This John 5:1-18 Bible study contains commentary, outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

John 5:1-18 Bible Study Commentary And Discussion Questions


I. The setting (5:1-5)
    A. Jesus went to Jerusalem (1-2)
    B. There was a crowd waiting to be healed (3-4)
    C. There was a sick man there (5)
II. Jesus heals a paralyzed man (6-9)
    A. He makes the offer (6)
    B. The man expresses his desire to accept (7)
    C. Jesus healed him and sent him on his way (8-9)
III. The Jews find reasons to persecute Jesus (10-18)
    A. They accuse the man for carrying his pallet (10)
    B. They discover Jesus asked him to carry it (11-15)
    C. The Jews were angry and desired to kill Jesus (16-18)

I. The setting (5:1-5)

Discussion Questions

  • Where did this sheep gate come from?
  • What do you make of the verses that tell of the angel coming and stirring the water?
  • Were these verses legitimately part of the original text of Scripture? Why do you think so? Why not?
  • What kind of sickness did this man likely have?


Nehemiah 3:1, 12:39 – Shows about the sheep gate. (2)

Deuteronomy 16:16 – All males were supposed to appear three times a year for feasts to the Lord. (1)

Matthew 13:50 – It was normal to have large crowds of the sick to gather to be healed by Jesus. (3)

Psalms 119:60, Proverbs 8:17 – God loves those who seek after Him quickly with no delay. Possible reasons for having people to go quickly into the pool. (4)

Mark 9:21, Luke 8:43, Luke 13:16 – Jesus was accustomed to healing people who had been sick or infirmed for long periods of time. (5)

Verse by Verse Commentary

It was normal to go up to feasts three times a year in Jerusalem (Deuteronomy 16:16). Jesus was not afraid of controversy if it met Him in the middle of His plans. As we discussed earlier, He didn’t seek it out. But neither would He avoid Jerusalem because there might be some controversy there.

The sheep gate was originally built when Nehemiah rebuilt the walls.

Evidently there were numerous sick people gathered there. Verses 3b-4 are not included in many manuscripts and there is some debate on whether they are genuine or not. However, from looking at several commentaries it appears that most of the critics agree they should be accepted as accurate and part of the original. Most passages are very clear and sound textually. So this is the exception not the norm.

Bethesda means “house of mercy”. Here the people of Israel encountered the mercy from God. As evil angels from Satan desire to afflict people, good angels from God have a ministry to people in the earth. God’s blessings are very great. Perhaps the angel used natural medicinal qualities in the water. Or perhaps he didn’t and it was done completely supernaturally. This doesn’t say mean only the first person, but more likely the first group of people. It would be at that time that the medicinal properties would be stronger if indeed they were present. Psalms 119:60, Proverbs 8:17. God desires us to go after Him quickly and without delay. This may be part of the reason it was important to get in the water quickly.

There was one specific man who had been sick for 38 years! Jesus often healed people who were sick for a very long time. Healing this kind of person was all the more impressive. They had probably tried to be healed through the common ways the world had to offer, but it failed. Also, by that time they had probably given up hope and there was no natural way their disease could be cured and it wasn’t just temporary either. Mark 9:21, Luke 8:43, Luke 13:16. These are other instances where Jesus healed people who were sick a long time. Some think it was paralysis, which is why he couldn’t get down into the pool on his own.

And how often do we complain and get upset when we are sick for one or two days? This man was sick for 38 years! Some don’t know what it is like to be well a day so don’t complain if we are sick for a day.

Points to remember

  1. People need the Lord! There are so many people in the world who are experiencing afflictions and trouble. Diseases are rampant. These problems cannot be solved by people, then or now.

  2. God cares! God sent an angel to help these people and heal some of them from the effects of the curse. And now Jesus was also on the scene.

