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Bible Commentaries
John 5

Harvey's Notes on the Gospel of JohnHarvey's Notes on John

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Verse 1

John 5:1

John simply called it a feast, so we cannot be certain which one it was. There were many feasts, perhaps some of which we don’t know of anymore.

The main three that required all Jewish males to attend were, the Passover Feast (Exodus 23:15, Numbers 9:5, Mark 14:1), Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:33-34), and the Feast of Pentecost (Acts 20:16, .. it was first called the Feast of Harvest -- Exodus 23:16 or the Day of the Firstfruits -- Numbers 28:26). Other official feasts included the Feast of Purim (Esther 9:20-22) (although Purim was observed locally and no pilgrimage to Jerusalem was required), and the Feast of Dedication (John 10:22).

It shouldn’t really matter which one it was, and John doesn’t clearly identify it. However, some scholars hold that if it wasn’t the Passover, Jesus’ ministry was actually a year shorter than the supposed three and a half years.

The first Passover during Jesus’ public ministry is spoken of in John 4:45 and John 2:13. This mention in John 5:1 would be the second Passover, thus one year had passed. We see the third Passover in John 6:4, now two years. Finally, we see the Last Supper in John 11:55.

Verse 2

John 5:2

There was no “sheep market” as rendered here in the KJV. Rather, it was a “sheep gate,” as seen in Nehemiah 3:1, Nehemiah 3:32, and Nehemiah 12:39. The gate was likely used to bring the animals to be slaughtered into the Temple Grounds. A porch was the covered vestibule before the gate or the entrance to the temple. There was the Sheep Gate vestibule, including the pool called Bethesda and Solomon’s Porch mentioned in John 10:23, Acts 3:11, and Acts 5:12. Bethesda had five porches.

Notice that John said, “Now there is,” thus dating the writing of his Gospel before the Roman destruction of Jerusalem by Titus’ four legions in 70 CE. Titus’ campaign completely sacked Jerusalem and utterly destroyed the temple. As a result of the pillage, the temple walls came down just as Jesus had prophesied they would (Matthew 24:2, Mark 13:2, Luke 19:44). For his victory, Titus was rewarded with the “Arch of Titus” which still stands today in Rome as a memorial to his triumph over the rebellious Jews.

Notice too that John identified the name “Bethesda” as a Hebrew word. Evidently, there were other names for it in different cultures.

Verse 3

John 5:3

With so many porches surrounding the pool, there was plenty of covered space to shield the handicapped from the elements.

Impotent means, those with disease.

Halt means, those that limp or a cripple.

John used the word “lay,” likely because those unable to walk would recline or lie around on the floors there.

Verse 4

John 5:4

This verse apparently was added to the KJV, because it was included in some lesser accepted scrolls, and it enhances the background for John 5:7. Some versions (e.g., NIV, CEV, GNB ... just to name a few) leave this verse out entirely. Still, others put it into italics to separate it from fully accepted text (e.g., the ASV and ESV). However, whether it was an angel or a bubbling spring makes no difference to the actual healing. In some way or other, the water was stirred up, and the man watched for the movement in the water.

Interestingly, we know what season it was. It was Passover time. Why would he say, “a certain season,” as though he didn’t clearly know what time? John wasn’t referring to the time of year then, but to a period of time when the angel would do this. Perhaps he used the word “went,” in the past tense, to indicate that by the time of this writing, likely not long before Titus destroyed the temple (see notes on John 5:2), the angel had already ceased doing it.

Perhaps, the angel came every year as an answer to the invalid’s prayers these last thirty-eight years. Once the man had been healed, the season for the angel’s work at Bethesda was ended. Perhaps the entire thing was for him, but he never saw it. He was stuck in his misery, and he thought it was other people’s fault (John 5:7).

It is also interesting, if indeed it was an angel, that an angel appears to have healing powers that can flow through hisher works.

Verse 5

John 5:5

From John 5:4 and John 5:7, it appears that the angel had done this repeatedly. In this verse we learn that the man had been plagued by his condition for thirty-eight years. Jesus’ entire time on Earth as a man was less than the time this man had wasted. Had he lain by the pool all that time? In thirty-eight years, had he never came up with a plan to get into the pool while the waters were troubled? After so long a period, why could he not have wiggled his way somehow to the water’s edge? When the waters were suddenly troubled, he could then have rolled or slid in. There would have been two possible outcomes. He would have been healed or drowned. Either way, he would have acted on faith and plunged into the hands of God.

It isn’t suicide, if you act on faith, and according to His will, believing God will either save you or bring you to Himself. Many times missionaries have done the same.

Sometimes we can feel as though God doesn’t care, and that we are on our own to deal with our weaknesses, but the Lord does care, and we are not alone. In His own good time, our faith is always answered with His power to save. He will take our mess, and through age (time), it becomes a message.

Don’t judge the impotent man to harshly though. We all have wasted years, much more time than we should’ve wasted, on doing things that didn’t work for us. We all have been unwilling to alter our plans. We all have tried to seek methods in the physical world to heal our carnal conditions. We all strained by the troubled pools in our lives struggling to find a way out of our predicament. Hopefully, sooner rather than later, we all come to realize what this man discovered... Jesus is the way (John 14:6)!

Verse 6

John 5:6

The Lord knows what you are going through. He sees you and the mess you are in. He knows how long it has been that way too. But, in your darkest time, he shines the light of hope. He wonders how long you will suffer without seeking His help, or use the help He has already provided. Sometimes though, we become so focused on our plight that we don’t see the answer.

This man had a plan. He thought that if he’d only get someone to help him to the water He’d be healed. He became convinced that his only answer was in the person that never came. Through his perpetual and unfruitful search, he missed an alternative... get to the water another way. His plan was the only one he ever pursued. Consequently, he was still in his mess after thirty-eight years.

