The Word was God

John Chapter 5

This story looks at why Jesus healed a paralyzed man at the pool of Bethesda. Of course there was a lesson to learn. Jesus used healing as a teaching tool. Talk about a great teacher. If you saw someone heal a paralyzed person, wouldn’t you pay attention to what he had to say? Wouldn’t he command all your attention? Let’s take a look at a day in Jesus’ life and what He wanted to accomplish that day. Of course you are going to see all new details in this study you never saw in John chapter 5 you never saw before.

John 5:1-47 NLTse Afterward Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days. (2) Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches. (3) Crowds of sick people--blind, lame, or paralyzed–lay on the porches. (5) One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. (6) When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?” (7) “I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.” (8) Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” (9) Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking! But this miracle happened on the Sabbath, (10) so the Jewish leaders objected. They said to the man who was cured, “You can’t work on the Sabbath! The law doesn’t allow you to carry that sleeping mat!” (11) But he replied, “The man who healed me told me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.'” (12) “Who said such a thing as that?” they demanded. (13) The man didn’t know, for Jesus had disappeared into the crowd. (14) But afterward Jesus found him in the Temple and told him, “Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you.” (15) Then the man went and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had healed him. (16) So the Jewish leaders began harassing Jesus for breaking the Sabbath rules. (17) But Jesus replied, “My Father is always working, and so am I.” (18) So the Jewish leaders tried all the harder to find a way to kill him. For he not only broke the Sabbath, he called God his Father, thereby making himself equal with God. (19) So Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does. (20) For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he is doing. In fact, the Father will show him how to do even greater works than healing this man. Then you will truly be astonished. (21) For just as the Father gives life to those he raises from the dead, so the Son gives life to anyone he wants. (22) In addition, the Father judges no one. Instead, he has given the Son absolute authority to judge, (23) so that everyone will honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son is certainly not honoring the Father who sent him. (24) “I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life. (25) “And I assure you that the time is coming, indeed it’s here now, when the dead will hear my voice–the voice of the Son of God. And those who listen will live. (26) The Father has life in himself, and he has granted that same lifegiving power to his Son. (27) And he has given him authority to judge everyone because he is the Son of Man. (28) Don’t be so surprised! Indeed, the time is coming when all the dead in their graves will hear the voice of God’s Son, (29) and they will rise again. Those who have done good will rise to experience eternal life, and those who have continued in evil will rise to experience judgment. (30) I can do nothing on my own. I judge as God tells me. Therefore, my judgment is just, because I carry out the will of the one who sent me, not my own will. (31) “If I were to testify on my own behalf, my testimony would not be valid. (32) But someone else is also testifying about me, and I assure you that everything he says about me is true. (33) In fact, you sent investigators to listen to John the Baptist, and his testimony about me was true. (34) Of course, I have no need of human witnesses, but I say these things so you might be saved. (35) John was like a burning and shining lamp, and you were excited for a while about his message. (36) But I have a greater witness than John–my teachings and my miracles. The Father gave me these works to accomplish, and they prove that he sent me. (37) And the Father who sent me has testified about me himself. You have never heard his voice or seen him face to face, (38) and you do not have his message in your hearts, because you do not believe me–the one he sent to you. (39) “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! (40) Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life. (41) “Your approval means nothing to me, (42) because I know you don’t have God’s love within you. (43) For I have come to you in my Father’s name, and you have rejected me. Yet if others come in their own name, you gladly welcome them. (44) No wonder you can’t believe! For you gladly honor each other, but you don’t care about the honor that comes from the one who alone is God. (45) “Yet it isn’t I who will accuse you before the Father. Moses will accuse you! Yes, Moses, in whom you put your hopes. (46) If you really believed Moses, you would believe me, because he wrote about me. (47) But since you don’t believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?”

After highlighting those key words, I couldn’t wait to get started on this study. But when I tried to break it into sections. I saw how John recorded it into one long story. But I think it’s best if we break it down into sections and look at how each section of this story is related to the others.

