John: Lesson 6: Opposition to Jesus becomes Public (John 5:1-29)

Up until now, Jesus has mostly been working with individuals, but in this section of the Gospel, His ministry begins to engage with larger groups, both followers and dissenters.  In John 5, Jesus begins by healing a paralyzed man on the Sabbath (5:1-9).  This event becomes a spark to ignite the public opposition against Him (5:10–18).


Healing on the Sabbath

Read John 5:1-9

Isaiah 35:5-6:

Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped.  Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will sing for joy, for water will gush in the wilderness, and streams in the desert.

“a feast of the Jews”: John doesn’t name the Feast Jesus went to.  Based on the probable time line, and the feasts the Old Covenant required Israelite men to participate in (Deuteronomy 16:16; 2 Chronicles 8:13), this is most likely Pentecost.

“Bethesda”: The Greek transliteration of the Hebrew bet esda, “house of outpouring.”  This pool held waters which were believed to contain healing powers when an angel from heaven stirred the water.

  • How does the stirring of water tie in with the earlier idea of “living water”?


  • How does Jesus show the power of “living water” comes from Him?


  • What does Jesus do? What day was it?


  • In what way did Jesus heal him?


  • If this man was healed after 38 years, what does this help us understand about the spiritual healing Jesus is teaching. Is it ever too late for someone to believe?


Excursus: The Link between Healing and Salvation

The Old Testament often used the word “salvation” to refer to someone’s restoration of health.

  • Psalm 103:1, 3: My soul, bless the Lord, and all that is within me, bless his holy name….   He forgives all your iniquity; he heals all your diseases.
  • Isaiah 53:4-5: Yet he himself bore our sicknesses … and we are healed by his wounds.
  • Jeremiah 17:14: Heal me, Lord, and I will be healed; save me, and I will be saved.

Scripture even describes the opposite of salvation as being in poor health.  “Because of your [God’s] wrath, there is no health in my body; there is no soundness in my bones because of my sin” (Psalm 38:3).

After God rescued His people from Egypt, He made the bitter water at Marah sweet.  Afterward, He told the people: “I, Yahweh, am your healer” (Exodus 15:26).

The man waited for the water to be stirred, to become “living” so he could be healed.  God is the true provider of “living” water to His people, so they don’t die eternally.  This Jesus showed, healing through the use of His words, teaching the formerly lame man the power to heal originated from Himself.



Read John 5:10-13

Exodus 20:8-9:

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy: You are to labor six days and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.

Jeremiah 17:21:

This is what the Lord says: Watch yourselves; do not carry a load on the Sabbath day or bring it through the gates of Jerusalem.

  • Did the healed man “carry a load” or “bring it through the gates of Jerusalem”?


The Old Covenant did forbid to work on the Sabbath, the Day of Rest.  Jewish tradition (the Mishnah, Shabbat 7:2) separated God’s prohibition against work into 39 categories, including taking or carrying anything from one place to another.

By Old Covenant standards, it isn’t clear if the man carrying a mat was against the Law since he did not carry mats for a living.  However, according to the Mishnah, the healed man did break the Law, since carrying a mat was prohibited in one of its 30 categories.  Shabbat 10:5 forbad the carrying of empty beds on the Sabbath.

  • How did the Jews turn not working into a work, obscuring the work of God did for them on their “day of Rest”?


  • Do we have equivalents to this in the Church today?


  • Does the healed man still have any clue who Jesus is?


Read John 5:14

  • What point is Jesus making by telling the man not to sin anymore? In other words, if Jesus temporarily healed the man from the results of the fall into sin, what can sin lead to in eternity?


Read John 5:15-17

  • When the Jews challenged Jesus for healing on the Sabbath, how did He respond? In other words, did Jesus challenge their understanding of the Law or His authority to do what He did?


When Jesus said, “My Father is working until now,” He was asserting that God has the authority to work on the Sabbath if He so chooses.  With this, the Jews would have had no quarrel. 