II. Jesus heals a paralyzed man (6-9)

Discussion Questions

  • Why did Jesus ask him if he wished to get well? Isn’t that an obvious question? Why is this question important/necessary?
  • Does verse 7 shed any light on 3-4? What did this man appear to believe about the water?
  • Which was the more important aspect of Jesus’ command to this man, to get up and walk or to carry his pallet?
  • Was Jesus giving him a command that was in violation of the law?


Luke 18:41 – Jesus asked a blind person what he wanted done for him (6)

Psalms 72:12 – God will deliver the needy and him who has no helper (7)

Matthew 9:6, Mark 2:11, Luke 5:24 – All instances where Jesus commanded those whom he healed to get up, walk, and carry their pallets (8)

Mark 2:28 – Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath (9)

John 7:22-23 – Jesus says that they do circumcision on the Sabbath in order to keep the grater law (9)

Mark 3:5 – Jesus is grieved because they don’t want him to heal on the Sabbath (9)

Matthew 12:1-14 – Jesus explains about why it is OK to heal on the Sabbath and do some good (9)

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. Verses 6-7

It is likely that time and time again people would walk by the crowds of sick there, just like they did in Jesus’ story of the good Samaritan. These were outcasts, rejects. They had no position in society because they had nothing to give to society. Many would think that Jesus would go to the high of society and wouldn’t waste time on the dregs who weren’t meaningful. But this isn’t the case at all. Jesus often focused on them. Here he specifically approaches one and offers to heal him. It is very interesting that he asks. After all, wouldn’t everyone in this situation want to be healed? What is the purpose of asking?

It shows that the man has a choice (Jesus also asked the blind man Luke 18:41). If he wants to he can remain in his disease and never be healed. Sure, no one in their right mind would ever do that, right? Well, spiritually we also have a choice. It’s also a free gift from God just like this was. If this man didn’t accept Jesus’ gift he would be responsible for it. In the same we if we reject Christ’s spiritual healing we are responsible for it. Yet after Jesus healed him would you say the man was responsible for his healing? No, Jesus was. In the same way if Jesus saves us from our sins He receives the credit, not us.

This man was in need of help for 38 years. But no one helped him. He said he had “no man to put” him into the pool. Someone passing by could have done it, but no one did.

It is much easier to ignore problems around us and keep going trying to put bad things out of our minds. If you had been there would you have helped the man into the pool? How many times have you walked by those who need help? If you see someone getting robbed or beaten do you stop and try to help or do you just walk by? When you see beggars on the side of the road do you sometimes offer help or just try to forget them? Jesus was compassionate. He desires us to be compassionate to. Jesus didn’t care if they were women, Samaritans, beggars, or sick people. He extended His mercy to all. God desires to help the needy and those with no help here on earth (Psalms 72:12).

A key weakness of mine is that I sometimes lack compassion. I tend to think logically and kind of “strictly”. If I see a beggar on the streets I may wonder why they are begging. I may think they look healthy and able to work, so why don’t they work? Or when I see homeless people on the sides of the road, I sometimes question why they are playing cards or mahjong instead of working and kind of blame them for their own state thinking that they are kind of lazy. Perhaps I am right and they are lazy. Is that a reason not be compassionate? No! Jesus showed mercy to all of us even when we were terrible sinners. Of course they are sinners. Of course they are lazy. I still need to have compassion on them.

Points t0 remember

  1. Jesus stopped. Jesus approached him. Jesus offered to heal him. Jesus had a heart of compassion when no one else did. We need to follow Jesus’ example and have a heart of compassion for those around us even when they don’t deserve it.

  2. Jesus asked him if he wanted to get well. The man had responsibility and had a choice. The gift was free. If he rejected the responsibility would be on himself and if he accepted the credit went to Jesus. This is the same for us spiritually. God offers a free gift. We do have a choice (though we will always choose not to accept without God’s special grace in our lives). We are responsible for rejecting Him, but He gets the credit if we believe. Do you think this man will go on his way bragging that he told Jesus he could heal him?

