Context: Jesus comes to Jerusalem and miraculously heals the man at the Pool of Bethesda. Since the healing occurred on the Sabbath Day, the religious leaders are stirred up into a tizzy and demand Jesus justify such an “unlawful” act. So, in verse 17, John records that Jesus answered them, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.”
In using such a simple statement not only is Jesus challenging their theological beliefs pertaining to the Sabbath (God works on this holy day), but He’s establishing a correlation between Himself and God (the justification for why He acted on the Sabbath). The Sabbath was a day for man to cease from his work in the recognition of God’s continued work.
Well, in verse 18, there is no doubt what Jesus just said hit home for the preverbal rusty nuggets hit the fan. “Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.”
This word “sought” spoke of “seeking out a thing.” The idea isn’t they were presently trying to “kill Jesus,” rather they were now actively looking for a way they could justify such an act.
On a side note… I love the fact Jesus didn’t back down to an angry mob who wanted to “kill Him.” Instead, the rest of the chapter records a lengthy sermon Jesus gives - specifically aimed at explaining His unique relationship with God the Father to these religious leaders. It’s almost like Jesus is saying, “You’re looking for a reason? Let me give you one!”
As residents in a lost world that is growing ever more hostile to those who’d stand for truth Jesus’ willingness to speak, even knowing the audience was hostile, should be an example to us all. Fact: If you stand for truth, don’t be surprise when the mob kills you for it.
Here’s why I find Jesus’ example so amazing… While Jesus knew they’d ultimately reject Him, He still came to be their Savior as well. What grace for if I knew the end of the story as Jesus did there is no way I would have waisted any time conversing with these men. No man in the final judgment will ever be able to claim Jesus didn’t attempt to reach him!
Keep in mind, the larger point Jesus is making was not lost on these Jewish religious leaders. They were absolutely tracking with Him and understood His larger claim of divinity.
To this point, it’s always strange to me when I encounter someone (whether it be a Jehovah Witness, Mormon, Muslim, or for that matter a secular academic) who tries to argue Jesus never claimed to be God for they seem to completely overlook moments like this one! There is no debating Jesus claimed to be God as evidenced by the reaction of the crowd. In actuality, Jesus will double and triple down on this point in the next 28 or so verses!
If you’re a notetaker here’s an easy, three-point breakdown of Jesus’ sermon: First, in verses 19-23, we have “The Claim!” Then, in verses 24-30, we have “The Implications!” And finally, in verses 31-47, we have “The Witnesses!” Let’s begin with “The Claim…”
John 5:19-21, “Then Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will.’”
In these verses Jesus makes three profound points as to the nature of His relationship with God “the Father.” First, the Son and the Father were completely unified in purpose! Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.”
Jesus’ point is that He and the Father operated in complete concert with one another. Jesus didn’t act independently from the Father, but they operated in lock-step. Once again Jesus doesn’t mix words, “Whatever the Father does, the Son also does in like manner.”
The implications of this are that the healing of the man at the pool on the Sabbath occurred because the Father wanted the man to be healed. Jesus acted under the directives of God.
Secondly, the Son and the Father were distinct in role! Note: the presentation of what we refer to theologically as the “Triune Nature of God” or His existence as one God being revealed to humanity in three persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is fundamentally anthropomorphic (the attributing of human characteristics to what is not actually human).
You see, in presenting His divine nature to man using common human terminology such as “Father and Son”, God was affording finite man a true but limited glimpse into something that transcended human language or our basic capacity to understand.
The fact is it’s impossible for the finite to fully grasp what is infinite. To do so would require infinite knowledge of infinite things making the person infinite. This is why the infinite articulated what was necessary using terms finite man could at least find relatable.
My point is that Jesus was not God’s Son nor was God His Father in a literal sense. Instead, these terms are used to affirm Jesus and His Father were both of the same nature (equally God), but completely distinct relationally. Jesus and the Father were the same, but, as it pertained to the divine community between the three, they possessed different roles.
Notice Jesus says, “The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do” only to add “for the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does.”
As the Son, there is no doubt Jesus lived to honor His “Father who loved Him,” but Jesus is also saying to honor He operated in total submission to His Father’s directives. The Father established the objectives and it was Jesus’ role to carry forth the mission.
It’s a radicle and often underemphasized point, but Jesus literally did nor said anything on this earth that wasn’t first dictated to Him by His Father! In context Jesus is saying He healed the man at the Pool of Bethesda because God the Father directed Him to do this.
