Jerusalem

John 08:02-11, “Guilt – What to Do with It”

Christ and the Woman taken in adultery

Christ and the Woman taken in adultery (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

John 8:2-12

 Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” 6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”] (John 8:2-11 ESV).

Today we are going to consider the story of a woman who was made to feel her guilt in a very public way. A woman, who according to her accusers, was caught in the very act of adultery.

What are you most ashamed of? How do you handle guilt? What are we to do with guilt?

What is guilt?

Some say that guilt is a social construct to make people conform to public expectations and values. It functions with shame as society shames people for stepping out of line, for failing to conform to the norm and expected behavior.

We are told the society breeds guilt. That we inhale guilt in the air we breathe.

Ever since psychiatrist Sigmund Freud, much of secular society has tried to bury guilt. We repress guilt. We suppress it. We deny it. Dr. Albert Mohler says,

the modern secular worldview demands that guilt be understood as the lingering residue of the Christian conscience, an experience merely forced upon us by a society that imposes oppressive moral judgments. It is to be overcome and denied, never heard.[1]

Is that what guilt is? An experience, a feeling or sentiment that is imposed upon us from the outside? A feeling of failure of some kind that is forced upon us by society or those around us? Is guilt simply the shame that one feels because he or she has failed to live up to the expectations of others? Is it simply the expectations of others, of culture, of custom, or of society at large – those things that are outside of us – that produce a sense of guilt and shame?

Or is there something in us that recognizes that some things are right and some things are wrong? Is there rather something in us that recognizes that sometimes we do what is right and sometimes we do what is wrong? Is there something in us, some moral compass, some sense of morality that indicates how we should live in this world?

Much of the world argues today that there is no right or wrong, that everything is relative. What is right for me might be wrong for you, and what is right for you might be wrong for me.

In the final analysis, according to this way of thinking, I could never say that what you do is wrong and you could never say that what I do is wrong. No judge could ever pronounce the verdict “Guilty as charged” because there is no moral law, no right or wrong. Everything is culturally and even individually conditioned.

But that idea does not hold water. We may argue and justify our own behavior. We may, for example, rationalize and justify our adultery with another man’s wife in arguing that it is a private matter between two consenting adults and that it concerns no one else. But when the shoe is on the other foot, when another man commits adultery with our wife, we know that it is wrong. I may be able to rationalize stealing 10.000vt from you and pretend that nothing wrong has been done, but when you steal 10.000vt from me, I recognize that stealing is wrong.

In our heart of hearts, we know that there is right and there is wrong. It is built in us. It is part of the image of God in us. So when we do what we know we should not do, we feel guilt. When we fail to do what we know we should do, we feel guilt.

…the Christian worldview affirms that guilt is inescapably moral, and that our experience of guilt comes from the fact that we are made in God’s image as irreducibly moral creatures. We cannot not know of our guilt, which exists as God’s gift to drive us to the knowledge that we are sinners in need of a Savior.[2]

We need a Savior. The power of the cross. Christ became sin for us. He took the blame. He bore the wrath. We stand forgiven at the cross.

MUSIC: KRISTYN GETTY – The Power of the Cross

Guilt in the Garden

Guilt and shame were experienced by Adam and Eve, the first couple. God had created them and placed them in the Garden of Eden to tend it and to enjoy every kind of fruit that he had placed there. With one exception. They were not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It was a tree like any other. It was only of that one tree that they were not to eat. God was simply giving them the choice to love Him and keep His commandments or to disobey and to separate themselves from God.

It was a fruit tree and nothing more. God had already told them to be fruitful and to multiply. He had told them to procreate and have children. That was part of the blessing that God had given in creating us male and female. God gave them everything that they needed. And He had given them each other.

They had everything that they needed but there was one thing that they did not have, something that God could not give them, but something that God could only give them the opportunity to develop: godly character. That character would come from choosing to do what was good and right. God would not have robots serving Him. He wanted creatures, created in His image, who loved Him of their own free will and chose to obey Him.

Adam and Eve had known good, but not evil. Disobedient to God, they chose to know evil. With evil came shame and guilt. They knew that they had betrayed the love of their Creator. They knew that they had disobeyed Him. They knew that they had willfully and foolishly chosen their own way instead of God’s way. They tried to cover their shame. They tried to hide themselves, but they could not escape the voice of One coming into the garden:

“Adam, where are you?”

 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate” (Genesis 3:10-12 ESV).

Guilt. Shame. Blame. “It was not my fault. It was the woman that you gave me.”

Freudian psychology teaches us pretty much the same. It’s not your fault. It’s someone else’s fault. Blame your wife. Blame your parents. That’s the best way to deal with guilt and shame: blame others.

Except that it is not true. Healing and wholeness cannot come until we accept responsibility for our actions.

Guilt. How should we deal with it?

The Woman Caught in Adultery

This story in John 8 is the story of a woman who in the words of one translation “has been caught in adultery, in the very act” (John 8:4 NAU).

Shame and guilt are written all over this story.

 Early in the morning [Jesus] came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” (John 8:2-5 ESV).

Can you imagine the setting? Here Jesus is in the temple. There is a crowd of people listening to him as he teaches. Suddenly, there in the temple is a commotion as a group of men, scribes and Pharisees, come barging in, dragging a woman in front of the crowd. Everything stops as she is placed there before Jesus and the onlookers.

Just moments before, she had been in the arms of a man who was not her husband. The doors flung open. She was seized and dragged through the streets of Jerusalem. Suddenly, she was thrust in front of a young man.

“Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women to death. What then to you say?”

God’s verdict was clear:

 “If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel (Deuteronomy 22:22 ESV).

“Both of them shall die.” Both of them. But where was the man? Why had they not brought the man? Had he paid them off? Had it all been a trap? Had he simply been too fast for them? They scribes and Pharisees say nothing about the man.

The Trap

This was hypocrisy, pure and simple. The scribes and Pharisees were not concerned with justice; they were exploiting this woman. They were using her to try to trap Jesus:

“In the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” (v. 5).

“They were tying to trap him into saying something they could use against him…” (v. 6).

They hated Jesus. They were jealous of the influence that he had over the crowds. They were angry that he did not conform to the type of Messiah that they wanted. In John 5 the Jewish authorities wanted to stone because he had made himself equal with God. In chapter 7 we read that they were already plotting to kill him. Here in John 8 they are setting a trap for him: “Moses said that this kind of woman should be stoned. So what do you say?”

What could Jesus say? Well, he could tell them not to stone her, but then he would be found in contradiction with the Law of Moses and would be disqualified as the Messiah. Jesus himself had said in Matthew 5:17,

 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17 ESV).

Jesus had come to fulfill the Law. In fact, the Law and the Prophets, the entire Old Testament pointed to Christ as the fulfillment of the Scriptures.

Had Jesus told the scribes and Pharisees not to stone the adulteress woman, he would be abolishing the Law that he came to fulfill.

His other option would be to agree with them that the woman should be stoned. But the Jews were under Roman domination. The Jews did not have the legal right to put anyone to death. If Jesus agreed with the scribes and Pharisees, they would stone the woman and blame Jesus before the Romans: “The rabbi told us to stone her.” And they take care of their “Jesus problem.”

But the real problem was how justice and mercy could come together. Jesus came not to condemn, but to save:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him (John 3:17 ESV).

