The Gospel of John
(James J. Barker)

Lesson 11


(John 5:1-18)


1.    We are going to look at a miracle tonight, and this miracle took place at Bethesda (5:1, 2).

2.    The Bible says “there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem” (5:1).

3.    We do not know which feast John is referring to.  Some think it may of been Pentecost.  Some think it may of been the Passover.  The Bible does not indicate which feast it was. But notice it is called, “a feast of the Jews” (not “a feast of the Lord’s” –  cf. John 2:13).

4.    By the sheep market there was a pool, “which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches” (5:2). In these five porches “lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt (unable to walk), withered, waiting for the moving of the water” (5:3).

5.    An unusual thing happened on a regular basis at this pool.  The Bible says “an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water...” (5:4). Skeptics have a hard time with this but the Bible plainly says an angel stirred the water.

6.    EW Bullinger in his Companion Bible, adds the words “it was said” between “For” and “an angel” in John 5:4.

7.    By the way verse 4 and the latter part of verse 3 are omitted from the NIV and other modern translations (cf. Scofield margin).  This story, especially verse 7, wouldn’t make much sense without verses 3 and 4. This is another good reason to stick with the KJV.

8.    Not only do the vast majority of Greek manuscripts contain this passage exactly as we have here in our Authorized Version, there is also much external evidence supporting these disputed verses (3b and 4). Certain church fathers, such as Tatian, Tertullian, Didymus, Chrysostom, and others, all referred to it in their writings.  Edward F. Hills, in his excellent book, The King James Version Defended, says that these “Church Fathers attached great importance” to these verses.

9.    Now I would like to draw your attention to this impotent man who had been sick for 38 years (5:5).  Tonight we will look at his healing and his conversion.

10. Whenever I preach I try to emphasize the application as well as the interpretation.  To me the application is very simple: this poor, helpless impotent man is a picture of a poor, hopeless sinner.



1.    Let me make this as plain as I possibly can.  This poor, hopeless, helpless impotent man is a picture of every lost sinner.

2.    First of all, notice he was helpless (5:5, 6). The lost, unregenerate sinner is absolutely helpless. He cannot change himself (Job 5:7; 14:1-4; Jer. 13:23).

3.    The lost sinner cannot change himself, nor can he clean himself up (Jer. 2:22; Pro. 20:9).

4.    Man cannot change himself; he cannot clean himself.  And neither can he save himself (Rom. 5:6).  Beloved, we were “yet without strength,” just like this poor impotent man.

5.    Not only was this impotent man helpless, he was also hopeless.  The Bible says he “had an infirmity thirty and eight years” (5:5). He was hanging around that pool a very long time waiting for something to happen.

6.    We have a lot of unsaved people hanging around churches for a long time waiting for something to happen.  Some are waiting for some great, exciting emotion to overcome them.

7.    Others are waiting for a vision from heaven.

8.    Others are waiting for their husband to get saved or their wife or maybe their mom or dad.  They are hanging around waiting for something to happen.  And many of them are as hopeless as this impotent man.

9.    Some have been waiting for so long they have forgotten what they are waiting for!

10. Unsaved friend: Do not wait for some feeling to move you.  We are not saved by feelings; we are saved by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible tells you what you must do.  Repent and get right with God.

11. Not only was he helpless and hopeless, he was also friendless.  This impotent man said to our Lord, “Sir, I have no man…” (5:7). Beloved, there are a lot of lonely sinners out there just like this fellow.  Let’s go out and tell them Jesus died for their sins. Let’s give them the Gospel.  They need a true friend, and there is no better friend than the Lord Jesus Christ.

12. Sometimes we think that sinners have many friends but this is not really the case.  Think of the prodigal son. He thought he had plenty of friends but he was alone in that pigpen – just him and the pigs!



1.    We have looked at his condition.  Let me just take a moment to mention his opportunity. Our Lord spoke to this poor helpless impotent man (5:6).  Here we see the impotent man met the Omnipotent Man.

2.    Tonight our Lord is asking the same question, “Wilt thou be made whole?” (5:6).  People often say they “found the Lord,” but the Lord was not lost – they were lost and the Lord found them.

3.    The Lord went to this impotent man; the impotent man did not seek after Jesus.  This man did not even know our Lord’s name.  “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).