Verses 8-9

Here, Jesus gives what sounds like a simple command. He tells the man to “get up, pick up your pallet and walk.” But this man is probably paralyzed. He likely hasn’t walked in 38 years, and here Jesus tells him to stand up and carry his pallet and start walking. Amazing! Jesus gave this command with authority. In the same way that He quieted the winds and the sea, He gave a simple command and instantaneously healed a man who was stricken for 38 years.

The man exercised faith by doing what Jesus said. He didn’t laugh, but he obeyed and did it “immediately”. That is the right kind of obedience and the right kind of faith. It didn’t make sense that he would be able to walk again. He just heard what Jesus said and believed.

Jesus did this on the Sabbath, but notice that He didn’t go out of His way to cause this controversy. It was a normal way for Jesus when He healed people to tell them to take their pallets with them (Matthew 9:6, Mark 2:11, Luke 5:24). The other option for the man would be to stay there with the pallet or to leave it there to be stolen.

III. The Jews find reasons to persecute Jesus (10-18)

Discussion Questions

  • Why were the Jews so upset about this?
  • Which aspect of Jesus’ command did they focus on?
  • Why did Jesus slip away from him when he healed him? To hide the fact that He gave him a bad command?
  • What could people do and not do on the Sabbath according to Jewish law?
  • Was Jesus a Sabbath breaker?
  • What do we learn in verse 14 about Jesus’ motive for healing and the next logical step?
  • What is the “worse” thing that could befall him if he didn’t stop sinning?
  • Why did the Jews think that Jesus was making Himself equal to God? Was He?
  • Isn’t Jesus our Father too?
  • Why were they persecuting Him?
  • What does this sign teach us about Jesus?


Isaiah 58:13 – A verse that encapsulates the “spirit” of the Sabbath (10)

Jeremiah 17:21 – Jeremiah commands them not to carry a load (for the purpose of trading or gain, 10)

John 8:11 – Jesus commands the adulteress to sin no more (14)

John 14:10 – Jesus claims to be from the Father and that they are abiding in one another (17)

John 10:30 – I and the Father are One (18)

Verse by Verse Commentary

The Jews were constantly looking for a reason to attack Jesus, and His healings on the Sabbath were one of their major targets. They were very strict and legalistic of what could be done on the Sabbath, even beyond the intention of the Old Testament law. There were hundreds of added “clauses” in the Talmud (which was part an exposition of the Old Testament and part the religious leaders added teachings) about what could and couldn’t be done on the Sabbath. Some of these included things such as you could only take a certain number of steps on the Sabbath and you could spit on a rock, but not on the dirt because that would make mud, which is mortar, and making mortar is work. The basic problem is that the Jews lost the real meaning and the real “spirit” of the law and tacked on many of their own traditions, making the law a burden instead of freedom.

The original command is found in Ex 20:8-10 “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 ” Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work.” The key points are to keep it holy and to do “no work”. The Pharisees had a very strict interpretation of “no work”. They thought they could achieve holiness by doing no work and therefore had all kinds of classifications of what was work and what was not, as well as some exceptions (you could get your sheep or cow out of a pit on the Sabbath).

The spirit is to serve God on the Sabbath and remember as a special day to Him. According to the most strict definition work is done whenever we put out energy. Obviously that is not what God meant or work would never be done. Jesus would also not command someone to break the law (not the Pharisees’, but God’s), so we know that carrying the pallet wasn’t the kind of work God was talking about. I believe the work in Exodus 20 refers to efforts to make a living, provide for oneself, do labor, hard toil. It is hard to know exactly where to draw the line and that is why it is important to have the right heart and attitude in front of God. If the attitude is to try to get around the rules and see how far you can go, surely it is wrong. God punished people for gathering wood on the Sabbath and Nehemiah warned the people not to do trading on the Sabbath.

What can we learn from this? We should absolutely not break God’s rules for the “greater good”. He gives them for a reason. So it is not right to tell a “white lie” even if you think it is for the greater good. If God said it, we need to do it with no excuses. But why should others have to follow my own convictions? Neither is it right to add on our own traditions, our own interpretations, and our own rules to the Bible. If I choose not to play a certain video game, great. I have more time to study God’s Word during that time.