Pool of Bethesda

John 5:1-18 NLTse Afterward Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days. (2) Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches. (3) Crowds of sick people--blind, lame, or paralyzed–lay on the porches. (5) One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. (6) When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?” (7) “I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.” (8) Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” (9) Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking! But this miracle happened on the Sabbath, (10) so the Jewish leaders objected. They said to the man who was cured, “You can’t work on the Sabbath! The law doesn’t allow you to carry that sleeping mat!” (11) But he replied, “The man who healed me told me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.'” (12) “Who said such a thing as that?” they demanded. (13) The man didn’t know, for Jesus had disappeared into the crowd. (14) But afterward Jesus found him in the Temple and told him, “Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you.” (15) Then the man went and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had healed him. (16) So the Jewish leaders began harassing Jesus for breaking the Sabbath rules. (17) But Jesus replied, “My Father is always working, and so am I.” (18) So the Jewish leaders tried all the harder to find a way to kill him. For he not only broke the Sabbath, he called God his Father, thereby making himself equal with God.

The Word was God
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The first detail I got excited about is how the words lay, laying, and sleeping relate to the previous chapter where that woman went out and brought the entire city of Samaria to Jesus. We all seem to remember how the disciples rejected Samaria and the story about the good Samaritan. But when we read this story about a man restricted to a sleeping mat for thirty-eight years, what does that make you think about? How is that simple time frame dancing around in your mind and how is God’s Spirit speaking to you about it?

Jesus told the paralyzed man to, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” How are we serving God if we’re not moving forward? What good are we doing? Let’s take a look at this from to totally different aspect. I’m thinking about writing a book that will compare the Tabernacle built by Moses to the stone temple built by Solomon. Those will be compared to the Heavenly Sanctuary and Jesus’ ministry in this world and in Heaven. Now I want to look at a single detail, that bronze pool sitting on the backs of twelve oxen. One chapter placed it in the courtyard of Solomon’s wife, Pharaoh’s daughter. Obviously Egypt used oxen as a major symbol. Their major god, Apis served as an intermediary between humans and an all-powerful god. Sounds a bit like the Messiah in Egyptian mythology. I’ve read Christian books trying to convince people those twelve oxen pointed in different directions to represent God’s Spirit going out to all the world. Okay! Wait a minute. Where does it say that in the Bible? None of those books can offer a word of evidence. Based on another chapter in the Bible telling us, Solomon placed this bronze deity in his temple courtyard was enough for them to think it was some sort of symbol God used. So they made up their own interpretations. But how can it represent a moving out to the world? Look at how the statue is constructed. A huge pool of water is sitting on the backs of twelve oxen. Three point north, south, east, and west. Let’s see how this theory works. Three move out to the north. Its all okay. The other three move to the south. The pool is still supported. Now three move east. What happens to that pool of water? It falls to the ground just like those interpretations.

We have to find and accept the correct message to move forward. If that pool held the living water Jesus taught about in the previous chapter, it would all be lost because people tried to take a symbol and turn it into something it was never intended to be. We see those Jewish leaders trying to do the same thing in this story. They are trying to make the Sabbath something it was never intended to be.

We can see one similarity to those oxen and what the Jews were doing to the Sabbath. Those oxen were a false Messiah to Egyptians. The Jews tried turning the Sabbath into a way to earn or work their way into God’s Kingdom and grace.

Let’s see how this story compares with the previous story. Jesus was in Galilee where He healed a government official’s son near death. Before that, Jesus talked to that woman at the well. She brought the entire city of Samaria to Jesus. Let’s look at the progressions.

Jesus moved from Samaria, to Galilee, His hometown, to Jerusalem. In other words, Jesus moved from a Samaritan woman, to the whole city, to Galileans He grew up with, to a government official, to a sick man in Jerusalem, to the Jewish leaders. On a spiritual view, Jesus moved from the beliefs of a Samaritan, to what people in His hometown thought about Him, to a sick man ready to give up hope, to the Jewish Leaders. A different view showed us, Jesus moved from healing a boy close to death to a man who was paralyzed for thirty-eight years, to the Jewish leaders. Jesus is moving toward healing.

Many people believe those key words sick, blind, lame, and paralyzed describe the spiritual state of the Jewish leaders. They do to a degree. But how does that description fit modern Christian churches today? That’s a question you’ll have to take up with God.

