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Bible Commentaries

Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament
John 5

 

 

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Verses 1-13

Will you be made whole?

John 5:1-13

John 5:1. Some believe this feast was the feast of the Passover, while some believe that it was the feast of Pentecost. We are not told which one it was; but our Lord went to Jerusalem for the feast to show his obedience to the law, which he came to fulfill (Deuteronomy 16:16).

John 5:2. We read in Nehemiah 3 of the ten gates in the walls of Jerusalem–the sheep, fish, old, valley, dung, fountain, water, horse, east, and Miphkad gates! This sheep gate was the gate through which the sacrificial animals were brought to the temple. All are meaningful as types; but the sheep gate points to Christ, the sacrificial Lamb of God. There was a pool of water called the Pool of Bethesda near this gate. Some call it the ‘pool of mercy.’ There were five porches around the pool.

John 5:3-4. On these porches lay a great number of diseased, crippled, blind, and impotent people waiting for the moving of the water; for we read in Verse Four that at a certain season an angel went down and troubled the water, and whosoever then first stepped into the water after it was troubled was completely healed of whatever disease he had. The question will certainly be asked, ‘Did this really happen or was it a superstition?’ I believe it best to leave it as the scripture states it. While there is no mention in the Old Testament of this troubling of the water, John simply states it as a fact, not a saying or a superstition.

John 5:5. A certain man was there who had a disease for 38 years. We are not told what it was; but we know that he was on a bed and evidently was quite helpless, for he needed the help of someone else to get to the water. Perhaps he had tried all other human means (like the woman with the issue of blood) to no avail and had come to the waters of Bethesda as a last resort.

John 5:6. The Master saw him. Here is the sovereignty of our Lord in showing mercy to whom he will (Exodus 33:18-19). There was a multitude of sick people there, yet Christ looked only upon this man. He knew him and all about him (John 10:14-16). We are not told that he saw the Lord, or knew Him, or called to Him, but that our Lord saw him, knew him, and called to him. The Saviour said, ‘Will you be made whole?’ Of course he would; that is why he was there. But the question is asked to focus the man's attention on his need, on his total inability, and on the Saviour who addressed him! Are not these the three important things in the Spirit bringing a sinner to salvation? –our great need, our hopeless state, and the power and presence of the only one who can help us!

John 5:7. The man did not know who Christ was, nor did he have any idea of his power to heal; so he answered as all impotent, helpless people must answer, ‘There is no one to help.’ Also, he shows the greed and selfishness of all natural men, ‘While I am struggling to crawl to the water, another steps in before me.’

John 5:8. The Lord Jesus, according to his own will, in fulfillment of his own divine purpose, said to this certain man, ‘Rise, take up your bed, and walk!’

1. ‘Rise’ was a command. ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ’ is more than an invitation; it is a command (1 John 3:23).

2. ‘Take up your bed.’ This indicates that he would no longer remain in this place among the diseased and dying but would be changing his abode (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).

3. ‘And walk.’ ‘Walk in the light as he is in the light.’ Before, you could not walk in the Spirit; now that you are made whole, you can (Romans 8:1-6).

John 5:9. ‘And immediately he was made whole.’ The Lord's salvation is both instantaneous and complete (Colossians 2:9-10). Christ does not put the believing sinner into a savable state. He saves with a perfect and eternal salvation the moment we truly believe (Ecclesiastes 3:14). The Saviour spoke, and by his word, the lame walked. It was the Sabbath day and unlawful to do work or carry burdens (Jeremiah 17:21). But our Lord is the Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1-8).

John 5:10. The Jews were more concerned for their traditions and religious customs than for the fact that a great miracle had been performed. Blinded by their self-righteousness and works, they had no compassion for the man who was healed, no interest in the grace of God which healed him, and made no inquiry into how he was healed nor who healed him. At all costs, their traditions must be upheld (Matthew 15:1-3; Matthew 15:8-14).

John 5:11. The man believed that the one who healed him was a prophet of God who did what he did by divine authority; therefore, he obeyed him contrary to their traditions (Galatians 5:1-4).

