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, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. 3 In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. 4 For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had. 5 Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years.
In verses 1-18 Jesus returned to Jerusalem. There He healed a lame man on the Sabbath. He received criticism for healing on the Sabbath.
Chapters 5 through 7 depict rising hostility against Jesus. This continues the apostle John’s emphasis on unbelief. The healing of the lame man led to a conflict with religious leaders. Each step along the way more people resisted Jesus and His message.
The words “after this” indicates a move to a new scene and situation.
there was a feast of the Jews,
The “feast” here is probably a pilgrim festival, either the Feast of Weeks or Feast of Tabernacles. This is the only unnamed festival in John.
and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
The synoptic gospels record one trip to Jerusalem, but John sets forth a number.
Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool,
The Sheep Gate was located near the northeastern end of the temple complex. Nehemiah built an outer wall that included the Sheep Gate (Ne 3:1,32). This is the gate where sacrificial animals were brought to the temple.
John was the only biblical writer to mention this “pool.”
which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda [house of mercy],
The word “Hebrew” here can refer to both Hebrew and Aramaic languages.
having five porches.
Archeologists found this pool with five porticoes north of the Sheep Gate. A portico (porch) is a covered pathway undergirded by columns. The rediscovery of this site confirms the authentic nature of the gospel of John.
In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed,
Many disabled people surrounded the pool hoping to be healed.
waiting for the moving of the water.
The pool was fed by an intermittent spring.
For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water;
This description of an angel stirring up the water at the pool of Bethesda was hearsay.
then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had.
The idea of the healing of people by stirring of the water was superstition. There is no evidence to support this idea in the Bible.
Manuscripts before 400 AD do not contain these words in verse 4.
Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years.
“Infirmity” is any kind of incapacitating condition. This man was unable to go to the pool on his own accord. He may have been paralyzed. The length of this man’s paralysis showed the hopelessness of his situation.
The Bible never supports superstition.
Superstition is misplaced credulity in the supernatural (Ac 17:22). This always leads to irrational fear and other problems.