John 5:12
Then asked they him, What man is that which said to you, Take up your bed, and walk?
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(12) What man is that which said unto thee . . .?—They pass over the giving of the power, and quote only the command which comes under their technical prohibition. The life and strength of once-palsied limb is as nothing; the fact that this man was breaking their tradition is secondary. The real motive is a charge against Him whose power the body of the Jewish people was feeling as a life-current, quickening deadened energies, and rousing men to a sense of God’s presence in their midst. Aye, and these Jews of Judaism feel the thrill of this current all around them, though their will tries to isolate them by the coldness of unbelief from a power which they have not directed, and which they refuse to be directed by. Men and women who have been all their lives lying in moral helplessness, waiting and looking for God, yet never helped by God’s priests and rulers, are now standing and moving in the strength that their new Teacher gives. They cannot deny it, but can they prevent it? This spirit is life, but there is still the letter which killeth. It cuts them to the heart to see His power in their midst, but there is the body of Rabbinic precept and oral law. He has now crossed that. They will apply it to stamp out His work and kill Him.

Take up thy bed, and walk.—Omit “thy bed,” with the best MSS. It is inserted from the previous verse. Their passionate question expresses itself in the fewest words.

John 5:12-13. Then asked they, What man is that, &c. — Dropping all mention of the cure, they only fix on what seemed liable to exception. They do not ask, Who made thee well? but, Who bade thee take up this bed on the sabbath day? that is, as they interpreted it, Who bade thee profane the sabbath? Though he had just told them it was the author of his cure that gave him that command; for all that they proposed was, not to hear of any good that had been done to engage their admiration and applause; but to lay hold on some occasion to find fault, to gratify the pride and malice of a censorious temper. And he that was healed wist not — Did not know at that time; who it was — That had cured him; for Jesus had conveyed himself away — Greek, εξενευσεν, had slipped away. The word, as Casaubon observes, is an elegant metaphor borrowed from swimming, and well expresses the easy, unobserved manner in which Christ, as it were, glided through the multitude, leaving no trace behind of the way he had taken.5:10-16 Those eased of the punishment of sin, are in danger of returning to sin, when the terror and restraint are over, unless Divine grace dries up the fountain. The misery believers are made whole from, warns us to sin no more, having felt the smart of sin. This is the voice of every providence, Go, and sin no more. Christ saw it necessary to give this caution; for it is common for people, when sick, to promise much; when newly recovered, to perform only something; but after awhile to forget all. Christ spoke of the wrath to come, which is beyond compare worse than the many hours, nay, weeks and years of pain, some wicked men have to suffer in consequence of their unlawful indulgences. And if such afflictions are severe, how dreadful will be the everlasting punishment of the wicked!What man is he ... - In this verse there is a remarkable instance of the "perverseness" of men, of their want of candor, and of the manner in which they often look at a subject. Instead of looking at the miracle, and at the man's statement of the manner in which he was healed, they look only at what they thought to be a violation of the law. They assumed it as certain that nothing could make his conduct, in carrying his bed on the Sabbath day, proper; and they meditated vengeance, not only on the man who was carrying his bed, but on him, also, who had told him to do it. Thus men often assume that a certain course or opinion is proper, and when anyone differs from them they look only at the difference, but not at the reasons for it. One great source of dispute among men is that they look only at the points in which they differ, but are unwilling to listen to the reasons why others do not believe as they do. It is always enough to condemn one in the eyes of a bigot that he differs from "him," and he looks upon him who holds a different opinion, as the Jews did at this man, "as certainly wrong;" and such a bigot looks at the reasons why others differ from him just as the Jews did at the reason why this man bore his bed on the Sabbath - as not worth regarding or hearing, or as if they could not possibly be right. 10-16. The Jews—that is, those in authority. (See on [1781]Joh 1:19.)

it is not lawful to carry thy bed—a glorious testimony to the cure, as instantaneous and complete, from the lips of the most prejudiced! (And what a contrast does it, as all our Lord's miracles, present to the bungling miracles of the Church of Rome!) In ordinary circumstances, the rulers had the law on their side (Ne 13:15; Jer 17:21). But when the man referred them to "Him that had made him whole" (Joh 5:11) as his authority, the argument was resistless. Yet they ingeniously parried the thrust, asking him, not who had "made him whole"—that would have condemned themselves and defeated their purpose—but who had bidden him "take up his bed and walk," in other words, who had dared to order a breach of the sabbath? It is time we were looking after Him—thus hoping to shake the man's faith in his Healer.

The impotent man that was healed seemed to oppose the authority of God (by virtue of which he believed himself healed) to the authority of man, which made it unlawful for him on the sabbath day to take up his bed and walk. The Jews, taking no notice of Christ’s being God, or so much as a prophet sent from God, do not ask, Who was he? But,

What man is that which said, & c.? opposing the command of God to the command of man. It is as much as if they had said; The law of God hath commanded that no burdens should be carried on the sabbath day; now, what is that man that dare teach thee or any one to do what is contrary to the law of God? Then asked they him,.... Suspecting who had made him whole, and gave him this order:

what man is that which said unto thee, take up thy bed and walk? they take no notice of the cure, being unwilling to give any glory to Christ, and still less to spread it; but chose rather that it should be obscured, hid, and unobserved; but they laid hold on that, which they thought might be improved to his reproach and scandal; and they call him a man, as supposing him to be a mere man, and a wicked man too, for giving orders to transgress a tradition of the elders, though no mere man could work such a cure as this was. And so the Jews since, though they cannot find fault with the cure, which they put an "if" upon, yet are highly displeased with the order, to take up his bed and carry it:

"if (say they (a)) he wrought a cure, lo, that is good, but why did he bid him take up his bed?''

the answer may be, to show that he was cured.

(a) Vet. Nizzachon, p. 207.

Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk?
John 5:12. As the healed man transferred the blame to another, ἠρώτησανπεριπάτει. “Who is the man,” rather, “the fellow?” ὁ ἄνθρωπος used contemptuously. As Grotius says: “Quaerunt non quod mirentur, sed quod calumnietur”.12. What man is that which] Better, Who is the man that, ‘man’ being contemptuous, almost = ‘fellow.’ Once more they ignore the miracle, and attack the command. They ask not, ‘Who cured thee, and therefore must have Divine authority?’ but, ‘Who told thee to break the Sabbath, and therefore could not have it?’ Christ’s command was perhaps aimed at these erroneous views about the Sabbath.Verse 12. - [Then] they asked him, Who is the man (contemptuous use of ἄνθρωπος, as distinct from God's great messengers, or the legislators and prophets of the olden time, who have laid down the eternal Law of God) that said unto thee, Take up [thy bed], and walk? "The Jews" here ignore the work of healing and mercy, and seek to fasten a charge of overt criminality against some person unknown. A technical offence has been clone against the honour of their sacred place. The work of healing is an insignificant compensation for such a disgrace. They would be even with the heretical healer. Saving men by questionable methods is not to be endured. "Who is the man?" "Men and women lying in moral helplessness, not helped by God's priests and rulers, are now standing and moving in the strength their new Teacher has given. They cannot deny it; but can they prevent it? The rabbinic precept which he has crossed shall be applied to stamp out his work and kill him" (Watkins). Then


What man is he, etc.

"See the cunning of malice. They do not say, 'Who is he that healed thee?' but, 'Who bade thee take up thy bed?'" (Grotius, in Trench, "Miracles.")

Take up thy bed

Omit bed. Literally, take up and walk.

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