John 5:12-13. When they asked him who the man was who told him to take up his bed on the Sabbath day and walk, he was unable to tell them; for he did not know. The Lord had disappeared in the crowd.


Verses 14-27

Sevenfold proof of Christ’s deity

John 5:14-27

After our Lord had healed the man at the pool of Bethesda, there being a great crowd there, he conveyed himself away. The man did not know who he was nor could he find him to show others who had healed him.

John 5:14. Afterwards the Lord found him in the temple and told him to ‘sin no more,’ or to walk in righteousness, faith, and the light of Christ which had been revealed to him, ‘lest a worse thing’ than being crippled come upon him; that is, eternal condemnation (Hebrews 10:38-39).

John 5:15. The man then found the Jews who had inquired of him, ‘Who told you to take up your bed and walk?’ and told them that it was Jesus the Christ who made him whole. There was the danger of persecution and excommunication involved here; but he not only was not ashamed of Christ, but wanted to confess him and be identified with him (John 9:33-38; John 16:1-4).

John 5:16. How this verse reveals the awful depravity of human nature, even the blindness and tradition of carnal religion! Here was a man, well-known, who had been afflicted for 38 years, who had lain helplessly by this pool until by the power of the Son of God he was made whole–strong enough to carry his bed! There was no doubt of the cure, of a wonderful miracle that they could not deny. Instead of being filled with joy, praise, and faith in the Messiah, they were filled with hatred and sought to kill him. They used as an excuse the fact that he had violated their Sabbath laws. Their tradition was more important to them than the glory of God or the welfare of sinners.

John 5:17-27. Beginning at John 5:17 and continuing through John 5:27, the Lord Jesus sets forth before these Jews his absolute equality and oneness with the heavenly Father! He gives a seven-fold proof of his deity. Evidently when the man identified Jesus Christ as the one who had healed him and told him to take up his bed and walk, the Jews said something to him; for John 5:17 says that he answered them!

In redemptive work he is one with the Father (John 5:17). From the foundation of the world the Father has been working his will to redeem a people out of every nation (Romans 8:28; Ephesians 2:8-10). The Jews knew what he was saying, for they sought to kill him for making himself equal with God (John 10:30-33).

In will and purpose he is one with the Father (John 5:19). ‘The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do’ does not restrict nor limit his power; but he is saying that the Son does not and cannot act independently of the Father, for they are one in will and purpose.

In knowledge he is one with the Father (John 5:20). There is no creature who is capable of knowing and understanding all the ways and workings of God (Romans 11:33-34). But the Son knows, for he was with him in the beginning (Proverbs 8:24-30). He will yet reveal greater things in and through the Son, ‘that ye may marvel’ (John 6:61-62; 2 Timothy 1:10).

In sovereign rights he is one with the Father (John 5:21). This verse presents the fourth proof of Christ's deity. He lays claim to divine sovereignty. When he healed a lame man, he did not heal them all but singled out one and made him whole. The Son, like the Father, will quicken and give life to whom he will–that ends the matter. It is not to be reasoned about, but believed (Exodus 33:18-19; Romans 9:13-16).

In divine honor and worship he is one with the Father (John 5:22-23). The Father is the one whom we might most naturally expect to be the Judge. He has been sinned against, wronged, and his claims denied. But the Father has committed all judgment of Satan, men, and this world to the Son (Acts 17:31). The reason for this is ‘that all should honor the Son even as they honor the Father’ (Colossians 1:14-18).

In imparting life he is one with the Father (John 5:24-26). Once more he links himself in perfect union with the Father. Those who hear my word, hear his word! Those who believe on me, believe on him who sent me! And they have passed from death to life; for the hearing ear and the seeing eye are not qualifications for obtaining life, but are evidences and consequences of having God-given life which is given by Father and Son (John 5:26). All the elect who were dead in sin shall hear his voice and live (Ephesians 2:1).

