At the end of his gospel, the Apostle John states that had all of the actions of Jesus been committed to writing it would require more books than the whole world could possibly hold (21:25). Therefore, there is something quite deliberate about the selection of those events which are recorded by John. Such is the case with each of the seven signs recorded in the first 10 chapters.
Up until now, Jesus’ ministry has focused primarily on his interactions with various individuals. In this passage we see the Lord begin to engage the religious authorities as a corporate identity. This will continue to be a theme from this point on, all the way to the cross. What is more, this event is the sharpest conflict thus far recorded by John and involves the first mention of the religious leaders’ desire to kill Jesus.
Like all of the signs performed by Jesus, the healing of the lame man at the pool of Bethesda points to both our Lord’s divine authority and his purpose to redeem the world from sin. True to form, the religious authorities miss the meaning and significance of Jesus’ sign and instead respond with murderous anger over what they believed to be a violation of the Sabbath. But Jesus reveals – as he will repeatedly – that man made regulations must never supplant God’s good design. They had displaced the generous blessings of the weekly Sabbath with a burdensome weight.
We inhabit a world filled with superstition and confusion about God. This confusion was on full display each day around the pool of Bethesda as sick people waited for an angel to stir the waters in hopes of being healed. Of course our world is no less filled with confusion. In the face of this falsehood Jesus stands as the perfect reflection of God and the embodiment of his redemptive purposes. Jesus is the source of what the soul requires.