The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on John 5:1-16.

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 5, 2016


In this chapter we have an account of a miracle wrought by our Divine Redeemer at Jerusalem in the cure of an infirm man, who had been suffering under his infirmity for eight and thirty years, after having waited in vain for the miraculous cures witnessed from time to time, at the pond of Probatica (1–9).

The attempts on the part of the Jews as was their wont, to arraign our Lord for a violation of the Sabbath, and their persecution of Him (10–16). Our Lord justifies His mode of acting, by declaring His Divinity, His identity of nature, and operation with His Father, who conferred on Him all power, especially the power to judge the world, and by His all-powerful voice to raise the dead from their graves, and pass upon them, an immutable judgment, entailing everlasting misery or happiness (16–30).

He refers to several witnesses of His Divinity, the Baptist, His own works—the testimony of His Father Himself, and, finally, the testimony of Scripture, of which they boasted so much (30–39).

He charges them with vain glory and pride, the great obstacles to their embracing the faith (40–44).

He charges them with paying no attention to the writings of Moses, who bore testimony of Him (44–47).


Joh 5:1 After these things was a festival day of the Jews: and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

1. “After these things,” etc. The Evangelist here passes over several occurrences that took place in connexion with our Lord in Galilee; His many miracles, the vocation of the Apostles, the sermon on the Mount, etc., recorded by St. Matthew (4–12).

A festival.” It is a subject of controversy among Commentators, what festival is here referred to. Some understand it of the Feast of Purim or Lots, instituted by Mardochai (Book of Esther 9:17); others, of the Feast of Tabernacles; others, with St. Chrysostom, Cyril, etc., of the Feast of Pentecost; others, with St. Ireneus, etc., whose opinion seems the more probable, of the Pasch, the Great Festival, by excellence. This corresponds best with the time referred to in 4:25, where our Lord speaks of the harvest being four months off. Now, the harvest occurred between the Pasch and Pentecost. Hence, the Pasch was the next great festival. It is generally held by the learned, that our Lord attended four Paschs after his baptism, duing the three years and a half of His public mission. The first (2:13); the second, here; the third (4:6); and the last (19:14). If the festival referred to here were not the Pasch, he would have attended only three Paschs. To these reasons may be added, that the article is prefixed in the Greek ἡ ἑορτη, to indicate that there was question of the feast, the greatest of the three, which were annually celebrated at Jerusalem. But even were the article omitted, it would not militate against this opinion, as it is omitted in several places, where the Pasch is referred to (19:14; Matthew 27:15; Mark 15:6; Luke 23:17).

Our Lord went up to Jerusalem on the occasion of each recurring festival, to show that far from being the enemy of the Law, He was most observant of all its ordinances. He also had in view, to work miracles and deliver His heavenly doctrines, when the people assembled in great crowds at the several festivals.

Joh 5:2 Now there is at Jerusalem a pond, called Probatica, which in Hebrew is named Bethsaida, having five porches.

2. “A pond called Probatica.” There is reference here to a pool of water, called “Probatica,” because it was close to the gate through which the sheep destined for sacrifice passed. According to St. Jerome (de locis Hebraicis), the sheep were washed in this pool in preparation for sacrifice. In the ordinary Greek, the reading is, επι τη προβατικη, near the sheep, gate, πυλη, is understood. That προβατικη, refers to a gate, may be seen from Nehemias or 2 Esdras (3:1), where there is reference to this flock-gate built by the Priests. “A pond”—κολυμβητρα. It was of sufficient dimensions to form a swimming ground.

Which in Hebrew is named Bethsaida.” The common reading is Bethesda.

Having five porches,” fronting the pool, and roofed, as a protection against the sun and rain.

Joh 5:3 In these lay a great multitude of sick, of blind, of lame, of withered: waiting for the moving of the water.

3. “Waiting for the movement,” etc. The reason is assigned in the next verse, because the time of such movement was uncertain.

Joh 5:4 And an angel of the Lord descended at certain times into the pond and the water was moved. And he that went down first into the pond after the motion of the water was made whole of whatsoever infirmity he lay under.

4. The authenticity of this verse, owing to its having been omitted in several versions and MSS., has been called in question by the Anabaptists. They, moreover, chiefly rely on this circumstance, that no mention has been made of it by Josephus. But, the preponderance of evidence from versions and the Fathers is in favour of its authenticity. The context requires it: otherwise, the answer of the man (v. 7), would be unintelligible. As for Josephus, he was the enemy of Christianity, and would not speak of this pool, as it would seem to corroborate the miracle wrought by our Redeemer. The same author passes over several other matters (v. g.), the coming of the Magi, the infanticide, etc. Surely, the positive description by St. John ought to carry with it greater weight than the omission on the part of Josephus.

