|Barnes' Notes on the Bible|
A feast - Probably the Passover, though it is not certain. There were two other feasts - the Pentecost and the Feast of Tabernacles - at which all the males were required to be present, and it might have been one of them. It is of no consequence, however, which of them is intended.
Clarke's Commentary on the Bible
A feast - This is generally supposed, by the best critics, to have been the feast of the passover, which was the most eminent feast among the Jews. In several excellent MSS. the article is added, ἡ ἑορτη, The feast, the grand, the principal festival. Petavius supposes that the feast of Purim, or lots, is here meant; and one MS. reads ἡ σκηνοπηγια, the feast of Tabernacles. Several of the primitive fathers believe Pentecost to be intended; and they are followed by many of the moderns, because, in John 7:2, mention is made of the feast of Tabernacles, which followed Pentecost, and was about the latter end of our September; and, in John 10:22, mention is made of the feast of Dedication, which was held about the latter end of November. See Bp. Pearce. See John 10:22.
Calmet, however, argues that there is no other feast with which all the circumstances marked here so well agree as with the passover; and Bp. Newcome, who is of Calmet's opinion, thinks Bp. Pearce's argument concerning the succession of the feasts to be inconclusive; because it is assumed, not proved, that the three feasts which he mentions above must have happened in the same year. See much on the same subject in Bp. Newcome's notes to his Harmony, p. 15, etc.
Lightfoot has observed, that the other evangelists speak very sparingly of our Lord's acts in Judea. They mention nothing of the passovers, from our Lord's baptism till his death, excepting the very last: but John points at them all. The first he speaks of, John 2:13; the third, John 6:4; the fourth, John 13:1; and the second in this place: for although he does not call it the passover, but a feast in general, yet the circumstances agree best with this feast; and our Lord's words, John 4:35, seem to cast light on this subject. See the note there.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
After this there was a feast of the Jews,.... After Christ had been in Samaria, which was four months ago, John 4:35, and had been in Galilee for that time, and had cured the nobleman's son, and had done other mighty works, the time came on for one of the three festivals of the Jews; either the feast of Pentecost, as some think; or as others, the feast of tabernacles; or rather, the feast of the passover, so called, in John 4:45 since John is very particular, in giving an account of the several passovers, in Christ's ministry:
and Jesus went up to Jerusalem; according to the law of God, which obliged all the males to appear there at that time; and to show his compliance with it, and obedience to it, whom it became to fulfil all righteousness; and this he did also, that he might have an opportunity of discoursing, and doing his miracles before all the people, which came at this time, from the several parts of the land.
Vincent's Word Studies
A feast (ἑορτὴ)
Or festival. What festival is uncertain. It has been identified with the Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles; also with the Day of Atonement, the Feast of Dedication, and the Feast of Purim.
Geneva Study Bible
After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
People's New Testament
5:1 Jesus in Jerusalem
SUMMARY OF JOHN 5:
At Bethesda. The Man with the Infirmity Healed. The Jews Complain That the Sabbath Was Broken. The Jews Seek to Slay Jesus. He Rebukes Them. Jesus Predicts His Own Death and Resurrection. Also the Resurrection of All. The Testimony of John; of Moses. The Testimony of Moses.
There was a feast of the Jews. Probably the second passover, attended by the Lord after his ministry began. Such is the view of Irenaeus, Eusebius, Lightfoot, Neander, Gresswell, Andrews, and Dr. Wm. Milligan.
5:1 A feast - Pentecost.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Joh 5:1-47. The Impotent Man Healed-Discourse Occasioned by the Persecution Arising Thereupon.
1. a feast of the Jews-What feast? No question has more divided the Harmonists of the Gospels, and the duration of our Lord's ministry may be said to hinge on it. For if, as the majority have thought (until of late years) it was a Passover, His ministry lasted three and a half years; if not, probably a year less. Those who are dissatisfied with the Passover-view all differ among themselves what other feast it was, and some of the most acute think there are no grounds for deciding. In our judgment the evidence is in favor of its being a Passover, but the reasons cannot be stated here.
Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary
5:1-9 We are all by nature impotent folk in spiritual things, blind, halt, and withered; but full provision is made for our cure, if we attend to it. An angel went down, and troubled the water; and what disease soever it was, this water cured it, but only he that first stepped in had benefit. This teaches us to be careful, that we let not a season slip which may never return. The man had lost the use of his limbs thirty-eight years. Shall we, who perhaps for many years have scarcely known what it has been to be a day sick, complain of one wearisome night, when many others, better than we, have scarcely known what it has been to be a day well? Christ singled this one out from the rest. Those long in affliction, may comfort themselves that God keeps account how long. Observe, this man speaks of the unkindness of those about him, without any peevish reflections. As we should be thankful, so we should be patient. Our Lord Jesus cures him, though he neither asked nor thought of it. Arise, and walk. God's command, Turn and live; Make ye a new heart; no more supposes power in us without the grace of God, his distinguishing grace, than this command supposed such power in the impotent man: it was by the power of Christ, and he must have all the glory. What a joyful surprise to the poor cripple, to find himself of a sudden so easy, so strong, so able to help himself! The proof of spiritual cure, is our rising and walking. Has Christ healed our spiritual diseases, let us go wherever he sends us, and take up whatever he lays upon us; and walk before him.
Matthew Henry's Whole Bible Commentary
We have in the gospels a faithful record of all that Jesus began both to do and to teach, Acts 1:1. These two are interwoven, because what he taught explained what he did, and what he did confirmed what he taught. Accordingly, we have in this chapter a miracle and a sermon. I. The miracle was the cure of an impotent man that had been diseased thirty-eight years, with the circumstances of that cure (v. 1-16). II. The sermon was Christ's vindication of himself before the sanhedrim, when he was prosecuted as a criminal for healing the man on the sabbath day, in which, 1. He asserts his authority as Messiah, and Mediator between God and man (v. 17-29). 2. He proves it by the testimony of his Father, of John Baptist, of his miracles, and of the scriptures of the Old Testament, and condemns the Jews for their unbelief (v. 30-47).
This miraculous cure is not recorded by any other of the evangelists, who confine themselves mostly to the miracles wrought in Galilee, but John relates those wrought at Jerusalem. Concerning this observe,
I. The time when this cure was wrought: it was at a feast of the Jews, that is, the passover, for that was the most celebrated feast. Christ, though residing in Galilee, yet went up to Jerusalem at the feast, v. 1. 1. Because it was an ordinance of God, which, as a subject, he would observe, being made under the law; though as a Son he might have pleaded an exemption. Thus he would teach us to attend religious assemblies. Heb. 10:25. 2. Because it was an opportunity of good; for, (1.) there were great numbers gathered together there at that time; it was a general rendezvous, at least of all serious thinking people, from all parts of the country, besides proselytes from other nations: and Wisdom must cry in the places of concourse, Prov. 1:21. (2.) It was to be hoped that they were in a good frame, for they came together to worship God and to spend their time in religious exercises. Now a mind inclined to devotion, and sequestering itself to the exercises of piety, lies very open to the further discoveries of divine light and love, and to it Christ will be acceptable.
II. The place where this cure was wrought: at the pool of Bethesda, which had a miraculous healing virtue in it, and is here particularly described, v. 2-4.
1. Where it was situated: At Jerusalem, by the sheep-market; epi teľ probatikeľ. It might as well be rendered the sheep-cote, where the sheep were kept, or the sheep-gate, which we read of, Neh. 3:1, through which the sheep were brought, as the sheep-market, where they were sold. Some think it was near the temple, and, if so, it yielded a melancholy but profitable spectacle to those that went up to the temple to pray.
2. How it was called: It was a pool (a pond or bath), which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda-the house of mercy; for therein appeared much of the mercy of God to the sick and diseased. In a world of so much misery as this is, it is well that there are some Bethesdas-houses of mercy (remedies against those maladies), that the scene is not all melancholy. An alms-house, so Dr. Hammond. Dr. Lightfoot's conjecture is that this was the upper pool (Isa. 7:3), and the old pool, Isa. 22:11; that it had been used for washing from ceremonial pollutions, for convenience of which the porches were built to dress and undress in, but it was lately become medicinal.
3. How it was fitted up: It had five porches, cloisters, piazzas, or roofed walks, in which the sick lay. Thus the charity of men concurred with the mercy of God for the relief of the distressed. Nature has provided remedies, but men must provide hospitals.