Is it any wonder then that Jesus asked him, “Do you want to be made well?” Be willing to consider that there may be another way. Don’t settle for living with your weaknesses, when God may have a better way.

If he had only gotten into the water, he would’ve been healed long ago (see the note on John 5:4).

Verse 7

John 5:7

There we have it: still with his plan. He knew it so well. It had been on his mind the whole time. He didn’t hesitate to share his plan with anyone either. See how quickly he retold his plan to the Master.

Although his plan hasn’t ever paid off for him, he was obviously convinced that it was his only answer. However, he had excuses as to why his plan hadn’t worked yet. It was other people’s fault. “Oh, look how poor and pitiful I am.” He had no one to help. Since no one cared, how would he ever get to the provision of God?

Do you see a provision from God that if you can only find a way to get to it your needs will be met? Does it seem that anytime you get close to your goal someone always gets there ahead of you? Do you see other people walking away with what you wish could be the blessing for your life? Is your plan working for you?

Perhaps your way is in the way of God’s way.

Verse 8

John 5:8

Jesus ignored his complaints. Jesus doesn’t respond to the man’s attempt to draw pity from someone capable of fulfilling his plan. Instead, the Lord presented an alternative plan. The man thought the answer was to have someone else help him to get into the water where he could be helped. The man’s plan was more complicated and involved several steps to work out. Jesus’ plan was to simply get up and take some actual steps. The man’s plan required water from the pool. Jesus was about to give him living water right where he was. In Jesus’ plan, the man can be healed: right there... right then.

The man wanted someone to help him. Jesus always requires something from us (Matthew 7:7,Matthew 12:13, John 9:7). In this case, Jesus required that the man exhibit faith by attempting to rise first. Then, the man must pick up the signs of his mess (the bed he was lying on). Finally, the man must take a great leap of faith and begin taking the first steps in his new journey as a man with a message.

Verse 9

John 5:9

Thirty-eight years had been suddenly reduced to “immediately.” It wasn’t partial: it was “whole” or complete. All of the wasted years can be immediately reversed when you have an encounter with Jesus. What once was missing is made complete. What was broken is now healed. What was lame now works like new.

This man wasn’t just lame in body. The way he existed was lame. It all seemed impossible to the impotent man, but the Lord can take your impossible and do an “immediately.” The man lacked direction: then he met Jesus. Now he follows the new direction to the letter... as we all should. By following the word of the Lord, he became healed (“and walked”).

Despite all the time you’ve spent wasted beside the pools in your life... those holes filled with only trouble from which you saw both salvation and death... His word brings your freedom from the curse and release from the bondage.

This Sabbath day marked not only the end of the week, but the end of his long weakness. What a gift! He received rest from his long test on the day of rest. Should it not be so?

Verse 10

John 5:10

Leave it to the religious people to complain about your actions, when all you are doing is what the Lord told you to do. Their criticisms are founded in what amounts to their private interpretation of the Lord’s command to keep the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11, Exodus 31:12-17, Isaiah 58:13). In particularly, they are referencing the command to bear no burden on the Sabbath (Jeremiah 17:21).

So, did the King break His own law? Jesus had only violated the Jews’ understanding and implementation of the Law. There are a couple of significant points Jesus made in Mark 2:23-27 where we see how Jesus clarified the law regarding the Sabbath:

1. The Sabbath was made for man ... not man for the Sabbath.

It is for him to enjoy. It is a period of rest from daily toil and struggles. Look at Mark 2:27. The Sabbath was not intended to be more important than the man’s needs or to reign over him. It was intended only to meet man’s need of rest (Exodus 23:12).

Abraham Maslow developed a significant theory in psychology called Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in a 1943 paper entitled “A Theory of Human Motivation.” Although Maslow’s theory was humanistic, in that its focus was towards the importance of self, the basic premise is relevant to the study of the Gospel. Why do I say that?

Maslow essentially said that if the lower needs or the most base of needs were not met, then people are less concerned about the higher needs. People seek to meet their needs according to priority, and priority is given to the most basic of needs first. Jesus identified this principle of need hierarchy nearly 2000 years before Maslow did. How can one who has just come to the Lord choose to focus on a study of Greek and thus increase in knowledge of New Testament meaning, when heshe is faced with the more base of need... learn more about Jesus? More to the point … how can one concentrate on studies in the scripture, if heshe is exhausted and is in need of rest? The Sabbath was made so that man would get one of his most basic needs, the need for rest, met.

2. Don’t be bound up in law.

In Mark 2:25, Jesus pointed out that there are times when we have needs that must be met, even on the Sabbath (Luke 6:9). The Jews (see notes on John 1:19) were trying to keep the law at all costs, but they had become bound up in it. How can one be at rest while he is suffering from hunger? How can one be in the right by keeping the Sabbath but leaving a mess (the impotent man’s bed) for others to clean up later? We shouldn’t be bound up in law. We are free from the law (Galatians 3:23-25).

We Christians still can get bound up in these old laws too. Not only that, some of us create new laws for ourselves. We are told in scripture, for example, to thank the Lord for our food (1 Timothy 4:4). Is this then reason enough to feel compelled to ritually and religiously pray before every meal? Why can’t you sometimes include in your morning prayers a request that the Lord bless everything you will eat that day and thank Him for His many blessings in your life? Instead though, we submit ourselves to the new law that a meal must be prayed over directly before eating it.

Another example would be someone committing to reading a chapter a day from the Bible. If the chapter is not read today, the person feels guilty. The devil comes with thoughts of condemnation. The person feels as though they have disappointed God. Such a person has made reading the Bible a law for themselves, and they are now in regret for breaking it.

