John 5 – Jumping into the Deep End
Bible Study Journal
Some Things to Ponder in Preparation for our Study:
- When sharing Christ with others, why is it important to aim at seeing receiving Christ as Savior rather than at winning an argument (John 5:34)? What can we learn about witnessing from Jesus’ example in John 5:1-17?
- Some people use texts like John 5:39-40 to belittle scholarly Bible education. Are there dangers in such studies? What are examples? What are the advantages? How can the dangers be avoided?
- A skeptic scoffingly says to you, “I’ve never seen a miracle. If I saw one I’d believe, but I don’t believe that they exist.” How would you respond?
- Why must our faith ultimately rest on objective testimony, not on subjective experiences or feelings? Is there a legitimate place for such experiences and feelings? If so, what?
Galilean Ministry Interrupted
The “Galilean Ministry” of Jesus is said to have lasted about 16 months, basically starting after the Temptation of Jesus and His baptism by John the Baptist. Each of the Gospels addresses different aspects of that major time in Jesus’ life. In John, the journey begins with Jesus arriving in Cana for the wedding. Jesus’ ministry in Galilee amazed the people He reached. The healed blind man’s testimony in Jn. 9:30-33 declares how remarkable Jesus is. The people saw Jesus’ words & works as “sensational”, they followed Him everywhere, but their response was often superficial, more just curiosity.
As we move into John 5, we read about Jesus’ ministry in Galilee interrupted by a quick trip “up” to Jerusalem for another feast. We’re not sure which Jewish feast is involved, and apparently that detail is not important in the scope of God’s inspiration of His Word. Upon arriving in Jerusalem, Jesus takes time to visit the Bethesda Pool outside the northeast corner of the Temple Mount. Jerusalem had several such pools, most with water fed from underground springs or the related supply system developed over the centuries.
The Bethesda Pool
The sight of the miserable and unfortunate people gathered around this pool most have been tragic. Jesus would have been mindful of the prophets who often cried out to God for the miserable condition of their people – like Jeremiah in Lamentations 2:19, “Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord; lift up your hands to Him for the life of your little ones who are faint because of hunger at the head of every street.” The sad state of affairs at the pool would have been a profound statement of the ugliness of sin. Compare Jesus weeping over Jerusalem in Lu. 19:41-44. The sight of the desperately needy people plagued by all kinds of sickness must have broken the Savior’s heart.
- Isaiah 1
- Lamentations 1
- Lamentations 5
Jesus responded to this man’s condition with compassion. The man had been lame for 38 years, rejected by society, horribly sick, abandoned by his religion – his life was nothing but pain and suffering. He was probably amazed when Jesus walked straight to him and spoke kindly to him. The response of this remarkably needy man to Jesus however is a striking expression of a wayward, skeptical man. He was probably more concerned about seeing the water of the pool start moving, a superstitious hope for healing.
We’ve mentioned that one of the distinctives of John’s gospel is an emphasis on seven of Jesus’ miracles which he refers to as “signs” – this is one of them! The “third sign” (Jn. 7:21, 31) was done in public because Jesus had a higher purpose in His Father’s divine plan than that one healing. The lame man was miraculously healed, but was he forgiven, redeemed? He never acknowledged sin, he never expressed, faith, and he seemingly agreed with the leaders seeking to stop Jesus. Jesus left the door open to the man to have believing faith by His saying “sin no more”. But more importantly, Jesus “stirred up” the ire of the Jewish leaders.
Into the Fire – John 5:16-17
Jesus proceeds to use this healing incident and the Pharisees’ criticism of “working” on the Sabbath as opportunity to very clearly explain His deity and His commitment to His Father’s mission. It also quickly became apparent that the leaders very clearly understood what He was saying!
The leaders declare with anger, “He makes Himself to be equal with God.” The storm now begins to develop which Jesus will face from the Pharisees and their blind legalism for the rest of His earthly ministry . False Religion seeks to capture the mind and exclude true faith in the One True God, focusing on tangibles that become substitutes for genuine repentance. The Leaders executed a relentless campaign of opposition to keep Jesus from distracting the people with true spiritual life.
