John 5 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

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(Read all of John 5)

Verse 1

[1] After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

A feast — Pentecost.

Verse 2

[2] Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.

There is in Jerusalem — Hence it appears, that St. John wrote his Gospel before Jerusalem was destroyed: it is supposed about thirty years after the ascension.

Having five porticos — Built for the use of the sick. Probably the basin had five sides! Bethesda signifies the house of mercy.

Verse 4

[4] For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.

An angel — Yet many undoubtedly thought the whole thing to be purely natural.

At certain times — Perhaps at a certain hour of the day, during this paschal week, went down - The Greek word implies that he had ceased going down, before the time of St. John's writing this. God might design this to raise expectation of the acceptable time approaching, to add a greater lustre to his Son's miracles, and to show that his ancient people were not entirely forgotten of him.

The first — Whereas the Son of God healed every day not one only, but whole multitudes that resorted to him.

Verse 7

[7] The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.

The sick man answered — Giving the reason why he was not made whole, notwithstanding his desire.

Verse 14

[14] Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.

Sin no more — It seems his former illness was the effect or punishment of sin.

Verse 15

[15] The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole.

The man went and told the Jews, that it was Jesus who had made him whole — One might have expected, that when he had published the name of his benefactor, crowds would have thronged about Jesus, to have heard the words of his mouth, and to have received the blessings of the Gospel. Instead of this, they surround him with a hostile intent: they even conspire against his life, and for an imagined transgression in point of ceremony, would have put out this light of Israel. Let us not wonder then, if our good be evil spoken of: if even candour, benevolence, and usefulness, do not disarm the enmity of those who have been taught to prefer sacrifice to mercy; and who, disrelishing the genuine Gospel, naturally seek to slander and persecute the professors, but especially the defenders of it.

Verse 17

[17] But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.

My Father worketh until now, and I work — From the creation till now he hath been working without intermission. I do likewise. This is the proposition which is explained John 5:19-30, confirmed and vindicated in John 5:31 and following verses.

Verse 18

[18] Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.

His own Father — The Greek word means his own Father in such a sense as no creature can speak.

Making himself equal with God — It is evident all the hearers so understood him, and that our Lord never contradicted, but confirmed it.

Verse 19

[19] Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.

The Son can do nothing of himself — This is not his imperfection, but his glory, resulting from his eternal, intimate, indissoluble unity with the Father. Hence it is absolutely impossible, that the Son should judge, will, testify, or teach any thing without the Father, John 5:30, etc.; John 6:38; John 7:16; or that he should be known or believed on, separately from the Father. And he here defends his doing good every day, without intermission, by the example of his Father, from which he cannot depart: these doth the Son likewise - All these, and only these; seeing he and the Father are one.

Verse 20

[20] For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel.

The Father showeth him all things that himself doth — A proof of the most intimate unity.

And he will show him — By doing them. At the same time (not at different times) the Father showeth and doth, and the Son seeth and doth.

Greater works — Jesus oftener terms them works, than signs or wonders, because they were not wonders in his eyes.

Ye will marvel — So they did, when he raised Lazarus.

Verse 21

[21] For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.

For — He declares which are those greater works, raising the dead, and judging the world. The power of quickening whom he will follows from the power of judging. These two, quickening and judging, are proposed John 5:21,22. The acquittal of believers, which presupposes judgment, is treated of John 5:24; the quickening some of the dead, John 5:25; and the general resurrection, John 5:28.

Verse 22

[22] For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son:

For neither doth the Father judge — Not without the Son: but he doth judge by that man whom he hath ordained, Acts 17:31.

Verse 23

[23] That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.

That all men may honour the Son, even as they honour the Father — Either willingly, and so escaping condemnation, by faith: or unwillingly, when feeling the wrath of the Judge. This demonstrates the EQUALITY of the Son with the Father. If our Lord were God only by office or investiture, and not in the unity of the Divine essence, and in all respects equal in Godhead with the Father, he could not be honoured even as, that is, with the same honour that they honoured the Father.

He that honoureth not the Son — With the same equal honour, greatly dishonoureth the Father that sent him.

Verse 24

[24] Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.

And cometh not into condemnation — Unless he make shipwreck of the faith.

Verse 25

[25] Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.

The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God — So did Jairus's daughter, the widow's son, Lazarus.

Verse 26

[26] For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself;

He hath given to the Son — By eternal generation, to have life in himself - Absolute, independent.

Verse 27

[27] And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.

Because he is the Son of man — He is appointed to judge mankind because he was made man.

Verse 28

[28] Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,

The time is coming — When not two or three, but all shall rise.

Verse 29

[29] And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

The resurrection of life — That resurrection which leads to life everlasting.

Verse 30

[30] I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.

I can do nothing of myself — It is impossible I should do any thing separately from my Father.

As I hear — Of the Father, and see, so I judge and do; A because I am essentially united to him. See John 5:19.

Verse 31

[31] If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true.

If I testify of myself — That is, if I alone, (which indeed is impossible,) my testimony is not valid.

Verse 32

[32] There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true.

There is another — The Father, John 5:37, and I know that, even in your judgment, his testimony in beyond exception.

Verse 33

[33] Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth.

He bare testimony — That I am the Christ.

Verse 34

[34] But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved.

But I have no need to receive, etc..

But these things — Concerning John, whom ye yourselves reverence, I say, that ye may be saved - So really and seriously did he will their salvation. Yet they were not saved. Most, if not all of them, died in their sins.

Verse 35

[35] He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.

He was a burning and a shining light — Inwardly burning with love and zeal, outwardly shining in all holiness. And even ye were willing for a season - A short time only.

Verse 37

[37] And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.

He hath testified of me — Namely at my baptism. I speak not of my supposed father Joseph. Ye are utter strangers to him of whom I speak.

Verse 38

[38] And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not.

Ye have not his word — All who believe have the word of the Father (the same with the word of the Son) abiding in them, that is, deeply ingrafted in their hearts.

Verse 39

[39] Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.

Search the Scriptures — A plain command to all men.

In them ye are assured ye have eternal life — Ye know they show you the way to eternal life. And these very Scriptures testify of me.

Verse 40

[40] And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.

Yet ye will not come unto me — As they direct you.

Verse 41

[41] I receive not honour from men.

I receive not honour from men — I need it not. I seek it not from you for my own sake.

Verse 42

[42] But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you.

But I know you — With this ray he pierces the hearts of the hearers. And this doubtless he spake with the tenderest compassion.

Verse 43

[43] I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.

If another shall come — Any false Christ.

Verse 44

[44] How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?

While ye receive honour — That is, while ye seek the praise of men rather than the praise of God. At the feast of pentecost, kept in commemoration of the giving the law from Mount Sinai, their sermons used to be full of the praises of the law, and of the people to whom it was given. How mortifying then must the following words of our Lord be to them, while they were thus exulting in Moses and his law!

Verse 45

[45] Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust.

There is one that accuseth you — By his writings.

Verse 46

[46] For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me.

He wrote of me — Every where; in all his writings; particularly Deuteronomy 18:15,18.

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