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the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
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Bible Commentaries
John 5

Hawker's Poor Man's CommentaryPoor Man's Commentary

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Verse 1


Jesus visits the pool of Bethesda. He healeth one there, after thirty and eight years disease. He preacheth most blessedly to the Jews.

(John 5:1 ) After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

I beg the Reader at this verse to remark with me, that John is the only Evangelist, which hath noticed all the Passovers during our Lord's ministry; and he hath marked down every one. And it is by virtue of this record, how unimportant soever it might otherwise appear, that we are able to calculate the length of Christ's going in and out before the people, from his baptism to his cross: which was just three years and half. The first Passover is noted John 2:13 . This mentioned in this verse, was the second. The third, John 6:4 . And the fourth and last, John 18:28 . The Lord Jesus attending them, and what he said, particularly about the last, Luke 22:14-15 will serve to shew, how much he prized Ordinances. Psalms 87:2 . And when he did away the Passover by his death, how graciously he instituted the holy supper in its place; as if to say, he expected all his family frequently to meet him there. 1 Corinthians 11:26; 1 Corinthians 11:26 .

Verses 2-14

Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep-market, a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue, Bethesda, having five porches. (3) In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. (4) For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water; whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. (5) And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. (6) When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? (7) The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool; but while I am coming another steppeth down before me. (8) Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed and walk. (9) And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed and walked, and on the same day was the sabbath. (10) The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath-day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed. (11) He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed and walk. (12) Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed and walk. (13) And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place. (14) Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.

Concerning this Pool, if we consult the Old Testament, we shall find some light thrown upon it, as to its situation, near the field of Kidron. John 18:1 . Nehemiah; and Jeremiah, seem to have had it in view. See Nehemiah 3:32; Nehemiah 3:32 ; Jeremiah 31:38-39 . It was not a market for sheep, but rather a sheep gate, or fold, near it; where, probably, the cattle were pent up for sacrifice. And the Pool, probably formed from the waters of Shiloah. Isaiah 8:6 . But I would rather call the attention of the Reader to some of the very interesting subjects, which are proposed to us, in our Lord's visit to the Pool, and the miracle Jesus wrought there.

Is it not highly probable, (for I do not speak decidedly,) that as this pool possessed this miraculous quality John describes, when excited by the ministry of the angel, that during the long dark night, in which no open vision was made, from the time of Malachi to Zacharias; the Lord was pleased to appoint this pool, as a standing monument in his Church; that the Lord was still watching over them, and had not cast away his people whom he foreknew? Romans 11:1-2 . And was it not to keep alive in the minds of his chosen, by the miracle itself, that He would come, who was a fountain open for sin and for uncleanness to the house of David, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem? Zechariah 13:1 .

I admire the very interesting account John hath given, of the many diseased and miserable objects, which lay around the pool, in those cloisters, waiting for the moment of healing. Blind, halt, withered; all descriptive of the totally blind, halt, and helpless state of our fallen nature: yea, dead in trespasses and sins. Reader! surely in beholding this groupe of miserable objects, we discover the whole race of Adam-nature. And though those five porches might contain the whole of that neighbourhood, yet the globe itself is but as one great hospital of human woe. But what a mercy, when Jesus the Angel of the Covenant descends in the midst, under that endearing character, Jehovah Rophe, to heal, Malachi 3:1 ; Exodus 15:26 .

It were needless to ruin over the several particulars enumerated in the account of the Bethesda: neither of the one, the Lord singled out to manifest his mercy more particularly upon. No grace like distinguishing grace: neither are there any mercies which come home to the heart, with sweetness of so high a nature, as those which are personal and direct. How it must have struck every beholder, when the Lord Jesus singled out this man? And though he had been eight and thirty years in waiting for a cure; yet it was well worth waiting for, when the Lord Jesus thus came at length in person, to heal him; and chose him from among all the crippled, and sinew-shrank objects of misery around, to manifest his grace upon. And, Reader! if it be so, in natural things; what must it be in spiritual?

If the blessing, from its distinguishing nature, be so valuable to the body; what must it be to the soul?

