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Sun, Feb 14, 1999

38 - Doctrine of Healing

John 5:1-16 by Robert Dean
Series:John (1998)
Duration:1 hr 7 mins 14 secs

Doctrine of Healing
John 5:1-16
John Lesson #038
February 14, 1999
www.deanbibleministries.org

There is the initial calling of six disciples in John chapter one but that is not the official calling. They travel with Him throughout this part of the year. At the end of the first year they go back to their businesses. He has a Galilean ministry. Most of the time He is just out there by Himself teaching. Sometimes some of the disciples are with Him but it is not until almost the beginning of the third year that there is the official call. In this Galilean ministry He has a number of miracles, there are some teachings and different things going on. John is going to mention other Passovers. He mentions a Passover in 2:13, in 6:4, and then the Passover at the time of the crucifixion in 11:55. This is how we get the three years in the life of Christ. What about the second one? There is some controversy when we come to John chapter five, some discussion as to whether or not this feast in 5:1 is the Passover. Probably not, because every time it is the Passover John says Jesus went to Jerusalem for a Passover. This time he just says for a feast. There were several different feasts and we don't know, it is not important, according to God the Holy Spirit, for us to know. But it probably wasn't Passover, it is later in this year, so there is something of silence from January to either summer or early autumn when this transpires. In between Jesus has been conducting Himself in a teaching ministry, He has been healing and performing various signs and wonders, and a number of these have taken place on the Sabbath. These Sabbath events are not mentioned in John but they are recorded in the other Gospels. First of all He was challenged by the Pharisees because He was picking grain on the Sabbath in Mark 2:23-28. Secondly, He healed a withered hand in Mark 3:1-5. He cured a woman who had been crippled for 18 years on the Sabbath in Luke 13:10-17. Then He healed a man with dropsy on the Sabbath in Luke 14:1-6. This had occurred during the period from the end of John chapter four down through 5:1. There is a gap in the record of John but Jesus has been out there violating the Pharisaical law codes on the Sabbath for several months. But that is up in Galilee. Now Jesus heads right into the heart of the Pharisaic domain in Jerusalem for a feast day, and it is at this point that Jesus is going to bring things to a focal point: the challenge to legalism. He is going to make His public proclamation of who He is as the Messiah. In the first 16 verses or so we will see the events that give rise to the great Son of God discourse in the rest of the chapter.

The chapter begins with a healing event that takes place at the pool of Bethesda. John 5:1 NASB "After these things there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. [2] Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep {gate} a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. [3] In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, [waiting for the moving of the waters." Then there is a bracket in the NASB from the last clause in v. 3 to the end of verse 4. This tells us that this section is not included in most of the older and best MSS. It was probably added later. It is included in the KJV but most Bibles don't even include it anymore. It was probably something that a scribe wrote in the margin related to a superstitious belief at the time, and after it was written in the margin the next person who copied that text included it within the text. That is what is called a scribal error and there are a number of those.

This pool that is mentioned here is inside the sheep gate but it is just north of the temple area in Jerusalem. Archaeologists have discovered the remains of this pool of Bethesda. It was fed by an underground spring, probably a hot spring which is why it would have a connotation of healing. That is why whenever it would bubble up and hot gasses were released the water would churn a little bit and so there grew up this superstition that an angel was churning the water and that the first person in would get healed. Beyond that there were also five colonnades surrounding the spring, and this was like a hospital and all around this pool were these pathetic sights of the blind, the lame and the withered. Verse 3 says, "In these lay a multitude," so there may have been a hundred or two hundred different people lying around on their mats waiting for some kind of healing. They are described as the sick, and this is the Greek word asthenes [a)sqenhj]. Just as we have the word for healing which is sozo [swzw], the word normally translated "salvation" but literally means deliverance from something (the context tells us what), the same thing is true about asthenes. It is a compound word, the alpha privative [a] is like our "un," and it means not; thenes has to do with strength. So it would literally be "not strong" or "weak." Weakness from what? Weakness of what kind? If the context is physical then we are talking about a physical weakness or sickness. If the context is talking about the spiritual life then it would refer to being weak spiritually or perhaps a status of carnality. Here in our context it means obviously those who are physically weak.

Then we have a parenthetical phrase describing the kinds of sickness that are present—blind, lame and withered, in the English, but we need to retranslate that to get a better concept. The first is tuphlos [tufloj] and that literally means blind. The second group are those that are cholos [xwloj], and that refers to those who are lame or unable to walk. They are crippled in some sense and unable to move around. Then the third group are those that are xeros [chroj] which literally means to be dried up, so it came to be used to refer to those who were paralysed and their muscles had atrophied and had withered up. So it is talking about three categories of people here, the blind, the lame and the paralysed. This situation portrays for us the spiritual impotence of the human race. This whole situation is to demonstrate the grace of God and the gracious provision of God.

