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Scripture Commentary — John 5:1-18

John 5:1-18 — Jesus heals an invalid at the pool of Bethesda

Verse 1

  “..a feast” – probably the Passover (see footnote to verse one).  This would have made the crowds large.

Verse 2

  • “ the sheep market” – Imagine the noise (shepherds calling, vendors bartering, sheep bleating, generalized commotion, etc.)  Being the Sabbath, perhaps there was less ado than on other days, but the Passover would have increased the crowd.  Imagine the smell.  Not an ideal setting for a marvelous miracle, but the Savior had focus and purpose in all settings.
  • “Bethesda” – The word means ‘house of mercy’ or ‘house of grace’. Jesus was the very embodiment of these two virtues, so at that moment the pool was his house.
  • ‘Sheep’ and ‘pool’ (water) are subtle references to some of the Savior’s roles.  “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:14), “..the fountain of all righteousness” (Ether 12:28), “..whosoever shall drink of the water which I shall give him” (John 4:13-14).

Verse 3

  • “..a great multitude..” – How many infirm were there?  It is possible very few, if any, were aware of this miracle due to the size of the throng.
  • Why did the Savior only heal this one man?  He must have had a specific purpose in mind.  Elder McConkie suggests the Savior healed on the Sabbath in hopes of drawing criticism from Jewish leaders, drawing a crowd, creating an audience for the great discourse to follow.  It might be the Savior discerned this man’s faith of length of suffering, and simply showed mercy and compassion to him.  Perhaps a clue in verse 14.

Verse 4

  • Did an angel truly trouble the water? Doesn’t pass the sniff test.  Probably an intermittent spring caused some bubbling in the water, mineral pool?  Tradition or myth.  “..first stepped in..” – Doesn’t fit well with the Savior’s teaching (first shall be last, vice versa, Who is the greatest in the kingdom? Servant of all)  The gospel is not a competition.  Picture the mayhem that would ensue as the bubbling began.

Verse 5

  • 38 years – palsy, stroke, arthritis, infectious disease, but couldn’t ambulate.

Verse 6

  • No mention of anyone else, no apostles, no followers.  Was Jesus alone, seeking out those who needed Him?
  • “..saw him lie..” – Where was Jesus always to be found?  In the crowds, mingling, conversing, looking for those who needed help or support or healing. In a group of invalids near a sheep market. Lying down, and had been for a very long time.  Think about the status of his muscles, bones, tendons.
  • “…lying down…” — and had been for a long time.  Consider the state of his bones, ligaments, tendons, muscles.
  • Wilt thou be made whole?” – Obvious, but the Savior wanted to hear his response.  His response suggests he did not know who was addressing him.  Doesn’t seem to have faith in Christ, distinct from others who sought out Jesus.  But he answered without cynicism, without anger.  Gave a simple and sweet answer.

Verse 7

  • “… no man to put me…” — He apparently was alone, with no family members, friends to help him.
  • “..while I am coming..” – Picture this man trying to get to the pool, but at least he TRIED!  Even though he had not yet succeeded, he continued to try.  He was still near the pool, hoping and with faith.

Verse 8

  • “..Rise, take up thy bed, and walk..” – 3 miracles 1) Stand up after 38 years, and there is no mention of the Lord assisting him to a standing position [self-reliance]   2) Stoop and pick up your bed!   3) Walk after 38 years!  Normally there would have been a ‘relearning’ period?!

Verse 9

  • “..immediately..” – What power does the Savior have?  Think of the state of his legs.  How does this compare with moving a mountain, diverting a river out of its course?
  • “..made whole..” – physically, emotionally, spiritually? (see verse 14)

Verse 11-12 & 16

  • “..made me whole. What man is that…” — Seriously?  Instead of focusing on this miraculous healing, they focus on a violation of the “Law”??  They indeed were ‘past feeling’, as described in 1 Nephi 17:45.  Elder Neal A. Maxwell called this behavior being concerned with the ‘thick’ of ‘thin’ things.  The Jews overlooked that a man infirm for 38 years had been made whole, and focused on his carrying his bed on the Sabbath.
  • “..made whole..” – physically, emotionally, spiritually? (see verse 14)

Verse 14

  • Had he brought this malady upon himself, perhaps through sin?  James 5:15, 1 Corinthians 11:29-30
  • Jesus didn’t carry him to the pool and dip him in the water when the waters were ‘troubled’.  The solutions of Jesus are usually very different than our solutions.


  • Jesus was always out among the people, serving.
  • He apparently healed this man due to love and mercy. One man in a crowd.  What about us?  Does He see us?  Can he single us out for blessings?
  • He incredible the power of Christ’s priesthood and power
  • Don’t look beyond the mark.  See Jacob 4:14
  • The message of the invalid includes:
    • Don’t give up.  He could have just begged or given up or relied on others, but he stayed at the pool, TRYING!
    • He had exhausted his resources but he kept at it.
    • The Savior must have sensed some faith, some hope, some self-reliance in this man.  His years of persistence paid off.
    • Often, we receive relief and divine aid only after long periods of faith and effort.


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