Jesus’ Answer

It was a trap, and Jesus knew it. John has already told us that Jesus “knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man” (John 2:24-25 ESV). These self-righteous Pharisees were exploiting this woman in order to trap Jesus. What would he answer? At first, he said nothing.

“Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground” (v. 6b).

This poor woman! Who knows what she looked like? She had been dragged out and placed in the midst of these men whose eyes were full of condemnation and hatred toward her and toward Jesus.

But Jesus is full of compassion for the woman.

He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle…(Matthew 12:20 NLT).

Jesus’ harshest words are not for sinners but for the self-righteous, for those religious people who think they are better than everyone else. Jesus is called the “friend of sinners” (Matthew 11:19). At another point, the Pharisees asked his disciples,

“Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:11-13 ESV).

A man here in Port Vila once told me that he was too wicked to be saved. ***Jesus came to save the most wicked among us. That is the Good News of the gospel. Our God Is Mighty to Save.

MUSIC: LAURA STORY – MIGHT TO SAVE 

Jesus bends down and begins writing with his finger on the ground. He takes the attention off the woman. In mercy, he bends down and draws the attention of the men away from this woman that they want stoned. He begins writing on the ground.

What does he write?

Does he write the names of the men and sins they have committed?

Well, we don’t know what he wrote, but it is interesting that this is a question about the Law. In the Old Testament, the Law was written on tablets of stone with “the finger of God” (Exodus 31:18). Now Jesus bends down and writes in the dust with his finger. The woman’s accusers were claiming Moses’ authority. Jesus was claiming a greater authority than that of Moses. He was writing with the finger of God. Jesus himself would do what the Law could not do.

The scribes and Pharisees kept demanding an answer. Jesus stood up straight. He looked them in the eyes and with a clear voice said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” (John 8:7 NLT).

“Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust” (John 8:8 NLT).

These men who enjoyed humiliating a woman and attempted to trap Jesus were now being accused by their own hearts.

“Let the one without sin cast the first stone.”

They once directed Jesus to answer their questions and now he is the one giving orders.[3]

 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him (John 8:9 ESV).

One by one, they drop their stones. One by one, they walk away. The older ones first, perhaps because they had lived long enough to be more aware of their own failures. Perhaps their conscience had been pricked. Perhaps they were simply embarrassed that they had fallen into their own trap.

Alone with Jesus

Jesus writes in the dust again as the accusers slither off, one by one. The woman is now alone with Jesus: “Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him” (John 8:9 ESV).

Again Jesus stands up, this time looking at the woman:

“Woman, where are they?”

They had come to accuse. They had come to entrap. But now they were gone. Those accusing men who had dragged her through the streets and put her on public display in the temple, demanding that Jesus pass sentence on her… they were gone.

“Has no one condemned you?” (John 8:10 ESV),

“No one, Lord.”

“Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on, sin no more” (John 8:11 ESV).

Guilt

Did you hear what Jesus said? “Go and from now on, sin no more.” The woman was guilty as charged. She had sinned. She was covered with guilt and shame. But Jesus does not condemn her, neither does he allow her to continue a life of sin: “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on, sin no more.”

“Let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” Jesus had said. There was only one there without sin: Jesus himself. The Scriptures are clear about this. Three times in John’s Gospel, Pilate declares, “I find no guilt in him” (Jn. 18:38; 19:4, 6).

2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

1 John 3:5 ESV You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.

1 Peter 2:22 ESV He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.

Hebrews 4:15 ESV For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

“Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” Jesus could have, but he did not.

God through Moses had commanded her death. Now God the Son simply says, “Neither do I condemn you.” If God violates his own commandment and lets the guilty go unpunished, then God is unjust. How could God possibly let her off?[4]

This sin of adultery would be punished to the full extent of the law, but the adulteress would not bear the punishment. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29) would take her place. Jesus, the spotless Lamb, the sinless Son, the one who had no sin of his own, would take upon himself the sins of the whole world. He would bear our sins in his own body on the cross. He would bear this woman’s guilt and shame and punishment.

What had he written on the ground? Perhaps he had written the prophecy that Isaiah had written about him

 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:4-5 ESV).

No Condemnation

Neither do I condemn you, Jesus says. “No condemnation.”

MUSIC: HOSANNA MUSIC: NO CONDEMNATION 

Paul says it this way in Romans 8:

 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1 ESV).

For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:3-4 ESV).

No condemnation. That does not mean that Jesus condones the sin, that he accepts it. He clearly tells the woman, “Go and sin no more.”

The Good News that we preach is that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. The Good News that we preach is that the One who had no guilt came to bear our guilt.

 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIVO).

What Do You Do with Your Guilt?

The world says that you need not feel guilty. Deny it. Repress it.

The Christian worldview is that guilt is a gift from God to lead us to the Savior. Guilt is a recognition that there is right and there is wrong. There is good and there is evil. My conscience tells me that I have sinned against the knowledge that I have had. I have done things that I knew not to do. I have taken from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. I have been found out. I have been discovered. “When the Holy Spirit is come,” Jesus said, “he will convict the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8-10).

When the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, what are we to do? When our conscience condemns us, how do we get rid of our guilt?

We come to Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. We give our guilt to Jesus.

If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. 9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.

My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. 2 He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins– and not only our sins but the sins of all the world (1 John 1:8-2 NLT).

Jesus is the one who bears our sin and shame. He is the one who bears our guilt.

“There is now therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

Notice that Jesus did not first tell the woman, “Go and sin no more, and I will not condemn you.” He did not tell her that she would be forgiven if she did not sin anymore. He said first, “Neither do I condemn you.” Then he said, “Go, and from now on, sin no more.”

Does the burden of guilt weigh you down? You were not meant to carry your guilt. Come to Jesus. Cast all you care on him, for he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).

Lay your burden down “At the Foot of the Cross.”

MUSIC: KATHRYN SCOTT – AT THE FOOT OF THE CROSS 

We were not made to carry guilt. Bring your guilt, your shame, and your sin to Jesus.

[1]http://www.albertmohler.com/2014/05/08/i-feel-super-great-about-having-an-abortion-the-culture-of-death-goes-viral/

[2]http://www.albertmohler.com/2014/05/08/i-feel-super-great-about-having-an-abortion-the-culture-of-death-goes-viral/

[3]Steve Zeisler, http://www.pbc.org/system/message_files/334/110807%20WEB%20Format.pdf?1320796528

[4]Jon Bloom, http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/neither-do-i-condemn-you

See also “Gospel of John”:

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John 05:19-29, “Jesus, What right do you have?”

Introduction

In the first part of John 5, we see Jesus answering the question, “Just who do you think you are?” As the chapter begins, we find a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed—lying around the Pool of Bethesda, hoping that the spring water or artesian well will bring them back to health.

But one man seems to have lost all hope. He has been an invalid for thirty-eight years. And he had no hope, until Jesus passed his way. “Do you want to be healed?” Jesus asked him. The man can only complain that he has no one to help him into the water. “Get up, take up your bed, and walk,” Jesus commands him. And he does it. Just like that!

Strength comes into his legs. He stands, picks up his mat, and begins to walk, carrying his mat. One problem, though. That day was the Sabbath. The Jews had added all kinds of rules to the Law of God. According to these rabbis, you were not allowed to carry things on the Sabbath. Never mind that you were healed and for the first time in 38 years were able to walk. What? You were healed? On the Sabbath? Who did that?