- John 5:16, “For this reason…”, note what the Pharisees focus on – not the man’s healing, they were concerned that Jesus “broke” their Sabbath law. Note Jesus’ straightforward response is simple: this is My Father at work
- The Jews’ hypocrisy blinded them to understand true worship of God – this opened the opportunity to Jesus to explain further
- Breaking the Sabbath is the accusation – but Jesus shifts to the root issue: Everything He does is because it is what the Father does. Biblical Sabbath Law is meant to guide man to imitate God, not work on Sabbath – and that is exactly what Jesus is doing – imitating the Father.
Five Evidences to Jesus’ Deity – John 5:18-30
John 5:18-30 delivers the most important passage in the whole Bible, spoken by Jesus Himself, about His personal identity – His Deity and His relationship to the Father. He speaks of His authority from the Father, proof of His being the Messiah, His function as Judge, and the reality of resurrection to eternal life or condemnation. In these verses, look for statements related to His Person, His Works, His Power & Sovereignty, His Judgment, and His Honor.
- John 5:18, making Himself equal with God. Compare John 8:28, “I do nothing of my own initiative”, and John 10:30, “I and the Father are one”.
- John 5:19-20, Jesus doesn’t act alone, He is linked to the Father, the two acting as one person. Think about this: All the truth in the Bible that applies to God, also applies to Jesus!
- John 5:21, He has the power of life just as the Father does. Note John 11:41-44, raising Lazarus from the grave.
- John 5:22, the Father has consigned judgment to His Son. Compare Acts 17:31, “a Man God has appointed”. And Jesus’ authority for being the Judge is His resurrection (5:29)
- John 5:23, Jesus is much more than an ambassador, He must receive honor equal to the Father
- John 5:24-30, Resurrection Truth is the Ultimate Determiner
- V25, note the “already/not yet” tension of the believer already living resurrected life – compare Eph. 2:6 and Phil. 3:20
- Phil. 2:6-11, even in His humanity, the Father gave Him life-giving power of resurrection
Four Witnesses to the Truth of Jesus’ Claims
– John 5:31-47
Since the Jewish leaders are questioning the truth of the claims Jesus is making, Jesus now turns back to a very important subject for Him: His Father’s testimony of Who Jesus is (Matt. 3:16-17). Jesus describes the witnesses that God has provided for validating the ministry of Jesus as the Son of God.
In these verses, John emphasizes the theme of “witness” which is so important in his Gospel – Jesus exemplified the truths of being a witness, and here He bases His credibility on the witnesses provided by God from four sources. In 5:34, Jesus emphasizes that these validations all come from God Himself.
- 5:31-35, The witness of John the Baptist. The people had responded very positively to the Baptist’s ministry and often their reception favored him over the Jewish Leaders’ influence.
- Read Jn. 1:19, 25-27, 34; Matt. 3:3-6,11; 21:25-26
- 5:36, The witness of Christ’s Works – His miracles testified of His deity & messiahship
- Read Jn. 10:25; 20:30-31
- 5:37-38, The witness of the Father
- Read Matt. 3:16-17; 10:32-33; 11:27
- 5:39-47, The witness of Scripture – The Leaders knew the many OT passages that teach that the Messiah would bring eternal life, but they refused to believe Jesus was the Messiah.
- Read Moses’ words in Deut. 18:15-19
We know that God the Father has already settled the judgment – His Son has risen from the grave, sits at the right of His throne, and awaits the time to return to earth in victory and judgment. But right now, what is the verdict in our heart?
- How do we know today that Jesus is the Son of God and our Redeemer? Clue 1: focus on the word “evidence”. Clue 2: focus on the word “testimony”.
- How does the mission Jesus came to earth succeed for me?
- What is my responsibility in connection with Jesus’ mission?