Searching the Scriptures: Jesus and the Man Healed on the Sabbath


In an early chapter of John’s Gospel (ch. 5), Jesus contends with the Jews who were seeking to kill him because he had healed a man on the Sabbath Day, a man who had been ill for 38 years.  The paralytic man was seeking healing at the pool near the sheep gate, called Bethesda in Hebrew, yet he had no one to carry him into the water where he believed he would receive healing.  If he could only be first into the water, when according to legend an angel would stir the water, the man believed he would be healed.

If you will recall, Jesus sent a blind man to a similar pool for healing, the Pool of Siloam, which is also in Jerusalem (John 9:1-11).  Jesus had mixed his own saliva with dirt and covered the man’s eyes, then commanded him to go and wash.

Yet in this earlier case at Bethsaida (John 5:1-9), Jesus doesn’t even assist the man into the water.  Instead, he tells him to simply get up from the ground, pick up his bed, and walk. 

2014-05-21_2020Immediately, the man becomes well, but since the healing occurred on the Sabbath, the Jews were critical of the man for carrying his bed on the holy day.  When asked who had told him to carry his bed, the healed man replies that the One who healed him had also told him to take up his bed.  When asked who had healed him, the man replied that he did not know who his healer was.

Later, the healed man met Jesus in the temple, who exhorted him to live a sinless life.  The man subsequently reported to the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him.  Therefore, after confronting Jesus, the Jews began seeking to kill Him, not only because from their mistaken perspective Jesus was breaking the Sabbath by healing the man at the pool.  Plus, Jesus had led the healed man to break the telling him to carry his bed.  Ultimately, they accused Jesus of referring to God as His own Father, thus making Himself equal with God.

Jesus’ response to these men is especially significant, for He provides insights into the uses of the Scriptures in our own lives.  He says, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me.”

What does this passage tell us? 

First, the Scriptures alone do not bring us life or healing.  In themselves, these words are merely “black marks on white pages.”  Clearly, the words in the Scriptures in themselves did not bring life to the Jews who were confronting Jesus, for he tells them, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life” (John 5:39-50 NASB).

Jesus tells His accusers that He will not accuse them before the Father; instead, Moses is the one who accuses them:  “If you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about me.  But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (46-47).

What brings Christ’s words to life, therefore?   They must be revealed to us by the Holy Spirit, who is our Teacher, the one sent by the Father to teach us all things.

We must seek and find the true meanings of the Scriptures, not simply assume we know what they signify based on common knowledge, worldly wisdom, or those who may be false teachers. 

Read this passage in the first Psalm:  

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.


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