The man did not know. Jesus had withdrawn from the crowd, but later he found that man and warned him not to sin any more, because the consequences of sin are far worse than 38 years of lying on a mat.

Now this man was not the most agreeable creature on the planet. Rather than moving on in his new life, having seen Jesus, he goes back to the Jewish authorities and rats on him. Not that Jesus avoided conflict at all costs. I have the feeling that Jesus chose to heal this particular man and that particular day—the Sabbath—because he had something he wanted to say to the Jewish authorities.

John, the writer of this Gospel, tells us in John 5:16, “And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath.”

Jesus’ response was short but full of impact and meaning: “My Father is always working, and so am I” (Joh 5:17 NLT).

We could have missed the importance of that response had it not been for John. John tells us exactly what Jesus mean by that and how and why it angered the Jewish authorities. John explains, “So the Jewish leaders tried all the harder to find a way to kill him. For he not only broke the Sabbath (NLT), he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God” (Joh 5:18 ESV).

So in response to the question, “Just who do you think you are, healing people on the Sabbath?” Jesus responds, “I am God. My Father continues to work, and so do I.”

John’s Purpose

We must always remember that John is writing with purpose. He is out to accomplish something with this Gospel. He has not simply collected stories about Jesus and his miracles in order to write a bestseller. John’s purpose is much more profound, and we do not have to guess at his purpose for he very clearly tells us near the end of his Gospel:

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20:30-31 ESV).

In this statement of purpose, we note that John does not even use the word miracle; he uses the word “signs” because the works of Jesus are signs pointing to who he is. If you have not guessed it by now, this book is all about Jesus. That does not mean that this book tells us everything there is to know about Jesus. John tells us at the very end of his book, that if everything that Jesus did were written, the world could not contain all the books. But when I say that this book is all about Jesus, I mean that Jesus is the one subject that John is writing about.

John tells us that Jesus did many other signs that are not written in the book. That means that this is a selective Gospel. John included certain signs and left out others. He did so because of his purpose.

He also tells us that Jesus did the signs in the presence of the disciples. That means that this is not only a selective Gospel, it is also an attested Gospel. Jesus did not simply convince people with flowery speech and persuasive words that he could perform miracles. He did the signs in the presence of his disciples. Changing the water into wine, healing the nobleman’s son, healing the lame man, feeding more than five thousand men with five loaves and two fish, healing the blind man, and raising Lazarus from the dead, all these signs were performed in the presence of many eyewitnesses. This is an attested Gospel.

It is also an evangelistic gospel. John writes these things so that you might believe. He writes to convince us of something. He is addressing our minds as well as our hearts. He wants us to think clearly and to understand the meaning of the signs that Jesus performed. And he wants us to believe.

But what is it that he wants us to believe? A lot of people talk about the importance of belief, but do not think that it matters much what you believe, as long as you believe. John is clear about this. He writes these signs so that we may believe something specific: he wants to convince us that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

This is vitally important, for John tells us that this is the way to eternal life.

So John is writing about Jesus with an eye on us, his readers. He wants to lead us to a living faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

John’s Explanations and Comments

John frequently explains things to us his readers to make sure that we get the point. Theologians have found well over one hundred such comments in the Gospel of John. He interprets Hebrew or Aramaic terms, telling us that Rabbi means teacher, that Messiah means Christ, or that Cephas means Peter.

When Jesus challenges the Jewish authorities to destroy the temple and in three days he will raise it up, John tells us that Jesus was not speaking about the building in Jerusalem, but about his own body.

When the Samaritan woman asks Jesus how it is that he, a Jew, asks for a drink from her, a woman of Samaria, John explains that the Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.

Now in chapter five, John explains why the Jewish authorities were persecuting Jesus: he was doing these works on the Sabbath when they thought that no one should work.

But it was Jesus’ response that threw more fuel on the fire. Did the Jewish authorities have a problem with him healing a lame man on the Sabbath? Jesus responds, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working” (Joh 5:17 NIVO).

John had told us in verse 16 that the Jewish authorities were persecuting Jesus because he was doing these things on the Sabbath, but now they are ready to kill him! In verse 18, John writes these words, “For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him…” Why? “…He was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.”

This is not simply what the Jewish authorities thought. This is not some misunderstanding. John is once again showing us what we are to understand and believe about Jesus: he is equal with God.

More than Matthew, Mark, and Luke, which are called the Synoptic Gospels, because they share more or less the same perspective on Jesus — more than them, John tells us why the Jewish authorities wanted to kill Jesus: they wanted to kill him because he claimed to be equal with God.

The Jews were expecting a Messiah, but they thought that he would be merely human. They failed to understand what John says at the beginning of his Gospel, that the Word was God, and that the Word became flesh, that is to say that God became man.

Now that is quite the opposite of the false notion that men can become gods. That is not taught anywhere in the Bible. God became man, and forever, Jesus Christ the man, will be both God and man. We read 1 Timothy 2:5 that “There is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”

This man Christ Jesus is God in the flesh. And the Jewish authorities were not only persecuting him for doing works on the Sabbath, but they were now planning to kill him because “he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” When John writes that we must believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God in order to have eternal life, he means that we must believe that Jesus is equal with God. Every time Jesus uses the phrase “My Father,” he is claiming equality with God. Every time he calls himself the Son, he claims to be equal with God.

So in answer to the question, “Jesus, who do you think you are to be healing people on the Sabbath?” Jesus answers, “I am equal with God. My Father is always working, and so am I.”

What Right Do you Have?

The next question is, “Jesus, what right do you have?”

In verses 19-29, Jesus tells us his rights. And what he claims here is astonishingly more than just the right to heal someone on the Sabbath.

 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. 22 The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. 25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment (John 5:19-29 ESV).

The Son has the right to do whatever the Father does (5:19-20).

That’s what Jesus says in 5:17, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” As the Son of the Father, Jesus does only what he sees his Father doing, but he does everything his Father does, because his Father shows him everything that he is doing.

Here we come face to face with the mystery of the Trinity. We see both equality between the Father and Son, for John just explained, that in calling God his own Father, Jesus was making himself equal with God.

Yet, there is distinction in the persons of the Deity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus precedes his explanation with the formula, “Truly, truly.” In the original Greek, it is simply, “Amen, amen.” This underlines the importance of what he says: “the Son can do nothing by himself.” Constantly the Scriptures make a distinction between the persons of the Godhead. Everywhere we look there are interactions and transactions between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Father sent the Son. The Son returns to the Father. The Son prays to the Father. The Father speaks to the Son. The Son asks the Father to send another Helper, the Holy Spirit. The Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit. Jesus ascends to the Father and receives the gift of the promised Holy Spirit and pours out the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus. We are to make disciples of all peoples everywhere in the name (singular) of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19-20). The apostolic blessing at the end of 2 Corinthians is “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.”

This equality between the three persons of the one true God is called the ontological Trinity. Ontology has to do with being. It has to do with what God is in and of Himself. In and of themselves, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are equal and they are each fully God. The Father is fully God. The Son is fully God. The Holy Spirit is fully God. Yet, the Bible everywhere insists that there is only one God. There are no other gods. When the Word became flesh, God became man, but no man will ever become a god.