I will only detain the Reader, with a short observation on what the Lord Jesus said to this man, when he afterwards found him in the temple. Sin no more, (said Christ,) lest a worse thing come unto thee. Did this precept of Jesus refer to his bodily complaint, as if, (which is indeed the case,) both sickness and death are the effect of sin? In this sense, our Lord's words will be, to avoid everything which in its nature is sinful, and which hath a tendency, in the present state of things, to induce disease in the body. But , under an impression that this man was a child of God, of which there appears nothing to the contrary; and though not expressly said, (as in some other miracles Jesus wrought, is taken notice of: See Luke 13:16 and Luke 19:9 ) seems probable, I should rather be inclined to think, our Lord referred to the case of his soul. And then the subject becomes more abundantly interesting, to discover what was the express object of our Lord's caution to him.

We cannot suppose that the Lord meant to say, that if he fell into a single transgression, he would lose thereby the Lord's favor, and come under condemnation, not to be pardoned. For James saith, in many things we offend all. And John adds, that if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. James 3:2 . Neither could the Lord mean, that such an after act of transgression, when a soul had been regenerated by the Holy Ghost, would destroy that renewing of the Spirit, and subject the soul to everlasting death. For there is not a just man (that is, a truly justified soul in Christ,) upon earth, that doeth good and sinneth not. Ecclesiastes 7:20 . And a just man falleth seven times a day, and riseth up again. Proverbs 24:16 .

But though a child of God cannot forfeit, by any act of his, what was never bestowed upon him, for any deservings of his; but is the result of God's grace, and not man's merit; yet he may have a much worse thing of soul befall him, than any calamity of the body. Though he cannot, when justified freely, lose God's favor, yet he may be under great sorrow of heart, from the want of the light of God's countenance. Holy men of old, groaned bitterly under such a state, in their seasons of soul exercise. While I suffer thy terrors, (said one of them,) I am distracted. Psalms 88:15 . And another cried out in anguish of spirit; The terrors of God do set themselves in array against me. Job 6:4 . And who that reads David's groans under sin, will conceive, that any bodily pain could equal them. Psalms 51:0 throughout. Reader! do not such views form the best comment to our Lord's advice to his patient in the Temple.

Verses 15-47

The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus which had made him whole. (16) And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath-day. (17) But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. (18) Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also, that God was his father, making himself equal with God. (19) Then answered Jesus, and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the son likewise. (20) For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel. (21) For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will. (22) For the Father judgeth no man; but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: (23) That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father; he that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father which hath sent him. (24) Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. (25) Verily, verily, I say unto you, 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. (26) For as the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; (27) And hath given him authority to execute judgement also, because he is the Son of man. (28) Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, (29) 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. (30) I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgement is just: because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. (31) If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true. (32) There is another that beareth witness of me, and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true. (33) Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth. (34) But I receive not testimony from man; but these things I say that ye might be saved. (35) He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light. (36) But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me that the Father hath sent me. (37) And the Father himself which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me, ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape. (38) And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not. (39) Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. (40) And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. (41) I receive not honour from men. (42) But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. (43) I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him will ye receive. (44) How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? (45) Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father; there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. (46) For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. (47) But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?

No doubt the poor man concluded, that the Jews would rejoice in the information that it was the Lord Jesus who had healed him. How little did he know of human nature! Very different is Christ's account. Verse 44, John 12:40 . Very different also the testimony of the Holy Ghost. 1 Corinthians 2:14 .

This precious discourse of Christ is in itself so very plain, that it can need no comment. I shall therefore only detain the Reader with a few short observations upon it, which under the divine teaching, may be made helpful, both to the Writer and Reader, in attending to some of its beauties.

And, first, I beg the Reader to remark with me, how blessedly our Lord insists upon his own eternal Power and Godhead; and with what indignation the Jews received it. That the Lord Jesus preached this grand momentous truth himself: and that the Jews understood it as such; is as plain and palpable a fact, as any in the Bible. And when they charged him with blasphemy, for so doing; the Lord confirms what he had said, with a double Amen: that is, His own most blessed name as the faithful and true witness. Revelation 3:14 . Reader! what an awful thought is it, that while Jesus asserts it, proves it, and confirms it; and the Jews actually brought him to the cross for it: (John 19:7 ) many who call themselves by his sacred name, deny it. Oh! the delusion of every mind untaught of God See John 10:20 .

