John 5:5
And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.
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(5) Thirty and eight years.—The period expresses, not his age on the one hand, nor the time of his being at Bethesda on the other, but the time during which he had suffered from the infirmity. Helpless and friendless, having spent half the lot of human life in that condition, he appeals without an uttered word to the Mercy which is present in the House of Mercy; and to him alone of those He healed does Christ of His own accord address the first question. The infirmity was in some way connected with youthful sin (John 5:14), and the sufferer and his history would be well known to those at Jerusalem. The exact knowledge of the writer tells us that for thirty-eight years he had paid sin’s. penalty.

John 5:5-6. A certain man was there — Among the crowds which now lay in the porticoes of Bethesda, was one who had an infirmity — A weakness, as the word ασθενεια means; thirty and eight years — He had probably lost the use of his limbs, at least, on one side, by a paralytic stroke. It is a great affliction to have the body so disabled, that instead of being the soul’s instrument, it is become, even in the affairs of this life, its burden. What reason many of us have to thank God for bodily health and strength, to use them for him, and to sympathize with those who are deprived of them, and especially with those, who, like this afflicted man, have been deprived of them for many years! This poor man had been in a state of great weakness, attended, doubtless, frequently with much pain, longer than most persons live. Shall we complain of one or two, or a few wearisome nights, or some short fits of affliction or pain, who, perhaps, for many years, have scarce known what it has been to be a day ill, when many others, holier than we, have scarce known what it has been to be a day well? When Jesus saw him lie — Singling him out from the rest, and fixing his eyes upon him; he saith unto him — With great compassion; Wilt thou be made whole? — The length and greatness of this man’s affliction, well known to Jesus, as is here observed, together with his poverty, (John 5:7,) were sufficient reasons for his making choice of him to experience the mercy of his healing power, a power infinitely superior to the virtue of the waters, while he let the rest remain in their affliction. Our Lord seems to have asked this afflicted man the above-mentioned question, to give him an opportunity of declaring his case in the hearing of the multitude: because such a declaration would tend to make the miracle more conspicuous, and to awaken the attention of the inhabitants of the Jewish capital to the evidence he was daily giving of his divine mission.

5:1-9 We are all by nature impotent folk in spiritual things, blind, halt, and withered; but full provision is made for our cure, if we attend to it. An angel went down, and troubled the water; and what disease soever it was, this water cured it, but only he that first stepped in had benefit. This teaches us to be careful, that we let not a season slip which may never return. The man had lost the use of his limbs thirty-eight years. Shall we, who perhaps for many years have scarcely known what it has been to be a day sick, complain of one wearisome night, when many others, better than we, have scarcely known what it has been to be a day well? Christ singled this one out from the rest. Those long in affliction, may comfort themselves that God keeps account how long. Observe, this man speaks of the unkindness of those about him, without any peevish reflections. As we should be thankful, so we should be patient. Our Lord Jesus cures him, though he neither asked nor thought of it. Arise, and walk. God's command, Turn and live; Make ye a new heart; no more supposes power in us without the grace of God, his distinguishing grace, than this command supposed such power in the impotent man: it was by the power of Christ, and he must have all the glory. What a joyful surprise to the poor cripple, to find himself of a sudden so easy, so strong, so able to help himself! The proof of spiritual cure, is our rising and walking. Has Christ healed our spiritual diseases, let us go wherever he sends us, and take up whatever he lays upon us; and walk before him.An infirmity - A weakness. We know not what his disease was. We know only that it disabled him from walking, and that it was of very long standing. It was doubtless regarded as incurable. 5-9. thirty and eight years—but not all that time at the pool. This was probably the most pitiable of all the cases, and therefore selected. What this man’s name was, or what his circumstances in the world, or what his particular disease, we are not told; nor is it said that he had lain there thirty-eight years, but that he had so long laboured under his weakness: which, whether it was the palsy or no, is uncertain: probably it was a disease hardly curable by human art and ordinary means; for it cannot be thought but in that time he had used all rational means, which he finding of no value as to his case, he came and lay at this fountain, waiting for a cure in this way of miraculous operation.

And a certain man was there,.... At Bethesda's pool, in one of the five porches, or cloisters, that belonged to it:

which had an infirmity thirty and eight years; what his infirmity was, is not said; he was one of the weak, or impotent folk, for so he is called, John 5:7. Some think his distemper was the palsy, and though he had had this infirmity so many years, it is not certain that he had waited so long in this place for a cure; though it may be, for that he had attended some time, is clear from John 5:7. Nor indeed can it be known how long there had been such a preternatural motion in this pool, and such a miraculous virtue in the water; some have thought, that it began at the repairing of the sheep gate by Eliashib, in Nehemiah's time; so Tremellius and Junius, on Nehemiah 3:1; and others have thought, that it had been some few years before the birth of Christ, and about the time that this man was first taken with his disorder. Tertullian says (u), that there was in Judea a medicinal lake, before Christ's time; and that the pool of Bethsaida (it should be Bethesda) was useful in curing the diseases of the Israelites; but ceased from yielding any benefit, when the name of the Lord was blasphemed by them, through their rage and fury, and continuance in it (w); but in what year it began, and the precise time it ceased, he says not. The Persic version here adds, "and was reduced to such a state that he could not move".

(u) De Anima, c. 50. (w) Adv. Judaeos, c. 13.

And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.
John 5:5. Τριάκοντα, κ.τ.λ.] i.e. “having passed thirty-eight years in his sickness,” so that ἔχων belongs to τρ. κ. ὀκτὼ ἔτη (John 8:57, John 11:17; Josephus, Arch. vii. 11. 1; Krebs, p. 150), and ἐν τ. ἀσθ. αὐτ. denotes the state in which he spent the thirty-eight years. Against the connection of ἔχων with ἐν τ. ἀσθ. . (being in his sickness thirty-eight years; so Kuinoel and most others) John 5:6 is decisive, as also against the perversion of Paulus, who puts a comma after ἔχων (“thirty-eight years old”). The duration of the sickness makes the miracle all the more striking; comp. Luke 8:43. There is no intimation of any reference to the sentence of death pronounced upon Israel in the wilderness (Baumgarten, p. 139 f.; comp. Hengstenberg).

John 5:5. ἦν δέ τις ἄνθρωποςἀσθενείᾳ. “And there was a certain man there who had spent thirty-eight years in his infirmity:” ἔτη ἔχων, cf. John 5:6 and John 8:57; and Achil. Tat., 24. How long he had lain by the water is not said. To find in the man’s thirty-eight years’ imbecility a symbol of Israel’s thirty-eight years in the wilderness is itself an imbecility.

5. which had an infirmity, &c.] Literally, who had passed thirty-eight years in his infirmity. Not that he was 38 years old; evidently he was more; but he had had this malady 38 years.

Verse 5. - And a certain man was there, who had been thirty and eight years in his infirmity. He had not lost all his powers - he crawled probably from some near home to the healing well; but for thirty-eight years be had been dragging out his impotent existence. The length implies the inveteracy of the disease. Hengstenberg, Wordsworth, Westcott (in part), imply a marked correspondence between these thirty-eight years and the similar period of time during which Israel was compelled to wander in the wilderness. It is not said how long the man had lain in the five porches waiting listlessly for healing, but that the malady was of old standing, and to all human appearance incurable. Thoma finds allegorical meaning in "Bethesda" - a synonym of the metropolls, and keeps up a series of comparisons with Acts 3. John 5:5Had an infirmity thirty and eight years

Literally, having thirty and eight years in his infirmity.

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