In calling God his own Father, Jesus was making himself equal with God. That is part of the ontological Trinity.

But there is also the “economic or functional Trinity.” It has to do with function and divine order and how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit work together as one. In saying that, I do not wish to imply that it could be any other way. They are one in essence and one in knowledge, power, and will. While the Son of God is equal with God, as Son of the Father, he is completely obedient to the Father. So Jesus explains that “he can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing.” He never acts independently. The Apostle Paul explains it this way, “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to” (Philippians 2:6). He became obedient unto death, even the death on the cross.

So the Son is equal to the Father, but obedient to the Father. “Whatever the Father does, the Son also does” (John 5:19 NLT). How is it that the Son does everything that the Father does? In verse 20, Jesus explains “For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel” (Joh 5:20 NAU).

This is what a Father-Son relationship should look like. The Father loves the Son and shows him everything that he is doing so that the Son may do it as well.

Jesus, what right do you have? I have the right to do whatever my Father is doing because He loves me and shows me everything that He is doing

The Son has the right to give life to whom he will.

What right do you have, Jesus? Jesus replies, “The Son have the right to give life to whom I will.”

Jesus had healed the lame man at the Pool of Bethesda and in a sense, had raised him up. But he claims that he will do even greater things. Things like what? Things like raising the dead. “Just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes.”

In chapter 11, Jesus will do exactly that. Lazarus has been dead and in the tomb for four days, but Jesus has come to manifest the glory of God. Standing before the tomb, he cries out, “Lazarus, come out!” The next words in 11:44 are riveting: “The man who had died came out, his hands and feet found with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’” Jesus gave life to Lazarus.

Namaan

Who has the right to give life? God. The Jewish authorities understood this. In the Old Testament, Namaan the Syrian was an officer in the Syrian army, but he had leprosy. He also had a house girl from Israel. She told him about Elisha, a prophet of God, who could heal his leprosy. So the king of Syria wrote a letter to the king of Israel, but the letter was not very clear. It read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy” (2 Kings 5:6). The King of Israel thought that the king of Syria was seeking a quarrel with him. So “when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy?…” (2 Kings 5:7 ESV).

Note the words, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive…?” The Jewish authorities knew that it was God’s right to give life. Jesus was claiming that divine right.

Lazarus

The Son gives life to whom he will. But the life that he is talking about is much more than physical life. After Lazarus was raised from the dead, the Jewish authorities began plotting how they would kill him! Lazarus died and was raised, but he would die again! Jesus came to give us so much more than physical life; he came to raise us to eternal life.

Eternal life? What is that? It is more than just living and never dying. It is a personal knowledge of the One who is the source of life. Jesus defines it in John 17:3,

“And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3 ESV).

This is what Jesus is talking about in verse 25:

 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live (John 5:25 ESV).

He says that the hour is now here. Have you heard his voice calling you to life? Or are you still dead? The Bible says that we were dead in our trespasses and sins, but God made us alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2:1, 5). Has that happened to you yet? Have you heard his voice?

Have you received eternal life from Christ? This is personal knowledge of God and fellowship with Him. It is a love relationship that cannot be interrupted by even death itself. “I am sure,” says the Apostle Paul, “that neither life nor death… will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

If you have received the life that Christ came to give, death itself will not be able to interrupt your communion and fellowship with God. You pass from this life into the literal presence of God.

Jesus has the right to give life to whom he will.

Jesus, what right do you have?

The Son has the right to judge all men (5:22).

This is a remarkable statement: “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son” (5:22). We often thing of God as the Judge, and He is. Abraham calls him “the Judge of all the earth” (Genesis 18:25). But it turns out that the judge of all the earth is the Son. The Father has given all judgment to the Son.

Verse 27 explains, “And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man” (John 5:27 ESV).

“Because he is the Son of Man!” What does this mean? It means that he is the Word become flesh. He is the God-man. He became man that he might taste death for us (Hebrew 2:9). He was made like us in every respect, and was tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sin (Hebrew 4:15). Having become man, he knows man and is in the perfect position to judge man. Therefore, the Father has given him authority to judge everyone because he is the Son of Man.

When will this happen? Soon enough! The hour is coming!

 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment (John 5:28-29 ESV).

Notice how Jesus contrasts the call to life now with future judgment. In verse 25 he says that “an hour is coming and is now here.” But in verse 28, he simply says that “an hour is coming.” It is not now here; it is still future

Again in verse 25 he says that it is now that the dead will hear his voice and live. He is talking about his right to give spiritual life to whom he will. But in verse 28, he uses a different phrase to speak of the dead: “all who are in the tombs.” He is speaking of those who are literally, physically dead. An hour is coming, he says, when they will hear his voice and come out. This is the literal future resurrection of all the dead. “All who are in their tombs,” he says, “will hear his voice and come out.” But they will not all receive the same judgment. There are two types of resurrection: the resurrection of life and the resurrection of judgment. “All who are in the tombs will ear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.”

Have you heard his voice? If you hear his voice now, your resurrection will be a resurrection of life, but if you do not hear his voice now, you will hear it later, and your resurrection will be one of judgment.

The Son has the right to judge all men because he is the Son of Man.

Jesus, what right do you have?

The Son is to be honored as the Father is honored (5:23).

The Father “has given all judgment to the Son that all may honor the Son…” We honor judges. If you are in a court of law in the United States of America, you will address the judge as “Your Honor.” If you live in a Commonwealth nation or a nation formerly belonging to the Commonwealth, you may address the judge as “Your Worship.”

You honor the judge because you know that he can decide your fate. The Father has given all judgment to the Son not only because he is the Son of Man, but also so that all will honor his Son just as they honor the Father.

Jesus says that we must honor the Son just as we honor the Father. That means that the Son is to receive the same honor as the Father. Since the Son is equal with God, we must worship the Son just as we worship the Father.

  • When the Father brought his firstborn into the world, he said, “Let all God’s angels worship him” (Hebrews 1:6).
  • The wise men fell down and worshiped him (Matthew 2:11).
  • When Jesus came walking on the water, “those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God” (Matthew 14:33).
  • The blind man who was healed in John 9 said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him (John 9:38).
  • Seeing the resurrected Christ, his disciples worshiped him (Matthew 28:17).

“[R]eligions such as Judaism and Islam that consider Jesus merely a great prophet do not represent the truth about God, because they fail to worship and honor Jesus” (ESVSB on John 5:23).

Jesus goes on to say, “Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.”

Some are confused about the identity of Christ. They believe that he claimed identity with God as one person. He did not. He made a distinction between himself and his Father. In this passage, Jesus said that the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. We see elsewhere that he distinguished his knowledge from the Father’s knowledge when he said “concerning” the day and hour of his return, “no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matthew 24:36 ESV).

Christ distinguished his will from the Father’s will when he prayed, “Not my will, but yours be done.”

He even distinguished his presence from his Father’s presence when he prayed, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” Jesus is equal with God, but he is not the same person.

Others put all the emphasis on the Father. They say that Jehovah God is the Almighty God, but that we must not honor the Son as we do the Father. They say that we must not worship the Son as we do the Father. But Jesus says that unless we honor the Son as we do the Father, we have dishonored the Father who sent the Son. Jesus is not inferior to God. He is equal with God.

