In the last chapter I explained the cyclical nature of this book.
- Large cycle: Jesus demonstrates His God/Man nature and people respond with belief or disbelief.
- Smaller cycle: The three ways Jesus' divinity is revealed - witness, teaching and miracles.
In this chapter we will see these cycles turning within each other again.
The miracle – 5:1-9
Vs. 1-4 – After these things there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, [waiting for the moving of the waters; for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.]
After the miracle in the Galilean region Jesus returns once again to Jerusalem and has His first meeting with the opponents who will eventually have Him killed.
Jerusalem was surrounded by walls and entrances into the city called "gates." Near one of these was a pool surrounded by porches that served as a gathering place for the sick and lame. (Those pools or water reservoirs were for bathing and drinking.)
Vs. 5-9 – A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, "Do you wish to get well?" The sick man answered Him, "Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me." Jesus said to him, "Get up, pick up your pallet and walk." Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk.
Note that this man had no faith in Jesus; the miracle is performed as mercy but also as a demonstration of power and as a sign to those who were present. The objective was less about healing and more about how people would respond: belief or disbelief. John will describe the conflict that results from this miracle.
The conflict – vs. 9b-15
Vs. 9b – Now it was the Sabbath on that day.
The day Jesus performed this miracle was the Sabbath. Sabbath comes from Genesis 2:1-3 and the word Sabbath means "to rest or to cease." Day 7, Saturday.
In Genesis God ceases from His cycle of creation and provides a divine example of rest, or cessation of work. If He did not, we would work ourselves to death.
In the Pentateuch, the first 5 books of the Bible, He describes how the day is to be used and not used (Exodus 13-17;Exodus 34:21). Many festivals were celebrated to praise God's mercy and greatness and culminated on the day of the Sabbath (Exodus 34:22).
With the construction of the temple and later on the establishment of synagogues in different cities, the Sabbath became associated with activities at the temple or the synagogues (place of meeting). Eventually the Sabbath came to mean no work and meeting at the temple or synagogue for prayer and teaching, and other forms of worship.
In the 4th century, before Christ, the rabbis or teachers began defining what the idea of "work" was and their definitions became burdensome and ridiculous. They prohibited 39 types of work. You could not walk more than one mile from your home or else it was "work" on the Sabbath. A scribe could not carry his pens on the Sabbath because this was "work."
Vs. 10 – So the Jews were saying to the man who was cured, "It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet."
This explains why the Jews (Pharisees) were saying to the man that he was sinning because carrying his pallet on the Sabbath was considered "work." Note that they completely dismiss the miracle, the man's joy and freedom, the glory to God. All they want is that their concept of what is right be obeyed and were blind to the rest.
Vs. 11 – But he answered them, "He who made me well was the one who said to me, 'Pick up your pallet and walk.'
Of course as far as the healed man is concerned, the only authority that counts for him is the power of the One who healed him. (I.e. Do not talk to me, talk to the one who healed me.)
Vs. 12-13 – They asked him, "Who is the man who said to you, 'Pick up your pallet and walk'?" But the man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away while there was a crowd in that place.
They want to know who Jesus is. In their blindness the only words they hear and the only thing they see is the man walking away with his pallet, the thing that goes against their rules about the Sabbath.
Vs. 14-15 – Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, "Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you." The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.
Jesus dealt with poor physical health by healing the lame man, now He deals with His spiritual health as well. "Sin no more," carries with it the implication that sins are forgiven. He warns him to stay away from sin seeing what it has caused in his past (illness) and what it can cause in the future (hell).
And so the healing and witness as well as the teaching bring forth faith as well as new life. This man who was ravaged by illness and burdened by sin is freed from both and becomes productive (multiplication) by sharing his own witness with others.
The accusations – vs. 16-18
We see the man made well and producing a powerful witness on behalf of Jesus. This not only brings Jesus more contacts and more followers; it also provides ammunition for His attackers.
Vs. 16 – For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath.
The most obvious of their accusations is the one they leveled against the lame man. They accuse Jesus of "working" on the Sabbath and therefore defiling it and disobeying God.
Vs. 17 – But He answered them, "My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working."
Jesus responds that if they are charging Him with this, they are also accusing God. His reasoning goes like this:
- God never stops working or doing good.
- What I have done is a manifestation of God's work on behalf of this man.
- If what I have done breaks God's law, then you are accusing God of breaking His own law because in reality, He is the one who has done this.
Vs. 18 – For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.
The leaders are frustrated and angry, as well as recognizing that Jesus is claiming a special relationship or equality with God. In their frustration and anger, they launch an attack on Jesus and in the next section Jesus responds to them by warning them of the various ways they are in danger of losing their souls.
Vs. 19-23 – Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes. For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.
They denounced Him for doing the very thing His divine nature was sent to do. They accused the sinless One of sin, the very thing that would eventually crucify Him. Jesus came to cleanse the world of sin, not add to the sins.
