Jesus: The Lord of the Sabbath (5:1-17)

Bible Passage: John 5:1-17

In this passage we have the third of seven signs that John provides to show who Jesus is. It is another healing miracle, and this time it stirs up trouble with the religious authorities because it happened on the Sabbath and cut against some of their legalistic ideas about what counted as work on the Sabbath day. This incident serves as both a sign of power in its own right and as an illustration of how Jesus supersedes the law.

Unreachable Healing: The setting is the pool of Bethsaida, and this was a place where many who desired healing would gather. Their belief was that whoever was the first into the water when it stirred would be healed, and so they gathered in hope. The irony for the paralysed man was that though the potential for healing was so close, he was not able to avail himself of it and so remained as he was. This is supposed to be a picture of our own state before God. There is the law of Old Testament, which holds out the promise of life, and yet we are sinful people who cannot live up to the law, and so the healing is promises is just ad unattainable for us as the physical healing of the pool was for the man in this story. Just like him, we are in need of someone to help us do what we cannot do ourselves. .

Jesus the Healer: Just like the previous sign, this story shows Jesus as the healer. It is not the water of the pool that can give the man the ability to walk but the word of Jesus, and when Jesus commands the man to walk he does so. We see in Jesus a supernatural power and a compassion for those who are helpless. Furthermore, continuing the parallel between the pool and the law, where we are unable to access life through the law, Jesus comes to us in our helpless state and gives us the healing and life that we could not access ourselves.

Jesus the Lord of the Sabbath: The healing miracle took place on the Sabbath day and this is a significant part of why John chose to include it in his gospel. The religious elite of the day had very strict views on what should and should not be done on the Sabbath, and they saw both Jesus’ act of healing and the man’s act of carrying his mat as breaches of their rules. They warned Jesus to stop, but Jesus would not. He realised that as the Son of the heavenly Father he had authority over the Sabbath, and just as the Father works on the Sabbath day (upholding the universe), so too the Son works. This leads into a long debate about Jesus as Son of the Father, that is picked up in the next sermon of the series.

Potential Applications:

  • This is another healing miracle and a great opportunity to offer some prayer for healing in your response time.
  • You could also invite people to respond to Jesus as the one in whom life can be found. The pool might represent lots of different things in people’s lives that have promised healing and life but have failed to deliver.
  • Challenge people to think about whether there are equivalent legalistic views we might hold to the views of these leaders regarding the Sabbath. How might Jesus challenge some of our views?