Have you heard his voice, calling you from death to life? Are you ready to meet the judge, the Lord Jesus Christ? Do you worship and honor Jesus? Do you, as Thomas later did, worship Jesus as your Lord and your God?

Since Jesus is equal with God, he has all the rights of God.

  1. The Son has the right to do whatever the Father does.
  2. The Son has the right the give life to whom he will.
  3. The Son has the right to judge all men.
  4. The Son has the right to be honored as the Father is honored.

See also “Gospel of John”:

John 05:01-18, “Jesus: Who Does He Think He Is?”

English: Icon of Jesus Christ

English: Icon of Jesus Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scripture: John 5:1-18

What do you think of Christ? That is the most important question that you and I could ever answer. What we think of Christ, and what we do with him determines the meaning of life now and in eternity.

On one occasion, Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do men say that I am? (Mark 8:27).

Another time, he asked the Pharisees, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” (Matthew 22:42).

In John 5, we find the story of a lame man with some lame responses, and some religious leaders who get upset because the lame man is no longer lame, but carrying his mat on the Sabbath. But the real story is about Jesus, what he said, and who he claimed to be. It’s about who he thinks he is. In fact, it is in this story that we find out why the religious authorities wanted to kill Jesus.

Background

Every writer writes with intention or purpose, but not every writer is as clear as John is about his purpose. John shows from the opening of his Gospel to the closing of it that he is writing with intention. He has a clear goal in mind. He is wanting to accomplish something important. He is writing to convince you and me, his readers, of something that will change our life and our eternity.

John writes about seven miracles — signs, he calls them — things that Jesus did. John calls them “signs” because they signify something about who Jesus is. He includes some signs and leaves out others. In fact, he tells us that Jesus did so many miracles — signs — that it would be impossible to write them all down. So he chose certain signs to show us who Jesus is.

This is how he says it near the end of his Gospel:

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31 ESV).

So John tells us what Jesus did, so that we would believe that he is the Christ, the Son of God. In fact, John tells us from the opening words of his Gospel what we are to think about Jesus. He writes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” A few verses later, he writes in 1:14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” And if that is not clear enough, in verse 18, John calls Jesus “the only God.” Here are his words: “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”

John includes the story about the healing of the lame man in chapter 5, to show us who Jesus is.

Summary of chapters 1-4

We saw in chapter one that Jesus was called the Lamb of God, the Messiah, the Son of God, the King of Israel, and the Son of Man.

In chapter 2, at the wedding in Cana, Jesus changed the water into wine. His disciples saw his glory and believed in him.  In chapter 3, Jesus tells Nicodemus that unless one is born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. In chapter 4, the Samaritan woman at first thinks that Jesus is simply a rather strange Jewish man, but then sees that he is a prophet, then understands that he is the Christ, and finally discovers with the other Samaritans that Jesus is the Savior of the world. Now in chapter 5, John makes it clear exactly who Jesus is, and why the Jewish religious authorities want to kill him.

Scene 1: Healing at the Pool of Bethesda

After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 ¶ Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. 3 In these lay a multitude of invalids– blind, lame, and paralyzed. 4  5 One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” 7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” 9 ¶ And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath (John 5:1-9 ESV).

Setting

This story takes place in Jerusalem. Jesus has gone up to Jerusalem because of a major Jewish feast. He goes to the pool of Bethesda (“house of mercy”) where there was a multitude of sick people: blind, lame, or paralyzed.

One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?” 7 “I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me” (John 5:5-7 NLT).

John tells us that there was a multitude of sick people gathered at this pool. Apparently there was some kind of spring or artesian well and occasionally the waters would be stirred up. The people thought that there was some curative power in the water when it was stirred just as today, some people think that natural hot springs can improve one’s health.

Jesus sees that this man has been ill for a very long time. Thirty-eight years, to be exact. He has been lame so long, that he probably cannot imagine life any other way. Jesus asks him, “Do you want to be healed?”

Not everyone wants to be healed. Being healed would be a major change in this man’s life. John does not say so, but it is likely that this man was a beggar. If he is healed, he might have to begin to work to earn a living. He might be comfortable just complaining about his existence. When Jesus asks him if he would like to get well, he does not say that he would. He only complains that he is unable to get to the pool. He has no one to help him, and others always get there ahead of him. Perhaps he hopes that Jesus will help him get into the water.

A Helpless Situation

Let’s face it. Thirty-eight years is a long time to be paralyzed. I can’t imagine what that would do to a ma, or how helpless it would make him feel. But the truth is, he was helpless. There is nothing that he could do to heal himself.

ILLUSTRATION

Christopher Reeve was the famous actor who played Superman in the popular film series. In 1995, Reeve was thrown from his horse “and sustained a cervical spinal injury that paralyzed him from the neck down.” But he “believed that the nervous system could be regenerated.”[1] He had all the money that he needed and the best of medical care, but tragically, he died nine years later in 2004 at the age of 52.

Christopher Reeve, perhaps better known to some as Superman, was absolutely helpless. The man in John 5 had been paralyzed for 38 and was also absolutely helpless to change his situation.

That unnamed man is you and me. We don’t like to hear this, because like Christopher Reeve, we believe that we have the power to regenerate ourselves. But the Bible says that you are I are worse than paralyzed; we are dead in our trespasses and sins. We are totally incapable of regenerating ourselves. We need someone else to come and help us. The best that was can say is, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool. I have no one to help me get out of this miserable state of affairs. I am unable to change.”

Sometimes it is easier to complain about our lot than to change. But Jesus tells this man, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” Instantly, the man was healed! His muscles became strong. He stood up. He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking!

After 38 years! This was a great miracle.

Thirty-eight years is a long time. And maybe it takes a long time for us to realize just how helpless we are. But after 38 years, Jesus came into this man’s life and everything was changed. He had had no hope, but that is because he did not have Jesus. How long have you been paralyzed by sin and destructive lifestyles? Do you want to be healed? Well, I have good news for you! Jesus is the Master of hopeless situations. Thirty-eight years or a lifetime is nothing to him. He is the Master of time.

Scene 2: The Authorities Confront the Man

So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” 11 But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.'” 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place (Joh 5:10-13 ESV).

Sabbath Controversy

It is only now that John tells us that Jesus healed this man on the Sabbath. This means trouble, at least for the man who was healed. The Jewish leaders see this man carrying his mat and tell him, “You can’t work on the Sabbath! The law doesn’t allow you to carry that sleeping mat!”

Really?

Actually, the law does not say anything at all about carrying your mat on the Sabbath. The Law of Moses forbade anyone from working on the Sabbath. But was this work? What is work? The rabbis had decided that they needed to define work. So they had constructed an elaborate system of thirty-nine things that you could not do on the Sabbath. They called it a “fence around the Law.” The fence was to keep people from getting to the Law. And, of course, if they couldn’t get to the Law because of the fence that they had put up around the Law, the wouldn’t be able to break the Law.

So, a man could not anoint his eyes, for example. That was considered work. We’ll see that again in John 9. You couldn’t knead dough to make bread because that was work. “A mother could pick up a child on the Sabbath but if the child was holding a stone, she had violated the Sabbath law. A woman was prohibited from looking in a mirror on the Sabbath—she might see a gray hair and pull it out, violating the Sabbath.”[2] A man carrying a sleeping mat on the Sabbath violated their Sabbath law. And healing a man on the Sabbath was a violation of their Sabbath law.

