by Mike Ratliff
18 διὰ τοῦτο οὖν μᾶλλον ἐζήτουν αὐτὸν οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι ἀποκτεῖναι, ὅτι οὐ μόνον ἔλυεν τὸ σάββατον, ἀλλὰ καὶ πατέρα ἴδιον ἔλεγεν τὸν θεὸν ἴσον ἑαυτὸν ποιῶν τῷ θεῷ. (John 5:18 NA27)
18 Because of this, therefore, the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him not only because he was breaking the Sabbath, but also he was calling God his own Father making himself equal with God. (John 5:18 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1)
In our study of Lord’s ministry from John 1 through John 4 the response from the Jewish religious leaders has been one of reservation and hesitation as Jesus as Messiah. Most of the Jews and Galileans had a mixed response as well. However, the Apostle John records for us in John 5 the controversial incidents that caused the shift from reservation and hesitation to outright opposition. This section of our Lord’s ministry is recorded by John for us in John 5:1 through John 12:50. In this post we look at John 5:1-18.
1 Μετὰ ταῦτα ἦν ἑορτὴ τῶν Ἰουδαίων καὶ ἀνέβη Ἰησοῦς εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα. 2 Ἔστιν δὲ ἐν τοῖς Ἱεροσολύμοις ἐπὶ τῇ προβατικῇ κολυμβήθρα ἡ ἐπιλεγομένη Ἑβραϊστὶ Βηθζαθὰ πέντε στοὰς ἔχουσα. 3 ἐν ταύταις κατέκειτο πλῆθος τῶν ἀσθενούντων, τυφλῶν, χωλῶν, ξηρῶν. 5 ἦν δέ τις ἄνθρωπος ἐκεῖ τριάκοντα [καὶ] ὀκτὼ ἔτη ἔχων ἐν τῇ ἀσθενείᾳ αὐτοῦ· 6 τοῦτον ἰδὼν ὁ Ἰησοῦς κατακείμενον καὶ γνοὺς ὅτι πολὺν ἤδη χρόνον ἔχει, λέγει αὐτῷ· θέλεις ὑγιὴς γενέσθαι; 7 ἀπεκρίθη αὐτῷ ὁ ἀσθενῶν· κύριε, ἄνθρωπον οὐκ ἔχω ἵνα ὅταν ταραχθῇ τὸ ὕδωρ βάλῃ με εἰς τὴν κολυμβήθραν· ἐν ᾧ δὲ ἔρχομαι ἐγώ, ἄλλος πρὸ ἐμοῦ καταβαίνει. 8 λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· ἔγειρε ἆρον τὸν κράβαττόν σου καὶ περιπάτει. 9 καὶ εὐθέως ἐγένετο ὑγιὴς ὁ ἄνθρωπος καὶ ἦρεν τὸν κράβαττον αὐτοῦ καὶ περιεπάτει. Ἦν δὲ σάββατον ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ. (John 5:1-9 NA27)
1 After these things there was a feast of the Jews and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem at the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethzatha, having five porches. 3 In these were laying a multitude of the ill, blind, lame, and withered. 5 A man was there who had been in his sickness thirty-eight years. 6 Jesus seeing this man lying and knowing that he had been there for a long time said to him, “Do you want to become healthy?” 7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I do not have a man that he may put me into the pool when the water is troubled, but while I am coming another goes down before me. 8 Jesus said to him, “Rise, take your mat and walk.” 9 And immediately the man became healthy and he took his mat and was walking around. Now it was the Sabbath on that day. (John 5:1-9 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1)
The NA27 omits the last part of 5:3 and all of 5:4 which comes from the Textus Receptus and is included in the KJV as “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.” This section is not original to the gospel of John. The earliest and best Greek manuscripts as well as the early versions, exclude it. The presence of words or expressions unfamiliar to John’s writing also militates against its inclusion.
This is very simple. Our Lord went to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish feasts and while there he visited a place called either the pool of Bethzatha or Bethesda, which is the Greek transliteration of a Hebrew name meaning “house of outpouring.” In any case, these sick people gathered there hoping to be healed by being placed in the mineral waters of the pool. There was some who believed that the healing would happen if an angel sent from God was sent to stir up the waters, which is what the unfortunate man was referring to in v7. However, our Lord cuts through all of that and simply asks him if he wants to become healthy (v6). Jesus gives the command for him to rise, take up his mat and walk in v8 and it is done. The key to the controversy is the last phrase of v9, “Now it was the Sabbath on that day.”