However, we must remember that our “goodness” will never be good enough (Isaiah 64:6). If we could get or keep our salvation through any effort of our own, then Jesus didn’t need to die. What Jesus set free is indeed free (John 8:36)! Stop allowing yourself to be placed in bondage again... even to what seems as good laws (Galatians 5:18). Be free from the law, but be a prisoner to Christ (2 Timothy 1:8). Make Him Lord of your life. Walk in newness of life that has been redeemed from the law (Romans 6:4, Romans 7:6). Live the kind of abundant life Jesus came to give you (John 10:10).

Verse 11

John 5:11

Yes, it was part of the three step command that the one who had the power to do this great work had given him; rise, walk, and pick up the bed (John 5:8). If after being told to rise he indeed was able at last to do so, why would he then not adhere to the next thing he was told to do? Rise is one thing, but being able to walk would be incredible for this man. Between rising and walking though, was the command, “pick up your bed.” He did pick up his bed, and it appears he didn’t put it down very soon either. He carried it around for a while... walking ... as the Master had instructed him. It was as if he might have thought, “If I put this bedding down, will the magic stop?”

Verse 12

John 5:12

Who is at fault? Who is the one we can blame? Why would a healer have told the man to break the Sabbath? The Jews (see notes on John 1:19) had questions spurred by one initial concern; the Sabbath was broken. However their concern led to a line of premises based on their faulty initial thought, and their reasoning went something like this:

1. The miracle worker performed this thing on the Sabbath, thus breaking it in their view.

2. The miracle worker told the formerly impotent man to break the Sabbath as well.

3. Someone capable of working miracles had shown no value in keeping the Sabbath, which is a law of God.

4. Breaking the law of God is sin.

5. Someone “sinned” against God and performed a miracle at the same time.

6. The miracle must not be of God.

7. The miracle worker must’ve gained his power from the devil (Matthew 9:34, Matthew 12:24, Mark 3:22, Luke 11:15), which is an enemy of God.

8. The miracle worker must be in agreement with the devil and an enemy of God.

9. We Jews are friends of God, and any enemy of God is an enemy of ours.

10. We will defend our faith and fight our enemies.

11. The miracle worker must be fought.

This last premise leads the Jews ultimately up Golgotha’s hill to stop this enemy of God from warring against God’s people and their faith (John 5:16).

Verse 13

John 5:13

Jesus hadn’t told the man His name, but had simply left the pool area. He was able to disappear from view into the multitude of sick people there (John 5:3).

Verse 14

John 5:14

Did Jesus find him or meet up with him?

The word for “findeth” in the Greek is heurisko G2147, pronounced hyoo-ris’-ko, and it means, “to find (literally or figuratively): - find, get, obtain, perceive, see.” Thayer’s Greek Definitions said that “found” can be used both ways, to seek something out and find it (Matthew 2:8), or to find something without seeking as if by chance (Matthew 27:32).

John didn’t make a clear distinction as to whether Christ sought the healed man out or simply ran into him again inside the temple grounds. Would it matter? Is there even any theological point to be garnered from the difference?

One could say that Jesus had knowledge of things in a supernatural way. With His gifted insights, especially into the hearts of men (Matthew 9:4, Mark 2:8, Mark 3:5, Luke 5:22, Luke 16:15, & Luke 24:38), He’d likely not require a search, but would instead go directly to the individual. In such a case, John would have meant that Jesus came in unplanned contact with the man again, that is, Jesus found him without seeking him out. However, still others might contend that nothing Jesus did or said was unplanned or without purpose. Therefore this meeting was not by chance either.

The two points of view can be easily reconciled. Jesus knew where to find him and found him right where he expected the man to be. Why do we Christians seek to separate ourselves over issues that pale in comparison to the things that we should hold in common? We should concentrate on Jesus and how He crucified for us and that He arose from the dead giving us hope and newness of life.

The second part of this verse is significant for doctrinal considerations. Jesus tells the healed man to stop sinning and that if he doesn’t; something worse might happen to him. Obviously in this case, the man’s condition was a result or punishment for his sin. Not all illnesses are a result of sin (John 9:3), but we can, and do at times, pay a price in our own bodies for the choices we make (Psalms 34:12-13, Proverbs 13:22, Proverbs 14:30, Proverbs 20:7, Isaiah 3:11, Galatians 6:7).

Can we really stop sinning though? We can stop sinning on purpose and stop blatantly disobeying God as the rebellious do. We are free, because Jesus set us free (John 8:36), but our freedom should not be squandered as though we are ungrateful children (Romans 6:1-2, Romans 6:15, 1 Corinthians 6:15, Hebrews 10:29).

Joseph H. Thayer, Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Coded with Strong’s Concordance Numbers (Hendrickson Publishers; Rei Sub edition, 1996),.

Verse 15

John 5:15

Somehow, and John didn’t make it plain, the man had found out Jesus’ name. However, John makes it sound that as soon as the healed man left Jesus, he went straight to the Jews (see notes on John 1:19) with the information they had been seeking. Perhaps, he thought he might have been seen with Jesus again and this second meeting would get back to the Jews. To avoid further complications for himself, he simply went to tell them what he had found out ASAP.

Why do we worry about what other people will think, when it comes to our relationship with Jesus?

Have you ever been persecuted, because of your relationship with Christ? If not, is anyone aware that you know the Lord? Do you keep it hidden from view (Luke 11:33)? Be proud of this one thing... you know Jesus (Luke 9:26).

Verse 16

John 5:16

This verse tells us the reason why the Jews (see notes on John 1:19) began to oppose Jesus and planned to have Him killed. Although Jesus only said and did what the Father told Him to say and do (see notes on John 12:49-50), the persecution started, because Jesus had acted contrary to their standards (see notes on John 5:12). The devil strives against the plans of God through the persecution of those that obey God (see notes on John 15:20).

