Noted as one of the best starting places in the Bible, the Gospel of John is a first-hand account of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ from one of his most trusted friends and disciples. This book is necessary reading for the believer as its detail and insight is beyond anything one might cross as they seek out knowledge of this good Word. For this reason, I have decided to embark on a multi-part study on the Gospel of John to give not only in-depth analysis of the entire book; but, also background on it's creation and the man that wrote it. Today we venture on into part five of this series as we make our way through John Chapters Five and Six!
John 5:1-4: "Afterward Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days. Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches. Crowds of sick people—blind, lame, or paralyzed—lay on the porches."
Jesus keeps going back and forth with His ministry as He continues to travel throughout Israel. At this particular time, He has His first meeting with an opponent who will eventually have Him killed. For historical context, Jerusalem is surrounded by walls(the old city) for which you must enter through gates. One of these gates was a pool surrounded by porches. Bethesda in English means "house of mercy", and that's why many hospitals use this term. This was a gathering place of the sick and the lame with reservoirs of water for bathing and drinking as well.
John 5:5-9a: "One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?” “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.”Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking!"
Notice this man does not know who Jesus is. This miracle takes place as a sign of mercy for the man but also of power for those who are present. The objective here was less about healing and more about the way in which people would respond to this.
John 5:9b: " But this miracle happened on the Sabbath,"
This is the point that causes all the trouble. The day in which Jesus performs this miracle was the Sabbath (this comes from Genesis 2:1-3). “Sabbath” means to rest. On the Jewish calendar this would be Saturday, which is seen as a day when you do not work. If we didn't take this day to not work, humans would work themselves to death, without end. God inserts into the natural fabric of life, this day of rest and describes how this day should be used or not used. Commune with God and rest from physical activity. When temples and synagogues were established, the Sabbath came to be known as a day of rest and meeting at the temple/synagogue for prayer, teaching, and worship. This was unique to Jewish culture, to have a day of rest. The pagan cultures around them had not established this; and this was a significant way in which they were different. In the 4th century before Christ, the Rabbis started to define the idea of what work was. Their definitions of work became burdensome and ridiculous and prohibited 39 “types of works”. Examples include:
Cannot walk more than one mile from your home
A scribe (who copies manuscripts) could not carry his pens on the Sabbath
John 5:10: "so the Jewish leaders objected. They said to the man who was cured, “You can’t work on the Sabbath! The law doesn’t allow you to carry that sleeping mat!”
The Jewish leaders were telling this healed man that he was sinning because carrying his pallet (sleeping mat) on the the Sabbath was considered work! They dismissed the miracle completely as well as the man’s joy and freedom and missed an opportunity to give God glory. All they wanted was their rules to be obeyed and were blind to the rest.
John 5:11: "But he replied, “The man who healed me told me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’”
As far as the healed man is concerned, the only authority that matters to him is the One that healed him.
John 5:12-13: "Who said such a thing as that?” they demanded. The man didn’t know, for Jesus had disappeared into the crowd."
He didn’t even know who Jesus was to identify Him. The miracle here demonstrated God’s power.
John 5:14-15: "But afterward Jesus found him in the Temple and told him, “Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you.” Then the man went and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had healed him."
Jesus first dealt with the poor physical health by healing the lame man, and now He is dealing with his spiritual health and well-being. He says “sin no more” which carries the implication that sins are forgiven. You can’t say sin no more if the prior sins have not been forgiven. Jesus uses the healing to warn of the sins in the past that the man may have committed to get him to the point where he was in poor physical health. The health, witness, and teaching bring forth faith as well as a new life. The man is freed from both illness and sin and becomes productive by going to tell others who healed him. In this man, begins the work of faith. Even young Christians can teach through their witness. This instance brings more believers to Jesus, but also creates ammunition for his attackers.
John 5:16: "So the Jewish leaders began harassing Jesus for breaking the Sabbath rules."
The most obvious of their accusations is that He is working on the Sabbath (the same as the lame man), therefore defiling the day and disobeying God.
John 5:17: "But Jesus replied, “My Father is always working, and so am I.”
Jesus responds by stating if they are accusing Him of this, then they are also accusing God because God is always working. God never stops working or doing good and what Jesus did was a manifestation of what God does for the man because God himself was the only one that could heal the man. If you accuse Jesus of breaking God’s law, God must then also be guilty of breaking His own law, which is impossible.
John 5:18: "So the Jewish leaders tried all the harder to find a way to kill him. For he not only broke the Sabbath, he called God his Father, thereby making himself equal with God.”
This is where Jesus says He is God and the Son of God. Even His enemies understood this, they just don’t believe it. The leaders are frustrated and angry and launch an attack on Jesus. In this next section, Jesus responds by warning them about the dangers of this and the ways in which they can lose their souls.
Six Ways to Lose your Soul:
Disrespect (of God and the One who God sent):
John 5:19-23: "So Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he is doing. In fact, the Father will show him how to do even greater works than healing this man. Then you will truly be astonished. For just as the Father gives life to those he raises from the dead, so the Son gives life to anyone he wants. In addition, the Father judges no one. Instead, he has given the Son absolute authority to judge, so that everyone will honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son is certainly not honoring the Father who sent him."