Jesus tells them that those who say they honor Him, but end up accusing Him of sin, do not really honor Him. In fact, they are guilty of disrespect. The word honor means "to place a value." We are in danger of losing our souls if we do not place the proper value (honor) on Jesus. Value His person (worship), value His Word (study and obey), value His work on the cross (proclaim good news). Many will lose their souls because they did not honor Christ.
2. Unprepared for judgment
Vs. 24-30 – "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment. "I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.
Jesus is speaking of the judgment they are leveling against Him and continues by saying: speaking of judgment, anyone who listens to me will not be judged but will be saved. Where then does that leave you who accuse me? He tells them that they will see the day when He will arise and they will see the day when all (including them) will be judged by God through Him. That means that He will judge them. That means that they have been wrongly accusing their own judge!
We can lose our souls when we fail to realize that Jesus is not only our savior, but He will be our judge as well.
Vs. 31-38 – "If I alone testify about Myself, My testimony is not true. There is another who testifies of Me, and I know that the testimony which He gives about Me is true. You have sent to John, and he has testified to the truth. But the testimony which I receive is not from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. He was the lamp that was burning and was shining and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But the testimony which I have is greater than the testimony of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish - the very works that I do - testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me. And the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form. You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent.
Jesus reviews with them their incredible stubbornness and hardheartedness. He says, you believe people who gladly boast about themselves, your earthly leaders. You believed John the prophet when he said that the time was near. But you refuse to believe Me whose message is greater than John's and whose miracles are irrefutable.
You refuse to listen to God because you do not like the message and will not permit it to come into your hearts. The implication is that your hardhearted disbelief in Me demonstrates that you never really believed in Him either.
We can lose our souls in the same way as we refuse to listen to God's Word. Every time the Word says do this; or go this way; or let go of that person or habit or attitude; and we refuse, offering reasons, rationale or plain old rebellion, we harden our hearts. Every time we resist the Word, resist the impulse to do better, to try to live or serve better, our heart becomes that much harder. A hard and stubborn heart allows us to sin with little guilt or afterthought. When we arrive at this point, we are in danger of losing our soul because, like those Jews, we have been hardened through stubbornness.
Vs. 39-40 – You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.
Jesus rebukes them for being ones who had the privilege of knowing the Scriptures, being so-called experts in the Scriptures but missing the point the Scriptures make. They taught that the Scriptures led one to eternal life. The Scriptures also lead to Jesus, who gives eternal life. They did not make this connection. To miss this connection is to reveal one's true ignorance.
We should not be too quick to condemn these men because we also miss the connection at times: We are sometimes so busy planning the Bible studies, organizing the worship and activities that we forget that the purpose of it all is to grow in the knowledge and likeness of Christ. When we make "religion" our goal, when we act like fleshly people in order to advance our religious goals, or devour each other so we can set church policy, we have missed the point and show our ignorance.
A lot of people who know a lot about the Bible will lose their souls because they are ignorant about Jesus Christ, the main topic in the Bible.
Vs. 41-44 – I do not receive glory from men; but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves. I have come in My Father's name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?
This one must have hurt. Jesus says to them, you are ready to honor kings, soldiers, even your own teachers but refuse to honor me because I do not honor you but reveal your sins. The reason they did not honor Him was because they were angry with Him. They were angry with Him because He did not approve of them and this was something their pride craved.
Many people will lose their souls because they would rather have the approval of the world, families, and friends than the approval that comes from God through obedience to Christ.
Vs. 45-47 – Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?"
Jesus tells them that He does not need to accuse them; He will only have to judge. There is no need for Him to accuse because their own words will accuse them. They say they believe God's Word in Moses, but God's Word in Moses tells all readers that they should believe in Christ Jesus. By disbelieving Christ, they demonstrate that they do not really believe in the Word or Moses to begin with. They stood condemned because their actions (disbelief and rejection of Jesus) demonstrated their true disbelief in God's Word.
A lot of people have a Bible or know about the Bible, even hear lessons out of it on a regular basis. But saving faith requires two basic responses to the Bible:
- Believing as true what God says in His Word
- Obeying God's Word
Those who believe and are baptized will be saved and those who disbelieve shall be condemned."
- Mark 16:16
Some people are in danger of losing their soul because they know and understand what the Bible says but their disobedience to the Word shows that they do not really believe.
The Jewish leaders judged and accused Jesus of sin. Jesus replied that God had made Him to be judge of all men and that His witness, teachings and miracles are proof that this is true.
He demonstrates His power as judge by listing the reasons for their condemnation:
- Disrespect for God by refusing to honor the Son.
- Being unprepared for their own judgment.
- Refusal to submit to God's Word.
- Ignorance of God's true will or purpose.
- Prideful love of this world.
- Disbelief of the Word and manifestation of the Word in Christ.
This rebuke might give a person cause to think about things but not these men; this just made them angrier and more resolute to destroy Him.