The Angel of the Lord.” “Lord” is not in the Greek. The sense, however, is the same, as, doubtless, there is question of an Angel sent by God. In the Greek we have, “For, an Angel descended,” etc., giving a reason for the foregoing “at certain times,” at some unknown time. How often in the year cannot be ascertained, as we have no information respecting the pool anywhere else save here.

And the water was troubled.” The more probable reading is in the active form, και εταρασσε το ὕδωρ, and he troubled the water.

And he who went down first,” etc. Besides this statement of the Evangelist, the fact of invalids of every description (v. 3), remaining in the porches would seem to show, that the healing power of the water was not confined to any one sort of disease; that it had an universal efficacy, extending to diseases of every description, which would show the miraculous and supernatural character of the cure, which is corroborated by the circumstance that on every occasion, the cure was confined to the first who entered, after the movement of the waters, and that, immediately and invariably.

Even if these waters had a natural curative efficacy, this would not militate against the truth of the Gospel narrative, as the Angel might invisibly use such natural curative power to impart to it, on occasions, supernatural efficacy also.

The Evangelist refers to this pool, etc., by way of preparing us for the subsequent history of the miracle wrought by our Blessed Redeemer.

Joh 5:5 And there was a certain man there that had been eight and thirty years under his infirmity.
Joh 5:6 Him when Jesus had seen lying, and knew that he had been now a long time, he saith to him: Wilt thou be made whole?
Joh 5:7 The infirm man answered him: Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pond. For whilst I am coming, another goeth down before me.

5. “Under his infirmity,” generally supposed to be paralysis. It is not stated, how long He lay in the porch.

Joh 5:8 Jesus saith to him: Arise, take up thy bed and walk.

8. Our Lord’s words here were not only expressive; but, practical and effective of what He wished.

Joh 5:9 And immediately the man was made whole: and he took up his bed and walked. And it was the sabbath that day.

9. The intervening verses need no explanation.

Joh 5:10 The Jews therefore said to him that was healed: It is the sabbath. It is not lawful for thee to take up thy bed.

10. The chief men of influence who met Him carrying His bed, said to Him, “It is not lawful for thee to take thy bed.” (Jeremias 17:21: “Take heed to your souls, and carry no burdens on the Sabbath day,” etc.) (See Matthew 12:6, 7.)

Joh 5:11 He answered them: He that made me whole, he said to me: Take up thy bed and walk.
Joh 5:12 They asked him therefore: Who is that man who said to thee: Take up thy bed and walk?
Joh 5:13 But he who was healed knew not who it was: for Jesus went aside from the multitude standing in the place.
Joh 5:14 Afterwards, Jesus findeth him in the temple and saith to him: Behold thou art made whole: sin no more, lest some worse thing happen to thee.

14. “Sin no more,” etc. From this it would appear his infirmity was the punishment of sin. Our Lord also in this showed His Omniscience. He knew the cause from which the man’s infirmity had sprung. Hence, in some cases, diseases are the punishment of sin. In other cases, God sends diseases to test His servants, to try their patience; thus to increase their merit and save them from sin, by chastening them in this life, as an antidote against sin.

Joh 5:15 The man went his way and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him whole.

15. As it is incredible that this man would mean, in giving this information, to betray his benefactor, who cured him of his inveterate disease of soul and body, one being the effect of the other, Commentators, in general, hold that he did this out of a feeling of gratitude, to make known and proclaim the glory of his benefactor, and possibly, with a view of making known to others labouring under bodily distempers, to what source they might profitably have recourse, for the recovery of bodily health. St. Chrysostom observes, that in informing the Jews, the man made no mention of the charge preferred against our Lord by the Jews, of His having told him to take up his bed on the Sabbath day. He only mentions the act of beneficence; or the cure effected. “It was Jesus who made him whole.”

Joh 5:16 Therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, because he did these things on the sabbath.

16. “Therefore did the Jews,” especially the Scribes and Pharisees, “persecute Jesus.” Some Greek copies have, “and sought to kill Him.” They make this apparent violation of the letter of the Law, a pretext; the real cause being envy, on account of the glory our Lord received, and His denunciation of their crimes and hypocrisy, which affected them the more, as they affected such sanctity of life.


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