Was that pool able to heal the man or anyone for that matter? The Bible doesn’t tell us anything about anyone being healed there. But Jesus healed a man there. Why didn’t Jesus heal all of them? Maybe to emphasize the point, no one helped that man.

Notice how the man was healed. Jesus told him to get up off his sleeping mat and walk. What does that tell you about the condition of churches today? Are they sleeping or what? A lot of them admit their asleep. What are they doing about it? They seem to preach the same sermons over and over again telling people they’re asleep. They put people to sleep with their preaching. Why don’t they take the lesson from the previous chapter and turn people over to God’s Spirit, become healed, and move froward? Does the process seem to simple to work? I’ve shown people that, and they tell me I am complicating things. How? I don’t know. I see God had to repeat the same message over and over again in a lot of different ways, but people just don’t want to catch on. They seem happy where they are and don’t want to move. Maybe that’s why Jesus only healed one person there. He was the only one ready and willing to move.

You can see the contracts between sleeping, healed, and walking. There is also a close connection between healing and walking. The connection is Jesus. He explained this is great detail later in this story.

First we have to look at another issue raised in this story, the Sabbath. This miracle happened on the Sabbath, so the Jewish leaders objected. Why did they object? They claimed carrying a mat on the Sabbath was working. Where does it say that in the Old Testament? Obviously those Jewish leaders made a carrier out of making up new rules and regulations. Jesus had to be the first person they ever saw healing. As soon as Jesus healed the paralyzed man on the Sabbath, those Jewish leaders made a new rule. Has that ever happened to you in church? The leaders see you moving forward in your faith and they start creating new rules to put you back on your mat.


 

The man didn’t know Jesus. That was okay, the Jewish leaders didn’t know Jesus either. At least the man had an excuse, he was walking for the first time in thirty-eight years. Later Jesus found the man and introduced Himself. Jesus gave that man a simple message. “Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you.” That message was far different than the message Jesus gave to the Samaritan woman. If you think about it, the message Jesus gave to the man in Jerusalem wouldn’t have worked in Samaria. Another lesson to pay attention to.

So the man went to the Jewish leaders to tell them who healed him. Did the man deliver the message Jesus gave him? John didn’t record that detail. Would those Jewish leaders pay attention to that message? We’ll never know. Would they accept any message from Jesus delivered by any means? Not until He started following their rules. The Jewish leaders began harassing Jesus for breaking the Sabbath rules. They had their sequence to reach people and God had His.

Jesus had an answer for the Jewish leaders they didn’t expect. Jesus replied, “My Father is always working, and so am I.” Talk about opening a can of worms. The Jewish leaders weren’t happy about that statement. Jesus approached those Jewish leaders far differently than He approached that Samaritan woman. We can’t possibly take one process and think it will work with everyone. Look how it turned out for Jesus. The Jewish leaders tried even harder to find a way to kill him. Talk about jumping from the frying pan into the fire. To those Jewish Leaders, Jesus not only broke the Sabbath, he called God his Father, thereby making himself equal with God. See how people jump to their own conclusions and while twisting people’s words? If nothing else, this story is a contrast to the woman at the well to show us, we don’t stand a chance of reaching people without God’s help.

I Tell You the Truth

John 5:19-21 NLTse So Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does. (20) For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he is doing. In fact, the Father will show him how to do even greater works than healing this man. Then you will truly be astonished. (21) For just as the Father gives life to those he raises from the dead, so the Son gives life to anyone he wants.

I took out this small section because it introduced and dwelt with an unusual key word. Look at how Jesus repeated do, doing, and does. All action words related to the man getting up and walking. Jesus made it clear where His marching orders and power came from. Not from Himself but His Farther. Those priests accused Jesus of trying to be equal with God. Which wasn’t true at all. They introduced the subject, so Jesus went on to explain the truth. Jesus got into some serious subjects here like raising the dead, doing greater miracles, and other details the Jewish leaders weren’t ready for. Why did Jesus move ahead of where the Jewish leaders were at the time?

Listen to My Message

John 5:22-25 NLTse In addition, the Father judges no one. Instead, he has given the Son absolute authority to judge, (23) so that everyone will honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son is certainly not honoring the Father who sent him. (24) “I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life. (25) “And I assure you that the time is coming, indeed it’s here now, when the dead will hear my voice–the voice of the Son of God. And those who listen will live.

