The Seven Signs: Healing After Thirty-eight Years (John 5:1-15)

There are different words used to describe the miracles of the Bible: (1) “Miracle” (e.g. Luke 23:8, Acts 2:22). This word is from the Greek “dunamis” (it is from this word we derive our word dynamite). The word refers to “power” (Vine’s). It refers to the supernatural power of God. (2) “Wonder” (e.g. Acts 4:29-30; 5:12). The Greek word is “teras”. It refers to “something so strange as to cause it to be ‘watched’ or ‘observed’ . . .” (Thayer). The word has reference to the wonderment, and amazement of those who witnessed it (cf. Matthew 15:31; Acts 3:7-10; 7:30-31; 8:13). (3) “Work” or “deed” (e.g. Luke 10:13; 24:19; Acts 2:11; 2 Corinthians 12:12). The word, “ergon,”  (work) has reference to the deed itself, while the term “miracle” has reference to the source, and the word “wonder” has reference to the reaction of witnesses.

However, the word that we are interested in is the word, (4) “Sign” (e.g. John 2:11; 4:54; 6:14; 12:18; Acts 2:22). The word “semeion,” though sometimes translated “miracle” by the KJV, should be rendered “sign”. It refers to “a sign, mark, indication, token” (Vine’s). In other words, the design of the miracle was to lead us to something beyond the miracle itself (cf. John 3:2).

Today, we consider the third sign of John.

The Setting

The occasion is one of the feasts of the Jews (John 5:1). Jesus faithfully keeps these feasts (John 2:13, 21; 5:1; 7:2, 14, 37; 12:1, 12-13) as the law instructed (Exodus 23:17; 34:23; Deuteronomy 16:16).

The location is Jerusalem (John 5:1). More specifically, the pool of Bethesda (John 5:2). Note: the word “Bethesda” means “house of mercy”. This pool has five “porches” (NASB) or “roofed colonnades” (ESV). The word refers to covered areas.

The sick gather at this place. One reason may have been the covered areas where one could get out of the sun and rain. The reason stated is that this pool was believed to have healing properties, perhaps even supernatural properties. The question is often asked, “Did angels really stir the waters?” certain manuscripts omit verse four. However, it is clear that the waters did intermittently stir (v. 7). Bruce Metzger writes “verse 4 is a gloss, whose secondary character is clear from (1) its absence from the earliest and best witnesses, (2) the presence of asterisks or obeli to mark the words as spurious in more than twenty Greek witnesses” (A textual commentary on the Greek New Testament). Many believe that the words were added to explain a common belief. However, whether an angel stirred the water or not, the sick, who gather at this site, believed in the healing properties of the stirring water.

The Sign

The subject is a man, who had an infirmity for thirty-eight years (John 5:5). His infirmity involves his ability to move (John 5:7-9). The man did not know Jesus (cf. John 5:13). He certainty did not expect Jesus to heal him (cf. John 5:6-7, Note: he is still looking to the water). However, Jesus did heal him (John 5:8-9).

The Jews (Jewish leaders cf. John 1:19; 5:10; 7:1; 9:20-22) are not pleased. This healing took place on the Sabbath (John 5:9-10, 16). Concerning the Sabbath: (1) It is true that normal daily work was not to take place on the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-10; 31:12-15). (2) It is also true that no commercial burdens were to be transported on the Sabbath (Nehemiah 13:19-20). (3) However, it is not true that all activities were to cease on the Sabbath. (a) The priests circumcised (Matthew 12:5). (b) Food could be prepared (Exodus 12:16; Matthew 12:1-8). (d) The Jews rescued their animals on the Sabbath (Luke 14:1-6; Matthew 12:11). The Jews had a perverted understanding of the Sabbath. Their priorities were mixed up in placing the day over doing good, and in valuing their animals and property over their fellow man.

The man went to the temple, perhaps to praise God for the healing. Jesus finds him there, and warns him that he should “sin no more, lest a worse thing come” upon him (John 5:14-15). Does this suggest that his infirmity had been a result of some sin (e.g. drunk stumbling in front of an ox-cart) or, does this simply suggest that Jesus wants him to understand that there is something worse than physical infirmity? It certainly suggests at least the later.


  1. Jesus kept the feast days (John 2:13, 21; 5:1; 7:2, 14, 37; 12:1, 12-13). There is an application for us (Hebrews 10:24-25).
  2. Jesus’ miracles were amazing. Even long-term infirmities could be healed (John 5:1-15; 9:1-12; 11:39; Luke 8:43-48 cf. Acts 3:1-10).
  3. It was not a violation of the Sabbath to show mercy to others on the Sabbath (cf. Hosea 6:6). We no doubt can learn from this principle to have proper priorities.
  4. A life of sin leads to something worse than physical infirmities (John 5:14-15).

About Bryan Hodge

I am a minister and missionary to numerous countries around the world.
This entry was posted in Jesus, Miracles, Seven signs, Signs, Textual study and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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