2Ti 1:10 But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:

I donít know that Iíve ever heard a comprehensive sermon on the beginning of the fifth chapter of John. Many have mentioned it in passing, or make a quick reference to it, but a detailed explanation of it has always appeared to be problematic.

Itís the prelude to the beautiful discourse Jesus gives about the new birth. John 5:25, followed by the equally important,

Jhn 5:28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, Jhn 5:29 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.

Marvel not at this? As if itís not some incredible, marvelous, miraculous thing that a person dead in trespasses and in sins, caught in the death of Adam, trapped in total depravity and dead to the things of God is brought to life in an instant with the regenerating power behind the voice of the Son of God? How can I not marvel at that?

So the prelude to this beautiful discourse must be important. Letís look at the details of the sheep pool and the five porches at Bethesda. Five porches Ė and we know that five is the number of death Ė so itís clear what is represented on the surface, but the rest of the story is going to take some rightly dividing.

I believe this event happened as recorded. Jesus saw this man, in this location, healed him and met him again later at the temple. But the details are so particular, we must see more in it than what appears at our first reading. John devoted much space in his writing to this event, it must have greater significance.

Jhn 5:1 After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

In John chapter 2, Jesus goes to the Passover. The next feast on the calendar is the feast of weeks, or Pentecost. Pentecost is fitting, because a moving of the Spirit is depicted.

Jhn 5:2 Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep [market] a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.

Archeologists and biblical scholars for years have tried to locate this mysterious pool. The best estimates were of a pool near Galilee. Their thinking was that John meant to say Bethsaida and not Bethesda. Some suggested John meant the Pool of Siloam or the modern day site called the Fountain of the Virgin in the Kidron Valley. Excavations in 1964 in Jerusalem have uncovered a pool matching Johnís very description.

From Wikipedia: This archaeological discovery proved beyond a doubt that the description of this pool in the Gospel of John was not the creation of the Evangelist. It reflected an accurate and detailed knowledge of the site. The Gospel speaks of (a) the name of the pool as Bethesda; (b) its location near the Sheep Gate; (c) the fact that it has five porticos; with rushing water. All these details are corroborated through literary and archaeological evidence affirming the historical accuracy of the Johannine account.

Bethsada: house of mercy. Consider for a moment. For nineteen centuries, men have questioned what was written by the Apostle, discarding his account, and more importantly, the inspiration of the scriptures themselves. If John couldnít be trusted here to give an accurate description of a physical location he actually saw and knew, how can he be trusted for those weightier matters of spirituality? But more importantly, how much more confidence do we now place on scriptures seeing new proof nineteen hundred years later that the writers were true and accurate and honest in their reporting?

Jhn 5:3 In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.

This certainly describes our early condition in the world: born again, yet lacking the knowledge and understanding of the gospel and its good news.

Jhn 5:4 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.

As stated at the outset, I have no difficulty believing an angel periodically came down and ďtroubledĒ the water, but now, weíre seeing a larger picture by the greatest preacher ever: The Lord himself. Symbolically, perhaps this angel represents the gospel minister, who is later called by the term, and the troubling of the water is the impact the preaching has on a troubled soul. A child of God, seeking grace and filled with fear can be troubled by the gospel when it is stirred. This water, in a sense is likened unto the water of Ephesians 5:26.

2Ti 4:2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.

Being in season, and filled with the Spirit of God, a gospel minister can indeed ďtrouble the watersĒ stirring up the pure mind, and using the word of God to convict men of sin, to rebuke, reprove, correct and instruct men in righteousness. 2Ti 3:16-17

Jhn 5:5 And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.

Whenever the scripture speaks of a certain man, it usually is speaking of an elect child of God.

Here is a man in this condition for 38 years. Why not just say 40? Why not just report the event as a long time, instead of being specific? Because numbers in scripture have meaning. Separately, the number 30 represents redemption, and the number eight new beginnings. And, thanks to the intervention of Jesus, our certain man misses the curse of 39.

Jhn 5:6 When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time [in that case], he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?

If there is anything here to point us to a timely application, itís this sentence. And this becomes the point Ė the intersection, where we must make a choice of direction. On the left, we can turn our application of this story eternal, but quickly see that road is filled with potholes, ditches, impediments and spiritual difficulties. Because we know of a certainty that the regeneration, the new birth, the act of imparting eternal life is irresistible, and man is completely passive and inactive in that action, and that he is never asked or invited to participate, then we must turn to the right, and make this a timely application.

Wilt thou be made whole? You stand as a babe in Christ, unable to walk in the light of the gospelís instructions until such time as you have grown and been nurtured in the word.

Think about your condition Ė born again, yet unaware of the truth of the gospel. Without the knowledge of your condition, your situation and the awareness of the correction by God, you are still lame, undone, incomplete, halt and blind. All defects, to be sure, but all have life.