Verse 17

John 5:17

The Jews understood that Jesus was talking about Father God (John 5:18). It was as if He were asking them to consider whether our Father in Heaven rests in honor of their Sabbath (Mark 2:27). Our Heavenly Father works (see notes on John 5:19), and Jesus is always about doing the work of the Father (Luke 2:49, John 9:4, Matthew 10:29).

Verse 18

John 5:18

Look at how they understood Jesus spoke of our Father in Heaven and not Joseph.

If a man was to say he was equal with God, the man would be guilty of blasphemy, because such a statement would blast against the qualities, attributes, and persona of God who is far beyond mortal man’s goodness. Those guilty of blasphemy, under the mosaic system the Jewish people lived by, would be put to death (Leviticus 24:16).

Verse 19

John 5:19

The Father never dwelt on the Earth, nor did He go about telling people to get up. What did Jesus mean? He hearkens back to John 5:17; doing divine work. What did Jesus do to this man that was impotent? He challenged a person’s assumptions. He healed, via a miracle. He preached abstinence from sin. He set this man free. He gave the man not only a whole body but a new direction in life as well. He was out and about doing good works (see Acts 10:38).

So, Jesus did good works (John 9:4, John 12:49, John 14:20, John 10:30, John 17:21), as does the Father (John 14:10, John 10:32), but He is saying more than that too. He is also saying that the Father is His source of not only power, but revelation and information as well (Proverbs 8:22-31, John 5:20). Jesus did His Father’s business (Luke 2:49).

Verse 20

John 5:20

Jesus’ declaration of the Father’s love towards Christ (John 3:35, John 17:26) echoed what the Father had publicly stated (Matthew 3:17, Matthew 17:5, Mark 1:11, Mark 9:7; Luke 3:22, Luke 9:35). Having established the close relationship Jesus has with the Father, He added that the Father reveals everything to the Son (see notes on John 5:19). Through acting upon those revelations, Jesus had already shown many miracles, signs and works thus far in His ministry.

Jesus said however, there would yet be “greater works” performed. What did He mean? Did Jesus mean healing on the Sabbath? No, what did He mean then? He meant … raise the dead (John 5:21) and quicken spirits (Ephesians 2:1). Salvation is the greatest work of all (Hebrews 2:3, Hebrews 5:9, Hebrews 7:25).

Verse 21

John 5:21

“Quickeneth” comes from the Greek word zoopoeo G2227, pronounced dzo-op-oy-eh’-o, and it means, “to revitalize (literally or figuratively): - make alive, give life, quicken.” Thayer said it meant, “… to cause to live, make alive, give life... by spiritual power to arouse and invigorate.”

God has said He can and He will raise people that are dead back to life again (Deuteronomy 32:39).

Jesus spoke of the Father’s work in the resurrection of physical life through the ministry of His prophets (Elijah raised the widow of Sarepta’s son in 1 Kings 17:21-22, and Elisha’s ministry was used to raise the Shunamite’s son in 2 Kings 4:32-35, or look at what the Lord did through Ezekiel in Ezekiel 37:1-10). Then He added that His ministry, His work, is focused towards bringing people back to life spiritually (John 11:25, 1 Corinthians 15:45, Ephesians 2:1). Jesus told us in another place that the physical is not as important as the spiritual in the eternal scheme of things (Matthew 10:28).

Although, up to this point, Jesus’ ministry has not actually been used to raise the dead again to physical life, by His statement in this verse, He made it obvious that He believed He could raise them not only to spiritual life but to physical life as well. He indeed claimed Himself, in regards to resurrection power then, to be equal with God, the Father. See notes on John 5:24 about spiritual life compared to physical life.

Later, He performed an actual resurrection (John 11:43-44). Other resurrection events included, Luke 7:14-15, & Luke 8:54-55.

Verse 22

John 5:22

The Father has given Jesus the right to judge everything (Matthew 16:27, Romans 2:16, 2 Corinthians 5:10, 2 Timothy 4:1, Revelation 20:12). See also the notes on John 3:35.

Verse 23

John 5:23

Yes, we should honor the Son as we do the Father, seeing that all things have been given over to the Son, including our judgment (see note on John 5:22 and John 3:35). Jesus is now over all things (Psalms 8:6), by the will of the Father (1 Corinthians 15:27). The Father has exalted Him (Philippians 2:9), so to not honor the Son is to show disrespect towards the Father that gave such glory to the Son.

Verse 24

John 5:24

Jesus gave His Gospel in a short but clear statement. Anyone who listens and gives attention to what Jesus has said as though it were all true, and then acts on the knowledge he gains from exposure to the Word and actually submits to God as Lord of their lives (see notes on John 3:15) has everlasting life and will not be condemned but shall be passed from eternal death to eternal life (John 3:16).

That is not to say, however, that Christians will not physically die. Everyone will perish. The Bible says in Hebrews 9:27 that each of us is appointed a time to die. So, when Jesus said believers will “not perish” (John 3:16), He didn’t mean that we won’t physically die. He was speaking of a spiritual death. Jesus was speaking of what he termed in Revelation 21:8 the second death. It is a “second death,” because we are all sinners (Romans 3:23), and sinners are spiritually dead (Romans 5:12).

Now “everlasting life” or “eternal life” does not mean existing in conscious perception of surroundings and cognitive functionality, such as we have here in this physical life, forever. For all of us, both the born-again (John 3:3) and the lost shall have life-like abilities forever (Philippians 3:21). Life-like, because, after physical death and resurrection, all of us shall never cease to exist in the spiritual realm (1 Corinthians 15:42-44).

