John 5:1-9  “Wilt Thou Be Made Whole?”

Introduction:  Bethesda means “house of mercy.”


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

            After Jesus had returned to Galilee and healed the Nobleman’s son, Jesus returns to Jerusalem.  There were three times in a year that Jewish men were required to go to Jerusalem to appear before the Lord.  These are Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles.  It comes as no surprise that Jesus diligently keeps the Law of Moses.  He never broke the Law.  We are not told which feast it was when Jesus returned to Jerusalem.  It could have been the feast of Pentecost which would mean that Jesus would have returned to Jerusalem after having been back in Galilee for only about five weeks.  This timing is determined from the 50 days which elapsed between Passover and Pentecost.  Jesus had spent the first seven days of the 50 at Jerusalem.  He spent the next three going to and visiting at Sychar.  He would have traveled two more days to get to Cana and it would take at least one day for the Nobleman to find out that Jesus was back.  It took another day for the Nobleman to find Jesus and another day to return home again.  This adds up to 15 days minimum leaving 35 days left before Jesus had to be back in Jerusalem.  With at least 4 days for travel back to Jerusalem Jesus would have about 31 days to spend in Galilee.

             Based upon the fact that nothing was said concerning a feast when Jesus left Jerusalem we may conclude that it was not at a feast time when Jesus left Jerusalem.  I would tend to believe that this was the either Passover or Tabernacles and not the feast of Pentecost.


(John 5:2)  Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep [market] a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.

            In the book of Nehemiah we are told that one of the gates of the city of Jerusalem was called the sheep gate.  In this verse the word “market” is supplied by the translators.  The reason they needed to supply a word here is because the word sheep is an adjective and without a substantive to go with it the reader must assume a substantive.  It should have been gate instead of market.  Both words are feminine and would fit here for the adjective used is feminine but gate is the better choice.  This was the gate through which they brought the sheep which were used for sacrifices in the Temple. 

            It is interesting that the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world came through the sheep gate where thousands of lambs had passed each of which represented the work of the Christ.  The word for pool here is only used by John.  It means a body of water large enough for bathing.  This was, most likely, a spring fed pool of water.  If it had no fountain source then it would have to be replenished by men each day.  It may have been a source of drinking water for the sheep. 

            This pool of water is called by the name “Bethesda” which means “house of mercy.”  Men are sinners and deserve to die of thirst but God is merciful and does not let man die of thirst and thus provides him with water.  This pool had five porches.  These were structures which provided shade from the hot Sun and protection from the rain.  They were open-sided and provided a cool place for people to rest.


(John 5:3)  In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.

            In these five porches there lay a great number of sick people.  The word impotent means having no power.  There ailments are summed up in three categories.  The first is blind.  The root of this word means smoke.  This indicates any eye condition which causes the person to be unable to see clearly.  This could range from complete and total blindness to severe Myopia.  The second is halt.  This word means lame.  Literally it means deprived of foot.  These are people who can not walk at all or can not walk well.  There mobility is severely limited.  The third is withered.  This term applies to the limbs of an individual which have atrophied due to lack of use.  A person who has an affliction which causes them to be unable to use a hand, arm or leg will see the reduction in size of that limb due to non use.  This is called atrophy.

            These people had ailments which could not be cured without some kind of intervention either miraculous or medicinal.  A close examination of the last half of this verse and of verse four will help us to appreciate what Jesus will do for the infirmed man.

            The last few words of verse three and all of verse five are not contained in most manuscripts.  The words are contained in many good manuscripts however and were considered by the King James translators as being worthy of inclusion.   They are inserted to explain why this place is so populated with impotent folks. 


(John 5:4)  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.

            The stirring of the waters is that for which these people waited.  It seems that an angel came down from time to time and stirred up the water.  Some believe that this was a messenger and not an angel.  They believe that a member of the Sanhedrin counsel came a stirred the waters.  There is no reason to believe this.  The scripture says angel and angel is what it means.  An angel stirred the waters and those who were first to get into the waters began to heal.  It is important to note that there is nothing miraculous about this water and the resulting effects.  The verb translated “was made” is imperfect, that is, it is incomplete action.  It is also in the middle voice.  This should have been translated “was himself becoming.”  The verse would thus read “whosoever stepped in was himself becoming well of whatsoever disease he had.”  This indicates a natural healing process rather than an instantaneous and thus miraculous healing.


(John 5:5)  And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.

            We are now told of a man who has been handicapped for thirty eight years.  This is a long time.  We do not know how long he has been coming to the pool but we may assume that it has been a very long time.  He may have been coming there longer than anyone else.  He had this infirmity eight years before Jesus was born.  We do not know if this infirmity was congenital.  We also do not know how old this man is.  I believe it may be assumed that his condition has existed for most of his life.


(John 5:6)  When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time [in that case], he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?

            Jesus sees this man and knows that he has been in this condition for a long time and asks him a question.  “Are you, wanting to become well?”  This is a rhetorical question.  Jesus does not need an answer for he knows what the man wants.  Jesus knew all about the woman at the well and knew secrets about Nathanael.  Jesus knows everything about this man.


(John 5:7)  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.

            The answer to Jesus question was yes. The man explains that he is so incapacitated that he is not able to move quickly enough to get into the pool when the waters are troubled.  He can not stay in the pool for days on end waiting for the troubling of the waters and so year after year he hopes that someone will show some compassion and will help him get into the pool.  It would seem that people would not be so selfish.  Knowing this man had been a long time waiting would be enough to compel every one to say let him go first.

            This man was unable to be made whole because he did not have someone to help him.  He was unable to be made whole because he lacked the necessary strength.  He was unable to be made whole because he had obstacles in his way.  All these were legitimate reasons for his not being made whole.  Those who are sin sick and lost have similar reasons for not being saved.  They sometimes have no one to help them understand what they must do to be saved.  They, like the Ethiopian eunuch, need someone to show them the way.  All lost sinners lack the necessary strength to save themselves.  They can not by their works and efforts ever hope to be saved.  They must have an encounter with Jesus or they will not be made whole.  The lost sometimes will not be saved because of obstacles in their way.  Their spouse and children sometimes keep them from coming to Jesus.  Sometimes the things of this world keep them from coming to Jesus.  All of these obstacles must be overcome if one is to be made spiritually whole.  The Lost must hear the Gospel from their fellow men.  They must rely on Jesus to save them.  They must not allow others to keep them from being saved. 


(John 5:8)  Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.

(John 5:9)  And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath.

            Jesus healed this man immediately and completely.  The use of the perfect verb form in verse 9 is appropriate.  He was immediately and completely made whole.  This was a miracle.  Jesus has the power to save all those who will follow His instructions.  You must repent of your sin and trust in Jesus Christ to save.  Any that will come to Jesus confessing his sin and asking for mercy and forgiveness will be saved.  They will be saved immediately, completely, and forever. 

            Jesus did this miracle on the Sabbath day.  The man could have told Jesus that it was not lawful for him to be healed on the Sabbath nor was it lawful to carry his bed.  He could have asked Jesus to come back the next day and heal him.  He, of course, did not do this.  He seized the opportunity to be made whole when it was offered.

            When the Holy Spirit calls, the lost need to be saved.  There is no guarantee that they will have another day.  Now is the accepted time, behold, now is the day of salvation.  Do not delay.  Confess your sin to Jesus and ask Him to save you now.