The Priority of Spiritual Healing

John 5:1-14

Jerry A. Collins

We have just returned from visiting my wifeís great aunt who has recently been placed in a nursing home at nearly ninety years of age. While we were in the dining room visiting with her before lunch I could not help but notice the large number of aged people who were once young like me. Now stripped of their ability to function on their own they sit waiting to be taken fed and taken care of. My thought was look at what sin has done to us. The human race is under a curse of death and from birth it begins its relentless pursuit of us until, like these once robust and engaged people, it takes over and we become itís victims. We are going to learn that Jesus is aware of our condition and even more is able to do something about it as helpless as we are. The setting for this lesson is in John 5:1-4 where we learn:


A. The World is Full of Sick People 1-3

The occasion for this event is another feast taking place in Jerusalem. Even though Jerusalem is south, it is elevated so one is always going up to it. A pool area called Bethesda becomes the setting for this next major event in the life of Christ. The covered walkways provided a place where people could be protected from the weather and heat of the sun. Here are a great number of handicapped and disabled persons described as weak from sickness, lame with withered or atrophied limbs and blind lying around the pool area.

Here we have a pathetic description of the physical plight of mankind. We still have these with us today and the constant reminder in every generation of the presence of the curse of death upon us. It is inescapable and advances steadily upon each and every one of us. We are its prey. While this condition is pathetic, it pictures the spiritual condition we have before God. The world is full of spiritually sick people who need to be delivered from this condition. The Bible describes mankind as dead in their trespasses and sin. Large numbers of mankind even now lie before God in a spiritually pathetic state just like these are lying around the pool in a pathetic physical condition.

B. People want to be Made Well 4

In our story we learn that this pool was perceived to have healing powers because of the waters that were thought to be stirred supernaturally and cause healing. More likely these were springs that bubbled to the surface sparatically. The Bible does not teach this but explains the belief behind this tradition.

We see this even today with the ministry of people called faith healers. You can watch them on television today. You can see the numbers of people swarming to the front with wheelchairs, crutches wanting as it were to sit at this modern day pool of bethesda waiting for the waters to stir. Of course, the greater good and higher priority is the healing of spiritual affliction. This is what Jesus wants to do while at this pool.


A. Man must recognize his real need 5 Among this disabled group is a man handicapped for 38 years. He has been immobilized by his condition because we see that he needs someone else to put him into this pool. The point is that his condition is hopeless and he is helpless. All he could do was beg and hope and pray for a miracle. The Bible portrays mans condition before God as hopeless and helpless. What is ironic about this situation is that if these waters could miraculously heal, the least needy would probably be cured while all the rest struggle to get out of the pool if they even made it in, get back to their stations and await their next chance. Very pathetic.

B. Man must understand He has no means of meeting this need 6-7 Jesus comes along and sees this one who seems to have been unsuccessful for the longest time (Jesus is omniscient), and asks him if he wants to be healed. The question has an obvious answer but is designed to reveal where this mans hope really is. We see that this man is locked on only one kind of miracle, the miracle of being the first one into the angel-stirred water. He does not admit the failure of his system for obtaining healing. Instead he makes excuses. It is not his fault since noone helps him and others always arrive first.

People are prone to hang onto the system they believe will provide for them. People can hang on for a lifetime. Jesus wants them to shake loose from their systems and look to him for the healing they need.


Jesus does not debate with him about his superstitious system of healing. But the way in which He does heal him is certainly in stark contrast with this manís system. The man has to wait for troubled waters. Jesus immediately heals him without the use of water. Jesus heals him without even being asked to do so. Jesus word accomplished his will as he called things not in existence into existence. There was not even a requirement that this man exercise faith to be healed. Muscles long atrophied were completely restored. He picked up his mat and started walking. This sends him on his way, avoiding a scene and not attracting the attention of the crowd enabling Jesus to slip out without creating hysteria among the multitude of hurting people. All of this we are told took place on the Sabbath in vs 9. This will become the basis for the growing conflict between Jesus and his opponents. It is not Gods will to heal everybody. There is a higher priority than physical healing and that is spiritual healing and that is why Jesus did not heal everyone who needed healing. Today we are not to expect to be healed. We can pray for it and ask for it and even desire it but not demand it. God is God not a Jeannie in a bottle. He is not fulfilling our expectations. Sometimes God heals and other times he does not but only he knows what his purpose is for this.


A. Problem with traditions is that people are satisfied with it 10-11 This man is intercepted by a group of religious leaders who see him carrying his pallet which was unlawful according to Jewish customs. They are not concerned about this fellow, they do not even acknowledge his healing. They are distressed that he is breaking their rules. He is awfully quick to excuse himself. It is not his fault he maintains, he is only doing what he has been told to do. Do you get the impression that this guy plays the blame-game! The One who has healed him it to blame for this.

B. Gods new things create conflict 12-13 These religious leaders demand to know who this person is who healed him. This man honestly does not know since Jesus had managed to slip out of the crowd. 1 John 2:3 says by this we know that we have come to know him if we keep his commandments. Christís commandments were a commentary on the law of Moses and provided us with the heart of God behind the OT Law. The Mosaic Law was good, the commandments of Christ are better at connecting us to the heart of God. Following Christís commands then would lead to more maturity and the rule keeping of the religious would lead to less maturity since they missed the heart of God behind the law and created their own legalistic commentary on the law. (Ex. of murder and adultery). God wants to change our paradigms and through humbly negotiating the ambiguity and confusion generated by Gods new things, like Jesus healing on the Sabbath, bring us to a greater understanding of His heart and thus the truth.


It seems that Jesus deliberately sought this guy out at a later time in vss 14-15. Jesus warns him to not sin anymore now that you have been healed lest something worse happens to you. Jesus does not mean that his paralysis was caused by any specific sin (cf 9:3), though we know that all disease and death come ultimately from sin. The warning was that his tragic life of 38 years as an invalid was no comparison to the doom of eternal hell. Jesus is interested not primarily in healing a personís body. Far more important is the healing of his soul from sin. This man seems to have no gratitude to Jesus and reports who he is to the religious authorities.

(1) Those most in wrong most assured of being right.

(2) Doing what is right will not always result in rewarding response.

(3) Mans primary need is not sickness but sin.