Healing Man’s Inability to Walk Righteously
“Jesus said to him, ‘Rise, take up your pallet, and walk.’ And at once the man was healed, and he took up his pallet and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath” (John 5:8,9. All texts are from the Revised Standard Version).
by Jeff Earl
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Healing of the Lame Man Miracle
Life in the first century was fraught with many perils, including disease, famine, and childbirth. There were many untreatable illnesses such as cancer, infectious diseases, skin diseases (including leprosy), parasitic infections, tuberculosis, anthrax, and smallpox. Many of these were encountered by Jesus during his ministry. For example, Jesus dealt with fever (John 4:46-54), leprosy (Mark 1:40-45), paralysis and lameness (Matthew 8:6-13, John 5:3), blindness (Matthew 9:27-31), deafness (Mark 7:32-37), a withered hand (Mark 3:1-5), and demon possession (Luke 4:31-36, Matthew 8:28-33, 15:21-28). Medicine in those days
was primitive, though there were those with skill in treating some maladies through salves compounded by skilled Jewish physicians. Still, only the master physician and healer, Jesus
(and later some of his apostles), had the power to heal all these more serious illnesses.
With this background in mind, let us consider the healing mentioned in John 5:1-10,14:
“(1) After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. (2) Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Hebrew called Beth-zatha [Bethesda], which has five porticoes. (3) In these lay a multitude of invalids, blind, lame, paralyzed. (4) [verse 4 is omitted in the oldest manuscripts, see below] (5) One man was there, who had been ill for thirty-eight years. (6) When Jesus saw him and knew that he had been lying there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’
(7) The sick man answered him, ‘Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is troubled, and while I am going another steps down before me.’ (8) Jesus said to him, ‘Rise, take up your pallet, and walk.’ (9) And at once the man was healed, and he took up his pallet and walked. Now that day was the
Sabbath. (10) So the Jews said to the man who was cured, ‘It is the Sabbath, it is not lawful for you to carry your pallet’ … (14) Afterward, Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him,
‘See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse befall you.’”
Verse-by-Verse Commentary of John 5:1-10,14
Jesus went to Jerusalem during the time of the “feast of the Jews” which was likely the Feast of Passover (though one manuscript says it was the Feast of the Tabernacles, as mentioned in John 7:2). The word Bethesda (or Bethzatha, or Bethsaida, depending on the manuscript) means “House of Mercy.” There may be the significance of the 5 porticos which
gave shelter and shade to the sick and the lame while they waited to be dipped in the pool. The number “5” is usually associated with God’s grace, goodness, and favor. Some examples are that humans have 5 senses as well as 5 toes
and 5 fingers on each limb. There are 5 books of God’s Law (the Pentateuch). Jesus fed the multitude gathered to hear him starting with 5 loaves of bread.
Verse 3 describes a multitude of invalids, the blind, lame, and paralyzed, that came to the pool, likely because the water (probably fed by a natural spring) brought some relief to their
condition through movement of the water (like the jets of a whirlpool), and possibly the presence of beneficial dissolved minerals.
Verse 4 has been properly omitted in the Revised Standard Version because it is not in the oldest Greek manuscripts and thus is considered spurious: “waiting for the movement of water: for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and troubled the water: whoever stepped in first after the
troubling of the water was healed of whatever disease he had” (RSV footnote). Perhaps this scripture was added because the pool was apparently fed by an underground spring and gases bubbled up from time to time which could be described as “troubled” or disturbed.
Verse 5 describes the long time (38 years) the man had been afflicted. His condition would have been well-known by many of the people around him and would be proof that he was really lame.
Jesus asked him in verse 6 if he wanted to be healed. However, it appears the lame man did not understand what Jesus was offering, for the man mentions in verse 7 that he has no one
to help him into the pool to obtain temporary relief or soothing from his ailment.
In verse 8, Jesus healed the lame man and he immediately obeyed Jesus’ command to pick up his “pallet,” or bed.
Verse 9 adds that the healing was done by Jesus on the Sabbath. Sabbath is the seventh day, representing the seventh thousand year “day,” the Millennium, in which all will be cured of their ailments. Therefore, this healing can be a picture of healing in the Millennium.
In Verse 10, the Jews told the formerly lame man that it was not lawful for him to carry his pallet (or bed) on the Sabbath because it was work. Later, verse 16 states that the “Jews persecuted Jesus, because he did this [healing] on the Sabbath.” On other occasions also Jesus was rebuked by the Pharisees for healing on the Sabbath (Luke 13:10). Jesus responded, calling them hypocrites, and asked them if they watered their ox or donkey on the Sabbath, or if one of their animals fell into a well or pit, would they not retrieve it? (Luke 13:15,16, 14:5).
Finally, in Verse 14, Jesus found the formerly lame man in the Temple (likely he was giving thanks) and told him that while he had made him whole, he should “sin no more.” This suggests that the man’s lameness was caused by a sin or sins he had committed in his past. Jesus added, “that nothing worse befall you,” which was the warning of a worse affliction if he continued with his sin. In the three other specific instances of Jesus healing the paralyzed or lame, only this account mentions him admonishing the person in this way.
Israel and Mankind’s Failure to Walk Righteously
Israel was commanded to walk in all of God’s ways, as stated in Deuteronomy 10:12: “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your
God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him.” While at first Israel largely obeyed God’s
laws as conveyed through Moses, they later failed to do so, influenced by their own pride (they became “a stiff-necked people,” Exodus 32:9), and the idolatrous ways of the neighboring nations. Jeremiah 18:15 describes how first
Israel, then Judah, forgot (or ignored) God’s laws: “they have stumbled in their ways … and have gone into bypaths, not the highway.”
