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John 5

Carroll's Interpretation of the English BibleCarroll's Biblical Interpretation

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Verses 1-47



Part II

Harmony -pages 89-45 and Matthew 9:27-34; John 5:1-47; Matthew 12:1-21; Mark 2:23-3:19; Luke 6:1-16.

This is a continuation of the great ministry of our Lord in Galilee and the next incident is the healing of the two blind men and the dumb demoniac. It will be noted that our Lord here tested the faith of the blind men in his ability to heal them, and when they were healed he forbade their publishing this to the people, but they went forth and told it and spread his fame in all the land. It was "too good to keep." Immediately after this they brought to him one possessed with a demon and dumb, and he cast out the demon. This produced wonder among the common people, but brought forth another issue between our Lord and the Pharisees. Tins is the third issue with them, the first being the authority to forgive sins at the healing of the paralytic; the second, the eating with publicans and sinners at the feast of Matthew; the third, the casting out of demons by the prince of demons, which culminated later in the unpardonable sin.

The next incident in our Lord’s ministry is his visit to Jerusalem to the Feast of the Passover (see note in Harmony, p. 39), at which he healed a man on the sabbath and defended his action in the great discourse that followed. In this discussion of our Lord the central text is John 5:25 and there are three things to be considered in this connection.


The scriptural story of the circumstances which preceded and called forth these utterances of our Saviour is very familiar, very simple, and very touching. A great multitude of impotent folk, blind, halt, withered, were lying in Bethesda’s porches, waiting for the moving of the waters. It is a graphic picture of the afflictions and infirmities incident to human life; the sadness of ill-health; the unutterable longing of the sick to be well; the marvelous power of an advertised cure to attract to its portals and hold in its cold waiting rooms earth’s despairing sufferers, so grouped as to sicken contemplation by the varieties and contrasts of all the ills that flesh is heir to.

Blindness groping its way trying to see with its fingers; deafness vainly and painfully listening for a voice it cannot hear – listening with its eyes; lameness limping along on nerveless, wooden feet; blistered, swollen tongues, dumb and senseless, appealing to fingers for speech and to nostrils for taste; the pitiful whining of mendicancy and vagabondage and raga timidly dodging from an expected blow while begging alms; the hideousness of deformity, either shrinking from exposure or glorifying to make conspicuous its repulsiveness, while a side-light reveals, crouched in the misty background, Sin, the fruitful mother of all this progeny of woe.

Ah I Bethesda, Bethesda, thy porches are the archives of unwritten tragedies! If the hieroglyphics inscribed by suffering on thy cold stone pavements could be deciphered, the translations age by age, would be but a repetition of sorrow’s one prayer to pitying heaven: Oh heaven! have compassion on us! Oh heaven I send a healer to us.

It was a sad sight. Now, among the number gathered about that pool was a man who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. His infirmity was impotence – lack of power. His physical and his mental powers were prostrated, paralyzed. His affliction was so great that it prevented him from availing himself of any chance of being cured in this pool, and he was tantalized by lying in sight of the cure, continually seeing cures performed on others, and never being able to reach it himself. Such a case attracted the attention of Jesus. He came to this man and propounded an important question: "Do you want to be healed? Are you in earnest? Do you really wish to be made whole?" The man explains the circumstances that seemed to militate against his having a desire to be made whole: "I have not continued in this condition thirty-eight years because I did not try to help myself. I would be cured if I could be, but I cannot get down there into that water in time. Somebody always gets ahead of me. There is nobody to put me into the pool. My lying here so long and suffering so long, does not argue that I do not wish to be healed." Now, here is the key of the passage. Without employing the curative powers of the water, without resorting to any medical application whatever, by a word of authority, Jesus commanded him to rise up: "Be healed and walk." Now, do not forget that it was by a simple command, an authoritative voice, that that cure was consummated.

The time was the sabbath. There were certain bigots and hypocrites who imagined that they were the conservators of religion, and the only authoritative interpreters and expounders of the obligations of the Fourth Commandment: "Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy." They preferred two charges against the Lord Jesus Christ. The first charge was that he had violated the sabbath in performing that cure on the sabbath day. He worked on the sabbath day, whereas the commandment said that there should be a cessation from work on that day. And the second count in the charge was that he had caused another to work on that day, in that he made this man take up his bed and walk. Now, that is the first controversy. It is a controversy with reference to the violation of the Fourth Commandment. Jesus defended himself: "My Father worketh on the sabbath day. You misunderstand that commandment. It does not say, ’Do no work,’ but that commandment says, ’Do no secular and selfish work.’ It does not gay, ’Do no work of mercy.’ It does not say, ’Do no work of necessity.’ And as a proof of it, God, who rested upon the day originally and thereby hallowed it, himself has worked ever since. True, he rested from the work of creation, but my Father worketh hitherto and I work." His defense was this: That they misunderstood the import of the commandment, and that what he did had this justification – that is was following the example of the Father himself. Now comes the second controversy. Instantly they prefer a new charge against him, growing out of the defense that he had made. The charge now is a violation of the First Commandment, in that he claimed God as his father, his own father, and thereby made himself equal with God, which was blasphemy.

