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Bible Commentaries
John 5

Peake's Commentary on the BiblePeake's Commentary

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Verses 1-9

John 5:1-9 a . The Pool of Bethzatha.— If in John 5:1 we read “ the feast,” Tabernacles is probably meant ( cf. John 7:2) . The true text, however, seems to have “ a feast.” Pentecost, Purim (in March, to suit John 4:35 taken as a note of time and not as a proverb), and Trumpets (September) have been suggested. It is best to leave the matter where the author has left it. He does not seem to know. He speaks of the pool at the Sheep Gate (NE. corner of the Temple area; cf. Nehemiah 3:1 *, Nehemiah 3:32), or perhaps the sheep pool, according to a few authorities, as still standing in his time. It is unsafe to draw inferences from the present tense, which may be explained in different ways. The name is doubtful. Probably Bethzatha ( mg.) is the original form, of which Bethesda and Bethsaida are alterations to better-known names. According to Josephus Bezetha was the name of the northern quarter of the city. The account of the angel in AV, RVm ( John 5:4) is clearly a later addition. The words in John 5:3, “ waiting for the moving of the waters,” are better attested, and receive some support from John 5:7, of which, however, they may be an interpretative gloss. [On the whole story see R. Harris, Sidelights on NT Research, Lect. II. He suggests that the feast is the Rosh-ha-Shanah or “ Head of the Year,” and relates how he once found some Armenian Christians waiting according to custom for the descent of Gabriel into their village pool, ( a) to give healing virtue to the water, ( b) to enrich the man who first after midnight drew water.— A. J. G.]

Verses 9-15

John 5:9 b John 5:15 . The Conflict with the Authorities.— With the man himself the “ Jews” raise the question of bearing burdens on the Sabbath ( cf. Jeremiah 17:21). The man’ s ignorance of who had healed him is one of the many details which suggest that the author is following tradition, or using his memory, rather than inventing for didactic purposes. In John 5:5 b a reference is often found to the thirty-eight years of the wandering in the wilderness, mentioned only in Deuteronomy 2:14, too obscure a passage for the origin of the detail, which is probably traditional, though the author may have had the parallel in his mind. With Jesus Himself the “ Jews” raise the wider question of Sabbath healing, as in the Synoptists. John 5:17 is a summary of His defence. He is doing the will of the Lawgiver. It is the Father who works when His Messenger works. This claim to be a fellow-worker with God seems blasphemous to His opponents and they seek His death. It is not unlikely that the author anticipates a stage in the quarrel which was really reached later. Cf. however, Mark 3:6.

Verses 19-30

John 5:19-30 . The Son’ s Dependence on the Father. Judgment and Lifegiving.— To the charge of blasphemy He answers that a son can only do what he has learned to do by watching his father, who out of love shows him how to work. So the Father will show Messiah, the Son, even greater things, so that men will experience the wonder which leads to faith. The greater work is the quickening of the spiritually dead. This will be done not arbitrarily but according to God’ s will. So the judgment which the Father commits to Messiah will be wrought out. The acceptance or rejection of this spiritual quickening is its test. And its object ( John 5:23) is that men should pay due honour to the Son. In John 5:24 Jesus introduces, as usually when “ Verily, verily” occurs, a further thought. Acceptance of His message and faith in His sender gives men true life, which the author always designates as eternal, i.e. spiritual. Of such there is no judgment. They have chosen the better part. And the gift will soon be given. The hour will soon strike when the spiritually dead shall hear the Son’ s voice, and if they hearken shall have life. For the Father, the source of all life, has given the Son the power to quicken life. And with that corresponds the power of judgment, given to Him as Messiah, who being man knows what is in man. John 5:28 f. is perhaps best explained as the author’ s comment, to set aside the view that what has been said overthrows the idea of the future Messianic judgment of quick and dead. The dead shall rise for judgment according to their works. John 5:30 takes up the thought of John 5:22. Jesus’ judgment, as His works, is dependent on the Father. And it is just, carrying out the Father’ s will.

Verses 30-40

John 5:30-40 . Witness.— The subject is introduced abruptly, but rises naturally out of the circumstances. The claims made, if less than the author represents them, were such as to raise the question of authority. By what authority could He substantiate them? In the first place, John the Baptist, in whose teaching the people for a time took such pleasure. His chief “ witness” is God Himself, whose testimony is declared through the “ works” which He enables Jesus to do, and also directly in Scripture, which they study in the hope of gaining life. And yet they reject the Prophet, whom Moses in those very Scriptures ( cf. Deuteronomy 18:15 ff.) and many others foretold.

Verses 41-47

John 5:41-47 . This summary suggests that Jesus’ opponents had accused Him of self-glorification. In answer He traces back their failure to accept His message to want of that love of God which their study of Scripture should have taught them ( Deuteronomy 6:5). If a false prophet were to come on his own authority ( cf. Deuteronomy 18:20), and “ speak presumptuously” in God’ s name, flattering their pride and self-seeking, such an one they would welcome. There is no reference in John 5:43 b to the pseudo-Messiah, Bar-Kochba (A.D. 135). Deuteronomy 18:20 and the character of popular Messianism in the last century B.C. are adequate explanations. Belief was impossible so long as they looked for the praise of men and not of God. As with judgment so with accusation. It is not His primary object. Their real accuser is Moses, whose Law they believe themselves to obey so well. They failed to recognise the Prophet whom he foretold, and so they fail to see the truth of Jesus’ words. [Possibly John 7:15-24 should be inserted at this point.— A. J. G.]

Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on John 5". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pfc/john-5.html. 1919.
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