Jesus has come into town, has gone to the temple that day, and has walked around and seen the Pharisees and all of their legalistic wrangling, arguing the fine points of the law and how they can acquire the praise of God though all of their human works. Then He leaves and head one or two hundred yards north of the temple scene to what are really the dregs of humanity. Jesus walks in and He sees all of these people in all of their horrible condition, and he has compassion for all of them. But Jesus' mission is not to heal or alleviate the suffering of humanity. If it was, Jesus would have healed everyone there that particular morning. He doesn't do that. He looks around and picks what was probably the most pathetic case in the entire place, this one man who has been there for 38 years, unable to move, desperately believing this myth that an angel is going to come and stir up the waters, and if he can just get into that pool first then he would be able to walk again. People can become desperate in situations of illness and try any kind of so-called healing techniques in order to alleviate their suffering and their condition. This man had been doing this for years and was unable to get anybody to take him to the water. Jesus chooses him to be the object of His miracle that day. The point here is that this man is not a believer; he is not seeking healing from Jesus; he does not even become a believer as far as the text is concerned and as far as we know as a result of this. This is solely an expression of God's grace. Jesus Christ initiates, that is the point of grace. God the Father has initiated grace in human history and it is not up to man, it is up to God to initiate, and it is on the basis of who and what God is and not on the basis of who and what we are. So this whole situation is a training aid for us in the grace of God.

This scene at the pool of Bethesda pictures the spiritual impotence of the human race. All mankind is spiritually blind, born spiritually blind. The soulish man cannot understand the things of the Spirit of God because they are spiritually discerned, and he is not even able to do so, 1 Corinthians 2:14. Further, they are born spiritually lame, they cannot walk with God or have any relationship with God because they are indeed spiritually dead. Third, they are spiritually paralysed, unable to move spiritually. So this is a portrayal of the spiritual condition of the entire human race and the need for grace initiative to provide salvation.

John 5:4 NASB "for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted. [5] A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years." Another thing we need to remember is the Jewish emphasis on cleansing. They were obsessed with cleaning. This man has this Jewish belief that the water will cleanse him and give him physical healing.

John 5:6 NASB "When Jesus saw him lying {there,} and knew that he had already been a long time {in that condition,} He said to him, 'Do you wish to get well?'" There are hundreds of people here and nobody is paying attention to this one man. Jesus saw him there and this was pure grace initiative. There was nothing in this man that made him deserving of this healing. He is not positive, he is not a believer, Jesus just picks him out to make a point.

John 5:7 NASB "The sick man answered Him, 'Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me'. [8] Jesus said to him, 'Get up, pick up your pallet and walk'." What must the expression on that man's face have been! Because he knew from the self-authenticating command of Jesus Christ that he could. There was no doubt in his mind because the next verses says: John 5:9 NASB "Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and {began} to walk." When Jesus said "Get up," the man felt a surge of energy through his body that rejuvenated all of his nerve endings, all of his muscles. This is dramatic and this is impressive. Then Jesus just turns and disappears into the crowd. "… Now it was the Sabbath on that day." This is sort of added as if it is an afterthought, but this is the point. Jesus is bringing this whole issue of Pharisaic legalism to a head; it is a public confrontation.

The doctrine of healing (cont.)

10)  In the early church God healed mediately through believers. The term "mediately" means there is somebody between God and the person being healed. God worked through somebody. In the New Testament He gives somebody the gift of healing and the healing is mediated through a human agent. Once the New Testament period is over God heals immediately without the human agent. We pray for people to be healed. That doesn't mean that God will heal but we should pray for people who are sick. We believe that God heals today in answer to prayer but it is only due to His sovereign will.

11)  God's sovereign will intervenes in only rare cases of healing for His specific purposes.