The keynote grows out of his defense against this second charge – not the charge about the violation of the sabbath day, but the charge suggested by his defense – the charge that he made himself equal with God. His defense is this: "I admit the fact. I do make myself equal with God. There is no dispute about the fact. But I deny the criminality of it. I deny that it furnishes any basis for your accusation." And then he goes on to show why. He says, "As Son of man, in my humanity I do not do anything of myself. I do not put humanity up against God. As Son of man I never do anything unless I first see my Father do it. Then, if my Father doeth it, I do it. In the next place, everything that the Father doeth I see. He shows it to me." What infinite knowledge; what intimacy with the Father! Why does he show it? "He shows it to me because he loves me. Why else does he? He shows it to me in order that he may induce all men to honor me as they honor him, and therefore he does not himself execute judgment upon anybody. He hath committed all judgment to me. He hath conferred upon me all authority and all power. And whoever hears my voice and believeth in me hath eternal life and shall not come unto condemnation, but is passed from death unto life." Thus he claims omniscience – that he sees everything that the Father does. He claims omnipotence – that he does everything that his Father does. He claims supreme authority – that he exercises all the judgment that is exercised upon this earth and in the courts of heaven and in the realms of woe. He claims that he does this because, like the Father, he hath life in himself – underived life, self-existence. Now, that brings us to the key verse: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, the hour cometh and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live." Hence the theme of this passage is "The Voice and the Life."

Everyone that hears the voice of the Son of God, from the moment that he hears it, is alive forevermore; is exempt from the death penalty; is possessed of eternal life and shall not receive the sting of the second death and shall stand at the right hand of the Father, happy, saved forever!


The meaning of this passage is easily determined. We have only to compare this verse with a statement of the context. Let us place them side by side: "The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming [not "now is,"] in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation." Here are two things set over against each other. One present, the other future. Two kinds of dead people: Those who are alive and yet dead, and those who are dead and in their tombs. The dead who are alive may now hear and live. The dead in their graves cannot hear until the resurrection. It follows that the first is spiritual death and the second physical death. The dead soul may now hear and live; the dead body not now, but hereafter. As there are two deaths, there are two resurrections. Spiritual resurrection is now – resurrection of the body is not now. And the meaning is that the death in each case is broken by the voice. The voice gives life now to those "dead in trespasses and sins." "You hath he quickened." The voice raises the dead in the tombs at the second coming.

I have already called attention to this fact, that that impotent man was healed, not by the application of any medicine; that he was healed by a word of authority. He spoke and it was done. The thought that runs all through this passage, that indeed is the essence and marrow of it, is that the voice which confers life is a voice of command, is a voice of authority, is a divine voice, speaking from the standpoint of sovereignty and of omniscience and of power, and commanding life, and life coming in a moment, at the word. That is the thought of it. The dead shall hear his voice. The dead shall hear his voice when he says, "Live," and, hearing, shall live. I want to impress that idea of the voice being a voice of command, a voice of authority and of irresistible power.

Let me illustrate: John, in the apocalyptic vision, sees the Son of God, and I shall not stop to describe his hair, his voice, his girdle, his feet, or his manner. He is represented as opening his lips and a sword coming out of his mouth – a sword!

The word of God is quick and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword. The command that issues from the lips of Jesus Christ is irresistible. No defensive armor can blunt the point of that sword. No ice can quench the fire that is in it. No covering can protect from it. It reaches into the joints and into the marrow, and it touches the most secret things that have been hidden even from the eyes of angels.

Let me illustrate again: Once there was chaos, and chaos was blackness – wave after wave of gloom intermingled with gloom. Suddenly a voice spoke, "Let there be light," and light was. What means were employed? No means. Only the voice. He spake and it stood fast. It was the voice of authority. It was the voice of God. It was the voice of commandment, and nature obeyed her God. Read Psalm 28. A mountain is described in that psalm – a mountain covered with tall cedar trees – and then it says God spoke and the mountain trembled and the cedar trees snapped in twain and skipped like lambs, carried away, not on the breath of the wind, but on the voice of God.

