WITNESSES TO JESUS John 5
“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” John 5:36.Those who reject Christ do so despite the evidence, not because of it.
Jesus healed a paralytic at the pool of Bethesda (5:1–15). Jesus responded to critics by claiming Deity (vv. 16–18) and explained His relationship with God the Father (vv. 19–30). And He identified five witnesses that supported His claim (vv. 31–47).
Understanding the Text
“Do you want to get well?” John 5:1–6
The pool of Bethesda was a gathering place for the infirm, hoping to benefit from its healing waters. John focused on a man who had been paralyzed for most of his life. While the story is not symbolic, the situation and dialogue between Jesus and the man are filled with implications for us. Consider Jesus’ question, “Do you want to get well?” We might answer for the man, “Of course!” But think about it. For some 38 years the paralyzed man had lived a dependent life. He’d lived by begging, for he could earn no wages. If he were healed, who would give him food? It was considered a good deed in Judaism to give alms to the disabled. But not to the able-bodied, who were expected to work! Getting well would mean the man would have to take care of himself. So the question was a penetrating one. It’s a question we have to ask ourselves as Christians. Do we want Christ to heal the areas in our lives where we’ve been damaged? Or do we want to keep feeling anger and resentment, or bitterness, or hurt and betrayal? Too many Christians hold on tightly to the things that paralyze them spiritually. Christ can heal us of these things. But if He does, we’ll be left without excuses for the choices we make in the future—and the choices we made in the past. We’ll no longer be able to delude ourselves and cry, “My life isn’t my fault: others are to blame.” And so Jesus’ question echoes in our today: “Do you want to get well?” “I have no one to help me” John 1:7–9. The man did not answer Jesus’ question. Instead he offered an excuse. “I’m all alone. I have no one. There’s no one here to help me.” We can certainly feel for the paralyzed man. Over the decades the family into which he’d been born had died. Friends had left him. If he’d ever had a wife or children, they were gone too. And somehow, paralyzed as he was, he’d never grown close to anyone. Yet, while what the man said was true, this too was also an excuse. “There’s no one to help me” means “I can’t help myself.” And it also means “God isn’t here for me either.” Jesus paid no attention to the excuse. He told the man, “Get up and walk.” At once the cure came, and he got up and walked. It’s like this with us today. Jesus doesn’t come to us with a maudlin sympathy that accepts all our excuses, and moans “poor you” in harmony with us. He comes to us with a message of life and vitality. His message to us is, “Get up and walk!” In Christ, the cure is ours. In Christ, we do have Somebody. Not someone to drag us here and there on our mats. But someone who can bring life to our own limbs, and who therefore commands, “Get up and walk.” The man obeyed. And in obeying, he experienced the healing that was his. How many of us have in fact been healed by Jesus Christ, but because we have not obeyed His command, “Get up and walk,” have never experienced the healing? God’s work in our life is accomplished by God and grace alone. But it is experienced only as we obey. “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat” John 5:1–14. In John’s Gospel “the Jews” is John’s name for the Pharisees and those experts in the written and oral law of Israel who were Christ’s primary opponents. While the term is a pejoritive, it is not anti-Semitic in any sense. So it was “spiritual leaders” who jumped all over the restored paralytic for carrying his mat on the Sabbath. The act was not a violation of the Old Testament itself, but it was a violation of the rabbinic rulings which guided first-century Jewish practice. The restored paralytic had an answer for his critics. “The Man who made me well said to me, ’Pick up your mat and walk.’ ” The ecclesiastical establishment had done nothing to restore the paralytic’s health. He would obey the Man who had healed him. When John Wesley began to preach an evangelical message in England, the established church was scandalized. Soon Wesley was denied access to church pulpits—and so he began to preach outdoors. For 50 years Wesley crisscrossed the British Isles, and hundreds of thousands came to know the Saviour. Wesley, like the paralytic, is an example of a person who was undeterred by the opposition of the ecclesiastical establishment. He too determined to obey the Man who had healed him. So must we all. “My Father is always at His work to this very day” John 5:16–17. When the Jewish leaders criticized Christ for healing on the Sabbath, He had a fascinating answer. God doesn’t suspend His activities on the Sabbath! Natural laws continue to operate. If a person cuts himself, healing begins at that moment. In healing the paralytic Jesus was acting in complete harmony with the way God, His Father, operates! How often “religion” makes the simple complicated, and confuses human rulings with the gracious operations