But it is wrong if I tell others they must make the same choice as me and then judge those who do. I shouldn’t add anything to God’s law and require others to follow it. Do not grow judgmental in your outlook. Do not be strict to others and always looking at others’ lives or ministry and finding fault with the way they are doing things. YOU live the right kind of life in front of God. He desires you to be filled with compassion, love, and mercy for others. Discuss this concept together.

Application – In the grey areas, form your own convictions based on what you think is right. Have the right attitude and don’t try to get as close to the line as you can. Don’t judge others if they don’t form the same convictions as you.

2. Verse 13

Jesus slipped away after He healed the man. It wasn’t because He was scared. He just didn’t desire the recognition or attention for whatever reason.

3. Verse 14

Jesus often used physical healing as a means to spiritual healing. His physical healing wasn’t the end (it was a means to an end), or that person will go away just as hopeless spiritually as before. Jesus’ chief purpose was to save people. That is why He came. He healed out of compassion, but also to show His power to individuals and the group in order that they would see and believe.

Many people today practice all kinds of charitable activities. This includes giving gifts on Christmas to kids who don’t have any (Samaritan’s Purse), doing operations for those who don’t have any money, working with orphanages, doing medical work, opening schools, sending food or supplies, etc. All of these things are good things. But many Christians today, view them as the goal. This is not the goal. It is great to help others. But the goal should be to reach them spiritually.

Absolutely, go to some remote tribes and do operations. But don’t leave without telling them you did it because of the love of Jesus, giving them a Bible, and sharing the gospel. Absolutely, go to the orphanage and do ministry, but don’t leave it at that. Share simple Bible stories and the gospel with all of those who can understand. Yes, feed a beggar! But then offer them the bread of life from Christ. Look at things with the eternal perspective. Don’t just be concerned with solving the world’s social problems and making the world a better place to live. That will not happen without the gospel. Focus on the eternal by sharing the gospel and reaching out to people’s spiritual needs.

4. Verse 16

Wow! They were persecuting Jesus for healing others. But He did it on the Sabbath! Their hearts were so hard. They put their rules ahead of God’s. They were looking for any excuse to persecute Jesus. It is telling that the best they could come up with was that He healed others

5. Verse 17-18

“Jesus distinctly says, ‘ My Father’ (ho pater mou). Not ‘our Father,’ claim to peculiar relation to the Father. Worketh even now…. Jesus put himself on a par with God’s activity and thus justifies his healing on the Sabbath.” (from Evidence that demands a verdict)

“It is also worthy of note that the Jews did not refer to God as ‘ My Father’. If they did, they would qualify the statement with ‘in heaven’. However, this Jesus did not do.” (from Evidence that demands a verdict

The Jews couldn’t misinterpret this statement and they didn’t, wanting to kill Him because He made Himself out to be equal to God. This is one of many instances where Jesus makes it clear that He is equal to God. There can be no question that Jesus considered Himself to be God and the Messiah.

Points to remember

  1. Do not add your own traditions to God’s. Neither should you take away from what has clearly commanded. In the grey areas, form your own convictions keeping the right attitude in your hearts, but not judging others if they do have the same conviction as you.

  2. When someone is doing good, don’t try to pick out the errors and complain about them. People will make some mistakes. Yes, we need to encourage people in a way more perfect. Mostly do this by encouraging others for the good they do rather than nitpicking.

  3. Physical healing was used by Jesus as a means to the road of spiritual healing. Social work is good, but the more important is harvesting souls. Do not neglect doing good in society, but be sure that social work isn’t all you are doing.

  4. Jesus once again made Himself equal to God. It was very clear to the Jews and it should be clear to us.

Reflect – Write down one way you can apply today’s lesson to your life this week.

Leave a comment – Share your observations on this John 5:1-18 Bible study below. We would love to hear from you!

Study John 5:19-47
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