John 5 – Miracle on the Sabbath

The Pool of Bethsaida means house of mercy. It was situated near the northeast corner of Old Jerusalem and it was where the multitude of sick, were located. In vs. 3b-4, while these verses are not believed to be part of Scripture, they do describe the popularity of this place and why so many were gathered there (vs. 7). Nevertheless, this was where Jesus went over to heal a man and used this miracle for the basis of a message to the people and for an illustration of the grace of God upon the tragic spiritual state of the nation (Jn. 5:6, 40).

Now, John noted that the man had been ill for thirty-eight years and Jesus knew about the man (Jn. 2:23-24) and asked him if he wanted to be healed. But, instead of saying “Yes!” he began to make excuses. Unfortunately, he had been in this sad condition for so long. Well, the Lord healed him through the power of His spoken word and commanded him to do the very thing he was unable to do, arise. After this, Jesus moved away, not healing anyone else (vs. 13). But there was a problem: Jesus performed this miracle on the Sabbath Day and did so on purpose (Jn. 9:1-14), which got the attention of the religious leaders because a Jew was prohibited from carrying a burden (vs. 8).

But, in vs. 16-18, the Jewish leaders did not prosecute the man who broke the law; they persecuted Jesus. See, it was the Sanhedrin who was to investigate any new teacher, less a false prophet come in among them. For example, they had looked into the ministry of John the Baptist (Jn. 1:19ff). Now as for Jesus, he had healed a demoniac on the Sabbath (Lk. 4:31-37) and so, the Sanhedrin was already suspicious. And later, Jesus would again challenge the legal traditions of the scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 12:1-14). So, when they confronted Jesus with His unlawful conduct, He simply replied that He was doing only what His Father was doing and in saying this, he claimed to be equal with God, which is the theme of John (Jn. 1:1). Well, the Jewish leaders now accused Jesus of blasphemy, by which the penalty was death and it is here that the official persecution of Jesus began, ending with him being hated (Jn. 15:18-25) and was crucified while the good deeds that He performed were often ignored by the leaders.

Now, Jesus is about to prove his sonship to the Father (vs. 19-47). First, he claimed to be equal with God (vv. 19-23) and instead of denying their accusation, He endorsed it! Jesus claimed to be one with His Father in His works and so, if healing a man on the Sabbath was a sin, then the Father was to blame! Jesus did nothing of Himself (Jn. 8:28; 10:30). And, not only did the Father show the Son His works and enable Him to do them, but the Father also shared His love (Jn. 5:20; 3:16, 35). Thus, the blind religious leaders could not see what Jesus was doing, because they did not know the Father or the Son. And then on top of that, in vs. 21, Jesus claimed to have power to raise the dead which was another blasphemous thing in the eyes of the Jewish leaders; they gave that power to God alone. But, Jesus was referring to His gift of spiritual life to the spiritually dead (vs. 22-23), which is amplified in vs. 24-29, speaking of all those resurrected and their spiritual conditions.

What a tremendous claim Jesus maid to the Pharisees: if you do not honor the Son, you are not honoring the Father! The “religious” people, who say that they worship God, but who deny the deity of Christ, have neither the Father nor the Son! Apart from Jesus Christ, we cannot know the Father, worship the Father, or serve the Father. And as Jesus speaks to them, Jesus introduced His words with the solemn “verily, verily” (Jn. 5:19, 24-25) meaning, “what I am about to say is important!”

Now, Jesus had valid witnesses who support His claim to deity (vv. 30-47). The first was John the Baptist (Jn. 5:30-35), whom the religious leaders had interrogated carefully (Jn. 1:15ff). John knew who Jesus was and faithfully declared what he knew to the people of Israel. John told the people that Jesus was the Lord (Jn. 1:23), the Lamb of God (Jn. 1:29, 36), and the Son of God (Jn. 1:34). The second witness was the working of miracles (Jn. 5:36). You will remember that John selected a few of these “signs” to include in his Gospel as proof that Jesus is the Son of God (Jn. 20:30-31). Why even Nicodemus had to admit that our Lord’s miracles identified Him as “sent from God” (Jn. 3:2). But, since the Old Testament Law required the testimony of two or three witnesses (Num. 35:30; Deut 17:6; Matt. 18:20), the Lord spoke of a third and final witness, which was the Word of the Father (Jn. 5:37-47). The Jewish people highly revered the written Word of God, particularly the Law that was given through Moses, which is why Jesus told them to search the scriptures (vs. 39). Moses heard God’s voice and saw God’s glory, which we have (2 Pet. 1:12-21).

Now, there was something wrong with the minds of these Jewish leaders: they did not see Christ in their own scriptures (2 Cor. 3:14-18; 4:3-6). But there was also something wrong with their wills: they would not trust in the Savior and because they did not have the Word in their hearts, they did not want Christ in their hearts, which is why they would not come to him (vs. 40). And, this was the lack of love in their hearts (Jn. 5:42) and they were not saved (vs. 29, 44). Furthermore their attitude toward God’s Word hindered their faith, but so also did their attitude toward themselves and one another because they loved honor from men (vs. 41).

So, our Lord closed this penetrating sermon by warning the Jewish leaders that Moses, whom they honored, would be their judge, not their savior (vs. 45-46). The very Scriptures that they used to defend their religion would one day bear witness against them. The Jews knew what Moses wrote, but they did not really believe what he wrote, showing us that it is one thing to have scriptures in our hands and our heads, but quite another thing to have them in our hearts. The witness of John the Baptist, the divine miracles, and the Word of God all unite to declare that Jesus Christ is indeed One with the Father and the very Son of God.

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