of God. Let’s trust in Jesus, and respond spontaneously to the needs of others. In nearly every case any “religious rules” that would block such a response will be as opposed to godliness as were the first-century rabbinic rules governing Sabbath observance. “Calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God” John 5:18–30. Jesus’ answer infuriated “the Jews” (i.e., the religious leaders). They understood Him to claim equality with God. And He did! In His next words Jesus went on to define His relationship with His Father! Yesterday two Jehovah’s Witnesses appeared at our door with an “Awake” tract. My wife called out from the living room, “We’re Christians. We don’t want it.” One of the two answered, “We’re Christians too. We believe in Jesus Christ as our Saviour.” That’s good. As far as it goes. But the next question that needs to be answered is, “Which Jesus?” There are many Jesuses in vogue today. There’s the “good man Jesus,” who was misunderstood and killed, and whose teachings are still wonderful. There’s the “liberation Jesus,” who calls for the oppressed to take up weapons and kill their oppressors. There’s the “Jewish rabbi Jesus,” who never thought of himself as God and was later dubbed with a title he would have hated by his enthusiastic followers-especially Paul. There’s the “a god” Jesus of several cults, who is either a sort of high angel, or a human being lifted to a higher spiritual plane. And then there is the God Jesus of John’s Gospel, who is equal to God in nature, and who from the beginning was God and is God. Here in these verses, in Christ’s own words as reported by John, is the Jesus of Scripture. He is: vv. 17–18: the equal of God the Father v. 18: the Son, not identical with the Father, but unified with Him v. 19: in total harmony with the Father in all His works, and submissive to His will v. 20: loved by the Father, with full knowledge of His plans and purposes v. 21: empowered by the Father, and able to give life as the Father has and does v. 22: entrusted with authority to judge v. 23: equal in honor with the Father v. 24: determiner of human destiny: the object of a faith that transfers from the realm of death to that of life v. 25: able to raise the dead v. 26: one who like the Father is uncreated, having life in Himself v. 27: as Son of man, God enfleshed It does make a difference which Jesus we believe in. How wonderful it is to know that the Jesus we believe in is the eternal Son of God. One of the earliest creeds of the church, the Nicene Creed, puts it this way: I believe in . . . one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried, and the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end. This is the Jesus of the Bible. This is the Jesus in whom we believe!
Jesus on Trial(John 5:31–47)
Every Christmas Miracle on 34th Street shows up on TV again. You know the story. A jolly little man goes to work as a department store Santa, and it turns out he’s the real Santa Claus. Persecuted by nasty folks, he’s put on trial, and the hero “proves” he is Santa by getting post office employees to deliver bags of “Santa” letters to him in the courtroom. Cute. But more a case of legal sleight of hand than hard evidence. In a way, though, the story parallels Scripture. There a young Healer and Miracle worker appears. He comes in conflict with nasty religious leaders, is persecuted, and claims to be the “real” God of Israel! But this time there’s no legal sleight of hand. He actually has witnesses to support His claim! In fact, in this passage in John, Jesus produced five witnesses to His deity! The first witness (v. 31) was Jesus Himself. While self-witness was not valid in Jewish courts, Jesus’ testimony counted, for He knew “where I came from and where I am going” (8:14). The second witness (5:32–35) is John the Baptist. John had heard God’s voice speak, and seen the Spirit descend. And John had told his disciples that Jesus was the Son of God (1:19–34). The third witness (5:36) was that of the miracles Jesus performed (cf. 10:25–14:11). The Gospel of John lists seven, each of which shows Christ’s power in a different arena of life (water to wine, 2:1–11; heal official’s son, 4:43–54; heal paralytic, 5:1–15; feed multitude, 6:1–14; walk on water, vv. 16–21; cure blind man, 9:1–41; raise Lazarus, 11:1–44). Each was a sign demonstrating Jesus’ power and His authority, and together they authenticated His claims of Deity. The fourth witness (5:37–38) is the Father Himself, speaking through but distinguished from Jesus’ miraculous works. The fifth witness (vv. 39–41) is the Scripture, for the Law and the Prophets both predict Jesus’ coming, and describe His ministry. For those who actually heard Jesus speak, the fifth witness was the most telling. For if the Jews had only believed Moses, they would have recognized Jesus and believed in Him. Even as, today, we who believe the Word of God accept its testimony, and through the Scriptures have come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
We can trust the Word about the Word.
“It were better to have no opinion of God at all than such a one as is unworthy of Him; for the one is only unbelief—the other contempt.”—Plutarch