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John 5:3

ESV In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed.
NIV Here a great number of disabled people used to lie--the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.
NASB In these porticoes lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, limping, or paralyzed.
CSB Within these lay a large number of the disabled--blind, lame, and paralyzed.
NLT Crowds of sick people — blind, lame, or paralyzed — lay on the porches.
KJV In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.

What does John 5:3 mean?

North of the temple, in the northeast corner of Jerusalem, was a two-section pool covered by five roofed porches (John 5:2). Whether because of the shade, nearness to the temple, or some healing property of the water, this area was filled with people suffering from various disabilities. Jesus has come to the city in order to attend one of the required festivals (John 5:1), and is about to perform the third of His seven "signs" recorded in the Gospel of John.

Part of Jesus' complaint against the people of Israel, in His day, was their spiritual coldness. Jesus drove greedy merchants out of the temple; these men had replaced ministry with money (John 2:13–22). In this story, we see "a multitude" of people in need of support, within close range to the temple. This, also, is a sad reflection on Jerusalem's unwillingness to love their neighbors.

It should be noted that this verse refers to the number of people seeking healing here as "a multitude." And yet, Jesus will only be healing one of them at this time. This underscores an important truth about the Christian life: it's not primarily about miracles. God uses supernatural events to send a message, or further His will. True miracles, like the "signs" John records, are not common. They are not expected. This was as true for the people of Jesus' day as it is today. The gospel is not about physical health—it is a matter of eternal life.

This verse leads into an interesting textual debate. Older, more reliable manuscripts do not contain the words of John 5:4. The text usually associated with that verse explains the reason for the crowd of invalids: miraculous healing. According to the disputed words, an angel would occasionally stir up the water, and the first person into the water would be healed. Some have raised theological objections to this. For instance, this seems to contradict the normal biblical approach to miracles. And, it seems unfair for God to make a contest out of healing.

By and large, however, it seems that the words of John 5:4 were not part of the original manuscript. Most likely, a marginal note, put in as an explanation of the pool, was inadvertently moved into the main body and became part of future copies.

Ultimately, this is a minor point, theologically. It is, however, an excellent example of a typical "variant" in the Bible manuscripts: noncontroversial, relatively unimportant, and well-understood.
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