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Is John 5:1-17 (The Healing at the Pool on the Sabbath, ESV) a good example of Jesus healing a man with no faith?

Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place.  Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.”  The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. (John 5:13–15, ESV)

Contrast this with the blind man healed in John 9.

Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind.  If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”  They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.  Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”  He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”  Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.”  He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. (John 9:32–38, ESV)

Even with this the emphasis in John is faith after healing instead of before.

So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” (John 4:48, ESV)

If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” (John 10:37–38, ESV)

Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.”  Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:39–40, ESV)

Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him,... (John 11:45, ESV)

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  • The man believed that the angel would heal him - but only if he could get there quickly enough, before anyone else. So, yes, he had faith of a kind. So, the description 'a man with no faith' is inaccurate. Also, Jesus said 'rise, take up thy bed and walk'. And the man did so. That took faith, after 38 years of not using his legs . . . . . . . . to even attempt getting up, for the healing happened as he arose and before he walked.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Dec 1, 2023 at 3:06
  • @Nigel - I should have worded this better. He didn't have faith in God. His faith was in superstition, and he yielded to men rather than God.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Dec 1, 2023 at 10:37
  • Well . . . . . yes. But he was within Israel and although I agree with you that the angel thing was a superstition (I am suspicious it was a complete fraud to make money out of the crowd like some kind of sideshow, myself) yet at least the 'six waterpots of stone' had 'a few few firkins apiece' despite not - yet - being filled up to the brim.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Dec 1, 2023 at 16:18

2 Answers 2

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If I understand the OP's question correctly, it is essentially asking if Jesus' miracles were to either:

  • strengthen an existing faith, or
  • plant/initiate faith in a person

The short answer is that we plenty of evidence of both:

  1. Miracles that confirmed existing faith
  • Healing the Nobleman's son, John 4:43-54
  • The healing of Peter's mother-in-law is difficult to categorize. Certainly, Peter's faith was strengthened; but his mother-in-law was unconscious and unaware Jesus was there until healed. Mark 1:29, 30.
  • The first leper, Mark 1:40-45
  • The centurion who requested healing of his servant already had very great faith, Luke 7:1-10
  • The feeding of the 5000 clearly strengthened the faith of all who saw it, Mark 6:30-44
  1. Miracles used to initiate faith in Jesus
  • The faith of Nicodemus was initiated by hearing about & seeing Jesus' miracles, John 3:2
  • healing the invalid at Bethesda, John 5:1-17
  • the miraculous catch of fish, Luke 5:1-11, effectively created Peter (& James and John's) faith in Jesus
  • The exorcism of the demoniac initiated the faith of many, Mark 1:21-28
  • the healing of the blind and dumb demoniac (Matt 12:22-28) was clearly to initiate the faith of the crowds that observed.
  • It is also difficult to categorize the healing of the demoniacs of Gadara - it appears that the miracle was performed despite the requests of the spirits, Mark 5:1-20

... and so forth. Many miracles were initiated by Jesus without any request by any human.

Therefore, I see no difficulty in Jesus' miracle of the man at the pool, being an example of a faith initiating miracle. That is, the man had not sought Jesus for a miracle and did not know him. However, Jesus healed anyway. The same is true of the man born blind (John 9) who did not know Jesus and had not sought healing, but later believed (V38).

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  • What interesting about the healing of the nobleman's son is although that healing showed the most faith before healing in the seven signs in John's Gospel, that is when Jesus made his statement in 4:48.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Dec 1, 2023 at 10:43
  • I wonder if the disable man at the pool had faith. Once he knew it was Jesus healed him, he reported to the Jewish leaders. If Jesus was to initiate faith in Him, He failed. How could Jesus fail? Commented Dec 1, 2023 at 15:36
  • @VincentWong - Jesus failed to initiate faith in many people despite the best efforts. Judas was lost.
    – Dottard
    Commented Dec 1, 2023 at 18:30
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Jesus has the authority to heal anyone, regardless of their faith. In John 5:1-17, Jesus healed a man who had been disable for 38 years, which was a time too long for anyone to believe he could be healed. Jesus chose this man to demonstrate his authority to the Jewish leaders.

As expected, Jesus' actions caught the attention of the Jewish leaders. In the subsequent dialogue in John 5:19-30, Jesus proclaimed His authority, which is the central message we need to pay attention to.

The man was healed not because of his faith, but because of Jesus' mercy, and for a purpose as above mentioned. However, Jesus did tell him that his faith would help him remain healthy,

John 5:14 NIV

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.”

In contrast to the man who was blind from birth, the man in John 9 did not know Jesus when he was healed. However, his eyes would remain healthy, because when he saw Jesus, he called Him Lord (John 9:38).

From these accounts, it appears that faith may not be a prerequisite for healing, but it is essential for lasting health.

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