John 5 (NRSV)
Jesus Heals on the Sabbath
After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
2Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes.
This pool has been excavated in the area just north of the temple mount, and found to have five porches, just as John says. It is also right next to St. Anne’s, a church from the Crusader period that has fabulous acoustics.
3In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. 5One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”
It seems like a silly question — of course the sick man would want to get well! But several times in his ministry of healing, Jesus asked people what they wanted him to do for them. Suppose Jesus were to ask you today — “Do you want to be made well?” — of your loneliness, or your anger, or your bitterness, or your sense of failure or dread, or your secret unhealthy habits, or your lack of passion for Christ, or your fatigue with your hum-drum yet busy life, or whatever is ailing you . . . Would you be brave enough to invite change and say, Yes, I want to be healed!
7The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.”
The man’s answer is basically, “Yes, I want to be made well, but I don’t see how this can happen.”
Calvin writes: “The sick man does what we nearly all do. He limits God’s help to his own ideas and does not dare promise himself more that he conceives in his mind.”
J.B. Phillips wrote a famous book about this problem, titled Your God is Too Small. For many of us, we create a small God in our heads, a God who is limited by whatever “box” we try to put God into.
8Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” 9At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.
Now that day was a sabbath. 10So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, “It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.”
11But he answered them, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’”
12They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take it up and walk’?”
13Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in the crowd that was there.
14Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you.” 15The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. 16Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus, because he was doing such things on the sabbath.
17But Jesus answered them, “My Father is still working, and I also am working.” 18For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God.
It is easy to dismiss the Jewish opposition to Jesus as blind and narrow. But protection of the Sabbath is a duty under the law given by God and is crucial for protecting the holiness of God among God’s people. Sabbath breaking is a serious offense. But more serious would be any attempt by a Jew to deny its requirement. By claiming to be able to work on the Sabbath because God is also working, Jesus in fact claims a special exemption by virtue of his relationship with God. “The Jews,” then, are quite correct in deducing that Jesus claims equality with God, or at least a special filial relationship.
The Fourth Evangelist allows the Jews to make a number of true statements about Jesus that, ironically, place them in complete opposition to him. In this they betray their darkness and their opposition to God as well. It is not that they do not make the right deductions from Jesus’ statement but rather that they do not recognize Jesus for who he really is. Their opposition is based on darkness and not ignorance.
As it is written in John 1 — He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.
–Mark A. Matson
HERE is a very brief clip — tourists singing “Alleluia” in St. Anne’s Church beside the pools of Bethesda. Listen to those acoustics! Then keep this song running in the back of your mind for the rest of the day!
The Authority of the Son
19Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. 20The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished. 21Indeed, just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomever he wishes. 22The Father judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son, 23so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 24Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life.
“Whoever hears and believes my word has everlasting life.” This statement from Jesus is so outrageous that, if it were not true, would make him a madman. When people say that Jesus was only a good teacher, only a good man — ask them about this verse. Either he is who he says he is, or he is nuts. There is no middle ground.
25“Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself; 27and he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28Do not be astonished at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29and will come out—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.
30“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me.
Witnesses to Jesus
31“If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. 32There is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that his testimony to me is true. 33You sent messengers to John, and he testified to the TRUTH. 34Not that I accept such human testimony, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. 36But I have a testimony greater than John’s. The works that the Father has given me to complete, the very works that I am doing, testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. 37And the Father who sent me has himself testified on my behalf. You have never heard his voice or seen his form, 38and you do not have his word abiding in you, because you do not believe him whom he has sent.
39“You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. 40Yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
from Experiencing God Day-by-Day,
by Henry T. Blackaby and Richard Blackaby
Bible study will not give you eternal life. You could memorize the entire Bible and be able to discuss minute issues of biblical scholarship and yet fail to experience the truths found in its pages. It is a subtle temptation to prefer the book to the Author. A book will not confront you about your sin, the Author will. Books can be ignored; it is much harder to avoid the Author when He is seeking a relationship with you.
The Pharisees in Jesus’ day thought God would be pleased with their knowledge of His Word. They could quote long, complicated passages of Scripture. They love to recite and study God’s Law for hours on end. Yet Jesus condemned them because, although they knew the Scriptures, they did not know God. They were proud of their Bible knowledge, but they rejected the invitation to know God’s Son.
Can you imagine yourself knowing all that God has promised to do in your life but then turning to something else instead? You may be tempted to turn to substitutes. These substitutes aren’t necessarily bad things. They might include serving in the church, doing good deeds, or reading Christian books. No amount of Christian activity will ever replace your relationship with Jesus. The apostle Paul considered every “good” thing he had ever done to be “rubbish” when compared to the surpassing value of knowing Christ (Philippians 3:8). Never become satisfied with religious activity rather than a personal, vibrant, and growing relationship with Jesus Christ.
41I do not accept glory from human beings. 42But I know that you do not have the love of God in you. 43I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; if another comes in his own name, you will accept him. 44How can you believe when you accept glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the one who alone is God? 45Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; your accuser is Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.
Deuteronomy 18:15 (New International Version)
And Moses said to the people, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.”
Numbers 21:8-9 (New International Version)
The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.
47But if you do not believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?”
1) THEN: Why did the Jews in this chapter want to kill Jesus? NOW: Why do you think there is such a strong anti-Christian sentiment in certain parts of American/world society today? Are these two answers, in your mind, related?
2) If someone asked you, “Who is Jesus?” — what would your witness be?
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.