12)  Faith in miracles. If we look at the miracles in the New Testament we can classify them two ways. There are those where the faith of the recipient was not present at the time of healing. This means that the person who was healed did not have faith at all and wasn't even seeking healing at the time. There was the nobleman's son in John 4:46-54. Afterwards he was a believer but he wasn't when he came seeking healing for his son. The son had no faith at all, he became a believer later. Second, there is the cripple at Bethesda. He was not a believer and to our knowledge never became a believer. Third, the demon possessed man in Capernaum had the demon cast out on the Sabbath, Mark 1:23-28. He was not a believer. Fourth, the paralysed man whose friends brought him to Jesus. His friends had faith, he did not, Matthew 9:2-8; Mark 2:3-12; Luke 5:18-26. Fifth, the centurion's servant. The centurion had faith, the servant wasn't present, Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 7:1-10. Sixth, the blind and mute man, Matthew 12:22; Luke 11:14. Seventh, the Gadarene demoniac did not have faith, Matthew 8:28-34; Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:26-39. Eighth, the deaf mute demon possessed man in Matthew 9:32-33 did not have faith. Ninth, feeding the five thousand. The 5000 did not exercise faith in order to get fed. In Matthew 14:14-21; Mark 6:34-44; Luke 9:12-17; John 6:5-13. Tenth, the feeding of the 4000 in Matthew 15:29-31; Mark 8:1-9. Eleventh, healing the Canaanite woman's daughter. The mother had faith but the daughter did not, Matthew 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30. The daughter wasn't even present. Twelfth, the deaf mute in Decapolus, Mark 7:31-37. Thirteenth, the demon possessed by in Matthew 17:14-18. Fourteenth, He restored Malcus's ear. Malcus didn't have any faith and never was a believer to our knowledge, Luke 22:49-51; John 18:10. Fifteenth, two blind men, Matthew 9:27-31. None of these people who were healed had faith or expressed faith at the time of their healing. So faith never was presented as a precondition in the Bible to have healing. Miracles where faith was present: The leper that was healed in Matthew 8:2-4; Mark 1:40-45; Luke 5:12-16. The man whose hand was crippled, Matthew 12:9-13. Peter had faith when he walked on the water, Matthew 14:24-33. The man who was born blind in John 9:1-7. Bartimaeus had his sight restored in Matthew 20:29-34. The woman with the haemorrhage in Matthew 9:20-22. The ten lepers in Luke 17:11-19. The first miraculous catch of fish in Luke 5:1-11. The second miraculous catch of fish in John 21:1-11. There are nine miracles where faith was present and fifteen where faith was not present. What is the point? Faith is not a precondition in the New Testament. So the conclusion is that miracles and healing were never normative in the spiritual life in either the Old Testament or the New Testament.

13)  In the 19th century there was a healing movement related to the holiness theology that was putting an emphasis on healing. Also in the mid-19th century there was some thing called new though metaphysics, that man can control his health by his mental attitude. The most famous disciple of new thought metaphysics was Mary Baker Glover Patterson Eddy.

Back to our passage in John chapter five, the man is made whole and that was on the Sabbath. What is the response?

John 5:10 NASB "So the Jews were saying to the man who was cured, 'It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet'." The word has got out to the Jewish leaders. The man I s headed to the temple in order to give his thanksgiving offering to God, the rabbis and the Pharisees find out about it and they go ballistic. They don't care about the fact that this man has been sick for 38 years. They don't even mention the healing, they are just distraught that their rules have been broken and this occurs on the Sabbath.

The Pharisees had developed a lengthy series of law codes in order to apply the Sabbath law. The Sabbath law from the Mosaic law simply prohibited work on the Sabbath. Then people came along and said: "What do you mean by work? Let's define work." It is the legalistic mentality that tries to find every circumlocution and thread, every eye of the legalistic needle in order to walk the edge. Sabbath began at sunset on Friday and started with three trumpet blasts from the temple and synagogues to let everybody know that from now on they couldn't work, and it ended with sunset on Saturday. All food had to be prepared before the Sabbath, all dishes had to be washed before the Sabbath, and all light lit. Everything had to be done before that trumpet blew. The Mosaic law simply prohibited work on the Sabbath but the rabbis developed a system for defining work.

The rule that applied most to the situation was this: "A living person on a bed is exempt, even for the bed because the bed is secondary, but a corpse on a couch is culpable." In other words, you had to make sure the guy was alive or dead before you licked up the bed and carried it. And it was not permissible to pick up anything and carry it from a public place to a private place, or from a private place to a public place. That was the violation that this man engaged in in John chapter five. The Jews aren't concerned that he hasn't been able to walk for 38 years, they are concerned with his Sabbath violation and all they want to know is who told him to do it. And he didn't know; he had no idea.

John 5:11 NASB "But he answered them, "He who made me well was the one who said to me, 'Pick up your pallet and walk.'" Jesus had slipped away while there was a crowd in that place. Later Jesus seeks him out and says: "Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you." Apparently his illness was caused by carnality in his life and we do not know what that was, but it does tell us that illness can be a result of carnality, from our own sinful choices.

This is going to create a head-to-head confrontation with the Jews.