4. How it was frequented with sick and cripples (v. 3): In these lay a great multitude of impotent folks. How many are the afflictions of the afflicted in this world! How full of complaints are all places, and what multitudes of impotent folks! It may do us good to visit the hospitals sometimes, that we may take occasion, from the calamities of others, to thank God for our comforts. The evangelist specifies three sorts of diseased people that lay here, blind, halt, and withered or sinew-shrunk, either in one particular part, as the man with the withered hand, or all over paralytic. These are mentioned because, being least able to help themselves into the water, they lay longest waiting in the porches. Those that were sick of these bodily diseases took the pains to come far and had the patience to wait long for a cure; any of us would have done the same, and we ought to do so: but O that men were as wise for their souls, and as solicitous to get their spiritual diseases healed! We are all by nature impotent folks in spiritual things, blind, halt, and withered; but effectual provision is made for our cure if we will but observe orders.
5. What virtue it had for the cure of these impotent folks (v. 4). An angel went down, and troubled the water; and whoso first stepped in was made whole. That this strange virtue in the pool was natural, or artificial rather, and was the effect of the washing of the sacrifices, which impregnated the water with I know not what healing virtue even for blind people, and that the angel was a messenger, a common person, sent down to stir the water, is altogether groundless; there was a room in the temple on purpose to wash the sacrifices in. Expositors generally agree that the virtue this pool had was supernatural. It is true the Jewish writers, who are not sparing in recounting the praises of Jerusalem, do none of them make the least mention of this healing pool, of which silence in this matter perhaps this is the reason, that it was taken for a presage of the near approach of the Messiah, and therefore those who denied him to be come industriously concealed such an indication of his coming; so that this is all the account we have of it. Observe,
(1.) The preparation of the medicine by an angel, who went down into the pool, and stirred the water. Angels are God's servants, and friends to mankind; and perhaps are more active in the removing of diseases (as evil angels in the inflicting of them) than we are aware of. Raphael, the apocryphal name of an angel, signifies medicina Dei-God's physic, or physician rather. See what mean offices the holy angels condescend to, for the good of men. If we would do the will of God as the angels do it, we must think nothing below us but sin. The troubling of the water was the signal given of the descent of the angel, as the going upon the tops of the mulberry trees was to David, and then they must bestir themselves. The waters of the sanctuary are then healing when they are put in motion. Ministers must stir up the gift that is in them. When they are cold and dull in their ministrations, the waters settle, and are not apt to heal. The angel descended, to stir the water, not daily, perhaps not frequently, but at a certain season; some think, at the three solemn feasts, to grace those solemnities; or, now and then, as Infinite Wisdom saw fit. God is a free agent in dispensing his favours.
(2.) The operation of the medicine: Whoever first stepped in was made whole. here is, [1.] miraculous extent of the virtue as to the diseases cured; what disease soever it was, this water cured it. Natural and artificial baths are as hurtful in some cases as they are useful in others, but this was a remedy for every malady, even for those that came from contrary causes. The power of miracles succeeds where the power of nature succumbs. [2.] A miraculous limitation of the virtue as to the persons cured: He that first stepped in had the benefit; that is, he or they that stepped in immediately were cured, not those that lingered and came in afterwards. This teaches us to observe and improve our opportunities, and to look about us, that we slip not a season which may never return. The angel stirred the waters, but left the diseased to themselves to get in. God has put virtue into the scriptures and ordinances, for he would have healed us; but, if we do not make a due improvement of them, it is our own fault, we would not be healed.
Now this is all the account we have of this standing miracle; it is uncertain when it began and when it ceased. Some conjecture it began when Eliashib the high priest began the building of the wall about Jerusalem, and sanctified it with prayer; and that God testified his acceptance by putting this virtue into the adjoining pool. Some think it began now lately at Christ's birth; nay, others at his baptism. Dr. Lightfoot, finding in Josephus, Antiq. 15.121-122, mention of a great earthquake in the seventh year of Herod, thirty years before Christ's birth, supposed, since there used to be earthquakes at the descent of angels, that then the angel first descended to stir this water. Some think it ceased with this miracle, others at Christ's death; however, it is certain it had a gracious signification. First, it was a token of God's good will to that people, and an indication that, though they had been long without prophets and miracles, yet God had not cast them off; though they were now an oppressed despised people, and many were ready to say, Where are all the wonders that our fathers told us of? God did hereby let them know that he had still a kindness for the city of their solemnities. We may hence take occasion to acknowledge with thankfulness God's power and goodness in the mineral waters, that contribute so much to the health of mankind; for God made the fountains of water, Rev. 14:7. Secondly, It was a type of the Messiah, who is the fountain opened; and was intended to raise people's expectations of him who is the Sun of righteousness, that arises with healing under his wings. These waters had formerly been used for purifying, now for healing, to signify both the cleansing and curing virtue of the blood of Christ, that incomparable bath, which heals all our diseases. The waters of Siloam, which filled this pool, signified the kingdom of David, and of Christ the Son of David (Isa. 8:6); fitly therefore have they now this sovereign virtue put into them. The laver of regeneration is to us as Bethesda's pool, healing our spiritual diseases; not at certain seasons, but at all times. Whoever will, let him come.
