Scripture: John 5:19-47
In C.S. Lewis’ book God on the Dock, he wrote: “Imagine a set of people all living in the same building. Half of them think it is a hotel, the other half think it is a prison. Those who think it a hotel might regard it as quite intolerable, and those who thought it was a prison might decide that it was really surprisingly comfortable…If you think of this world as a place intended simply for happiness, you find it quite intolerable; think of it as a place of training and correction and it’s not so bad.” (Lewis, C. S., and Walter Hooper. God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics. Eerdmans, 1970), p 41.
God has established in His word that man does not see as God sees (1 Samuel 16:7); to further the complexity, man does not see God as God clearly and fully sees Himself. Man’s perceptions of God often create very wrong expectations of Who God is, what God wants, what God values, and what God rewards (for starters). Were God to come in the flesh, and He did, He would be hard to accept as God for all that people entertain God to be, and He was. God, and more specifically the Son of God, was never the problem; sinners with unrealistic expectations and demands have been the problem since sin came into this world.
There is very little about the entire story-line of Jesus’ life on this earth, from birth to death and resurrection, that lines up with how people think the Messiah should have come, should have looked, should have handled Himself, and should have taken charge. Right now, we are all still very prone to hold God to ungodly and unrealistic expectations, holding back on Him when we feel unloved, rejoicing in Him all too often only when we feel pleased to do so. We want His help every moment of every day and we find little if any time to listen to Him or to talk with Him. We want grace but we are prone to thinking we deserve better in this life.
In Jesus’ day, He would face opposition numerous times and His identity would be questioned time and time again. In following the wonderful, gracious miracle of healing the lame man on the Sabbath, all that the majority of outspoken people in the vicinity could think of was how audacious it was that someone would work on the Sabbath. They didn’t just disapprove, though; John confirms that they wanted to kill Jesus on account of healing on the Sabbath and secondly for claiming God was His Father.
A man laid sick for thirty-eight years and the first inclination of his fellow Jews was murder. This should sound ridiculous to us, because it is ridiculous. Not only were their additional laws a complete failure of reason, they had just proven that God had no place within the righteousness they were trying to attain. They had made the rules, they had set the rewards, and they would determine the worth of a person to inherit eternal life.
Jesus had the absolute right to tell someone to be well. The lame man now healed would not have been getting up and thinking first of the many ways “work” was defined; he would have gladly carried his bed home. Then again, what if a bed was all that he had?
One of the greatest problems that was left out in the uproar was that the rules of the Jews gave them with no place for love. They were not concerned with the man or his interests, but that his actions defiled how they thought a Sabbath should be kept. For Christians, the issue is whether we designate our love to others or to our ideals. Over the years, there have been many individuals and families that have entered into churches never to be seen again for an unkind word, a dirty look, or the most common failure, which is for them to visit without ever being approached. Sure, there are people who enter into churches with false expectations themselves, but don’t let them leave because we didn’t care. Every believer and every church has to wrestle with loving and considering others more than just embracing their own preferences.
Today, we will overview the remainder of John 5, looking at verses 19-47, and supply a bit of an outline to understand why Jesus responded with this particular monologue to the Jews who stood in opposition to Him after His working of the miracle. What He is doing here is essentially speaking into the ways they have failed to see Him as the Son of God. Once again, their expectations, even down to working on Sabbath and how that was defined, “disqualified” Him from living in His own world and ministering within His authority.
Let’s look briefly at Jesus’ appeals to what the Son of God is like. Their expectations would be spoken to head on with a brief but thorough explanation of the truth regarding the Son of God. We will put them under the categories of Ministry Alignment, Interpersonal Roles, and Testifiers of His Sonship.
- Ministry alignment (vv. 19-20). As the Father does, so does the Son. Their activity should be parallel to each other, overlapping, the heart of the Father mirrored in the Son. They are not perpendicular, the Son’s activities simply touching at times upon the Father’s, two ships merely passing in the night. This is because they are a part of the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Three Persons, one essence. If Jesus is not equal with the Father, His actions would be out of sync. This is what He is referring to in vv. 19-20. Perhaps the key term of these two verses would be “in like manner” from the Greek homoios (pronounced hom-oy-os) referring to similarity of likeness. John 1:18 says, “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” Some translations will say “expressed Him” as Jesus expresses or declares the essence of God the Father to humanity.
