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John 5 2Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. 3In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, [waiting for the moving of the waters; 4for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.] 5A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, “Do you wish to get well?” 7The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” 8Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.” 9Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk. Now it was the Sabbath on that day. 10So the Jews were saying to the man who was cured, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet.” 11But he answered them, “He who made me well was the one who said to me, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk.’” 12They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk’?” 13But the man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away while there was a crowd in that place. 14Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you.” 15The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. 16For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. 17But He answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.”

Would not the healed man have understood that the Jewish leaders were angry at Jesus for breaking the Sabbath and encouraging the man to do so as well? Why go out of his way to give them information that they already surely strongly suspected? Was Jesus warning the man not to sin by snitching on him and thereby cause him to suffer an even greater illness than he had just been healed of?

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  • See also John 8:11.
    – Lucian
    Sep 4 at 7:28
  • Interesting that Jesus did not specify any kind of consequence to the adulteress in commanding her to sin no more. My guess is that he knew she had learned her lesson. Sep 4 at 7:43
  • It was most likely fear of the Jewish leaders, which is seen many times in scripture.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 4 at 15:48
  • See also Matthew 9:30-31, Mark 7:36-37, Luke 5:14-15.
    – Lucian
    Sep 4 at 16:15
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While the Sanhedrin's position on Jesus man not have been as advanced as in John 9, When the man born blind was healed, Jews would be expelled from the Synagogue from for saying that Jesus was the Messiah.

20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. 21 But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.” (John 9:20–23, ESV)

They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out [καὶ ἐξέβαλον αὐτὸν ἔξω, NA28]. (John 9:34, ESV)

9:34. Later rabbis emphasized being humble and teachable; but despite the proper Jewish argument he gave in 9:31–33, the authorities expel this man on the premise that he was born in sin—which the reader knows to be false (9:2–3). How formal excommunications were in this period is unclear, but he is certainly expelled from participating in the local center of religious life (cf. comment on 9:22–23). -- Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Jn 9:34). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

It is unlikely that the man healed at Bethesda [בֵּית חַסְדָּא] had anything against Jesus. He apparently was concerned about himself. The leaders would suspect that he was lying to protect the person who healed him, and we do not know what threats they may have made. When he found out Jesus healed him, he told the leaders to get himself off the hook.

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Let us observe several features of the story of the healing at the pool of Bethesda:

  • V3 - there were a large number of people present at the pool who presumably observed what happened. The news about the healing would have spread very quickly.
  • V10 - the narrative suggests that the "Jews" initiated the conversation with healed man, not the other way around. That is, on hearing about this miracle on the Sabbath, the Jews sought him out to collect more evidence against Jesus' sabbath breaking (V16)
  • V15 - later, having discovered the identity of his healer, the man made the initiative to go and tell the authorities who had healed him.

We are not told why the man apparently "betrayed" Jesus to the Jews; however, it is entirely possible that they had threatened him with synagogue expulsion if he did not reveal the healer's identity. Such threats of expulsion also occurred in the case of the healing of the man born blind in John 9:22, 34.

Thus, in the absence of any instruction from Jesus to the lame man at the pool, the healed man had little choice but to inform the authorities if he had been threatened. However, it may have been out of sheer gratitude and exuberant joy that the man told anyone even slightly interested in his wonderful story.

Ellicott offers these comments on John 5:15 -

(15) The man departed, and told the Jews.—We are not told what reason underlay his report to the Jews. It is natural that he should give the answer which he could not give before (John 5:13), and that he should wish to secure himself from the charge of Sabbath-breaking by supplying his authority. The narrative does not suggest that he did this in a tone of defiance, which has been found here from a remembrance of John 9, still less that he used his new strength immediately to bring a charge against the Giver of it. The impression is rather, that he felt that this power came from a prophet sent by God, and that he told this to those who were God’s representatives to the nation, supposing that they would recognise Him too.