Take but this case: Job had some ideas about salvation. God spoke to him and after asking how much knowledge he had, "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the world? What do you know about the heavenly bodies? What do you know about the giving of color, and the father of the rain, and in what womb the hoar frost and the ice are gendered? What do you know? Then what power have you? Can you feed the young lions when they lack? Can you drag out Leviathan with a hook? Can you pierce Behemoth with a spear when he churneth the deep and maketh it hoary?" Now comes the climax: "Have you a voice like God? If you think you have, rise up and speak; and speak to all the proud, and by your voice cast the proud down and bind their faces in secret. Then I will confess that your right hand can save you. But if you have no such knowledge; if your knowledge is not infinite; if your power is not infinite; if you cannot bind the sweet influences of the Pleiades or loose the bands of Orion; if you cannot abase the proud by a word, then do not attempt to say you save yourself."

Notice again: A man had one of his senses locked up – the sense of hearing. He had an ear, but it could not hear, and be came to Jesus. There he is, the deaf man. Jesus spoke one word, Ephphatha. What does it mean? "Be open." And the ear opened.

Occasionally now for the benefit of the gullible and the credulous some man will claim to have such vast powers as that he shall put his hand upon the sick and they shall be made whole – for two dollars a visit! But the whole of it is a fraud.

Here is one who spoke to an ear whose power of hearing was destroyed, and to give hearing to that ear meant creative power, and he simply said, "Be open," and it was open.

Take another case: A centurion comes upon the recommendation of the Jews to Jesus. He says, "Lord, I have a servant very dear to me and he is very sick. He is at the point of death. But I am not worthy that you should come to my house. You just speak the word and my servant shall be healed. I understand this; I am a man of authority myself. I have soldiers under me and I say to this one, Do that, and he doeth it. And I say to another, Do this, and he doeth it. Now you have authority. You need not come. You need not go through any movements of incantation. Speak the word and my servant will be healed." Jesus says, "He is healed."

Take another case: In Capernaum was a nobleman. He had one child, just one, a little girl twelve years old and she died. His only child is dead, and he comes to Jesus, and Jesus follows him, comes into the house, pushes people aside that are weeping there and wailing, walks into the room of death, takes hold of that dead girl’s hand, and he says, "Talitha Cumi – damsel, arise." And at the word of the Son of God, the dead girl rose up and was well.

Take another. He is approaching a city. There comes out a procession, a funeral procession. Following it is a brokenhearted widow. On the bier is her son – her only son. The bier approaches Jesus. He commands them to stop. They put it down. He looks into the cold, immobile, rigid face of death, and he speaks: "Young man, I say unto thee, arise." And at the voice of the Son of God he rises.

Take another. In Bethany was a household of three, but death came and claimed one of the three, and the sisters mourned for the brother that was gone. And he was buried four days; he had been buried, and decay and putridity had come. Loathesomeness infested that charnel house, and the Son of God stands before that grave, and he says, "Take away that stone." And there is the presence, not of recent death, as in the case of that girl on whose cheek something of the flush of life yet lingered; not like the young man of Nain, who had not been buried. But here was hideous death. Here was death in all of its horror and loathesomeness. The worms are here. And into that decayed face the Son of God looked and spoke, "Lazarus, come forth!" And he rose up and came forth. He heard the voice of the Son of God, and he lived.

Take yet another, Ezekiel 37. There is a valley. That valley is full of bones – dead men’s bones – dead longer than Lazarus – dead until all flesh is gone, and there is nothing there but just the dry, white bones. And the question arises, "Can these dry bones live?" And there comes a voice, “O breath, breathe on these slain." And at the voice they lived. That is why I said that the voice of this passage is the voice of authority. It is a voice of power. It is an irresistible voice. And whoever hears it is alive forevermore.

It is winter, and winter has shrouded the world in white and locked the flow of rivers and pulsation of lakes; stilled the tides which neither ebb nor flow, and there comes a voice, the voice of a sunbeam shining, the voice of a raindrop falling, the voice of a south wind blowing, and winter relaxes his hold. Cold winter is gone and the waters flow, and the juices rise, and the flowers bud and bloom, and fruit ripens and the earth is recreated. That represents the voice of God.


Now, what is the doctrine? The doctrine of this passage is that Jesus Christ is God Almighty manifest in the flesh – the self-existent, eternal, immutable, all-powerful God. That his word is authoritative; that his word conveys life; and that he speaks that word when, where, bow, and to whom he wills. He is the sovereign.

If there are many lepers in Israel he may speak to Naaman, the Syrian, only, "Be thou clean." If there are many widows in Israel he may speak to the widow of Sarepta alone, "Be thou saved from famine." If there are a multitude lying impotent around this pool he may speak to this one only and say, "Rise up and walk." He is a sovereign. The election is his.

I can no more tell to whom he will speak than I can count the stars, or the leaves, or the grains of sand. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me. I know to whom I speak. I do not know to whom Jesus shall speak.

