In John chapter 5 Jesus’ identity is clearly revealed and both faith AND unbelief grow. So does conflict. Before the end of the chapter Jesus’ life is threatened. This chapter shows that no one can stand on the sidelines when Jesus proclaims His equality with God the Father. Everyone has to make a decision about Him.
John 5:1-5 Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. 5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.
At this pool, crowds of disabled people gathered because of a belief that an angel occasionally imparted healing powers to the water. One man there was alone, with no friends to help him reach the water. After 38 long years, his physical inability seemed permanent. Jesus walks by and notices him.
John 5:6-7 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
7 “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
Why did Jesus ask him if he wanted to get well? He saw his condition. He knew the people came to this spot hoping to get in the water at the right time to be healed….
Perhaps Jesus saw that the man was so settled in his condition that he was afraid to change. Health and wholeness bring responsibility and effort that some may wish to avoid.
The man doesn’t answer Jesus’ question – just pitifully says he has no one to help him.
John 5:8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”
Jesus challenged the man to act. To take up the risk of obedience. His command has three parts, each full of spiritual significance for us today:
“Get up!” All of Jesus’ commands carry His life-giving power to obey, but the obedience and the power are joined together and never separate. Only those who obey in faith experience His power. (Remember the royal official?)
If we are feeling helpless about some sin we have that we ask God to take away – after we ask Him we need to make every effort to stop the sin. If we are praying for healing, we need to do everything we can think of to get well. Go to the doctor, eat the right things…
Rev. Malkamus who started Hallelujah Acres wrote a book called “Why Christians Get Sick” and he said that people in his congregation prayed and prayed for health and healing, but then they’d keep smoking, or eating processed foods and bad fats and too much sugar. We have to do our part! “Do you want to get well?”
Second, Jesus said, “Pick up your mat.” Before this the man had needed someone else to do everything for him, but Jesus gave him the strength now.
And third, “Walk.” Move from where you are spiritually to where Jesus wants you to be. Choose to begin a new life with all the responsibilities that belong with it.
Today, Jesus might be telling us to “Get up and do the work I’ve prepared for you.” And remember that might very well be to tell someone about Him.
John 5:9-15 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10 and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”
11 But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’
12 So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?”
13 The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.
14 Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.
Jesus ordered this man to stop sinning. He looked for him because He desired more than physical healing for him. To be spiritually well, the man needed to know Jesus’ identity. “Stop sinning” may have pointed to something particular the man was doing, or it may have meant leave your sinful life, believe in me and be born again.
This whole thing about the Sabbath…God ordained one day in seven for rest. In the law of Moses, God gave the Sabbath ordinance to Israel as a sign of His covenant. It was for the people’s good. For rest, worship and enjoying God’s blessing. Jesus was born under the law so He could fulfill it perfectly for us. His death put an end to the legal demands of the law and Christians aren’t called to a legalistic attitude toward this one day in seven. However, it is good for us to do so. God designed this one day to be a delight and not a burden.
What the Pharisees did about the Sabbath that was so wrong was they added (on their own) hundreds of extra rules about the Sabbath that God never said. Like carrying your mat. Or mercifully healing someone. And following those rules became more important than following God and loving neighbors.
John 5:16-20 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. 17 In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” 18 For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
19 Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed.
Wouldn’t you think people would have been excited that this man got healed? But instead of remarking on this glorious work of restoration, Israel’s leaders saw only their broken rules.
This miracle was the spark that ignited the open conflict that erupted soon afterwards. Jesus’ loving compassion for this suffering man aroused the opposition that eventually cost Him His life.
God IS always at work, even on the Sabbath. Babies are born, crops grow, the wind blows…
When Jesus said “I too am working,” the Jewish leaders immediately grasped that the Lord had made a tremendous claim to deity. From now on they were out to get Him.
Where Jesus said “The Son can do nothing by Himself.” Jesus made the choice to place Himself fully in His Father’s hands. He didn’t mean He COULDN’T as much as He WOULDN’T do anything on His own initiative. Every moment, every day, Jesus chose perfect obedience and submission to God, even to His death on the cross.
Where He talks about greater works coming – there’s Lazarus’ resurrection, His own resurrection, His ascension into Heaven and the birth of the church through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Our lesson? Do nothing, but what you see Jesus doing in the Bible. Know Him. Depend on Him and He will show you His plan for your life and give you His power.