In judicial power and authority he is one with the Father (John 5:27). The Father has appointed the Lord Jesus to have all judicial power and authority ‘because he is the Son of man.’ It was because the Son of God became clothed with flesh and walked this earth as man that he was despised, rejected, and crucified, his divine glory denied and disowned! Therefore, the despised one shall have the place of supreme honor and authority. All will be compelled to bow the knee to him and confess that he is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Acts 2:36; Philippians 2:5-11; Matthew 28:18; John 17:1-2).


Verses 28-38

The witness to his deity

John 5:28-38

John 5:28. The Lord Jesus had spoken of his Deity, sovereignty, Lordship, the authority given him by the Father, and especially of his power to quicken and give eternal life to dead sinners. He then says to these Jews, ‘Do not marvel at my power to raise men from natural death to spiritual life; the hour is coming when all those who are in the graves shall hear my voice and arise at my command.’

John 5:29. All who are raised shall not partake of eternal life, happiness, and glory. They are divided into two classes. First, they that have ‘done good’ shall arise to live eternally with him. The words ‘done good’ do not refer to their own personal goodness or works, as if they merited his favor (Romans 3:10-12); but it refers to their walk, which manifests the new nature within them by his grace. The Christ-life within is seen by Christ-like deeds without (James 2:17-20). ‘They that have done evil’ describes the great company of unbelievers who have lived in sin and unbelief, died without repentance toward God and faith in Christ, and refused to hearken to his words of grace and truth. They will be compelled to hear him as he summons them to appear before his judgment throne, and these shall go away into everlasting condemnation.

John 5:30. The Son cannot act independently of the Father, for they are one! When the scriptures say ‘God cannot’ do a thing, they do not imply that he is limited in power; but rather they declare his divine nature, character, and perfection (Titus 1:2 : James 1:13). If he is God the Son, then his will and work are in perfect unison with God the Father! ‘My judgment is just.’ This is profoundly solemn. In the resurrection of which he spoke, he will not deal in grace, but in inflexible righteousness. He will administer judgment, not mercy. This excludes every ray of hope for all who are raised into damnation. His will is the same as his Father's will (John 6:37-40).

John 5:31. In John 8:14 the Master said, ‘Though I bear record of myself, my record is true.’ But here he speaks according to the law of God and the scriptures, which require two or three witnesses for any truth to be established. The words of men do need confirmation, but not so the Son of God. However, Christ came to ‘fulfill all righteousness’ and to do all that he did ‘according to the scriptures’ (Deuteronomy 19:15; Matthew 18:15). The Lord begins to set forth the many infallible witnesses to his Deity and his mission.

John 5:32. The witness referred to here is the heavenly Father (Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:5 : 1 John 5:7-10).

John 5:33-35. Here the Lord reminds the Jews how, when they sent unto John, that he bore a faithful witness to Christ's person and work (John 1:20-27). ‘But I receive not testimony from man.’ He was not appealing to the witness of John for a confirmation of his own words and works, but he appealed to John for their sakes that they might be saved. John was sent of God to arouse men's attention and to produce in them a sense of their deep need for the one who was to come. John was indeed a famous light, burning in the knowledge and love of the truth. For a while they pretended great affection for him; but when they saw that John's one purpose was to bear witness of Christ the Lamb, they turned away from him; for they looked for a more splendid and glorious Messiah than the one Christ appeared to be.

John 5:36. His mighty works bore unmistakable witness to who he is and what he came to do. He frequently appealed to his works as affording divine testimony (John 10:25; John 10:38; John 14:11; John 15:24). Bishop Ryle calls attention to five things about our Lord's miracles.

1. Their number. They were very many.

2. Their greatness. They were mighty, supernatural works.

3. Their public nature. They were not done secretly, but publicly for all to behold.

4. Their nature. They were always works of love, mercy, and compassion. They were not just exhibitions of power, but beneficial to men.

5. Their direct appeal to man's senses. They were real, visible, and would bear any examination.

John 5:37-38. Again he says, ‘The Father hath borne witness of me. But you have not heard his voice nor seen his glory.’ Because of John 5:38-39, we believe Christ speaks here of the witness which the Father has borne of his Son through the prophets, law, and scripture. This seems to give more meaning to what follows. Christ is revealed in promise, prophecy, picture, and type in all that has been written; but they could not see, nor did they believe.


