Amazing Grace Baptist Church, Bible Study material on John 5:1-16
This lesson focuses on the miraculous sign given to the lame man by the pool (John 5:1-16). It is the third miraculous sign which completes the three miracles that show how a person is saved. The first (water to wine) shows that salvation is through the Word of God. The second (healing the nobleman’s son) shows that salvation is through faith. This third miracle demonstrates that salvation is by grace.
A. Understanding the background
1. A pool near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem
John records that in Jerusalem there was a gate into the city called the Sheep Gate. That was the place where the sheep that were to be sacrificed in the temple were brought into the city. Nehemiah 3:1, 32; 12:39 mentions the building of this gate. It is thought to be located near the northeast corner of the city. By the Sheep Gate, there was a pool of water called in Hebrew “Bethesda.” Bethesda means a house of kindness, grace or mercy. Similarly, and allegorically, the pool and its five porches signify Grace. And so basically, it is through grace that the man was healed.
2. Healing through the moving of the water
Gathered around the pool were many people with various ailments such as the blind, crippled or lame, and those who had palsy that withered up some part of their body. This pool was supplied by water from underground springs. It was traditionally believed that an angel would come and stir up the waters. The first person who entered the pool when the waters were stirred up would be healed of their infirmities. From a scientific perspective, since there appear to be no similar events recorded in the Bible, it is claimed that the healing effect of the stirring of the water is thought to be more of a tradition than fact. The source of the tradition could have come from the waters of the pool having a mineral content with medicinal properties. The waters of the spring would be occasionally stirred to release these minerals to give healing. Most importantly, many people there believed they could be healed if they were the first into the pool after an angel stirred the water. The lame man like others was there hoping to be healed.
B. Some theological lessons from the narrative
1. A condition of life without Christ
This story demonstrates a life without Christ. This man was in a pitiable condition. For because of his past sin (verse 14), he had been afflicted for 38 years. He was surrounded by afflicted people, all of whom illustrate the sad condition of the unsaved. He was paralyzed and waiting for something to happen. He was without hope (Ephesians 2:12). If these people could get into the water when the angel came, they could be healed. But they lacked the power to get there. This is like a life without Christ today. Should a person be able to keep God’s perfect law, that person could be saved. But none can do so.
2. Saved by Grace
The narrative also throws more light on God’s grace at work. As pointed out already, “Bethesda” (verse 2) means “house of grace,” and this is what it became for this one man. What does “grace” mean? It means kindness to those who are undeserving. Although Jesus saw a multitude of sick people, yet he chose only one man and healed him. This man was no more deserving than the others, but God chose him. This is a beautiful picture of salvation. It shows how we are chosen “in Christ.” It is not because of our own merits but because of God’s grace (Ephesians 1:4). What Jesus says in 5:21 applies here: He gives life to whom he will. We cannot explain the grace of God (Romans 9:14-16), but if not for God’s grace, nobody would ever be saved (Romans 11:32-36).
3. Saved to live for Christ
Jesus, finding the man in the latter part of the story tells him that he has been made whole and that he should go and sin no more (John 5:14). This statement of Jesus addressed his spiritual condition. Thus, to Jesus, now that the man has physically been made whole, he should go and sin no more. This proves the fact that the man was spiritually made whole as well. Indeed, being lame was a terrible thing, but being spiritually dead was much worse. Sin does separate us from God.
1. What does “Bethesda” mean?
2. Is Grace fair?
3. Describe in brief, the human condition of life without Christ.
4. What does it mean to be spiritually whole?
5. In what ways can we bring healing to others?