Later, Israel would offer lame and sick animals as sacrifices in violation of the law and was rebuked for doing so. The priest could not use a lamb that was lame. Deuteronomy 15:21: “If it has any blemish, if it is lame or blind … you shall not sacrifice it to the Lord your God.” Malachi 1: 8,14 adds, “When you offer
those that are lame or sick, is that no evil? … Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet
sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished.” God wanted
a perfect animal to be sacrificed, picturing the perfect ransom sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Additionally, Israel turned their back on God with their idol worship. Israel and Judah were eventually punished with their land being taken away from them by the Assyrians and the Babylonians and with the enslavement of those that were not killed.
Today, much of mankind walks “according to the flesh” in that they pursue things that are pleasing to the flesh and follow a different type of idolatry — money (1 Timothy 6:10). “For
the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil (ASV).” Galatians 5:19-21 spells out other sins of fallen mankind: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, dissension, envy, drunkenness,
carousing, etc. Mankind is influenced by the prince of this world, Satan.
The great deception today is that what used to be considered wrong is now deemed right, and what was right is now deemed wrong. Some examples include a redefined sexual morality,
legalizing formerly illegal drugs, slandering others, etc. Mankind finds ways to re-interpret and explain the scriptures to fit their new moral “standards” which are opposite from the true
standards in God’s Word. Both Israel and the rest of mankind are “being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own” (Romans 10:3). Mankind
is doing what they feel is right in their own eyes, having no standard to check their behavior.
Israel and Mankind Will Learn to Walk Righteously in the Future
The binding of Satan at the beginning of the Millennium (Revelation 20:1-3) will help mankind to be more amenable to walking in righteousness. Satan will have no influence on mankind while he is bound, which will make mankind more responsive to hearing and understanding God’s laws. Christ’s
intervention (before Satan is bound) will begin with the saving of the faithful remnant in Israel during Jacob’s trouble (Isaiah 4:2-4) and then spread to the rest of mankind during the general resurrection on the earth.
Jeremiah 31:8,9 describes the return of Jews to Israel, beginning in the past and likely continuing after they are resurrected. They will receive Christ’s assistance as they walk in straight paths of righteousness. Ezekiel 11:19,20 (and similar language in Ezekiel 36:26,27) shows that God will change Israel’s thinking. “I will give them one [a new] heart, and put a new spirit within them; I will
take the stony heart out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my ordinances and obey them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.” God will remove Israel’s “stony heart” and give them a heart of flesh. This, together with receiving God’s holy Spirit, will
motivate them to observe the ordinances laid out in the New Covenant.
Isaiah 62:10 says Israel will “Go through, go through the gates, prepare the way for the people; build up, build up the highway, clear it of stones, lift up an ensign over the peoples.” Isaiah 57:14 provides similar language about the way of holiness: “And it shall be said, ‘Build up, build up, prepare the way, remove
every obstruction from my people’s way.’” The Lord will make it easier for Israel and mankind to follow him by clearing the highway of loose stones (poverty, oppression, racism, drug addiction, etc.) that could impede their way up the highway (see also Isaiah 26:2, 35:8).
Isaiah 35:6 describes the physical healing of mankind and the physical healing of those areas that were formerly a wasteland. Even the deserts will have abundant water. “Then shall the lame man leap like a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert.” Besides a literal fulfillment, this also pictures how waters of truth will flow to correct mankind’s thinking so they can walk righteously. This is shown in Isaiah 33:15,16. “He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly … and shuts his eyes from looking upon evil, he will dwell on the heights … his bread will be given him, his water will be sure.”
Isaiah 27:6 adds that from out of Israel, the rest of the world will eventually share in the same blessings. “In the days to come … Israel shall blossom and put forth shoots, and fill the whole world with fruit.” This could be fulfilled both literally and figuratively.
Psalms 119:1-3 says, “Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord! Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways!” Those walking after God will be blessed.
Isaiah 2:3 and Micah 4:1-4 show that mankind will desire to go to Jerusalem, whether physically or spiritually, to receive the proper teaching: “And many peoples shall come, and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord … that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.”
Despite all the assistance God will give mankind and the fact that Satan will be bound, Proverbs 11:21 shows that there will be punishment for evil-doers. “Be assured, an evil man
will not go unpunished, but those who are righteous will be delivered.” Ezekiel 18:20 speaks of mankind no longer being punished for sins of their father (or son), but rather that they
will be punished only for their own sins. “The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father … the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.” It will be hard on those who break
God’s laws in the kingdom. Revelation 2:27 states, “and he [the Christ] shall rule [Strong’s G4165, poimaino: “to tend as a shepherd”] them with a rod of iron.”
The miraculous healing of the lame man and the other miracles in the Gospels were just a foretaste of the power that Christ will exhibit in the Millennial kingdom by healing all of mankind, both physically and spiritually. We do not know for sure if resurrected mankind will be raised physically healed or if the healing will occur gradually as they become more obedient to God. We can, however, deduce from the scriptures that the mental healing of mankind’s thought process, so they can walk in righteousness, will likely be more gradual. Some will already know right from wrong from their previous life, but others who only knew evil will have to be trained to love righteousness. Either way, they must conform to God’s Laws or suffer the
consequences of disobedience under favorable conditions.