These violations were not found anywhere in the Hebrew Scriptures. These were regulations that the rabbis had added to the Law. And they reacted very negatively when they saw this man — a man who had been lying paralyzed for thirty-eight years — walking and carrying his bed. Instead of responding to the miracle of his healing with joy and praise to God, they said, “Why are you carrying your bed?”[3] “The Jews were so caught up in the rules they had added to the Law of God that they were more concerned with this man’s disobedience to their rabbinic tradition than with rejoicing and glorifying God for the man’s astonishing deliverance from suffering.”[4]

An Unwilling Witness

The healed lame man was a rather pathetic person. He should have been excited to be able to walk and run and jump after 38 years. Remember the Samaritan woman? She could hardly wait to run into town and tell everyone that she had just met the Messiah. But this man, although he is now healed, is still blaming everyone else for his problems.

But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.'” (John 5:11 ESV).

R. C. Sproul says that this man is an unwilling witness:

In essence, the man was saying: “It wasn’t my idea. Somebody came along and told me to pick up my bed and walk for the first time in thirty-eight years, so what was I supposed to do? I only did what He told me to do. If you have a problem with that, go talk to Him.”[5]

The Mystery Man

At this point in the story, Jesus seems to be the “mystery man.” We must not forget that John is writing this story for us, his readers. He is writing with intention. And while he is telling us what happened, he has chosen this event so that we would believe something crucial about Jesus.

So in these verses 11, 12, and 13, John raises the question as to the identity of Jesus. The question is, “Who is this man?” The Jewish authorities have told the man that it is not lawful for him to carry his mat.

But he answered them, “The man who healed me,

that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.'” 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. (John 5:11-13 ESV).

This is what John is driving at. He wants us to begin thinking about who Jesus is, and we will soon find the answer to that question in the mouth of Jesus himself.

Scene 3: Jesus Finds the Man

Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you” (Joh 5:14 ESV).

The lame man does not know who Jesus is. He doesn’t know his name. Apparently he had not yet heard much about him, and everyone is wondering at this point who it would be that had healed the lame man on the Sabbath and had told him to take up his mat and walk.

Although the lame man does not know Jesus, Jesus knows him and finds him in the temple. Perhaps this man had gone to the temple to offering thanksgiving to God. If that is so, it is one of the few redeeming factors in this man’s life.

How often are we blessed and fail to recognize the source of our blessing?

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change (James 1:17 ESV).

The sunshine and rain, the air we breath and the food we eat, all are gifts from God.

Jesus found this man, just like he found Philip in chapter one. He found the Samaritan woman in chapter four. He will find the blind man in chapter nine. But here he finds the lame man who can’t even tell people who healed him.

“See, you are well!” Jesus says. Jesus reminds him that he had had no hope of getting into the pool, but it was not the pool that healed him, but the powerful word of Jesus: “Get up, take up your mat, and walk!”

Now Jesus has a word of warning for him: “Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you” (John 5:14).

There are two things that we cannot say regarding sin and sickness. First, we cannot say that all sickness is the result of the sick person’s sin. The Book of Job is about a man that the Bible described as “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1 ESV). Furthermore, it says that he did not sin with his mouth. Yet, he lost everything and was afflicted with sore from head to toe. His comforters falsely accused him of sin.

In John 9, we will find a man who was born blind, and when his disciples asked who sinned to cause this great tragedy, Jesus told them that neither he nor his parents had sinned. But God would use the tragedy to manifest his glory.

But that does not mean that sickness is never the result of sin. In 1 Corinthians 11:29-30, Paul tells the church at Corinth that many of them have been sick and some have even died because of the way the treated other members of the Body of Christ.

In speaking with this man in John 5, Jesus clearly indicates that sin can bring upon us something far worse than being paralyzed for 38 years. “Sin no more,” Jesus says, “that nothing worse may happen to you.” The New Living Translation puts it like this:

“Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you” (John 5:14 NLT).

What could be worse than being paralyzed for 38 years? Eternal damnation in hell.

Scene 4: The Authorities Confront Jesus

The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. 16 And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” 18 This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God (Joh 5:15-18 ESV)

Now the question of who Jesus is comes into clear focus. The man had blamed Jesus for his violation of the rabbinic tradition: “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’”

“Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk?’”

But the man did not know who it was.

Now he knows for Jesus has found him. You would think that out of gratitude to Jesus, he would say nothing to the Jewish authorities. But no, this little man finds the authorities and tells them that it was Jesus who had healed him and told him to take up his bed and walk.

We now have an important explanation from John the writer. We must always remember that John has us readers in mind. He wants to make sure that we are following him in his presentation of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God. So he explains what is going on. In verse 16, John tells us,

And this was why the Jews were persecution Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath.

“Because he was doing these things on the Sabbath.” Not only was the healed lame man in trouble with the Jewish authorities for carrying his mat on the Sabbath, Jesus is now being persecuted for healing the man on the Sabbath.

What right does Jesus have to heal people on the Sabbath? That was the question. Jesus’ answer is short but packed with meaning:

“My Father is working until now, and I am working” (5:17).

Jesus did not say that he did not work on the Sabbath. In fact, he will call his miracles “works” in verse 20. He said that his Father was working and so was he.

Even the rabbis agreed that God held the universe together on the Sabbath. Jesus says that he is only doing what his Father is doing. He is claiming the right to do what God is doing. This is an astounding claim, but it is even more astounding when we consider his language.

Jesus does not simply say that God is working, so he is working. He does not simply state that since God works the Sabbath, Jesus also has the right to work on the Sabbath. He refers to God as his own Father.

This is the first of 21 times that Jesus refers to God, not as “our Father” but as “my Father.”

John tells us immediately what his means:

This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God (John 5:18 ESV).

“He was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.”

This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God (John 5:18 ESV).

This is John’s commentary on what is happening. He is telling us what Jesus mean and what the Jewish authorities understood. Jesus was making himself equal with God.

All along through this Gospel, John guides us as to what we are to understand about Jesus. For example, in chapter 2, when Jesus challenged the Jewish authorities to destroy “this temple,” and they thought that he was talking about the temple at Jerusalem, John tells us that Jesus was not talking about the literal temple, but about his own body.

Another example is found in chapter 21 when people thought that Jesus had said that John would live until Jesus returned, John tells us plainly that Jesus did not say that.

John will correct misunderstandings, but this is not a misunderstanding. This is John telling us what Jesus meant and why the Jewish authorities were plotting his death: by calling God his own Father, Jesus was making himself equal with God.

Why did the Jews kill Jesus? John tells us. Jesus claimed to be equal with God. The Jews were waiting for the Messiah, but they had failed to understand that he would be God himself.

Every time Jesus called God “my Father,” he was claiming equality with God. Every time he identified himself as the Son of God, he was claiming equity with the Father. Jesus’ statement strongly argues for His deity — and the unbelieving Jews understood it as such.”[6]

This is the purpose of John’s Gospel. He tells in the first verse who Jesus is: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Time and time again in the Gospel, John shows us that Jesus is God manifested in the flesh.

That is what it means to believe that Jesus is the Son of God. “These things were written,” John says, “that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, you might have life in his name” (20:31).

Conclusion

So where are you in all this? Are you like the healed lame man who didn’t really know who Jesus was?