  • When Jesus said, “My Father is working until now, and I am working,” what is he saying about Himself?


Read John 5:18

  • What does John reveal about how many understood Jesus’ words?


Read John 5:19-20a


  • In the context of what John wrote in vs. 18, are Jesus’ words here making Him less than the Father or meant to show Him as equal to the Father?


In Exodus 2:8-9 in the Septuagint, Moses makes (poieo) the Tabernacle according to all (panta) that God shows (deiknumi) him.  Here, in John 5:19-20, the Son does (poieo) what he sees the Father doing, and the Father shows (deiknumi) him all (panta) that he does.  By using these same words in a similar way, an astute reader of Scripture we understand two things:

  1. This reinforces Jesus’ earlier statement about Him being the Temple’s fulfillment (John 2:19).
  2. Like the Temple as the place of God’s presence on earth, Jesus is now the location of God on earth.

Read John 5:20b-23

  • What greater work is Jesus referring to?


  • When the Son “gives life to whom He will,” what event is this referring to?


Read John 5:24

  • To the person who hears Jesus’ word and believes the Father who sent Him, what will take place for him on the Last Day?


  • Earlier, we saw a connection to water and faith? Is water somehow connected here to believing?


Read John 5:25-29

Here, Jesus repeats Himself but expands or amplifies the point He is making.

John 5:21: For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.

John 5:26: For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.

  • How does vs. 26 emphasize who Jesus is? (Note the use of “in” not only “to” [vs. 22, 27])


John 5:24: Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.

John 5:25: An hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.

  • What is it that causes someone to live?


The presence of Jesus already gave life and brought judgment (vs. 24-27).  This again testifies to Him being God, for this power of life is in Him, not simply given to Him.


Excursus: The Now and Not Yet as It Relates to “the Dead”

“the dead”: At first glance, “the dead” seems to be referring to those who are alive when Jesus was with them but dead in their sins.  For Jesus was speaking in the present tense.

But there’s more.  Remember Jesus speaking in the present tense to Nicodemus.  “Unless one is born from above he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).  “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).  “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).  All of these were future events but spoken of in the present tense.  (Jesus does the same thing in John 6.)

When we follow the flow and repetition of what Jesus says in this section, more is revealed in vs. 28.  “For an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and come out.”  So, Jesus was talking about the grave (sheol).  So, when was this hour? Matthew 27:52 offers one answer.  When Jesus died, “the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised.”  They heard His voice and came out.

From an eternal view, “the dead” also refers to the events of the Last Day, which this section keeps pointing toward.  For that’s when those who have done good will rise to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment (John 5:28-29).

In the New Testament, we find salvation is both “already” (present tense) and “not yet” (future tense).  Consider, “according to His great mercy, He saved us” (Titus 3:5).  “Now the righteousness of God has been revealed” (Romans 3:21).  “For the Word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

“Through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness” (Galatians 5).  “Wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24).  “We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23).

As Christians, we have already received and, yet, we have not yet received.  For though we are redeemed, we still await our final redemption, which will take place on the Last Day.  (This means those in heaven are still living in faith and hope.)

Within the Gospel texts, the reign of God has already come (for Jesus was with them), so the disciples of Jesus cannot fast because the bridegroom is here, and the wedding feast is ready (Matthew 9:15).  But the ten virgins must wait and watch, for the bridegroom has not yet arrived, and the wedding feast has yet to begin (Matthew 25:1-13).

Paul writes, “For we were saved… in hope” (Romans 8:24).  Christ is our hope.  When it comes to our salvation, the hour is always here (Matthew 5:25).  Yet, we wait for the hour when all who are in the tombs will hear Jesus’ voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life (Matthew 5:28-29).



John 5:21-22: as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.  For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son

John 5:27-29: The Father has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man….   Those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

  • How can the Son giving life reconcile not contradict the resurrection of life going to those who have done good?


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