Secondly: In this divine discourse of Jesus, we discover no less, how blessedly the Lord speaks in his Office-character, as God-Man Mediator. Reader! I pray you not only in this place, but in every part of our Lord's discourses, when speaking in similar language to what he here useth, to note it down as a very sweet, precious, and incontrovertible truth; that Jesus is thus to be considered in his twofold nature: God and Man, in one Person, Mediator. Hence, he saith: The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do. Hence Christ speaks of having life given to him in himself; as the Father hath life in himself. And hence he hath power and authority given to him to execute judgment, raise the dead, and to quicken whom he will. That all these things, and every other of a like nature, Christ thus exerciseth; are in his Office-character, as God-Man Mediator, is evident from hence: they could not be said of Him as God only; for as God, all were his own by right in common with the Father, and the Holy Ghost. Neither could they be said of Him as man only: for such powers as are said to be in the possession and exercise of Jesus as are here, and elsewhere described, are beyond all human excellency, unconnected with divine. But when considered, as Christ all along is, and must be considered, God, and man united, in One Person, every difficulty is removed.

Reader! pause over the sweet view. And though as our Lord told the Jews in this very Chapter, when speaking of his Father; as it may be said, and must be said, to every unregenerated sinner upon earth: Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape; yet every child of God, in whose heart God that commanded the light at the old creation of nature to shine out of darkness, hath shined in the new creation of grace, hath given the light of the knowledge, both of God's voice, and shape, in the face of Jesus Christ. For the invisibility of Jehovah, in his threefold nature of Person, is made known, as far as any revelation can be made known, in time and to all eternity, in the Person of the God-Man Christ Jesus. For all the glory of Jehovah capable of being manifested, is manifested in Him. And it is in this high character of God-Man Mediator, making known Jehovah, which Christ is here speaking of, through all, and in all, the departments of nature, providence, grace, and glory.

One word more on this blessed discourse of the Lord Jesus. As Jesus is here chiefly speaking in his Mediator-character, and the several glorious offices in which he is said here to act; as the giver of life, the quickener of dead and living, and the sole judge to whom all judgment is committed, are everyone of them His, by virtue of Covenant settlements: what an endearment of Christ's Person do they bring with them, to the hearts of all his people? Reader! do not fail to connect with those views of Christ, the interest which all his members have in them. As the head of his body the Church, the fullness that filleth all in all; he communicates all that is communicable of gifts, and graces, and royalties, and the whole members of his body, are made blessed in him and by him. As in this union of nature, he hath all power in heaven and earth; so is He at the head of all principality and power, both for the final destruction of his enemies, and the gathering together to himself his friends. Ephesians 1:10 . It is his, to have life in himself, and to communicate life to others. His to save, and his to destroy. His to keep from going down to the pit of hell; and his to cast into it. And what makes both the Person and the Power of Jesus so exceedingly dear, under all these, and every other, in his office-character, is, that all authority is given him to execute judgment; because he is the Son of Man. Not because he is the Son of God; for had this been the case, as hath been before observed, it was impossible as God he could have had any of these given him. But it was, and is, in his Mediator-character, God and Man, in one Person. Reader! never dismiss the sweet thought! He that is to be the final judge of quick and dead, is now, and will be then, the Church's Brother, Head, Surety, and Husband! Oh! the preciousness of those scriptures! See John 6:62 .--I must no longer trespass. May He of whom I speak, unveil all and every other of his gracious characters, to the heart.

Verse 47


Blessed Mediator! do thou still continue by thy Holy Spirit, to visit the Bethesdas of Ordinances, among thy people; and as in the instance of this poor man, the longest and most inveterate diseases, induced by the Adam-nature of out fallen state, will be done away, when Jesus speaks the soul-quickening, the health-restoring word, to his people.

I desire to praise thee my honored Lord, for this sweet and blessed discourse of thine, thou hast caused to be left on record; for the joy and consolation of thy Church. What the infidel and unbelieving Jews of old, and all of modern times, which they say are Christians, and are not, call blasphemy, all the regenerated family of Christ embrace, as from the faithful and true witness in his own testimony, when he said, I and my Father are One. And must it not be then as God the Father hath appointed, that all should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father? Oh! for grace to honor Jehovah, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, in, and through, and by the God-Man Christ Jesus. And do thou, dearest Lord, unceasingly bless and refresh my soul in the view of all thy powers, that they are thine, and thine to execute, because thou art the Son of Man.

Bibliographical Information
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on John 5". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pmc/john-5.html. 1828.
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