10 ἔλεγον οὖν οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι τῷ τεθεραπευμένῳ· σάββατόν ἐστιν, καὶ οὐκ ἔξεστίν σοι ἆραι τὸν κράβαττόν σου. 11 ὁ δὲ ἀπεκρίθη αὐτοῖς· ὁ ποιήσας με ὑγιῆ ἐκεῖνός μοι εἶπεν· ἆρον τὸν κράβαττόν σου καὶ περιπάτει. 12 ἠρώτησαν αὐτόν· τίς ἐστιν ὁ ἄνθρωπος ὁ εἰπών σοι· ἆρον καὶ περιπάτει; 13 ὁ δὲ ἰαθεὶς οὐκ ᾔδει τίς ἐστιν, ὁ γὰρ Ἰησοῦς ἐξένευσεν ὄχλου ὄντος ἐν τῷ τόπῳ. 14 μετὰ ταῦτα εὑρίσκει αὐτὸν ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ· ἴδε ὑγιὴς γέγονας, μηκέτι ἁμάρτανε, ἵνα μὴ χεῖρόν σοί τι γένηται. 15 ἀπῆλθεν ὁ ἄνθρωπος καὶ ἀνήγγειλεν τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις ὅτι Ἰησοῦς ἐστιν ὁ ποιήσας αὐτὸν ὑγιῆ. 16 καὶ διὰ τοῦτο ἐδίωκον οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι τὸν Ἰησοῦν, ὅτι ταῦτα ἐποίει ἐν σαββάτῳ. 17 Ὁ δὲ [Ἰησοῦς] ἀπεκρίνατο αὐτοῖς· ὁ πατήρ μου ἕως ἄρτι ἐργάζεται κἀγὼ ἐργάζομαι· 18 διὰ τοῦτο οὖν μᾶλλον ἐζήτουν αὐτὸν οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι ἀποκτεῖναι, ὅτι οὐ μόνον ἔλυεν τὸ σάββατον, ἀλλὰ καὶ πατέρα ἴδιον ἔλεγεν τὸν θεὸν ἴσον ἑαυτὸν ποιῶν τῷ θεῷ. (John 5:10-18 NA27)
10 Therefore, the Jews were saying to the one who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, so it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” 11 But the man answered them, “The one who made me healthy, that one said to me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’” 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who told you to take up your mat and walk?” 13 But the one who was healed did not know who it was for Jesus slipped out—there being a crowd in the place. 14 After these things Jesus found him in the Temple and said to him, “Look, you have become healthy, sin no more lest worse things happen to you.” 15 The man went away and reported to the Jews that Jesus was the one who made him healthy. 16 And because of this the Jews persecuted Jesus because he was doing these things on a Sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now and I am working. 18 Because of this, therefore, the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him not only because he was breaking the Sabbath, but also he was calling God his own Father making himself equal with God. (John 5:10-18 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1)
The Jews who persecuted the man who was healed for carrying his mat on the Sabbath calling it “work” were following traditions added to the Law given by God to Moses. The Old Testament did forbid work on the Sabbath, but did not stipulate what “work” was (Exodus 20:8-11). The assumption there is that it is referring one’s customary employment, but rabbinical opinion had developed oral tradition beyond the Law which stipulated thirty-nine activities forbidden (Mischnah Shabbath 7:2; 10:5), including carrying anything from one domain to another. Therefore, this man carrying his mat broke their oral tradition, but not God’s Law. We must read this passage and our Lord’s direct confrontation with the Judaism during his time, which had degraded into pious hypocrisy, as intentional with the outcomes never a surprise for him.
In v14 our Lord reveals himself to the man whom he had healed. He did this knowing that the man would turn him in to the Jews. Our Lord specifically chose this man to heal in order to set up this confrontation and, of course, the man goes right to the Jews and tells them that Jesus was the one who had healed him on the Sabbath.
What was the Jews response? In v16 they persecuted Jesus. The Greek verb tense here tells us that their hostility toward him was continuous. This was not an isolated incident of their hatred toward him because of his healings on the Sabbath (Mark 3:1-6). Our Lord was breaking no Law by doing good on the Sabbath, however, the crime in these men’s eyes was that he disregarded the oral law that the Jews and developed, which are called by him the “Traditions of men” (cf. Matthew 15:1-9). As I stated above, our Lord deliberately practiced such healing on the Sabbath to provoke a confrontation with the Jews’ religious hypocrisy that blinded them to the true worship of God.
Those who claim that our Lord never claimed deity have never read or understood passages like vv17-18. God the Father was working continuously and since Jesus himself worked continuously, he also must be God. Also, God does not need a day of rest for he never wearies (Isaiah 40:28). The Jews understood perfectly that Jesus was claiming deity and so persecuted all the more.
In our day we still have those teaching the traditions of men as if they are the commands of God and are even “editing” the Gospel with them. Therefore, we are to remain diligent, faithful, and always ready to give and defense for the hope that we have in us for our enemy is relentless and has his slaves implanted in the visible church in leadership. However, as our Lord said, “By their fruit you shall know them…” Therefore, let us remain faithful to the Gospel and the Great Commission, never wavering until we are called home.
Soli Deo Gloria!