What then does all of this mean? Both the saved and the lost will experience sensations and have emotional feelings and bring things to remembrance and be able to move about (Luke 16:22-31). However, the eternity for those that are lost will be filled with evil and hate and pain and anguish (Matthew 13:42, Matthew 24:51, Mark 9:45, Revelation 14:10-11) and limited movement (Isaiah 24:22), and the condemned will go to their eternal hell hole (Proverbs 9:18, Isaiah 14:15, 2 Peter 2:4-9, Revelation 21:8) separated from God forever (Deuteronomy 31:17, Isaiah 59:2, Matthew 8:11-12, Luke 13:28, Matthew 13:50, Matthew 22:13, Matthew 25:30).

Separation from God is spiritual death. Eternal separation from God is Eternal Death. So then, spiritual life is unification with God, and “Eternal Life” is being together with God for eternity (Romans 6:23, 1 John 2:25, 1 John 5:11-13). Since everyone will live forever, the question is; where will you spend eternity?

Verse 25

John 5:25

Jesus spoke here of the resurrection of all the dead, but also of isolated resurrections such as that which was done for His friend Lazarus of Bethany (John 11:38-44). In that event, Jesus said, “Lazarus come forth.” Had He not specified Lazarus, might all of the dead in all the Earth have resurrected? For the dead hear His voice (John 5:28).

Notice the comparison that Jesus made. He said in this verse that when the physically dead hear His voice saying, “live again” they are brought back to physical life ... their spirits no longer separated from their bodies. In John 5:24, He had said that when the spiritually dead hear His voice (the Word) they are born again into spiritual life... their spirits no longer separated from God (Ephesians 5:14).

This is truly good news. Since we are no longer separated from God, we can have the power to change through God. It means we no longer have to wander the Earth as spiritual zombies with no clear direction in life. We were dead in our sins and didn’t know how terrible our existence was. We hurt ourselves and others. We made messes everywhere we went. We caused pain and misery and destruction, but Jesus changes everything. Now, we can see. Now, we understand. Now, our existence brings a new day, every day, in which we grow closer to what God wants us to be. Without Him, we are the walking dead. With Him we are born again into newness of life.

See notes on John 5:24 about spiritual life compared to physical life. See the following verses for more on the resurrection: Job 19:25-26, Isaiah 26:19, Hosea 13:14, John 11:24-26, 1 Corinthians 15:22, 1 Corinthians 15:42-54, Philippians 3:21, 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17.

Verse 26

John 5:26

God is the “Living God” (Psalms 42:2, Jeremiah 10:10, 1 Thessalonians 1:9). He is not some inanimate idol crafted by the hands of some human. Additionally, He owes His life to nothing else. He is Himself the source of all life (Acts 17:25).

Jesus is the Son of the Living God (Matthew 16:16), and He has within Him eternal life (John 1:4). We believers are also the children of the Living God (Romans 9:26), and have become the “temple of the Living God” (2 Corinthians 6:16). Therefore, we can be free from our past, which was an existence of death and decay, and become born again (John 3:3) to serve the Living God (Hebrews 9:14).

See also: Psalms 36:9, John 14:6, John 17:3, Colossians 3:4, 1 John 1:1-3.

Verse 27

John 5:27

See notes on John 5:22 and compare Daniel 7:13-14.

Verse 28

John 5:28

See notes on John 5:21, John 5:22, and John 5:25.

Why would Jesus say this same thing again? Perhaps so great was their amazement at what He was saying, He ensured that the message was clear.

See also the notes on John 11:43.

Verse 29

John 5:29

Everyone will be resurrected (Acts 24:15). The “just” will be resurrected to eternal spiritual life (connected with God), and the “unjust” will be resurrected to eternal spiritual death (separated from God). We will be rewarded for coming to Christ with eternal life with Him, and many will be punished for sin outside of Christ with damnation in hell (Daniel 12:2-3, Romans 2:6-10, Galatians 6:7-10). There will be a reckoning (Job 34:11, Ecclesiastes 12:14, Psalms 62:12, Isaiah 3:10-11, Jeremiah 17:10, Ezekiel 18:30, Matthew 12:36, Luke 16:2, 2 Corinthians 5:10, Revelation 20:12).

See notes on John 5:24.

Verse 30

John 5:30

Everything that Jesus did was directed by the Father (John 5:19, John 8:28, John 14:10). The Father in Heaven would give Him direction, and Jesus would do accordingly (John 6:38 John 12:49, John 14:10).

Verse 31

John 5:31

According to the Mosaic Law, everything should be established through two or three witnesses (Deuteronomy 17:6). If there was only the word of one, the testimony could be rejected as being claims without verification (John 8:13).

However, Jesus was not alone (John 8:16) in His testimony (see notes on John 8:14). The Father bears witness with Him and backs up what He says (John 5:32). Likewise, when we witness to others, we are not alone (Deuteronomy 31:6, 1 Samuel 12:22, Isaiah 41:10, Isaiah 41:17, Hebrews 13:5).

Verse 32

John 5:32

God, the Father, agrees with God, the Son (see notes on John 5:31), and God does not lie (Numbers 23:19, 1 Samuel 15:29, Habakkuk 2:3, Titus 1:2, Hebrews 6:18). Therefore, what the Son says is true also (Matthew 22:16, John 8:14, John 8:26, John 12:50).

Verse 33

John 5:33

The Jews had sent a delegation to inquire of John the Baptist about his calling and purpose (John 1:19-30), and he had clearly said he wasn’t the Christ.

Verse 34

John 5:34

Although John the Baptist testified about the mission and significance of Jesus (John 1:15, John 1:19-37), our Lord didn’t require any human’s approval or endorsement (John 7:29, John 8:14, John 10:30, John 17:11). Any other verification of Jesus’ divinity (Matthew 8:29, Matthew 14:33, Matthew 27:54, Mark 3:11, Mark 15:39, Luke 1:35, Luke 4:41, Luke 8:28, Luke 22:70, John 1:34, John 1:49, John 11:27), or His message (see notes on John 12:50), paled in comparison to the acknowledgement He had already received from God, the Father (Matthew 3:17, Mark 1:11, Luke 3:22, John 1:32-33).

The gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord was true and is true, and His words will continue to prove true regardless of whether we accept them or not. What Jesus said to us was only told to us in order that we might believe (see notes on John 3:15-16) and be saved (Matthew 1:21, Matthew 18:11, Mark 16:16, Luke 8:12, Luke 9:56, Luke 19:10, John 3:17, John 5:34, John 10:9, John 12:47).

Verse 35

John 5:35

Jesus called John the Baptist “a burning and a shining light,” but we all are called to be lights in the darkness of this world (Matthew 5:14, John 12:36, Acts 13:47, Acts 26:17-18, Ephesians 5:8-14, Philippians 2:15, 1 Thessalonians 5:5-9). Those in darkness were glad to see John’s light and hear the truth, but Jesus is a greater light (Isaiah 9:2, Isaiah 60:1-3, Matthew 4:12-17, Luke 1:78-79, Luke 2:30-32, John 1:4-9, John 3:19, John 8:12, John 9:5, John 12:35, John 12:46, Acts 26:23, 2 Peter 1:19, Revelation 22:16), and He is the truth (John 14:6, 1 John 5:20).

Verse 36

John 5:36

God, the Father had already testified and borne witness on Jesus’ behalf (Matthew 3:17, Mark 1:11, Luke 3:22, John 1:32-33), but the works Jesus did also served as testimony of His calling (John 10:37-38, John 14:11). The works of Jesus were important to all of us. Everything the Father had given Jesus to do would be finished (John 4:34, John 19:30), and that finished work changed the world and saved the lost.

Verse 37

John 5:37

Jesus was not alone in His ministry (see notes on John 5:31-32, John 5:34, John 5:36) and His calling and divinity were firmly established directly from the mouth of God, the Father (Matthew 3:17, Matthew 17:5, Mark 1:11, Mark 9:7, Luke 3:22, Luke 9:35, John 1:32-33). However, the Jewish leadership, evil enough to plot Jesus’ death (Matthew 12:14, Mark 3:6, John 5:16-18, John 7:25, John 10:31-39, John 11:53), had been unwilling to hear the voice of the Lord (Matthew 11:15, Matthew 13:9, Matthew 13:43, Mark 7:16, Revelation 13:9). They were not only deaf to God, they were blind as well (Matthew 15:14, Matthew 23:16-26, Luke 6:39, John 9:39-41).

Verse 38

John 5:38

If anyone has not believed and received the word of God (Jeremiah 6:16-17, Jeremiah 8:9, Jeremiah 43:1-2, Jeremiah 44:16, Ezekiel 33:31, Matthew 7:24-27, Mark 4:16-20, Luke 6:43-49, Luke 8:11-15, Hebrews 4:2, James 1:22-24), they cannot abide in the word. For those that do abide in the word of God (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Deuteronomy 11:18, Deuteronomy 30:14, Joshua 1:8, Psalms 1:2, Psalms 119:1-176, Proverbs 4:4, John 8:31-32), His words are abiding in them (Jeremiah 15:16, Jeremiah 20:9, John 5:46-47, John 15:3-10, Colossians 3:16, 1 John 2:24-28). His word (John 1:14) abides in the hearts (Proverbs 3:1, Jeremiah 31:33, Hebrews 8:10, Hebrews 10:16) of those that believe and receive it (2 Kings 23:3, 2 Chronicles 34:31, Proverbs 2:1-5, Ezekiel 3:10, Luke 8:21, Luke 11:28, Romans 10:17, James 1:21, 1 John 2:14), but rejection of the word of God is rejection of God (Jeremiah 13:10, John 1:1, John 8:37, John 8:47).

Verse 39

John 5:39

Jesus told the Jews (see notes on John 1:19), that He knew how zealous they were about studying the word (Ecclesiastes 12:12, 2 Timothy 3:7), but searching the word for proof of your beliefs doesn’t constitute abiding in the word (Mark 12:24, see notes on John 5:38). Moreover, relying on one’s own understanding (Proverbs 3:5) of the word isn’t faith and acceptance of the word’s validity to lead one’s life (Psalms 119:1-176, Proverbs 3:6, Romans 15:4, Hebrews 4:12).

Those that truly abide in the word of God realize how the scriptures point to Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). Through His Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9, Romans 14:17, Romans 15:13, 2 Corinthians 6:6, Hebrews 3:7, Judges 1:20), from whom we have the inspired word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17, 2 Peter 1:19-21), we are led (John 14:26, John 16:13, 1 Corinthians 2:10-13, 1 John 2:27) to change (Romans 12:1-2, Galatians 5:22-23, Ephesians 5:26, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4, Titus 3:5) and be lights to the world (Matthew 5:14, John 12:36, Romans 2:19-20, Ephesians 5:8-10, Philippians 2:15).

Verse 40

John 5:40

If they had allowed themselves to be led by the Holy Spirit as they read the word, they would have been able to perceive that Jesus is the Christ (see notes on John 5:39). Having understood the significance of Jesus’ anointing (Acts 10:38), they might have come to Him as Nicodemus (John 3:1-21) and others (Matthew 19:16, Mark 10:17, Luke 18:18) had done. From Him we receive eternal life (John 3:15-17, John 6:54, John 6:68, John 10:28, John 17:2, Romans 5:21, Romans 6:23, 1 John 5:11-13, Judges 1:21).

Verse 41

John 5:41

Jesus didn’t require any person other than God to testify on His behalf (see notes on John 5:34), and He only wanted glory (John 6:15, John 7:18, John 8:50) from the Father (John 7:18, John 8:54, John 13:31-32, John 17:1-5, 2 Peter 1:17).