Matthew Poole offers a slight variation of this reason:

It were very uncharitable to judge that this poor man went to the Jewish magistrates to inform against Christ, who had been so kind to him; and much more probable that he went in the simplicity of his heart, desirous both to publish what Christ had done to his honour, and also to do good to others, who might also stand in need of his help.

The Cambridge commentary reaches a similar conclusion:

  1. told the Jews Not in malice against Jesus, nor in any hope of converting His opponents. Neither of these is probable, nor is there the least evidence of either. Rather, he continues his defiance of them (John 5:11). He had given as his authority for breaking the Sabbath ‘He that made me whole.’ Having found out that it was the famous teacher from Galilee, he returns to give them this additional proof of authority.
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Did the lame man betray Jesus?

The details of the story do not support the conclusion that the lame man betrayed Jesus. On the contrary, the order of events suggests that Jesus may have in fact wanted the man to tell the Jewish leaders who it was that healed him:

  1. Jesus healed the man then quietly slipped away.
  2. The Jewish leaders asked the man to identify the person who healed him, but he did not know.
  3. Jesus revealed himself as the one who healed him, giving the man the information that the others were seeking.
  4. The man went to tell them that it was Jesus who had healed him.

Jesus first slipped away as there was a crowd, and he did not want to draw their attention. Only after the man was queried did Jesus come back to reveal himself. This sequence suggests that Jesus wanted the man to testify about him to the Jewish leaders. Compare to the passage in which Jesus healed the man with leprosy, who was instructed to tell no one but the priest, as a “testimony to them”:

and He said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” 45 But he went out and began to proclaim it freely and to spread the news around, to such an extent that Jesus could no longer publicly enter a city, but stayed out in unpopulated areas; and they were coming to Him from everywhere. – Mk 1:44-45

Something else that stands out is how the man identified Jesus as “he who made me well” (v. 11). There is a sense of indebtedness in this description that is touching, especially considering his words before that there was “no man” to help him (v.7). Thus, rather than betrayal or fear, the act of going to tell the Jewish leaders about Jesus might actually be evidence of his gratitude and courage.

“Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore” (v.14). It is not clear that these words were meant to bind the man to secrecy. Rather, they referenced the forgiveness/healing that Jesus had worked inside him. Two chapters later (Jn 7:21-23), Jesus would refer to the healing of the lame man and say how he “made an entire man well on a Sabbath,” a hint that more was healed on that day than the man’s physical disability.

It is also noteworthy that Jesus’ arguments in that discourse depended in part on the testimony of the lame man, without which his opponents would not know that it was Jesus who had healed him:

Jesus answered them, “I did one deed, and you all are astonished. 22 For this reason Moses has given you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and even on a Sabbath you circumcise a man. 23 If a man receives circumcision on a Sabbath so that the Law of Moses will not be broken, are you angry at Me because I made an entire man well on a Sabbath? – John 7:21-23

As a final thought, the idea that Jesus needed to hide his actions is unsupported in the text. On the contrary, the works served as his testimony, that is, they testified of him, that he is from God.

I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me. – John 10:25

If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father. – John 10:37-38

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In a comment, Martin pointed out the following contrast:

John 5:14

Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”

John 8:11

"No one, Lord," she answered. "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Now go and sin no more."

Jesus' warning to the man was not an idle one. In fact, it was a prophecy. Despite the serious threat, in the very next verse, we see that

15 The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.

He took the initiative to volunteer the information to Jesus' enemies. He didn't have to do this. To me, he had betrayed Jesus to the Jews.

In most of the healing cases, people who needed help came to Jesus. In this case, it was different. Jesus took the initiative:

6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he [Jesus] asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

Did the lame man healed at the Pool of Bethesda tattle on Jesus to the Jews who were furious at him for constantly breaking the rules of the Sabbath?

Yes. He did not have the same thankful heart as the woman caught in adultery.

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