Jesus quickly moved to a new series of key words about listening and hearing. Jesus also introduced the subject of judgment as well as honoring the Father. All of those words and subjects are subjects those religious leaders had to learn. Their minds were so engrossed in the law, they spent their entire lives looking for something people did wrong, an excuse to jump all over people. Why did they do that. Jesus showed us why. When He healed on the Sabbath, they quickly made a new rule. They used the law to draw attention and glory to themselves. They made themselves judges and left God out of the process. Jesus was about to tell them the truth of the matter and it was a matter of life and death.

Authority to Judge

John 5:26-30 NLTse The Father has life in himself, and he has granted that same lifegiving power to his Son. (27) And he has given him authority to judge everyone because he is the Son of Man. (28) Don’t be so surprised! Indeed, the time is coming when all the dead in their graves will hear the voice of God’s Son, (29) and they will rise again. Those who have done good will rise to experience eternal life, and those who have continued in evil will rise to experience judgment. (30) I can do nothing on my own. I judge as God tells me. Therefore, my judgment is just, because I carry out the will of the one who sent me, not my own will.

Jesus already pointed out how His Father will give Him full authority to judge. He made that point to get them to listen. Do you think that message worked? To emphasize His point, Jesus added more details about eternal life. Not only did Jesus receive authority to judge, He also received power to grant life. Jesus didn’t explain the plan of salvation, but included an important detail by referring to Himself as the Son of Man. Jesus pointed out He is the Son of God and the Son of Man. This is a concept those Jewish leaders couldn’t accept. They still won’t accept it. And many Christians are confused on the subject. To understand Jesus’ two titles, you have to know something about God’s plan of salvation. You can review the book of Hebrews for one detailed explanation. After all, that book was written to show Hebrews what they missed.

Jesus also repeated the lesson, He is subject to His Father’s will. How could that be difficult to understand? Shouldn’t every son be subject to their father? Especially when their Father has infinite wisdom. The Jews should have known that. At this point they should have at least been interested in finding out more about Jesus’ connection with God by asking a few questions. But pride held them back.

Jesus’ Testimony

John 5:31-38 NLTse “If I were to testify on my own behalf, my testimony would not be valid. (32) But someone else is also testifying about me, and I assure you that everything he says about me is true. (33) In fact, you sent investigators to listen to John the Baptist, and his testimony about me was true. (34) Of course, I have no need of human witnesses, but I say these things so you might be saved. (35) John was like a burning and shining lamp, and you were excited for a while about his message. (36) But I have a greater witness than John–my teachings and my miracles. The Father gave me these works to accomplish, and they prove that he sent me. (37) And the Father who sent me has testified about me himself. You have never heard his voice or seen him face to face, (38) and you do not have his message in your hearts, because you do not believe me–the one he sent to you.

Jesus moved from truth, to His message, to judgment, onto His testimony. Sounds like a courtroom scene. But not in the right order. Jesus was trying to keep them out of the courtroom. Jesus already told them, “the time is coming when all the dead in their graves will hear the voice of God’s Son, and they will rise again. Those who have done good will rise to experience eternal life, and those who have continued in evil will rise to experience judgment.

Jesus wasn’t fooling around. He wasn’t only addressing those Hebrew leaders, He was teaching His disciples, as well as telling a story that John would record and people like us would be reading today, and tomorrow. Don’t we want to avoid that courtroom? Over half the Christian religions today don’t know, or won’t accept the fact, Jesus is judging the world right now.

Jesus’ role as judge and the process explained in Hebrews doesn’t fit in with a lot of theologies. So to discount the entire book, including, “by his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place.” (Hebrews 10:20 NLTse). It’s a sad fact to think modern religious leaders refuse to teach people they have a direct path to God’s throne because Jesus’ role as in the Judgment and the process doesn’t fit into their theology. This doesn’t mirror the Jewish religious leader’s view on the Sabbath by accident. How many rules have modern religious leaders made up along the way to cover their tracks?