4.    People have allowed sin to mess up their lives, but our Lord graciously intervenes and asks, “Wilt thou be made whole?”

5.    Unsaved friend, what about you? Wilt thou be made whole?



1.    I do not believe in faith healers but I certainly believe in faith healing.  The Lord Jesus Christ is the Great Physician and we should always go to Him in prayer first before going to a doctor.

2.    This poor impotent man was frustrated.  Every time he tried to get into the pool, someone would jump ahead of him (5:7).

3.    Likewise there are many frustrated sinners out there today.  They have tried alcohol; they have tried drugs; they have tried illicit sex; they have tried money and success; they have tried everything this world has to offer, and they are just as helpless and hopeless as this impotent man.

4.    Many have even tried religion.  The Jewish leaders in Jesus’ day were very religious.  They were upset because this impotent man carried his bed (perhaps nothing more than old blanket) on the Sabbath (5:9, 10).

5.    They should have recognized the fact that the Sabbath day was the best day for God to work (5:17).  I expect God to work every day, and especially on the Lord’s Day.  But the unregenerate Jews could not see this.

6.    Many religious people get caught up in rules and rituals but are spiritually blind.  These Jews were determined to kill their Messiah because He had healed an impotent man on the Sabbath (5:16-18).

7.    God gave man the Sabbath day for man’s blessing and for man’s benefit.  Our Lord said in Mark 2:27, 28, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath.”

8.    Notice this healing happened “immediately” (5:9).  How unlike these fake healers today who make people hang around the altar for hours crying and begging God to heal them!

9.    This impotent man was healed immediately and then he “took up his bed (a pallet or a mattress) and walked” (5:9).

10. This miracle marks one of the great turning points in the life of our Lord. Because He healed this man on the Sabbath, He stirred up the anger and hatred of the Jewish leaders. Now they wanted to kill Him and they would continue to pursue Him until they finally succeeded in having Him crucified (5:16-18).



1.    “Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole” (5:14).  Our Lord not only healed him, but more importantly, He saved him.

2.    Our Lord told him, “Sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee” (5:14). Apparently his physical condition had been brought about by a life of sinful indulgence.

3.    We need to preach from the rooftops: “Sin has consequences!”

4.    “Sin no more” (5:14). Our Lord would never tell an unconverted man to go and sin no more.  You may as well expect a bird not to fly or a fish not to swim.  Sinners are in bondage to sin and they will continue to sin until they repent of their sin and the Lord saves them and delivers them from the power of sin.

5.    Sometimes people will tell me: did you hear about this?  And they will proceed to tell me some horrible tale of wicked sin, and I usually reply the same way:  “What else can we expect from lost sinners?”  The Bible says they are in darkness.  The Bible says they are blinded by the devil. The Bible says they are in bondage to sin. 

6.    What would really be surprising would be to hear that some worldly unregenerate sinners started reading the Bible and going to church and living for the Lord.  Now that would be a miracle!

7.    Unsaved friend: you will never get victory over sin until you get right with God.  Our Lord is asking you this Lord’s Day, “Wilt thou be made whole?” (5:6)

8.    If you answer in the affirmative, He then says: “Sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee” (5:14).



1.    I have been thinking lately about this impotent man and how many attempts he made to get into the pool.  The Bible says that only the first one into the pool “after the troubling of the water” could be healed (5:4).

2.    How many times did this poor man crawl down to the water, only to have someone else get there first? (5:7).

3.    This is a picture of a lost sinner struggling to get saved by his own efforts.  And what is the solution?  The impotent man simply had to look to Christ and he was saved.

4.    How many sinners are trying to do this and that to find salvation when all they really need to do is look to Jesus Christ and live.

5.    One of Aesop’s well-known fables is the story of the fox and the grapes.  The fox saw some grapes hanging high on a vine but he could not reach them.  He kept jumping as hard as he could but kept missing.

6.    Finally he said: “Who cares?  Those are nothing but sour grapes!” And he walked away.   (Perhaps this is how the term “sour grapes” originated.)

7.    Unsaved friend, do not walk away from here thinking, “It’s no use.  I can’t get to God. I can’t live the Christian life.  It’s too hard.”

8.    Just come to Him in simple faith. Put your trust in Him, and Him alone. Believe that the Lord Jesus Christ took your place on the cross and He will save you.

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