Read John 5:1-47
1Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. 2Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3Here a great number of disabled people used to lie — the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. 5One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to get well?"
7"Sir," the invalid replied, "I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me."
8Then Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk." 9At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, "It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat."
11But he replied, "The man who made me well said to me, 'Pick up your mat and walk.'"
12So they asked him, "Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?"
13The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.
14Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, "See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you." 15The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.
16So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. 17Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working." 18For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
19Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. 21For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.
24"I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. 25I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. 26For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. 27And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
28"Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29and come out — those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. 30By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.
31"If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid. 32There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is valid.
33"You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. 34Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. 35John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.
36“I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me. 37And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, 38nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. 39You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
41"I do not accept praise from men, 42but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. 43I have come in my Father's name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. 44How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?
45"But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. 46If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. 47But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?" (NIV)
We are now in the 5th Chapter of John. As John writes, Jesus is becoming well known to the leaders, but not necessarily to all the people. John uses a miracle to create a controversy so that Jesus might proclaim who he is. This is where we start in looking at this passage. Most theologians believe miracles are in the class of signifying events. They are done to signify the presence of Christ. And the few times I have been involved in what might be classified a miracle, someone close to the person the miracle was done through needed to see Christ in a very special way because of the circumstances in their life.
This miracle begins at the Sheep Gate pool. The Jews believed that an angel came every so often and stirred the waters of the pool. It was believed that the first person in the pool after being stirred would be healed. This man Jesus addressed has been an invalid for over 38 years. I love the response of the man when Jesus asks if he wants to be healed. The man does not answer the question, he says he has no one to help him. It is as though after all these years, he has lost the will to be whole. And I think many of us can get to the point where we think there is no help for us in our circumstances. We are not sure of the sin Jesus talked about that the man had been doing, but if he had lost faith in God because of his lengthy infirmity, then this is a sin of many who deal with these diseases that affect the body for long periods, even a lifetime. We can lose faith and that is our sin because it separates us from God.
We see that Jesus simply instructs the man to get up and walk and take his mat with him. Since this is the Sabbath, carrying your mat is against the Sabbath laws according to the Jews. They had come up with a list of do’s and don’ts to not appear to be working on the Sabbath. The Jews began to worship the rules more than the maker of the rules.
Well this leads to a confrontation with the Jesus and the Jewish authorities. John tells us in the discussion that they get even more angry with Jesus because he goes from encouraging people to break the Sabbath to calling himself the Son of God. In this discussion, I think we sometimes miss the great point Jesus makes. In verse 24, we hear these words of Jesus, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” That is the simple plan of salvation, to hear and to believe. We make it so much harder than that. But in believing, we are opening ourselves up to being transformed, to be changed. Jesus confronts the Jews saying there is no change in them after all studying they do. They no longer even hear for they only hear what they want to hear. This is a trap we all have in walking with Jesus. We hear the words we like and tend to ignore the things we don’t. And so, is there true belief if we ignore the words of Jesus that are “hard.”
Jesus even points to the fact that there is human testimony also. He says he does not need it, but we need it. We need to encourage one another and struggle together with the “hard” sayings of Jesus.
Do you struggle with suffering in this world? It is a stumbling block to many. Can we believe in the face of disappointment? I think it is in times of struggle and disappointment that we find the true Christ. Have you ever thought of that paradox in life?
The Jews believed that a life without trouble was a sign of being sinless. But that is not the case. There are many who sin who lead what the world calls good lives and there are many who deal with long term diseases who are wonderful saints. Those who believe realize that this world will end and a new and wonderful world with come, one free of all problems and diseases. Do you truly believe that?
Blessings and Peace