Finally, the Son and the Father were equal in power. Jesus said, “For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will.” Since God is by His very nature supernatural, the healing of the man should have confirmed Jesus’ identity. Sadly though, while these men may have “marveled,” they remained willfully ignorant.
Don’t forget that Jesus is speaking to Jewish theologians. His audience was the religious experts - the top academics of His day. These men were intellectuals. They were brilliant when it came to the Scriptures. I bring this up because Jesus is playing off of a common belief that certain miracles were only possible through the direct intervention of Jehovah.
For example… The pervasive understanding was that it was only God who could open the womb to bear life, the clouds to provide life-giving rain, or the grave during the resurrection. While Jesus affirms this last conclusion that “the Father raises the dead and gives life to them,” the statement that immediately follows would not be lost on His audience.
In saying, “Even so the Son gives life to whom He will” Jesus is claiming to possess the very resurrection power they only believed God possessed. I imagine His audience was stunned at what He was saying. Jesus continues by now taking this very idea one step further…
John 5:22-23, “For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.”
Not only does Jesus claim power over life and death, but He claims His power extended into the eternal realm as well. While it’s the role of “the Father” to “raise the dead and give life to them,” it’s Jesus who decides who receives “life” at the final “judgment.”
How interesting that while Jesus only acted according to the directives of His Father, “all judgment” had been “committed to the Son” by the Father. For a moment I want you to try to visualize a day that will happen in your future. You breathe your last here on this earth only to awaken to a heavenly judgment scene with a Man, Jesus the Christ sitting upon the throne.
This statement “he who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” intended to be a shot across the bow for these religious leaders. The word “honor” literally meant to set a specific value or price upon. It means to attribute appropriate worth.
At this juncture the establishment had been justifying their resentment and animosity towards Jesus as being in defense of God’s honor. And yet, Jesus is telling them this is not how God viewed their behavior! Since Jesus and His Father were unified in purpose, distinct in roles, but equal in power, how they treated Jesus was the way they were treating God!
Following The Claim Jesus is going to explain The Implications… John 5:24-27, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.”
Jesus is pulling no punches to a religious crew out for blood. “I say to you, he who hears My word (what He’s saying) and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” Jesus is saying there were serious, eternal consequences to the decisions these men had to make. He’s telling them their momentary choice to accept or reject His claim to be God would have lasting implications.
Notice the interesting tenses Jesus uses in these verses. When He says “he who hears My word and believes” Jesus is referring to something that is active and continual. A better translation of this verse would be, “He who continually hears and continually believes!” You see Jesus is not referencing a one time act, but a life-time exercise.
And yet, this ongoing activity does yield an immediate result. Jesus continues by saying this person who continually hears and believes His claim “has” or presently possesses “everlasting life.” While you should be excited this means you “will not come into” a future “judgment,” the reason this is the case is that you possess this “everlasting life” today - right now! You “will not come into judgment” because you’ve already “passed from death into life!”
So… “How does this happen?” Jesus answers the unspoken question, “When the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God those who hear will live.” We must ask who is Jesus referencing when He says, “The dead?” Clearly, this can’t be those who are physically dead for it would then be impossible to “hear the voice” of anything, yet alone “the Son of God.”
You see when Jesus says “the dead” it seems He’s referring to a living person who’s dead spiritually. For another example look no further than Matthew 8:21, “One of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.’” Clearly the dead cannot burry the dead in a literal sense.
Also notice the interesting use of this phrase “the dead will hear the voice.” Understand, this word “will hear” is a verb which means “to attend to.” In other places in the New Testament the word can be translated as “hearken” or “to give audience.” The idea implies a decision of the will of the one who’s dead - further implying this person is physically alive.
Again, this takes on a deeper level in light of the miracle Jesus had just preformed at the Pool of Bethesda… How can the dead hear the voice of the Son of God? In much the same way a broken man can “be made well” by hearing an impossible command to “Rise!”
In response to a desire of your will to “hear the voice” of Jesus (“do you want to be made well?”) what immediately results? “The dead who hear (decide to give attention to His Word) will live.” The Word of God in response to the will of man causes the dead to rise to life.
The implications for you and I are simple… Do you want to remain dead or live? Sure this matters in eternity, but the question is relevant for the moment. Do you want to continue to roam this earth as a dead man walking or do you want to truly be made alive? You’re willingness to believe in Jesus’ claim to be God will directly impact this reality.