But I can tell the evidences from which we may conclude that he has spoken when he does speak, and that is the great point here. It is the ringing trumpet note of the Eternal God. How may we know that we hear him? Paul says in his letter to the Thessalonians, "This gospel came unto you, not in word only, but in power." In power I If, then, we hear the voice of Jesus, there will be energy in it. There will be vitality in it. There will be life in it. It will not be mere sound, but Bound embodying life. And how is that power manifested? It is manifested in this, that if we hear him we feel that we are singled out from all the people around us. We feel that we are cut out from the crowd. We feel that his eye is on us. We feel that we stand before God in our individuality alone. If we hear his voice, it discovers our heart to us. It shows us what we are. And not only that, but if we hear his voice there is a revelation to us of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. What says the Scripture? "If our gospel be hid it is hid to them that are lost in whom the god of this world hath blinded the eyes of them that believe not, but God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined into our hearts, revealing the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." Now look back to that first scripture, "Let there be light, and light was." God, who commanded the light to shine out of the darkness, hath shined into our hearts, into the chaos and gloom and blackness of our hearts, and by that shining he has revealed to us his glory. Where? In the face of his incarnate Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Continuing his discourse, Jesus refers to John as a witness and he says that his witness was greater than that of John, because his works bear witness of him. He then asserts that they had never heard God’s voice nor did they have his Word abiding in them; that they were destitute of the love of God; that they sought not the glory of God; that they were convicted by the law of Moses because it testified of him and they received not its testimony. This he said was the reason that they would not believe his words. The reader will note how tactfully our Lord here treats his relation to the Father in view of the growing hatred for him on the part of the authorities at Jerusalem (see note in Harmony, p. 41).

On his way back from Jerusalem to Galilee he and his disciples were passing through the fields of grain and the disciples, growing hungry, plucked the heads of grain and rubbed them in their hands, which they were allowed to do by the Mosaic law. But the Pharisees, in their additions to and expositions of the law, had so distorted its true meaning that they thought they had ground for another charge against him. But he replies by an appeal (1) to history, the case of David, (2) to the law, the work of the priests, (3) to the prophets, and (4) to his own authority over the sabbath. This fourth issue with the Pharisees is carried over into the next incident where he heals the man with a withered hand on the sabbath day. Here he replied with an appeal to their own acts of mercy to lower animals, showing the superior value of man and the greater reason for showing mercy to him. Here again they plot to kill him.

When Jesus perceived that they had plotted to kill him, he withdrew to the sea of Galilee and a great multitude followed him, insomuch that he had to take a boat and push away from the shore because of the press of the crowd. Many were press- ing upon him because of their plagues, but he healed them all. This is cited as a fulfilment of Isaiah 42:1-4, which contains the following items of analysis: (1) The announcement of the servant of Jehovah, who was the Messiah; (2) his anointing and its purpose, i. e., to declare judgment to the Gentiles; (3) his character – lowly; (4) his tenderness with the feeble and wounded; (5) his name the hope of the Gentiles.

After the great events on the sea of Galilee our Lord stole away into the mountain and spent the whole night in prayer looking to the call and ordination of the twelve apostles. Then he chose the twelve and named them, apostles, whom both Mark and Luke here name. (For a comparison of the four lists of the twelve apostles see Broadus’ Harmony, p. 244.)


1. How did our Lord test the faith of the two blind men whom he healed?

2. What was our Lord’s request to them and why, and what was the result and why?

3. What was the result of his healing the dumb demoniac and what the culmination of the issue raised by the Pharisees?

4. What were the great events of our Lord’s visit to Jerusalem to the Passover (John 6:1)?

5. What was the occasion of his great discourse while there?

6. Describe the scene at the pool of Bethesda.

7. What was the time of this incident and the issue precipitated with the Pharisees?

8. How did Jesus defend himself?

9. What was new charge growing out of this defense and what our Lord’s defense against this charge?

10. How does Jesus here claim omniscience, omnipotence, and all authority?

11. What was the bearing of this upon the key verse (John 5:25) of this passage?

12. Give the exegesis of John 5:25-29.

13. What was the main thought running all through this passage? Illustrate by several examples.

14. What was the doctrine here expressed and how does the author illustrate it?

15. What were the evidences of the voice of the Son of God?

16. How does Jesus proceed to convict them of their gross sin and what the charges which he prefers against them?

17. Show how tactfully Jesus treated his relation to the Father and why.

18. State the case of the charge of violating the sabbath law in the cornfields and Jesus’ defense.

19. How does he reply to the same charge in the incident of the man with a withered hand and what the result?

20. Describe the scene that followed this by the sea of Galilee.

21. What prophecy is here fulfilled and what was the analysis of it?

22. What the occasion here of all-night prayer by our Lord?

23. What the order of names in the four lists of the twelve apostles as given by Mark, Luke, and Acts?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on John 5". "Carroll's Interpretation of the English Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bhc/john-5.html.
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