Jesus was accused of “making himself equal with God,” the Jewish leaders considered this a blasphemous act. We will come across an incident where people sought to stone Jesus for a similar statement perceived as blasphemous (John 8:58-59). Thus, blasphemy against someone involves assuming a role of equality with that individual. Consequently, blaspheming the Holy Spirit implies claiming to play the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of others.

Since “the Son gives life to whomever he wishes,” salvation originates directly from him. However, in the beliefs of adherents from nearly all religions, salvation hinges on one’s ability to fulfill certain rules or expectations. Jesus, on the other hand, grants life to “those who hear his message and believe.”

So, what constitutes Jesus’ message? Is it the Ten Commandments of the Old Covenant, or the new law of the spirit of life, where one relies solely on Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for the forgiveness of sins? Consider the message you have encountered and what has been preached from pulpits throughout history.


28 “Do not be amazed at this, because a time is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and will come out - the ones who have done what is good to the resurrection resulting in life, and the ones who have done what is evil to the resurrection resulting in condemnation. (John 5:28-29)

Upon hearing what Jesus conveyed in this context, I assume that most individuals engage in a self-assessment, weighing the deeds, whether good or bad, that have marked their lives. Is Jesus prompting us to exert our utmost efforts in pursuing goodness while steering clear of evil? I would venture to suggest otherwise. He appears to be presenting a fundamental principle: the criterion for entering God’s kingdom revolves around adhering to what is righteous and abstaining from what is sinful.

However, a significant predicament arises because practically no one can meet this requirement, as James aptly points out in James 2:10: “For the one who obeys the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.”

In essence, Jesus seems to be reiterating the principles of the Old Covenant, setting the stage for the introduction of the New Covenant. The New Covenant proclaims that resurrection is exclusively reserved for those who place their trust in the completed work of Christ, emphasizing faith over the rigid adherence to the law.


30 I can do nothing on my own initiative. Just as I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will, but the will of the one who sent me. 31 “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. 32 There is another who testifies about me, and I know the testimony he testifies about me is true. 33 You have sent to John, and he has testified to the truth. 34 (I do not accept human testimony, but I say this so that you may be saved.) 35 He was a lamp that was burning and shining, and you wanted to rejoice greatly for a short time in his light. 36 “But I have a testimony greater than that from John. For the deeds that the Father has assigned me to complete - the deeds I am now doing - testify about me that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself testified about me. You people have never heard his voice nor seen his form at any time, 38 nor do you have his word residing in you, because you do not believe the one whom he sent. (John 5:30-38)

What was the reason behind Jesus’ statement, “I do not accept human testimony, but I say this so that you may be saved”? It implies that the Jesus who is vouched for by a human may not necessarily be the one capable of granting salvation. Jesus places his trust solely in testimony from God Himself and the miraculous deeds he performs.

However, if people “have never heard of his voice nor seen his form at any time,” then the question arises: how can they bear witness to his testimony? Nonetheless, God has communicated with them through the prophets and his Word, yet they do not “possess his word within them.” This lack of possession is demonstrated by their disbelief in the one whom God has sent. Further clarification on this matter will be provided in the subsequent verses.


39 You study the scriptures thoroughly because you think in them you possess eternal life, and it is these same scriptures that testify about me, 40 but you are not willing to come to me so that you may have life. (John 5:39-40)

When individuals engage in a comprehensive examination of the Scriptures, what are they delving into if not primarily the law, complete with its commandments? However, the paradox lies in their apparent inability to recognize the very entity the Scriptures bear witness to. The law serves as a signpost guiding them towards Jesus, with the ultimate purpose of granting them life. Regrettably, their reliance seems to shift towards the law itself as their savior.


41I do not accept praise from people, 42 but I know you, that you do not have the love of God within you. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me. If someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. 44 How can you believe, if you accept praise from one another and don’t seek the praise that comes from the only God? 45 “Do not suppose that I will accuse you before the Father. The one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have placed your hope. 46 If you believed Moses, you would believe me, because he wrote about me. 47 But if you do not believe what Moses wrote, how will you believe my words?” (John 5:41-47)

Jesus is making an accusation against certain individuals in his audience. Despite their professed love for God, he discerns that they are deceiving themselves. His reasoning is that if they truly “possessed the love of God within them,” they would have welcomed God’s Son. Additionally, their eagerness to receive praise from others is a clear indicator, as adherents of the law often tend to boast.

These individuals have invested their hope in Moses, the bestower of the law. Nevertheless, although Moses may not be conscious of it, his role fundamentally revolves around directing people towards Jesus, in whom their hope should truly be anchored. The correlation between this passage and Galatians 3:24 becomes apparent:

Thus the law had become our guardian until Christ, so that we could be declared righteous by faith. (Galatians 3:24).

Now that Jesus has arrived, some continue to fixate their gaze on Moses. However, Moses, representing the law, will eventually stand as their accuser on the day of judgment.

(Next study: John 6:1-71)

Nghi Nguyen

- Scripture quoted by permission. All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: This is my own opinion on the topic, which does not necessarily reflect the church's theology, or beliefs of the individuals in it — Nghi Nguyen

Filed under: , and