When Jesus attributes this title “Son of Man” to Himself, His point would not have been lost on these religious experts. Daniel 7:13-14, “I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom shall not be destroyed.”
John 5:28-30, “Do not marvel at this (stop marveling); for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth - those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.”
In these verses Jesus continues to unpack the implications of His claim to be God by now affirming two unescapable realities about your future: (One) Your physical death is not the end of your existence. At some point in the future everyone who’s ever lived will experience a resurrection and will therefore live forever. Jesus says, “The hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth.”
(Two) You will face one of two very different types of resurrection. Jesus says, “Those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.” Let me break down these two classifications of people:
Who will experience “the resurrection of life?” Jesus says, “Those who have done - good.” In the Greek this phrase “those who have done” is one verb “poieō” meaning “to bring forth.” This Greek adjective “good” is “agathos” meaning “of a good constitution or nature.” Jesus is saying those who’ve brought forth a good constitution will experience life.
Who will experience “the resurrection of condemnation?” Jesus says, “Those who have done - evil.” In the Greek this phrase “those who have done” is a different verb “prassō” meaning “to be busy with.” This Greek adjective “evil” or “phaulos” means “worthless, bad, or wicked.” Jesus is saying those who practice wickedness will experience condemnation.
Please notice Jesus is establishing a direct contrast between these two classifications of people who will experience a very different resurrection by using two different Greek verbs we’ve sadly translated into the same English phrase “those who have done.” This is a moment what’s being communicated ends up lost-in-translation. While condemnation is determined by what you’re doing, life stems from what you’ve been made into!
In the first, those who are “resurrected to life” are people who have brought forth a good constitution. While in the second, those who are “resurrected to condemnation” practice or are actively busy with worthless or wicked things. In the first, we have the description of a person made good. While in the second, Jesus is describing a person practicing evil.
In Matthew 7:17-20 Jesus uses the same words… “Even so, every good tree (“agathos”) bringeth forth (“poieō”) good fruit, but a bad tree bringeth forth bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”
While you can make the argument “life” is a reward for those found to be good and “condemnation” the result for those who practice evil, the key is how is one found good? Look back at what Jesus said in verse 24, “I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” While “everlasting life” experienced presently in the life of a person yields a true and tangible result (brings forth goodness), never forget this life and present goodness is the direct result of a person placing their faith in who Jesus is and the work God sent Him to accomplish.
In describing the effects of this life-giving work, in Ephesians 2 Paul writes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship (“poiēma”), created in Christ Jesus for good (“agathos”) works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
Friend, before we continue, I hope you know this life is not all there is! You will live forever and the nature of that eternal existence will be determined by a Judge named by Jesus. The implications of Jesus being God are really twofold: He can save your soul or damn it to hell.
As we turn to verse 31 a transition occurs in Jesus’ discourse. It’s almost as though, in response to these incredible claims He’s made concerning Himself and after explaining the obvious implications, Jesus picks up on the general sentiment of His audience thinking, “Who do you think you are?” This is why, with His remaining time, Jesus now presents a few “Witnesses” who’s testimony will serve to validate these claims.
John 5:31-35, “If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true. There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true. You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved. He was the burning and shining lamp, and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light.”
Knowing the simple reality that it’s unwise to take the word of only one witness as being true without any corroboration, Jesus calls to the stand John the Baptizer! Back in John 1:29-34 we read that “John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, 'After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me…’ And John bore witness, saying, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him… And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.’” Note: This all occurred publicly.
John 5:36, “But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish - the very works that I do - bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.”
Aside from John’s witness Jesus presents His “works” as substantiating evidence. This is not the last time Jesus will do this. In Luke 7:19-23 we read, “And John, called two of his disciples to him and sent them to Jesus, saying, ‘Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?’ When the men had come to Him… That very hour Jesus cured many of infirmities, afflictions, and evil spirits; and to many blind He gave sight. Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, lame walk, lepers are cleansed, deaf hear, dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.’” Always know the greatest evidence you have as to the power of Jesus is the very change your life has experienced.
John 5:37-44, “And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form. But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.
I do not receive honor from men. But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you. I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?”
