Jesus Heals a Lame Man on the Sabbath – John 5:1-13

Starting in John chapter 5, the apostle records a series of confrontations between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders centered around the shocking claims of Jesus.  His claim to be the Son of God, His claim to be an equal of God, and His claim to be the only Way to eternal life flies in the face of the Messianic expectations of both the religious leaders and the common folk of Jesus’ day.  It is during these confrontations that we learn many things about Jesus Christ, His nature and His work.

As we cover John chapters 5 through 7 over the next several weeks, we will follow a verse-by-verse format where the biblical text is included in red letters in the post (not to be confused with the typical red letters only for the words of Jesus).  My running commentary will be included in black text in and among the Scripture passage.

John 5:1 After these things there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. 3 In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, [waiting for the moving of the waters; 4 for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.] (Verse 3b and 4 are not included in some ancient texts, but the lame man’s answer to Jesus in verse 7 suggests this miraculous stirring of the waters actually happened from time to time.)

5 A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. (We assume with some form of paralysis based on his answer to Jesus’ question.) 6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, “Do you wish to get well ?” (This may seem like a rhetorical question on Jesus’ part, but He commonly asked it of the sick.  I think it is to allow the person to express their faith with a “Yes” answer.  After all, on many occasions, Jesus said to those he had just healed, “Your faith has made you well.”  In the same manner, our faith in Jesus is an important ingredient in our salvation as we will see throughout these chapters.)

7 The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” (Somewhere in the man’s answer is a “Yes” based on what Jesus says next.) 8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.” 9 Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk. (Jesus healed the man on the spot and the man responded by obeying Jesus’ command and picked up his pallet – basically a sleeping mat – and walked away.) 

Now it was the Sabbath on that day. (The fact that it was the Sabbath sets the stage for the confrontation that is to come.) 10 So the Jews were saying to the man who was cured, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet.” (According to Jewish tradition, it was unlawful to carry furniture outside your house on the Sabbath, and a sleeping mat was considered furniture) 11 But he answered them, “He who made me well was the one who said to me, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk.’ “ (In this short answer it is unclear if the man was just reporting the facts, or trying to shift the blame to the one who commanded him to take up his sleeping mat, or if the fellow is actually making a statement that I have amazingly just been healed and the command of the one who healed me trumps your lifeless tradition.  At any rate, the man appears to be off the hook as the focus changes to, “Who is the one who gave this command?”) 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk ‘?” 13 But the man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away while there was a crowd in that place.

There is a pause in the story here as we wait for the healer to be identified.  Will Jesus be found out and confronted?  And will He be on the hot seat for His healing work on the Sabbath?  We will find out next time.