Or are you like the Jewish authorities who were hostile to Jesus and who plotted to get rid of him?

Or are you like the true disciples of Jesus who came to understand that the signs that Jesus did and the words that he said, show us that he is equal with God and that he alone can save you from the paralysis of sin.

[1]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Reeve

[2]Paul Enns, Living the New Testament, Daily Readings from Matthew to Revelation.

[3]R. C. Sproul, John (St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary).

[4]R. C. Sproul. John (St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary) (Kindle Locations 1111-1113). Kindle Edition.

[5]R. C. Sproul. John (St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary) (Kindle Locations 1115-1117). Kindle Edition.

[6]Paul Enns, Living the New Testament, Daily Readings from Matthew to Revelation.

See also “Gospel of John”:

John 02:23-03:15, “You Must Be Born Again”

Question: What could be worse than having someone tell you that you would not be able to enter the kingdom of God?

Answer: The only thing worse than having someone tell you that you would not be able to enter into the kingdom of God is for that to come true. The only thing worse than being told that you could not enter God’s kingdom is to at the end of your life to hear those dreadful words, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”

Most of us think that we are going to go to heaven when we die. We consider ourselves to be good people. The words of Jesus in Matthew 7:13-14 may come as a shock to us if we would consider them:

“You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. 14 But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it (Matthew 7:13-14 NLT).

In today’s reading in John 3, we find a man named Nicodemus. He is very religious and very respected for his devotion to God. He thinks everything in his life is in order and that surely if anyone is able to enter the kingdom of God, he would be able to enter. But Jesus tells him that he is missing the one thing that God requires.

CHRIS TOMLIN: AWAKENING – 4:45

Subject: THE NEW BIRTH

Scripture: John 2:23-3:15

English: Jesus, on the left, instructing Nicod...

English: Jesus, on the left, instructing Nicodemus, on the right (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

3:1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life (John 2:23-15 ESV).

George Whitefield was an English Anglican preacher who was born in 1714, 300 years ago this year. He was an astonishing instrument raised up by God to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. He had a marvelous voice that was sometimes heard at a distance of two miles, about 3 kilometers. Crowds of 20,000 to 30,000 people would gather to hear him preach in the open air. For more than 30 years, until his death at the age of 55, he preached every day of the week and three times on Sundays. The passage that he preached perhaps more than any other passage was John 3:7,

Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’ (John 3:7 ESV).

One day a man asked him, “Mr. Whitefield, why do you preach so often on the passage that says that you must be born again?” Whitefield responded, “Because you must be born again!”

But it was not Whitefield who said that we must be born again. It was Jesus Christ who came down from heaven who declared, “You must be born again.” His conversation with Nicodemus shows us that nothing can replace the new birth. Nicodemus comes to Jesus and professes a certain knowledge about Jesus:

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him” (John 3:1-2 ESV).

Like many at Jerusalem Nicodemus had seen the signs that Jesus had performed. He has come to a certain conclusion about Jesus. He must be from God, otherwise he would be unable to work the miracles that he worked. Jesus does not congratulate Nicodemus for his position as ruler of the Jews, or his interest or his understanding or his conclusion about who Jesus is. Rather, Jesus confronts him directly. In effect, Jesus tells Nicodemus that he is missing the one thing that God requires for entry into the kingdom of heaven: You must be born again. Three times in this passage, Jesus tells us that the new birth is absolutely necessary for entry into the kingdom of God:

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3 ESV). Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God (John 3:5 ESV). Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ (John 3:7 ESV).

But Nicodemus is surprised. He is absolutely astounded. He can hardly believe his ears. Notice his response in verse 4:

“What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?” (John 3:4 NLT).

Jesus gives him further explanation, but in verse 9, Nicodemus is still amazed:

“How are these things possible?” Nicodemus asked (John 3:9 NLT).

YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN!

I want to look at three questions:

  1. Why must we be born again?
  2. What does it mean to be born again?
  3. How is one to be born again?

So the first question is:

1. Why must we be born again? We must be born again…

Because nothing else will gain us entry into the kingdom of God.

A.  Belief in God is not enough. Notice that Nicodemus believed in God. Two times, Nicodemus mentions God in addressing Jesus.

“Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him” (John 3:2 ESV). Nicodemus did not believe in some false god. He believed in the God of the Bible. He believed in the God who created heaven and earth. He believed in the one true God. As a Jew, he would pronounce the declaration of Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one.” Jesus would later tell the Samaritan woman in John 4:22 that salvation is of the Jews. Nicodemus was following the religion that God had revealed to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and the prophets. He believed in the one true God. But that was not enough. Jesus told him bluntly, “You must be born again.”

Many people believe in God. You most probably believe in God. And many people believe in the God of the Bible. But belief in God is not enough. Belief even in the God of the Bible is not enough. You must be born again.

B.  Knowing that Jesus was sent from God is not enough (v. 2).

“Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him” (John 3:2 ESV). In chapter 2:23, John says that “many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing.”

And yet, he immediately tells us that signs are not an adequate basis for faith: But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man (John 2:24-25 ESV). Others would consider faith in signs to be adequate, but Jesus does not look on the outside appearance. He sees men as they really are. He knows all people, John says. Jesus “himself knew what was in man” (v. 25). As God manifested in the flesh, Jesus looks on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).

Nicodemus’ knowledge was based on signs: “we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you are doing unless God is with him.” He was logical. He had seen the signs. He had come to the conclusion that Jesus was a teacher sent from God. He knew that God was with him. Jesus was performing miracles that no ordinary man could do. And yet, this was not enough.

Many people believe that Jesus was sent from God, that he performed miracles because God was with him, but that is not enough. You must be born again.

C.  Respect toward Jesus is not enough (v. 3).

Notice that Nicodemus addresses Jesus as “Rabbi.” This is a title for a respected teacher. Jesus is much more than a rabbi, but Nicodemus addresses him respectfully. Addressing Jesus with respect and reverence is not enough to gain entry into the kingdom of God. You must be born again.

Many people speak respectfully of Jesus. They may revere him as a great teacher or a prophet or a man sent from God. They may even know that he is the Son of God, but even that is not enough to gain entry into the God’s kingdom. Jesus told Nicodemus, “You must be born again.”

D. Being religious is not enough (v. 1).

Nicodemus was a religious man. John tells us that he was a Pharisee. We may not like Pharisees today, but the Pharisees were respected by ordinary Jews for their devotion to God. As a Pharisee, Nicodemus

  • Believed that the Scriptures were given by God.
  • He read and studied the Scriptures.
  • He fasted two times each week (cf. Luke 18:12).
  • He gave a tenth of everything that he earned (cf. Luke 18:12).
  • He was careful to follow the commandments and laws of God.
  • Nicodemus was a leader of the Jews. He was so committed, that he was a member of the Sanhedrin, that group which decided what they were going to do with Jesus (cf. 7:50). You are also a member of that group: each of us has to decide what we will do with Christ Jesus.

Nicodemus had so much going for him:

  • Belief in God
  • Knowing that God was with Jesus
  • Respect toward Jesus
  • Being committed and religious

But that was not enough. Nicodemus uses the word “unless”:

“…no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him” (John 3:2 ESV).

Jesus responds by using the word “unless”:

“…unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3 ESV).