Jesus identified one person who testified on His behalf. That was John the Baptist. Was that pointing to others who severed God with the same power, determination, education, and dedication as John? Jesus also said He didn’t need any human witness. I wonder what Jesus meant by that. Jesus placed a link between that information and being saved. Jesus reminded the Jewish leaders, John only pointed to Him.

God gave Jesus a far greater testimony. What He taught and His miracles. Were they paying attention? Do we? God also testified about Jesus, but people can’t hear His voice because they really don’t believe in Jesus. Like those Jewish leaders, they know about Jesus. They heard stories about Jesus. They even saw Jesus heal. That’s where this story began. But they didn’t believe in Jesus. Many Christians have less of a relationship with Jesus than those Jewish leaders did. What are the preachers and teachers doing today? Or what aren’t they doing?

You Search the Scriptures

John 5:39-47 NLTse “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! (40) Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life. (41) “Your approval means nothing to me, (42) because I know you don’t have God’s love within you. (43) For I have come to you in my Father’s name, and you have rejected me. Yet if others come in their own name, you gladly welcome them. (44) No wonder you can’t believe! For you gladly honor each other, but you don’t care about the honor that comes from the one who alone is God. (45) “Yet it isn’t I who will accuse you before the Father. Moses will accuse you! Yes, Moses, in whom you put your hopes. (46) If you really believed Moses, you would believe me, because he wrote about me. (47) But since you don’t believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?”

To say Jesus hit the nail on the head would be the understatement of the century. People have the tendency to search the scriptures looking for answers they want to hear. Look at the context of this lesson. Can anyone argue with the fact, Jesus told them what they needed to hear? Did they listen? Look back at what sparked this conversation. Those Jewish leaders were showing off their knowledge of the law. They spent their lives searching scripture to prove what they wanted to prove. If it wasn’t in scripture, they found an excuse in scripture to write their own laws.

The same thing happens today. Churches into the law misinterpret God’s law as bad as the Pharisees did in Jesus’ day. If their into their own form of salvation, they pull out a few bits and pieces of scripture to support the easy way they want to teach. If their into prophecy…. watch out! Modern interpretations on prophecy are all over the map. So much is taken out of context it makes me laugh. In three previous books I’ve written, I looked at over 160 prophecies Jesus fulfilled. Each and everyone had a recorded fulfillment in plain simple language so there couldn’t be any misunderstanding. The main theme and context of the chapter with the prophecy match the context of the chapter containing its recorded fulfillment. God used that simple pattern so there would never be any reason for Christians to disagree.

I’ve discussed and shown this to a number of people who live on prophecies. They rejected the process God used in His Bible. They wanted to stick with their system. Come up with an idea or see an event in the world, and search scripture to match what you think is happening. I’d like to see someone prove that method of study from the Bible. I haven’t seen it.

Scripture has to first point to Jesus. If your studying God’s law, Jesus came here from Heaven to explain God’s law. If your studying salvation, go to Jesus who wrote the plan. If you want to learn the truth about prophecy, talk to the One who told His prophets what to record. It’s as simple as that. The only place to go is to Jesus. There is no other way.

You have to have a real relationship with Jesus. Who is Jesus going to reveal prophecies to? People He personally knows and communicates with on a daily basis, or a stranger? The answer is obvious. Jesus illustrated that point in this story. Those religious leaders didn’t believe Jesus could heal. They didn’t understand God’s law. And they certainly couldn’t see how scripture was being fulfilled in front of their eyes. The same will be true when Jesus returns. “No wonder you can’t believe! For you gladly honor each other, but you don’t care about the honor that comes from the one who alone is God.”

Jesus made it clear, if you don’t believe what John wrote about Jesus, it is going to be really difficult to believe in Jesus. It will also be difficult to believe the gospels if you don’t know what Moses wrote about Jesus. “But since you don’t believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?” Jesus went past what He wanted the Jewish leaders to understand. They had an advantage we don’t. They witnessed the prophecies Jesus fulfilled. But Jesus knew how it was going to turn out. That’s why He told them, He didn’t need their testimony. We don’t have much of an excuse not to understand because we have the Old Testament, the New Testament, and God gave us time and the ability to study. We have books, computers, and phones we can study on. It seems this world is running out of excuses.

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