Verse 42

John 5:42

Sin is the mistake of violating the law, that is, the breaking of God’s commandments (1 Corinthians 15:56, 1 John 3:4). If sins were weighted, their sin is the most grievous of error; in that they broke what Jesus said was the greatest commandment of all (Matthew 22:37-38). Since it is so important to love God, let us examine the commandment in detail that we might grow in understanding of it.

First note that the commandment is given, unlike what we typically think in terms of God’s commandments, in the positive. Instead of “thou shalt not,” He says, “Thou shalt.” We know what we shouldn’t do. We shouldn’t kill, we shouldn’t steal, we shouldn’t lie and so forth. What should we do then? Love! We should love. Love whom?

First, we should love God. How much should we love Him? Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. Notice He didn’t say, “… with all your heart, soul, and mind.” He could’ve said that. It would’ve told us what, on the surface, we see He wants us to know. He didn’t make it short and sweet though. He purposefully separated each element He wanted to highlight so that we would make a clear distinction between them.

This matter is so important to God that He had said it before. Jesus was repeating a similar passage from the Old Testament found in Deuteronomy 6:5. Seeing then that each element He addressed is important to Him, let’s make the same distinction in our meditation upon this verse and study each of them separately.


What is “heart?” The word “heart,” as used in Matthew 22:37, is translated from the Greek word, Kardia G2588, pronounced kar-dee’-ah, and it means, “(figuratively) the thoughts or feelings (mind); also (by analogy) the middle:” In Deuteronomy 6:5, the Hebrew word used for “heart” was lebab H3824, pronounced lay-bawb’, and it means, “the heart (as the most interior organ).” Sometimes in scripture the words “heart” and “mind” are used interchangeably. Here Jesus uses both, so the use of the word kardia isn’t referring to the mind. Rather to the center of our being (as in the verse from Deuteronomy He was quoting).

In other words, we should love God to our core, and He should matter most to us. He should be our paramount value. We should be willing to invest all of our feelings and what we care most about in our relationship with Him. We have a lot of things in our hearts, and it isn’t just an empty place where we have one thing at a time. It is a reservoir of thoughts and feelings we have collected over the years we have lived (Matthew 12:34-35, Luke 6:45).

We value what we have collected there, and they become parts of our “treasure” we store up. Occasionally, we visit the treasure pile and we dig around in it. We pull a thing out of it, and we remember it for a while. Then we put it away back into our collection, because we want to keep it. In Matthew 22:37-38, however, Jesus tells us that your love for Him should fill up your treasure house of thoughts and feelings. Love God “with all your heart.”


The word “soul” is translated from the Greek word, psuche G5590, pronounced psoo-kay’ and it means, “breath, that is, (by implication) spirit” (the Hebrew word for soul H5315 used in Deuteronomy 6:5 means the same thing), “abstractly or concretely (the animal sentient principle only;” Sentient means to have the power of sensation, perception, and consciousness, to have and discern feelings. The heart is where we store them, but the soul is the reason we can get them in the first place.

Some people get spirit and soul confused. Now it sounds confusing, but we know that we are three part beings; body, soul, and spirit because we see a clear distinction between all three parts in 1 Thessalonians 5:23. The soul and the spirit are as much two separate things as are the body and soul. We also know that the spirit and soul are joined, but they can be separated as we see in Hebrews 4:12.

Seeing then that they can be separate, they must be two different things and not synonyms for the same substance. That is why the Lord listed each of the items; the heart (or core of whom we are) and the soul (the breath of God that made us a living creature).

So far then we have the core of our being, with all of our feelings and emotions, and the very fact that we are alive. We are to love Him with everything that makes us who we are. To further support the principle of complete and total love for the Father, Jesus adds, “mind.”


The word “mind” is translated from the Greek word, dianoia G1271, pronounced dee-an’-oy-ah’ and it means, “deep thought, properly the faculty (mind or its disposition), by implication its exercise: - imagination, mind, understanding.”

Entire books have been written about the mind and its role in the Christian life. For the sake of focus, suffice it enough here to say that the mind is where the devil attacks (2 Corinthians 10:5). After coming to Christ, our minds still need cleaned up (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4, Romans 12:2, Titus 1:15, Hebrews 12:3).


Now, Mark’s account gives us an additional word ... Strength (Mark 12:30). Strength was translated from the Greek word “ischus G2479,” pronounced is-khoos’, and it means, “force, forcefulness, ability, might, power.”

So, we got the;

Heart = the reservoir of thoughts & feelings at our Core.

Soul = the Power to discern and process thoughts and feelings. In other words, it is consciousness and cognitive signs of physical life. It is the breath of God breathed into mortal man (Genesis 2:7). The soul is tied to our spirit (Hebrews 4:12) by God. Therefore, even though we ultimately physically die, our consciousness and cognitive abilities go with us into eternity after death. The breath of God making us each a living soul is a gift from God, and God doesn’t take back the gifts He gives us (Romans 11:29). We are assured that, our signs of life here will be equally evident there.

Mind = imaginative creativity and understanding beyond, or not merely, living or existing. The mind is more than brain waves as a sign of life. It is the ability to appreciate God.

Strength = the state of being strong and able. Having strength is an important distinction. You see, we may have thoughts and feelings stored up in our kardia, we may still be alive, and our minds may still have the creative power and discernment they always have had, but we could be in a coma and not have the strength to use it all physically.


To have the love of God in us, to love God completely, we must love Him with all that we are. Jesus mentioned four parts of us that He obviously wanted to draw our attention to. How do these four parts Jesus spoke of work together to make us who we are?

We take in information into our hearts (not the organ, but the reservoir). There we store it, and what we’ve stored there affects us. We have emotional connections to the information. We feel things as a result of meditating on them too. The affects are more than emotional though, they are spiritual as well and they come out into the physical world affecting us and others through what we say (Proverbs 18:21, James 1:26, James 3:5-8, 1 Peter 3:10).