Jesus is not saying that being born again is good, or desirable, or advisable. He does not say that being born again is for some Christians but not others. What Jesus says does not apply only to Nicodemus. He tells us in the most serious of terms that only those who have been born again can enter into the kingdom of God. All others will be excluded.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3 ESV).

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God (John 3:5 ESV).

And once again, in verse 7,

Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’ (John 3:7 ESV).

He says that you and I cannot get into the kingdom of God without being born again.

Notice that Jesus says, “Truly, truly.” This is his formula for introducing a solemn and most important declaration: “I tell you the solemn truth.” This is a most serious word from the Lord.

That being the case, you and I need to know what it means to be born again. The second question is this:

2. What does the new birth mean? What does it mean to be born again?

What is this? How are we to understand being born again? Nicodemus clearly had a hard time with this idea:

“What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?” (John 3:4 NLT).

What are we to understand of being born again? Jesus not only tells us that we must be born again, he tells us what it means to be born again.

Verse 5 has troubled some Christians.In verse 5, Jesus says,

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God (John 3:5 ESV).

What does it mean to be born of water and the Spirit? Different interpretations have been offered.

  1. Some people think that Jesus is talking about two different kinds of birth: natural physical birth on the one hand, and spiritual birth on the other hand, so that being born of water is natural physical birth, and being born of the Spirit is spiritual birth. According to this interpretation, Jesus is telling Nicodemus that two things are necessary to enter into the kingdom of God. He must first be born physically, and he must also be born spiritually.

But that interpretation does not make a lot of sense. Jesus does not need to tell a man who is standing before him physically that he needs to be born physically. Jesus is certainly not saying, “Unless one is born physically, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

2.  Some people think that Jesus is talking about water baptism and baptism into the Holy Spirit which the Bible also speaks of. According to this interpretation, if you have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, put your trust in him, and followed him in water baptism, but have not yet been baptized into the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues, you cannot enter the kingdom of God.

Nicodemus would never have imagined that Jesus was talking about speaking in tongues. Does Jesus really mean that speaking in tongues is essential to salvation? Are we to believe that the person who has come to Christ, trusted in Christ for his salvation, experienced the joy of having his sins forgiven, loves God with all his heart, studies God’s Word, has had his life changed by the power of the gospel – are we to believe that that person will be excluded from the kingdom of God because he has not spoken in tongues?

No. Jesus is not talking about the baptism in the Holy Spirit in this passage. The baptism in the Holy Spirit is a biblical experience available for all believers, but that is not what Jesus is talking about here.

We need to consider three things in trying to understand verse 5.

  1. In speaking of being born of water and the Spirit, Jesus is explaining the nature of the new birth. He is explaining what it means to be born again.
  2. The birth that Jesus is talking about in verse 5 is one birth, not two.
  3. Jesus expected Nicodemus to understand what he meant by being born again.

So first, Jesus is explaining what he has already said. He is explaining the nature of the new birth. Verses 3, 5, and 7 mean the very same thing:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3 ESV).

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God (John 3:5 ESV).

Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ (John 3:7 ESV).

So as Jesus speaks of being born of water and the Spirit, he is simply responding to Nicodemus’ question and explaining to him the nature of the new birth. We will see that more clearly in the third point.

But secondly, the preposition “of” is not repeated before “the Spirit.” Jesus does not say that we must be born of water and of the Spirit as if he were speaking of two separate experiences. He says that we must be born of water-and-the-Spirit: (ἐξ ὕδατος καὶ πνεύματος ex hudatos kai pneumatos). The word “of” (ex) is used one time to show that the new birth is one single experience that has two characteristics. We will look at that in a moment.

Thirdly, Jesus says that Nicodemus should understand the nature of the new birth. Notice verse 10:

Jesus replied, “You are a respected Jewish teacher, and yet you don’t understand these things? (John 3:10 NLT).

Jesus is saying that Nicodemus should have understood the nature of the new birth. Why should Nicodemus have understood? Because he was a respected Jewish teacher. He was a teacher of the Old Testament Scriptures. The Old Testament clearly spoke of the new birth and it spoke of this experience of being born again in terms of water and the Spirit.

The key Old Testament background passage for understanding the new birth is found in Ezekiel 36:25-27,

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules (Ezekiel 36:25-27 ESV).

The water speaks of being cleansed of our sins, and the Spirit speaks of the new life that is within us. To be born again is to be born of water and the Spirit. To be born again is to be cleansed of our sins and uncleannesses and idols, and it is to be made alive by the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus who lives in us from the moment we are born again.

Born again means that we are clean and alive to God.

And the third question is:

3. How are we to be born again?

That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (John 3:6 ESV).

A.  The new birth is not the result of a gradual process of bettering ourselves (v. 6).

We cannot make ourselves be born again by a long process of improving ourselves. While we are to grow and cultivate the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we cannot make ourselves be born again. We cannot give birth to ourselves. There is no way that we can improve the flesh until it becomes spirit. The New Living Translation puts it this way:

Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life (John 3:6 NLT).

B.  The new birth is the work of the Spirit of God (v. 8).

Jesus has emphasized the work of the Holy Spirit in the new birth. In verse 5

Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit (John 3:5 NLT).

Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life (John 3:6 NLT).

The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit” (John 3:8 NLT).

Birth is not something that you do; it is something that happens to you. You were born. You did not decide to be born. You do not give birth to yourself. Your mother gave birth to you.

In the same way, the new birth is not something you do. It is not something that you do by getting baptized in water or by deciding to become a member of a church. The new birth is something that happens to you. That is what the Apostle Peter says in his first letter:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (1 Peter 1:3 ESV).

you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; (1 Peter 1:23 ESV).

The new birth is not our work. It is not something that we do. It is God’s work. It is something that he does. Now let’s go back to John 1.

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:9-13 ESV).

John tells us that the new birth is

  • “not of blood.” That means that it is not a matter of ethnic descent or race. You do not have to be Jewish to be born again. And being Jewish will not make you born again.
  • “nor of the will of the flesh” – The new birth is not a matter of heritage. You cannot inherit the new birth from your parents.
  • “nor of the will of man” – The new birth is not the result of human effort.

Being born again is not a matter of being a white man or a black man. It is not a matter of being part of the right tribe or race or language or nation. You cannot get the new birth from your parents. And there is nothing that you can do to birth yourself spiritually.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:12-13 ESV).

How can you be born again?

God takes the initiative. Jesus came to his own. He comes to you. He comes to you through the life-giving word that is preached. If you will receive him, he will give you the right to become children of God, born of God as God himself cleanses your sin, washes you clean, and puts His life-giving Spirit in you that you may live in obedience to him.

Sixty-five years ago, my father was 18 years old. By his own confession, he had what he called a “foul mouth” that he could not control. He had grown up in a Christian home, but had never been born again. A friend invited hi to a series of meetings where the gospel was preached. My father became desperate for God to intervene in his life. God met hi. He was born again, cleansed form his sin, given a new heart and a new Spirit. The foul mouth was gone forever. For 65 years, my father was faithful to God. On January 31, 2014, he entered into the kingdom of God because he had been born again, born of water and of the Spirit.

Won’t you receive Christ? You must be born again. There is no other way. You needed a way to God.

KRISTYN GETTY – HEAR THE CALL OF THE KINGDOM – 2:36 (8second lead)