Hereís a question that should generate clarity: ďDid Jesus ever heal any but his own children?Ē The answer sends us to the conclusion that the man in question is one of Godís elect. Remember when John said earlier ďa certain man?Ē All throughout the New Testament, that descriptor comes to play in defining the elect.

Jhn 5:7 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.

I have no man. While itís true in our eternal salvation, we have no man, no means, no missionary, nothing but mercy and the actions of our Lord and savior, in time, we need someone to proclaim the gospel unto us so that we can have life, and have it more abundantly.

Indeed. How can I understand except some man guide me?

Jhn 5:8 Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.

When we are told to do something in the scriptures, itís for our benefit. Itís because we already have life, and itís going to result in a blessing. We can only rise up and walk because God has given us life. We can only rise up and walk because his word Ė the Holy Scriptures have given us the light by which to go.

Psa 119:105 NUN. Thy word [is] a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path

Jhn 5:9 And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath.

Mar 2:27-28 And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.

There exist today entire religious groups who have made the Sabbath their cornerstone. It is the lynchpin of their doctrine and the defining statement of their faith. They have placed the Sabbath and its priority above the worship of God.

Our true Sabbath is fulfilled in Christ Jesus. And only in Him will we find rest for our weak, wounded and afflicted souls.

Jhn 5:10 The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry [thy] bed.

Thirty eight years. The Jews knew this man was in a condition for a long time, yet instead of rejoicing, they are more concerned about their own traditions. They love the appearance of law, more than the law itself. Here is a man whose healing can only be attributed to God Ė there is no other answer. Yet what is their concern? Rejoicing and giving God the glory? No, placing the Sabbath above the worship of God.

Jhn 5:11 He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk
Jhn 5:12 Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk?
Jhn 5:13 And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in [that] place.

We get glimpse of Jesus in service on the day we meet to worship and find rest. He travels among us, through the multitude. And in our natural mind, weíll complain about the little flock, the small gathering of saints. If only we would put aside the seeming comfort of large crowds and appreciate itís easier to see Jesus in a smaller group.

Jhn 5:14 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.

The good news of the gospel has led this man to the temple, to praise God and seek the one who had saved him from his condition. For some thirty eight years, this one has been kept from the temple not only by his condition, but by the law itself. (Lev 21 and 2 Sam 5)

Now Jesus finds him and explains the danger of sin. Isnít that one of the things we do in the church? Encourage one another and help each other to stay away from sin?

Primitive Baptists donít often talk about the marks of sin and what it does to the body. We are quick to give heredity and even the devil credit for our illness, but many times, there is un-confessed sin that plagues us and hinders us. The wages of sin is death.

Jam 1:15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

Look at this Ė sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. It stands to reason therefore, that BEFORE it is finished, it brings forth illness. Thatís logical isnít it? Sometimes, it may be by way of a slow illness. But itís also one of the marks we find upon Godís elect children. We see the bad news in illness, yet rejoice in the good news that their suffering marks them as children of the Most High.

Sin no more Ė lest a worse thing come unto thee. Sin no more. Several times during the New Testament, we are told to sin no more. Thatís hard to hear, and even harder to do.

Jhn 5:15 The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole.

In every aspect of eternal life, Jesus introduces himself. But the work of the gospel minister is to proclaim Jesus. The gospel minister becomes a witness to your soul, and the spirit of God within you confirms. In our story, Jesus didnít say who he was, nor have we record of the man asking. Perhaps, inwardly it was revealed to him who Jesus was.

Hereís the irony of sin and the flesh. A man, healed of a lifelong infirmity, 38 years, on the very same day heís released from his bonds, and is allowed to walk, run, move about without pain or difficulty, he spends little time in rejoicing. Heís more concerned about pleasing the Jews. He turns against Jesus and reports Him by name, as if he had committed some great crime. Isnít that our gratitude for blessings as well? Donít we immediately turn back to the flesh instead of thanking God? Remember the ten lepers Jesus cleansed? Only one turned back to give God the glory.

Jhn 5:16 And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day.

Healing on the Sabbath day. Worthy of death? Incredible!

Letís hear the whole matter now. What purpose is the gospel? Itís not to bring eternal life. The life-giving voice of the son of God does that. It doesnít give life, but the gospel does allow one to learn and understand what has happened to him, and teaches him why he now has a spiritual mind. It comforts him to find that others, in the church also have this internal struggle Paul describes in Romans.

Wilt thou be made whole? Itís not an offer of eternal life.

In this lifetime, we can only be whole through service to God. We can only find ourselves healed from our ignorance by serving the Lord, in His church.

Brother Royce Ellis