- Interpersonal roles (vv. 21-30). Throughout Scripture, different roles are attributed to the Persons of the Godhead. One role distinction, for instance, is the Spirit praying on our behalves, the Son interceding for us, and the Father upholding His promises as it relates to the believer. In verses 21-30, Jesus shows in various ways that it is the Father who has committed authority to the Son. Authority to judge; authority to be honored and authority to grant life to whom He will. The Son acts in accordance with the Father’s wishes, bringing judgment, offering life, raising those who have believed on Him from the dead and bringing condemnation to those who would not believe. Jesus would tell the disciples in Matthew 28:18 that “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.” Who gave this authority to Him? God the Father.
- Testifiers of His Sonship.
- The Holy Spirit. John 5:32 speaks to the testimony of the Holy Spirit when Jesus says, “There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true.” Behind all of the testimonies of Jesus being the Son of God, the greatest Testifier was the Holy Spirit, who came upon Him like a dove at His baptism in Luke 3:22: “And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.” The Trinity is all on hand in this verse to signify Jesus as the Son of God at the outset of His ministry. It is the Spirit who prompts hearts at the hearing of the word; it is the Spirit who was behind the signs of Jesus. The connection drawn between Christ and His people is done through the work of the Holy Spirit, “who testifies with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16).
- John the Baptist. There is a distinction drawn from verse 32 and verse 33, which clarifies another witness, John the Baptist. John is labeled a prophet by Jesus in Matthew 11:9-11 as he was sent by God to proclaim the coming of the Messiah. John the Baptist was baptizing in this area and the people Jesus was speaking to in John 5 had all become aware of it: John 4:1-2 shows Jesus leaving the area when the Pharisees heard He (His disciples) had been making and baptizing more disciples than John the Baptist.
- Works/signs/miracles. Verse 36 shifts to the signs of Jesus, done in the power of the Holy Spirit, which attested to His identity as the Son of God. By this point in time, He had already done a handful of miracles, but even if this group hadn’t seen or heard of the other miracles, they still had seen enough in seeing the lame man walking. Miracles were called signs (Greek “semeion”) because they were intended to draw the focus upon the Worker of the miracle, not the miracle itself. Many would believe on Jesus in seeing these signs; some would only ask for more works to their own benefit, and some would blaspheme the power behind the works, attributing Satan to the miracles rather than God.
- God the Father’s testimony (37).
At the baptism of Jesus and following His transfiguration, a voice came forth from Heaven saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17, 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35). Peter would refer to this in 2 Peter 1:17-19:
“For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”
Notice that Peter describes this act of God as a confirmation of prophecies regarding the Son, establishing Him as such in His statement of approval and identification.
- The Scriptures(38-47). Finally, the Jews should have recognized Jesus in alignment with the reading of the Scriptures. This issue should teach us how incapable anyone is of coming to faith in Christ without the work of God in their soul. Jesus fulfilled prophecy and acted as the Messiah would. Though they knew the word, they did not have His word abiding in them. Jesus’ testimony of them overall was that though they sought the Scriptures, they missed Him. It is very possible to be an upholder of Scripture while failing to trust in the Savior of which it speaks. James 1:22 says, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” Scripture is one of our greatest allies in the modern world; it teaches us the truth and reveals to us the thoughts of God. It presents our need for salvation and provides the solution in Jesus Christ with deep explanation. I love the Bible, and in my opinion there isn’t a church worth its weight out there if it does not hold the Scriptures in all its inerrant content central to its heart and mission.
It isn’t told how this conversation ended. We know that the desire of the opposing Jews was to kill Jesus but it’s evident that they did not accomplish that in this exchange because John 6:1 says that he departed and went over the Sea of Galilee, where soon he would feed the 5,000. What Jesus accomplished was speaking truth into false expectations fueled by poor perceptions of the character and nature of God. It’s very hard to say whether any of the people who were outraged with Him in this passage ever came around to believing, and that would be very sad. There is plenty of evidence in the Bible to show us that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah, the Savior of the world, and we can believe in Him with confidence. I challenge you to know what you believe when it comes to the Lord, and if you’re still unsure about believing on Jesus, continue reading on in the Bible, ask good questions, and pray as you go that God might help you see Jesus for who He really is.
Jesus’ Prayer from John 17:20-26:
“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”
Thank you for your time and I pray that we can get back together soon. Every day is a little bit more restless than the last but pray that we seek God and follow His lead. Don’t forget to pray for those working in healthcare and for families that are hurting. Uphold each other in your prayers and follow the Lord every day. Each day, no matter what the context is, is a gift from God.
Should a need arise or a prayer request need to be made, please don’t hesitate to call, text, or email me. Thank you!