Looking at the Light through John - Chapter 5

Trouble at the Second Passover

From the first the Pharisees recognized Jesus as a threat to their system. The reason Jesus had to quit immersing people in the Jordan was because the Pharisees heard He was immersing even more than John the Immerser. But the intensity of their opposition increased as Jesus went down to Jerusalem to participate in His second Passover of the time of His ministry. The Lord was going to carry His offensive a step further by healing on the Sabbath, and the Pharisees would react.

Now the conflict in authority arises; the Pharisees are going to use the enforcement of their use of the Sabbath to start driving a wedge between Jesus’ movement and the current standard of Judaism. Their concern was not truth; their concern was their position, and they used the people’s general misconception of the Sabbath to inflame the public’s opinion against Jesus. The first pressure is evident as the apostle John enters the response of the man who has been told it is not permissible for him to carry his pallet on the Sabbath day: "But he answered them, ‘He who made me well was the one who said to me, "Take up your pallet and walk." ’ " (John 5:11).



Caving In To Pressure

"Do you wish to get well?" Jesus asked a certain man at Bethesda’s pool. Indications of his character showed in his answer; instead of simply saying, "Yes," he whined about the fact that he didn’t have a man-servant to put him into the pool at the stirring of the waters. The Lord healed him anyway, deliberately curing the sick man on the Sabbath, knowing that this action would bring down the condemnation of the Pharisees.

The character of an individual is demonstrated when he is tested. The man who was healed on the Sabbath, by the deliberate action of the Lord Jesus, was thrown into a situation wherein he would demonstrate loyalty to the One who had the power to heal or a loyalty to those who had the political power to punish anyone who broke their rules. He caved in under pressure and trashed Jesus for the sake of ingratiating himself for earthly gain.



Fall-out from "Sabbath-breaking"

Jesus was a nice guy. Jesus healed a man who had lain a long time by the pool of Bethesda. The man went to the Jewish hierarchy and "ratted" on Jesus because Jesus didn’t seem to offer the same type of benefits as he could receive by his "toadying" efforts to the ranking Jews. No doubt he had his reward in full.

But the opposition to the Lord, now beginning to build up steam, finally had an issue that they could use against Him. The issue wasn’t the issue, really; the real issue was that Jesus was a threat to their power and position. Since they couldn’t come right out and say that to the multitudes that the Nazarene was a threat to their power and position, they had to find an issue they could use to cover their agenda and inflame the passions of the masses. From their perspective, Jesus made a tactical error and handed them the ammunition they needed by healing the man publicly on the Sabbath.

The Jews were looking for an issue on which they might hang Jesus. The Savior deliberately healed on the Sabbath, and the hierarchy automatically raised the hue and cry about the Lord’s unorthodox action, when in fact God Incarnate was clarifying the understanding of the Sabbath for anyone willing to learn. When Jesus also referred to God as being His Father - which was, of course, a true statement - the "feeding frenzy" increased in fervor as the Jews intensified their efforts to vilify and eventually crucify Him. The truth about Jesus and the Sabbath was not the issue; the healing on the Sabbath was a smokescreen created by the hierarchy whose real goal was to preserve its position and power.



Tandem Teamwork

The Jews sought to kill Jesus because He violated their standards about the observance of the Sabbath and because He called God His own Father. "Jesus therefore answered and was saying to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.’ " (John 5:19). God is Spirit; as Spirit He is not limited to the specific boundaries always imposed on the material realm. The Great Spirit is therefore beyond the clear understanding of man. "No man has seen God at any time," observed the apostle John earlier. "The only begotten [Son of] God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him" (John 1:18). Jesus was beginning the explanation process; the Jewish leadership, instead of listening and learning, began their drive to execute Him.

How close are the Father and Son? One of the ways our Immanuel had of answering the question was to point out that He and the Father moved precisely in tandem, that what the Son saw the Father doing, the Son imitated perfectly.

It is not the will of the Father that any should perish, but that all should be brought to repentance. Working in perfect unison, the Father and the Lord began to initiate the means by which all those truly interested in truth could be rescued. The tandem teamwork of Father and Son can save the world.



Jesus on J-Day

The Lord was always teaching. Whether any learned from the teaching or accepted the teaching was up to the one who heard; Jesus continued to share heavenly information with all audiences, hostile and receptive. "The Father raise the dead and gives them life," He taught. "The Son also give life to whom He wishes," was an addendum. In these simple statements the Savior of the world communicated volumes in terms of fellowship with God and participating in the proper resurrection. This He also used to introduce His teaching on Judgment Day.

Jesus’ teaching was to upgrade the understanding of His hearers, to introduce them to a clearer comprehension of the nature and character of God. When Jesus said that God "has given all judgment to the Son," He made it plain of whom John spoke in his Apocalypse: "And I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them" (Revelation 20:11).



The Word of Jesus

When Jesus walked in the flesh, He made some audacious claims. He maintained that He could actually see what the Father was doing, and that He Himself did nothing except what He also saw the Father doing. He asserted that He could give life to whom He wished. He stated that He would be the One to sit on the great white throne of judgment. Only God could make such claims; the Savior certainly set anyone who really heard him back on his heels with such bold assertions. But He continued.

What a huge offer Jesus tendered to the spiritually interested - the opportunity to pass from death to life. But this opportunity only comes through the word, what the Lord would call the "voice of the Son of God." Take advantage of the opportunity. Hear, heed, and live!



The Importance of Spiritual Life

The recent specter of bodies plunging from the towers of the World Trade Center in New York, and the fires burning at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., gripped the world. Millions watched in horror as live television broadcast the collapse of the twin towers that have for nearly thirty years dominated the New York skyline, trapping thousands inside. Hundreds of firefighters and policemen died trying to rescue those caught in the disaster, and the world witnessed death and destruction on a dramatic scale. Mankind came once again face to face with his mortality; time will show whether he turns to God, or whether he will plunge on in the darkness of his misunderstanding.

Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear shall live" (John 5:25). Against the billowing black backdrop of death stands the shining light called "life." But the life of which Jesus spoke was not mere earthly existence wherein a person might escape the collapse of a building but fall victim to a heart attack; the life of which He spoke was spiritual life, the life that lasts forever. This life is fellowship with God, with joys unspeakable in the here and now, and on in to eternity. Such life is earnestly to be desired, but its value only begins to become clear to humanity when it is contrasted to its opposite, the fires of hell.

Jesus has authority to call men out of darkness into light, out of death into life. Those who hear His voice live, and what value is there in that life! May the specter of falling bodies, burning buildings, and crashing towers move modern man to an appreciation of that which is life indeed, and may the brethren be exhorted to give thanks to God for spiritual life in Christ Jesus.



The Authority of King Jesus

Physical life is very complex. Man cannot produce life; he has determined, if he will admit it, the principle that life only comes from life. Just as the notes on a page of sheet music are toneless unless brought to life by a mighty orchestra, dead also are the complex organic chemicals which carry the information necessary for the conduct of life unless stirred by the mighty Conductor. Jesus Christ brought physical life into existence by His word, sustains it by His word, and will cause it to cease by His word. Mankind may rail against Him, men may beat themselves against the wall trying to deny His existence and power, but each will hear these words unless obedient to Him, "Tonight, you fool, your soul is required of you."

But as complex as may be physical life, it is only a teaching tool to move man to an understanding of spiritual life. And just as physical life is the product of Jesus Christ, so also is spiritual life.

The definition of a resurrection is the rejoining of soul and spirit with a body. Those who have already passed from this earth are absent from the body, and their souls and spirits are already in the torment of Hades’ fires or in the bliss of a Paradise with Jesus. But the One who has the authority to give life to those who hear His voice, and the One who is judge of all, will also give the appropriate resurrection at the end of time. Get it right, the first and only time!



The Father’s Testimony

The Prince and Savior made it clear that His attempt to rescue mankind was not a maverick operation. It was a carefully timed, coordinated event which involved angels, empires, and the spiritual condition of the Jews. It took thousands of years of planning and preparation to bring this rescue operation about; and it required the continued watch of the Father in heaven to save Jesus - not from death, but the wrong kind of death at the wrong time. The happenings of heaven had to be directing the happenings on earth, requiring a systematic and complete communications network between the two.

Jesus only did those works which were dictated first from heaven. The success of the rescue operation depended upon Jesus’ carefully carrying out the plan coordinated from heaven, that the witness of heaven might be brought to bear on who Jesus was. "I say these things," Jesus informed the Jews of the importance of the details of this rescue operation, "that you may be saved."



Glory from the Father

It is built into man to seek approval of some kind. Generally the sons of man look for acceptance from an earthly peer group, their insecurities driving them to establish some sort of pecking order. While a pecking order may make a bit of sense if a person’s focus is on earth, it is ridiculous and extremely childish from a heavenly perspective. So while man was scrambling to see which dog would be at the top of the pile, Jesus came from above to bring a view from heaven to the proceedings.

Those who desire the praise of men have their reward in full. Shallow though it is, it is all they shall receive; for once they have passed out of this life, they begin to burn in Hades. Jesus, knowing all things, would not stoop to seeking glory from men. He would press on, bearing testimony of the glories of heaven and the salvation of men.



Receiving Jesus

It is common today to speak of "accepting Jesus." When someone is described as having "accepted Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior," the implication is that he is "saved," having had his sins forgiven in a spiritual "born again experience." So strong is the pressure from Billy-Graham-types that even those who ought to know better often use this denominational terminology, this modern language of Ashdod, speaking of someone who "accepted Christ and was baptized." This is double talk, a religious "newspeak" wherein somehow both God and men are to be pleased.

Sooner or later every individual chooses between heaven and earth. Those who choose to please men and to use terminology that pleases men will receive the smiles of approval and certificates of distinction from earth’s organizations but will experience weeping and gnashing of teeth in the eternal lake of fire. Those who choose to please God and to use terminology which pleases God will receive glory and honor and praise from the King of kings. The choice to undergo cursing from the crowd in order to receive glory from God is clear to those who have spiritual perception.



The Testimony of Moses

"All Scripture," said the apostle Paul, "is inspired by God" (II Timothy 3:16). "No prophecy of Scripture," affirmed Peter, was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God" (II Peter 1:20,21). God had affirmed and confirmed His word from Moses onward, and many was the man who learned the hard way that God did not deviate, except by petition in very special circumstances, from what was written. David the king, a man after God’s own heart, learned that when Moses had written that the ark of the covenant was to be carried by the priests on poles, that did not mean that it was acceptable for the ark to be hauled on an ox cart!

The Jew of Jesus’ day claimed to follow the teachings of Moses. The Pharisees, in fact, were a sect originally begun to foster the observance of the commands of God given through the Law of Moses. It was in this setting that Jesus had made the statement, "You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life." They sought through the Old Testament, but were blind to the truth of what Jesus said in His follow-up: "It is these that bear witness of Me."

One of the most inspiring features of the scripture is the remarkable unity and harmony of all the writings. The testimony of Moses, written nearly 1500 years before the crucifixion of Christ, is in perfect unison with the testimony of the apostles and New Testament prophets. The word of God is written in such a way that it not only proves itself to be true, but it also tests the honesty of its readers. "For if you believed Moses," was a poignant and true thrust of Jesus, "you would believe Me."