Verses 39-47

Ye will not come to me

John 5:39-47

In these verses our Lord begins to make solemn application of what he has said to these Jews about his deity, his oneness with the Father, his sovereignty, his power to give life, and his saving grace. You will hear the awful charges he brings against unbelief; but it is summed up in these words, ‘You have not his word abiding in you’ (John 5:38), and ‘You believe not his writings’ (John 5:47). If God's word has no place in men's hearts, they will not come to Christ, they will not love God, they will not seek the Lord, nor will they be saved. It is by the word that life is given, conviction of sin is realized, faith comes, and spiritual life grows.

John 5:39. ‘Search the scriptures.’ This is the last witness, which our Lord cites, and for us it is the most important. John has long since passed away; the ‘works’ of Christ are no longer before men's eyes; the ‘voice’ of the Father is no more heard; but the testimony of the scriptures abides. The scriptures testify of Christ and affirm his deity (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20). Many believe that the Lord, in condemning the unbelief of these Jews, is actually saying, ‘You do search the scriptures, for you hope to find life in them, the laws and ordinances which they teach; but you are missing the message of the scriptures, for they all testify of me’ (Acts 10:43; Luke 24:27 : Luke 24:44-46). This may be so; but there is also seen here a command, not only to read over lightly but to diligently search the scriptures.

John 5:40. It was not lack of evidence, which kept these Jews from believing on and coming to Christ, but perversity of will. It is the fault of a fallen, corrupt, and depraved will! Men are unwilling by nature to own their sin, unwilling to admit their inability, unwilling to seek God's mercy, and unwilling to cast themselves on Christ (1 Corinthians 2:9; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Romans 8:7).

John 5:41. Here again the Lord maintains his honor and dignity as in John 5:34. He seeks not honor from men; there is nothing that we can add to him. He does not need our approval, sanction, nor honor. His objective is to please and glorify his Father; and so far as they were concerned, his desire was not to be applauded by them but that they should be saved by him. Such should be the spirit of his ministers (Acts 20:33; Galatians 1:10).

John 5:42. Christ knew their hearts. He is omniscient. They posed as worshippers of God, appeared to be concerned for his honor, and called him ‘Lord’ with their lips; but they had no genuine love for God in their hearts. A true love for and knowledge of God would have led them to love and receive Christ.

John 5:43. ‘I am come in my Father's name, clothed with his authority, sent to reveal him and his redemptive will, in fulfillment of all that has been written of me; yet you receive me not! Let another (antichrist or false prophet) come in his own name, doing his own pleasure, seeking glory from men, and preaching contrary to scriptures–Him you will receive and believe!’ Such is the nature and condition of our fallen wills.

John 5:44. Honor signifies approbation or praise. These Jews were making it their chief aim to win the praise, approbation, and good opinion of each other and were indifferent to the approval of or communion with God. It is good for parents to receive honor from children, masters from servants, rulers from people; but these are all secondary to that honor and acceptance from God. ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God’ (2 Corinthians 5:9 : Ephesians 1:6). The grace of God and the gospel are the levelers. All men humble themselves before him who loved us and gave himself for us; and we seek his friendship, acceptance, and honor, even if it means losing the approval and friendship of all the world (James 4:4).

John 5:45. Our Lord concludes by declaring that they would yet give an account of their rejection of him (John 1:11) before the tribunal of God and there would be no need of his accusing them; for they would need no other accuser than Moses, for whom they had such great regard (John 9:28-29). ‘This same Moses will accuse you.’

John 5:46. ‘For had you really believed Moses' writings, you would believe me, for Moses wrote of me.’ From the first prophecy in Genesis 3:15 through every promise, type, and pattern in his writings, Moses pointed to Christ (Hebrews 8:1; Hebrews 10:1-4).

John 5:47. If you do not believe the scriptures, which are so plain, and you believe not Moses for whom you have so great regard, it is certain that you do not and will not believe Christ (John 3:12).

 


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Bibliography Information
Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on John 5:4". Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hms/john-5.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, October 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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