(Jesus uses the term ‘Truly Truly’ here in some translations). They denounced Him for doing the very thing His divine nature was sent to do. They accused Him of sinning, although He was the only sinless man, the very thing that would eventually crucify Him. We can dishonor Jesus by not putting the right value on Jesus (example: calling Him a great teacher rather than the Son of God).
Unprepared (for judgement):
John 5:24-30: “I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life. “And I assure you that the time is coming, indeed it’s here now, when the dead will hear my voice—the voice of the Son of God. And those who listen will live. The Father has life in himself, and he has granted that same life-giving power to his Son. And he has given him authority to judge everyone because he is the Son of Man. Don’t be so surprised! Indeed, the time is coming when all the dead in their graves will hear the voice of God’s Son, and they will rise again. Those who have done good will rise to experience eternal life, and those who have continued in evil will rise to experience judgment. I can do nothing on my own. I judge as God tells me. Therefore, my judgment is just, because I carry out the will of the one who sent me, not my own will."
(Jesus uses the term ‘Truly Truly’ here in some translations). Jesus clearly states here the way to escape judgement. Jesus clearly judges those who turn away from Him. What other man could make this claim, if he is not divine? He is claiming His divinity. Here Jesus is speaking of the judgement they are leveling against Him and is clearly stating, "anyone who truly listens to Me will not be judged, but will be saved." Where does this leave the accusers who are judging the judge (Jesus)? We can lose our souls when we fail to realize that Jesus is not only our Savior but will be our judge as well.
Stubbornness (in our spiritual life):
John 5:31-38: “If I were to testify on my own behalf, my testimony would not be valid. But someone else is also testifying about me, and I assure you that everything he says about me is true. In fact, you sent investigators to listen to John the Baptist, and his testimony about me was true. Of course, I have no need of human witnesses, but I say these things so you might be saved. John was like a burning and shining lamp, and you were excited for a while about his message. But I have a greater witness than John—my teachings and my miracles. The Father gave me these works to accomplish, and they prove that he sent me. And the Father who sent me has testified about me himself. You have never heard his voice or seen him face to face, and you do not have his message in your hearts, because you do not believe me—the one he sent to you."
Jesus reviews with them their incredible stubbornness and hard-heartedness. He says “you believe people who boast about themselves, your earthly leaders, and John the Baptist, but you refuse to believe me who has a greater message. By that you also refuse to believe God and do not permit the message to come into your heart.” He’s saying “if you really believe God, then you’d believe me.” Every time we resist the Word or to do better, our heart becomes a little bit harder. A hard or stubborn heart allows us to sin with little afterthought.
Ignorance (to how the Word applies to them in their lives):
John 5:39-40: “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life."
Jesus rebukes them for being the ones that have the privilege to know and be “experts” in the scriptures, but then they miss the point of the whole thing. They taught that the scriptures led one to eternal life; the scriptures also lead to Jesus who gives eternal life. They never made the connection. They had their own interpretation of what the scriptures said and they stuck with it. Even when Jesus came and reinterpreted the scriptures to them and then did miracles to prove that His interpretation is correct, even then they refused Him. We do this at times still. We forget the purpose of all we do is to grow in the knowledge and understanding of Christ. When we make “religion” our goal, or fleshly desires our goal, we miss the whole goal of Christianity.
John 5:41-44: “Your approval means nothing to me, because I know you don’t have God’s love within you. For I have come to you in my Father’s name, and you have rejected me. Yet if others come in their own name, you gladly welcome them. No wonder you can’t believe! For you gladly honor each other, but you don’t care about the honor that comes from the one who alone is God."
This one must have hurt them a lot. Y"ou're ready to give honor to kings, soldiers, and your own teachers, but you refuse to honor Me because I do not honor you. And I do not honor you because I reveal your sins." Hes putting it out there. He’s saying “That’s why you’re mad at Me!” And the reason they didn’t honor Him was because they were angry with Him because He didn’t approve of them and this was something that their pride craved. A lot of people are like this. They would rather have the approval of the world, their family and their friends, than the approval of God from obedience in Christ.
John 5:45-47: “Yet it isn’t I who will accuse you before the Father. Moses will accuse you! Yes, Moses, in whom you put your hopes. If you really believed Moses, you would believe me, because he wrote about me. But since you don’t believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?”
Jesus tells them that He doesn’t need to accuse them, He will only have to judge them. There's no need for Him to accuse because their own words will accuse them. They say that they believe God’s word in Moses, but God’s word in Moses tells all readers that they should believe in Christ Jesus and that they should be looking for Him. By Disbelieving Christ, they are demonstrating that they don't really believe in the word that Moses gave them originally. What they believe and depend on is the interpretation of Moses that they had accumulated over the years. They stood condemned because their actions demonstrated their true disbelief in God’s word. This still happens today.
Saving Faith Requires:
Believing what God says in His word
Obeying God’s Word.
See Mark 16:16
Some people are in danger of losing their soul because they know and understand what the Bible says but their disobedience to the word shows that they do not REALLY believe it.