III. The patient on whom this cure was wrought (v. 5): one that had been infirm thirty-eight years. 1. His disease was grievous: He had an infirmity, a weakness; he had lost the use of his limbs, at least on one side, as is usual in palsies. It is sad to have the body so disabled that, instead of being the soul's instrument, it is become, even in the affairs of this life, its burden. What reason have we to thank God for bodily strength, to use it for him, and to pity those who are his prisoners! 2. The duration of it was tedious: Thirty-eight years. He was lame longer than most live. Many are so long disabled for the offices of life that, as the psalmist complains, they seem to be made in vain; for suffering, not for service; born to be always dying. Shall we complain of one wearisome night, or one fit of illness, who perhaps for many years have scarcely known what it has been to be a day sick, when many others, better than we, have scarcely known what it has been to be a day well? Mr. Baxter's note on this passage is very affecting: "How great a mercy was it to live thirty-eight years under God's wholesome discipline! O my God," saith he, "I thank thee for the like discipline of fifty-eight years; how safe a life is this, in comparison of full prosperity and pleasure!"
IV. The cure and the circumstances of it briefly related, v. 6-9.
1. Jesus saw him lie. Observe, When Christ came up to Jerusalem he visited not the palaces, but the hospitals, which is an instance of his humility, and condescension, and tender compassion, and an indication of his great design in coming into the world, which was to seek and save the sick and wounded. There was a great multitude of poor cripples here at Bethesda, but Christ fastened his eye upon this one, and singled him out from the rest, because he was senior of the house, and in a more deplorable condition than any of the rest; and Christ delights to help the helpless, and hath mercy on whom he will have mercy. Perhaps his companions in tribulation insulted over him, because he had often been disappointed of a cure; therefore Christ took him for his patient: it is his honour to side with the weakest, and bear up those whom he sees run down.
2. He knew and considered how long he had lain in this condition. Those that have been long in affliction may comfort themselves with this, that God keeps account how long, and knows our frame.
3. He asked him, Wilt thou be made whole? A strange question to be asked one that had been so long ill. Some indeed would not be made whole, because their sores serve them to beg by and serve them for an excuse for idleness; but this poor man was as unable to go a begging as to work, yet Christ put it to him, (1.) To express his own pity and concern for him. Christ is tenderly inquisitive concerning the desires of those that are in affliction, and is willing to know what is their petition: "What shall I do for you?" (2.) To try him whether he would be beholden for a cure to him against whom the great people were so prejudiced and sought to prejudice others. (3.) To teach him to value the mercy, and to excite in him desires after it. In spiritual cases, people are not willing to be cured of their sins, are loth to part with them. If this point therefore were but gained, if people were willing to be made whole, the work were half done, for Christ is willing to heal, if we be but willing to be healed, Mt. 8:3.
4. The poor impotent man takes this opportunity to renew his complaint, and to set forth the misery of his case, which makes his cure the more illustrious: Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool, v. 7. He seems to take Christ's question as an imputation of carelessness and neglect: "If thou hadst had a mind to be healed, thou wouldest have looked better to thy hits, and have got into the healing waters long before now." "No, Master," saith the poor man, "It is not for want of a good will, but of a good friend, that I am unhealed. I have done what I could to help myself, but in vain, for no one else will help me." (1.) He does not think of any other way of being cured than by these waters, and desires no other friendship than to be helped into them; therefore, when Christ cured him, his imagination or expectation could not contribute to it, for he thought of no such thing. (2.) He complains for want of friends to help him in: "I have no man, no friend to do me that kindness." One would think that some of those who had been themselves healed should have lent him a hand; but it is common for the poor to be destitute of friends; no man careth for their soul. To the sick and impotent it is as true a piece of charity to work for them as to relieve them; and thus the poor are capable of being charitable to one another, and ought to be so, though we seldom find that they are so; I speak it to their shame. (3.) He bewails his infelicity, that very often when he was coming another stepped in before him. But a step between him and a cure, and yet he continues impotent. None had the charity to say, "Your case is worse than mine, do you go in now, and I will stay till the next time;" for there is no getting over the old maxim, Every one for himself. Having been so often disappointed, he begins to despair, and now is Christ's time to come to his relief; he delights to help in desperate cases. Observe, How mildly this man speaks of the unkindness of those about him, without any peevish reflections. As we should be thankful for the least kindness, so we should be patient under the greatest contempts; and, let our resentments be ever so just, yet our expressions should ever be calm. And observe further, to his praise, that, though he had waited so long in vain, yet still he continued lying by the pool side, hoping that some time or other help would come, Hab. 2:3.
