As stated in the previous post, the Gospel of John contains seven selected signs. These signs were designed to prove that Jesus is the Son of God. Though they had physical benefits for the recipient, each of them contained a spiritual lesson. Four of the seven signs in John were healings (John 4:43-54; 5:1-16; 9:1-12; 11:38-44). Let us now consider these four acts of healing (two in this post and two in the next) and see why each sign is significant. In the next post, in addition to looking at the final two acts of healing, we will provide some important principles with regard to modern “faith healers” and why their erronous acts undermine the biblical gift .
THE HEALING OF THE OFFICIAL’S SON (John 4:43-54)
In this brief passage we read about the miracle Jesus performed by healing an official’s son. In this story all appeared to be beyond hope, yet Jesus does what no other person could do, He restored this child to full health. This event began with a desperate situation (John 4:46-49) in which the man travelled at least half a day’s journey to ask Jesus for help. Jesus then gives an unexpected answer, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe” (John 4:48). Interestingly, the word “you” (which appears twice in this verse) is actually plural. Here Jesus is providing a public lesson to all who are listening on what true saving faith is. The official repeats his request for Jesus to come before it is too late.
This brings the reader to the display of the supernatural (John 4:50-53). Jesus responds simply by saying, “Go; your son will live” (4:50a). Why didn’t Jesus go on the journey with Him and heal the man’s son like the healing of Jairus’ daughter (Luke 8:41-56)? The reason is because He is giving a lesson on what saving faith is. Saving faith must take the Lord at His word without the need for signs and wonders. After Jesus said this, we are told, “the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way” (John 4:50b).
Due to reasons unknown to us, he was unable to leave until the following day. As he set off on his journey some of his slaves meet him and shared the exciting news that his son is recovering. He asked them at what hour did this happen? They answered him “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him” (4:52). At that moment he knew that this occurred right when Jesus spoke the words “Your son will live“. The response is amazing – “And he himself believed, and all his household” (4:53b). That was not a shallow superficial belief; it was genuine saving faith. I don’t know how many were in his household, but by God’s grace they all believed.
Finally, we see in this passage the declaration of the sign, “This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee” (John 4:54). Remember that the signs performed by Jesus are intended to point to a greater reality than the miracle itself. What does this amazing sign point to? It declares two realities: like this ill boy, humanity has a problem. The problem that all people share is spiritual one. We are all separated from Christ due to our sin. However, there is no barrier too big for a sinner to receive salvation. Why? Secondly, Jesus Christ has made a provision in which lost sinners can find eternal life. Our separation is not too far for Him to intervene in our lives. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you have come from. The Lord Jesus Christ can save you from all your sins. That is the lesson of this miraculous healing.
THE HEALING OF THE LAME MAN (John 5:1-16)
John records that near the Jewish temple were shelters in which there was “a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed” (John 5:3). Here is a group of people who for various reasons have disabilities and they are all waiting by this pool for the hope of a miracle. Sadly, I often hear of people who are in conditions like this and false religions and false teachers make them false promises and don’t deliver. That is devastating and deceptive!
The focus in John 5 moves from this group of invalids to a particular individual. We learn that he “had been an invalid for thirty-eight years” (John 5:5). For almost four decades this man had experienced the debilitating disadvantage of not being mobile. I can only imagine how limited his opportunities in life were. The fact that for all these years that no one was there to help him (cf. John 5:7) also indicates that he was a lonely man.
This is what leads us to the miraculous compassionate act. We are told, “When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?'” (John 5:6). This is truly amazing. The fact that Jesus “knew that he had already been there a long time” is a reminder that He is the Sovereign Saviour. This man has been in this condition since before Jesus was born, however, because He is the eternal Son of God He has this thorough knowledge. He asked the lame man a simple and direct question, “Do you want to be healed?” The assumed reply would be “yes!” But this man goes on to share his helpless situation,
“Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me” (John 5:7).
After hearing this it is clear that he didn’t expect or believe Jesus to be able to heal him. This man had been living with the hope that when the water was stirred up he would be healed. However, because he had no one to help him he never made it to the water. Living with the hope for all those years that he would be healed yet here he is revealing to Jesus is complete inability. This is an amazing picture of those who look to things like church attendance, prayer time, Scripture reading, and participation in church events as a means to obtain salvation. As importance as all those things are, they do not save anybody.
I’m sure he wasn’t expecting what happens next. Perhaps he thought that Jesus might help get him into the water the next time it stirs. Jesus says, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk” (5:8). Those are the words of Divine authority. By means of His power He was able to command this man who had been lame for 38 years to stand up and walk. Understand what is involved here. Due to his condition, the muscles in this man’s legs have wasted away. If it were possible for medical treatment he would need to build up strength in his legs. But Jesus simply commands, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk“. We are told that “at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked” (John 5:9). This was a miracle. Significantly, John points out that when this miracle occurred. He writes, “Now that day was the Sabbath” (5:9b).
Sadly, this compassionate act was followed by a controversial aftermath (John 5:10-16). When these leaders saw the man walking along with his bed, they said, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed” (John 5:10). The law they had in mind was a man made tradition added to the Mosaic Law.
It is interesting how this man responds to this rebuke, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk’” (John 5:11). He shifts the blame to “that man“. Curious as to whom this man was, they wanted to know who said this (John 5:12). The man pleaded ignorant, as he didn’t even take notice of who it was due to the large crowds (John 5:13).
Sometime after, by Divine appointment Jesus found this man and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you” (John 5:14). In the act of healing Jesus demonstrated that the impotence of external religion and the omnipotence of God. Jesus reminded this man of his new physical condition (“See, you are well!“). Then he issues a call to repentance by saying, “Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you“. This means that after the healing the man was not a follower of Christ. Some are troubled by the statement, “that nothing worse may happen to you” thinking that this means all sickness is the result of personal sin. That can’t be true because when the disciples inquired about the cause of the blind man’s condition, Jesus made it clear that no human’s sin was responsible for his condition (John 9:2-3). However, in the case of this man, certain sicknesses do come as a result of sin. The point here is that if he doesn’t repent, he will receive an outcome worse than being lame for 38 years – he will receive eternal punishment. What Jesus says in verse 14 is very serious. J C Ryle says it like this, “a sick bed is a sorrowful place, but hell is much worse”.
It is interesting how this man responds. We are told, “The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him” (John 5:15). This man was ignorant of who Jesus was (John 5:11-13), and even when he knew what He could do and called for repentance he displayed ingratitude towards what Jesus has done (John 5:15-16). This is a picture of Israel and particularly the religious leaders at that time. John told us in the prologue, “He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him” (John 1:11). This man’s response is a picture of external religion. This section concludes, “And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath” (John 5:16). Why did Jesus choose to do this miracle on the Sabbath? Surely He could have done it any other day of the week. The man didn’t even ask for it. Jesus chose to do this miracle on the Sabbath so as to expose the impotence and hopelessness of man-made religion and to demonstrate that He alone has the power to save. That is the significance of this healing.