As Jesus continues to build His case He calls to the stand “the Father Himself” claiming “the Scriptures testified” of His claims. Sadly, while these religious men had “searched the Scriptures” they’d missed the very manifestation of the Scriptures when “the Word became flesh.” And if that was bad enough, Jesus continues…
John 5:45-47, “Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you - Moses, in whom you trust. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”
As Jesus closing His argument He calls to the stand as His final witness “Moses!” Not only did all the Old Testament prophecies point to Jesus as being the Son of God, but Moses (the greatest hero in all of Judaism) prophesied specifically of a future “Prophet!”
While I think it would be fascinating to unpack all the various OT prophecies about Jesus as well as discuss the more particular points of Moses speaking of Christ in the Pentateuch, for the sake of time I want to address the rebuke Jesus levies at these men.
As you look back over the verses we just read you can’t help but notice Jesus launches several verbal hand-grenades! As it pertained to a God they claimed to honor, Jesus says, “You have neither heard His voice nor seen His form.” When it came to the Scriptures they were dedicated to obey, He says, “You do not have His word abiding in you.” In the strongest jab of all, Jesus says, “You do not have the love of God in you.” Not very seeker-friendly!
Aside from all of these things, the most important rebuke occurs when Jesus says, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” Please notice, it was not insufficient evidence driving their rejection of Jesus! Instead, they rejected Jesus because they were simply “not willing to come” to Him as their life-giver.
One of the larger, more complicated aspects of John 5 and specifically the scene at the Pool of Bethesda centers upon why Jesus didn’t heal everyone surrounding this pool and instead only singled out this one man? For starters, I think it’s stupid to get into the business of trying to explain why Jesus does what He does. (A) That’s not my job, and (B) It’s a maddening game with few answers. Why would Jesus love me enough to die for me?
And yet, while I don’t like attempting an explanation for all the unspoken reasons Jesus does the things He does, I will concede it is odd Jesus only heals this one man when we have many examples of Him ministering to entire towns of people who came out to be healed.
As I’ve chewed on this I believe the grand difference and likely explanation for the Bethesda controversy is that anytime a person came to Jesus for healing He healed them (even if it required He say up all night long because of the crowd). And yet, at Bethesda this was not the scene at all. The mob didn’t come to Jesus. Instead, the chapter opens with Jesus coming and seeking out this one man. It’s a much different situation.
To me the more pressing question is why didn’t the multitude come to Jesus when they saw the man supernaturally healed? Sure, verse 13, tells us “Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place,” but we don’t know how much time transpired between the miracle of the man’s healing and Jesus’ withdrawing… Not to mention the text provides no indication anyone at the pool was even attempting to seek Jesus in order to be healed.
I simply cannot imagine Jesus would have “withdrawn” Himself from a group of people who were seeking to be healed by Him. And I know this to be true because I’ve never seen Jesus withdraw Himself from anyone who genuinely desired His healing touch.
As I’ve already noted, John’s overarching purpose for the original story was to compare the ineffectiveness of religion with the effectiveness of Jesus… Bethesda with true Living Water.
It’s with this in mind that I’m convinced the entire story had very little to do with this healed man and was John’s way of establishing a much larger parallel. Consider that as Israel sat around a pool of empty religion powerless to redeem anyone from the effects of sin, Jesus came and demonstrated a willingness to heal anyone who desired healing.
The comparison John is making is actually between the multitude of sick who still chose to remain around the pool even after seeing Jesus work and these stubborn religious leaders who attacked Him for it. You see the only reason neither group had experienced the healing Jesus had come to offer centered on one simple reality… “They were not willing to come.”
Mark 1:40-42, “A leper came to Jesus, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying, ‘If You are willing, You can make me clean.’ Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ As soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed.” Please understand… The key to this life is not God’s willingness to heal, but your willingness to come.
As we close, if these truths concerning Jesus strike a cord in your heart you’re willing to accept and surrender yourself to, please in the depths of your soul pray… “Dear Jesus, I know I am a sinner and that I cannot save myself. I believe You are the Son of God who died on the cross to atone for my sins. I place my complete faith in that work as the only basis for my forgiveness, restoration, and righteousness before You. I confess that on the 3rd day You rose from the dead providing me a relationship with You today. Right now, Jesus I choose to repent of my sins and ask that by Your grace You fill me with Your Holy Spirit. Take my broken life and make it whole. Transform who I am from the inside out. Jesus, I confess You as both my God, my personal Lord, and my eternal Savior. Amen.”
No Additional Links.