5. Our Lord Jesus hereupon cures him with a word speaking, though he neither asked it nor thought of it. Here is,
(1.) The word he said: Rise, take up thy bed, v. 8. [1.] He is bidden to rise and walk; a strange command to be given to an impotent man, that had been long disabled; but this divine word was to be the vehicle of a divine power; it was a command to the disease to be gone, to nature to be strong, but it is expressed as a command to him to bestir himself. He must rise and walk, that is, attempt to do it, and in the essay he should receive strength to do it. The conversion of a sinner is the cure of a chronic disease; this is ordinarily done by the word, a word of command: Arise, and walk; turn, and live; make ye a new heart; which no more supposes a power in us to do it, without the grace of God, distinguishing grace, than this supposed such a power in the impotent man. But, if he had not attempted to help himself, he had not been cured, and he must have borne the blame; yet it does not therefore follow that, when he did rise and walk, it was by his own strength; no, it was by the power of Christ, and he must have all the glory. Observe, Christ did not bid him rise and go into the waters, but rise and walk. Christ did that for us which the law could not do, and set that aside. [2.] He is bidden to take up his bed. First, To make it to appear that it was a perfect cure, and purely miraculous; for he did not recover strength by degrees, but from the extremity of weakness and impotency he suddenly stepped into the highest degree of bodily strength; so that he was able to carry as great a load as any porter that had been as long used to it as he had been disused. He, who this minute was not able to turn himself in his bed, the next minute was able to carry his bed. The man sick of the palsy (Mt. 9:6) was bidden to go to his house, but probably this man had no house to go to, the hospital was his home; therefore he is bidden to rise and walk. Secondly, It was to proclaim the cure, and make it public; for, being the sabbath day, whoever carried a burden through the streets made himself very remarkable, and every one would enquire what was the meaning of it; thereby notice of the miracle would spread, to the honour of God. Thirdly, Christ would thus witness against the tradition of the elders, which had stretched the law of the sabbath beyond its intention; and would likewise show that he was Lord of the sabbath, and had power to make what alterations he pleased about it, and to over-rule the law. Joshua, and the host of Israel, marched about Jericho on the sabbath day, when God commanded them, so did this man carry his bed, in obedience to a command. The case may be such that it may become a work of necessity, or mercy, to carry a bed on the sabbath day; but here it was more, it was a work of piety, being designed purely for the glory of God. Fourthly, He would hereby try the faith and obedience of his patient. By carrying his bed publicly, he exposed himself to the censure of the ecclesiastical court, and was liable, at least, to be scourged in the synagogue. Now, will he run the hazard of this, in obedience to Christ? Yes, he will. Those that have been healed by Christ's word should be ruled by his word, whatever it cost them.
(2.) The efficacy of this word (v. 9): a divine power went alone with it, and immediately he was made whole, took up his bed, and walked. [1.] He felt the power of Christ's word healing him: Immediately he was made whole. What a joyful surprise was this to the poor cripple, to find himself all of a sudden so easy, so strong, so able to help himself! What a new world was he in, in an instant! Nothing is too hard for Christ to do. [2.] He obeyed the power of Christ's word commanding him. He took up his bed and walked, and did not care who blamed him or threatened him for it. The proof of our spiritual cure is our rising and walking. Hath Christ healed our spiritual diseases? Let us go whithersoever he sends us, and take up whatever he is pleased to lay upon us, and walk before him.
V. What became of the poor man after he was cured. We are here told,
1. What passed between him and the Jews who saw him carry his bed on the sabbath day; for on that day this cure was wrought, and it was the sabbath that fell within the passover week, and therefore a high day, ch. 19:31. Christ's work was such that he needed not make any difference between sabbath days and other days, for he was always about his Father's business; but he wrought many remarkable cures on that day, perhaps to encourage his church to expect those spiritual favours from him, in their observance of the Christian sabbath, which were typified by his miraculous cures. Now here,