The question is ... what are you storing up into your heart? What are you allowing inside you that will affect your thought life and lead to speaking and doing evil? From Proverbs 23:7 we see that where the mind goes the body follows. We will end up acting out what we previously contemplated and meditated upon.

As Christians, all new information we encounter must be passed through the filter of Christ before allowed entry into our hearts (2 Peter 1:19, Isaiah 8:20, Acts 17:11, 2 Timothy 3:15-17, Psalms 19:7-8, Psalms 119:105, Psalms 119:130, Proverbs 6:23, Proverbs 9:4-6, Jeremiah 8:9, Ephesians 5:13, Romans 16:18-19). Any new data not in agreement with the Word must be rejected and discarded as corrupt, false, misleading, guile, or heresy.

We are living souls. That is, we breathe, we exist. As a living creature, we have been given the ability to deal with the things we come across and store up feelings associated with them into our hearts. Having thoughts and feelings from things we’ve encountered wouldn’t affect us at all if we were unable to process them into action or words thus affecting us and the world around us.

All living creatures have the cognitive ability to think and process information, but it is the creative and imaginative understanding of what to do with that information, so that we might make choices based in a sense of rightness or wrongness, that the scriptures identify as the mind. The mind is where the devil wants to thwart the will of God for our lives.

Before we accepted Christ, our minds were corrupt, and our hearts were full of darkness. The Bible says that we need to be transformed by a complete overhaul of our minds (Romans 12:2). We Christians are beginning to understand the importance of our thought lives to our behavior. We have more to learn, but we need to be aware of this battle for our minds and Jesus’ command to use our minds to love God. If we think about Jesus, how can we spend time thinking bad thoughts? Take captive the bad, and instead think about God. Stay in the word. (Romans 15:4, Philippians 4:8)

Having the strength to function in the other three, the Lord tells us to use them for Him and our relationship with Him. Thus, we are to love Him with all our strength. If sin results from breaking the commandments of God, then indeed we are all guilty of sin (Romans 3:23).

Strong, Appendix: A Concise Dictionary of the words in the Hebrew Bible with their Renderings in the King James Version, H# 3824

Verse 43

John 5:43

There will be those that say they are a messiah (Matthew 24:24, Mark 13:22, Acts 5:36-37, Acts 21:38), and there will be others that say they have come in Jesus’ name (Matthew 24:5, Mark 13:6, Acts 13:10, Acts 20:30, 2 Corinthians 11:3-4, Galatians 1:7-8, 2 John 1:10). These false christs are only foreshadows (1 John 4:3, 2 John 1:7) of the Antichrist (Daniel 7:8-12, Daniel 7:19-24, Daniel 9:26-27, Daniel 11:36-37, 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12, 1 John 2:18, Revelation 13:1-2). The Jews rejected the true Christ, Jesus, but they will accept the Antichrist (Revelation 13:3-4, Revelation 14:9-11, Revelation 17:17, Revelation 18:23).

Verse 44

John 5:44

The Jewish leadership appreciated recognition from their peers more than affirmation from God (see notes on (John 12:43). Many others make the same mistake. However, one’s egocentrism and pride (Job 41:15, Psalms 10:4, Psalms 73:6, Proverbs 16:5, Proverbs 16:18, Proverbs 21:4, Jeremiah 49:16, Ezekiel 16:49, Obadiah 1:3) is the greatest veil (2 Corinthians 3:14-16) blinding the lost from righteousness found only in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Philippians 3:9, 2 Peter 1:1). Their zeal to hear compliments puffs them up (1 Corinthians 8:1, 1 Corinthians 13:4, Colossians 2:18-19, 1 Timothy 3:6) and hinders their ability to perceive the truth (2 Corinthians 10:18). Since the Garden of Eden, we have been after that which will improve us and exalt us (Genesis 3:5, Romans 10:3). Instead, seek after the righteousness of Christ (Isaiah 51:1, Zephaniah 2:3, Matthew 5:6, Matthew 6:33).

Verse 45

John 5:45

Typically, we think of the devil as “the accuser “(Revelation 12:10), but Satan need not make a case against the piously prideful that depend upon adherence to the Law for their salvation (John 5:39, Romans 4:16, Romans 9:31-32, Romans 10:3, Galatians 5:4, Philippians 3:9, Hebrews 7:11). Moses, the prophetic carrier of the Law, clearly stated the truth (Deuteronomy 6:5, Deuteronomy 18:18), and eternal life comes only through faith and belief (see notes on John 3:15) in Christ.

Verse 46

John 5:46

So much of the Law and the revelations that Moses passed down to us, including the stories of the Passover and the deliverance out of bondage for those that are held captive by evil, are depictions of Jesus (Luke 16:29-31, John 1:45, Acts 24:14, Acts 26:22, Acts 28:23, Romans 3:21). Unfortunately, they had not believed the correct interpretation of Moses’ words. Understood correctly, they would have perceived Jesus as the Messiah through what Moses had written.

Verse 47

John 5:47

They thought they believed Moses (John 5:45, John 9:28-29), and they honored Moses as a great prophet (Acts 6:11-14). However, to truly believe the words of a prophet, one must receive the prophetic word through the Holy Spirit’s interpretation and not rely on any man’s reasoning (2 Peter 1:20-021), even if that reasoning be our own (Proverbs 3:5). The Jews would read and study the word (John 5:39, 2 Timothy 3:7), but they couldn’t discern the truth of the scriptures (2 Corinthians 3:15). They were blind leaders of the blind (Matthew 15:14, Luke 6:39).

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on John 5". "Harvey's Notes on the Gospel of John". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/shj/john-5.html.
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