Jewish leaders judged and accused Jesus of sin
Jesus replied that God Had made Him to be judge of all men and that His witness, teaching, and miracles are the proof that what He says is true
He demonstrates His power as Judge by listing the reasons for their condemnation (disrespect, unpreparedness, stubbornness, ignorance,pride, and disbelief)
Cyclical Pattern of John’s Writing Style Includes:
Cycle of Witness
Cycle of Response (faith or disbelief)
Cycle of Outreach
After Jesus spoke to the Jewish leaders, they hated him and were angry at Him for what he said.
John 6:1-13: "After this, Jesus crossed over to the far side of the Sea of Galilee, also known as the Sea of Tiberias. A huge crowd kept following him wherever he went, because they saw his miraculous signs as he healed the sick. Then Jesus climbed a hill and sat down with his disciples around him. (It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration.) Jesus soon saw a huge crowd of people coming to look for him. Turning to Philip, he asked, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do.
Philip replied, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!”
Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?”
“Tell everyone to sit down,” Jesus said. So they all sat down on the grassy slopes. (The men alone numbered about 5,000.) Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks to God, and distributed them to the people. Afterward he did the same with the fish. And they all ate as much as they wanted. After everyone was full, Jesus told his disciples, “Now gather the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted.” So they picked up the pieces and filled twelve baskets with scraps left by the people who had eaten from the five barley loaves."
Both Philip and Andrew demonstrate that there is no possible way to feed the people with the resources at hand. They don’t realize, (or perhaps due to their everyday closeness to Jesus, they have taken for granted and overlooked), that through Jesus they have the resources to meet ALL needs. As Paul says in Colossians 1:16, "By Him [Jesus] all things were created both in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible." The one who creates the invisible things can certainly create the visible things. The miracle here is with five loaves and two fish, they were able to feed 5,000 men and about 20,000 people including women and children, with 12 baskets of leftover. The lesson here is, with Jesus as the source, there is always more than enough.
John 6:14-15: "When the people saw him do this miraculous sign, they exclaimed, “Surely, he is the Prophet we have been expecting!” When Jesus saw that they were ready to force him to be their king, he slipped away into the hills by himself."
Note the reaction and behavior of the crowd here. They see Him as a savior and a messiah of sorts, not the one that He is, but the one they want Him to be. The one that will provide all of their needs. They want to force Him to be the king. Their view of the Messiah is that He would have great power. At the time, Jewish culture saw the Messiah as someone who would come and deliver them from their worldly enemies. They wanted to go back to the golden era of Solomon (respected country, full of power, beautiful temple). The people saw Jesus as a man, one that could do miracles, but a man all the same. They saw Him as a means to put their political agenda and redemption into action, which Jesus was not sent to do. He was sent to put God’s plan into action. So Jesus escapes the people to pray in solitude.
As God, Jesus didn’t need prayer. As Man, He needed to pray for the Father’s will to be done in His life. Though this miracle was needed, it was a setback. The people, at this point, know Jesus to an extent and begin to perceive Him in the wrong way.
John 6:16-21: "That evening Jesus’ disciples went down to the shore to wait for him. But as darkness fell and Jesus still hadn’t come back, they got into the boat and headed across the lake toward Capernaum. Soon a gale swept down upon them, and the sea grew very rough. They had rowed three or four mile when suddenly they saw Jesus walking on the water toward the boat. They were terrified, but he called out to them, “Don’t be afraid. I am here!” Then they were eager to let him in the boat, and immediately they arrived at their destination!"
This is a miracle for the apostles and the readers. The audience here was a smaller scope than the last. Both miracles prepare the people, the apostles and all who read as a witness for what is about to come. Note that they arrived across at the other side immediately after Jesus stepped into the boat. They were halfway across when he reached them and he took them approximately four miles instantaneously. This proves that with Christ, even the impossible is possible (just as was the case with the feeding of the 5,000). The apostles here were very terrified. Jesus was walking on water (rough stormy water nonetheless), no one had ever walked on water before. I imagine they thought He was a ghost and then He spoke to them. Wouldn’t you be scared? But, this was introduction to Jesus and His divine nature on a personal level for the apostles.
John 6:22-27: "The next day the crowd that had stayed on the far shore saw that the disciples had taken the only boat, and they realized Jesus had not gone with them. Several boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the Lord had blessed the bread and the people had eaten. So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went across to Capernaum to look for him. They found him on the other side of the lake and asked, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.”
The smaller cycle of Jesus declaring His divinity in various ways, will work with the larger cycle of people observing these things and reacting with faith or disbelief. The multitude follows Jesus across the Sea (not large but too far to walk around in one night. About 40 miles around). They know He couldn’t have walked it in one night and that there was no boat to take Him across once His disciples left without him. The only conclusion, walking across the sea somehow, is what they came to, although they had not seen Him do so. Jesus now confronts them about the miracle of the previous day. He says it reveals their true motives (the receiving of free food). Their faith was not in Him as the divine Messiah, their faith was free food. He reveals what their methods should be. God provides spiritual nourishment only through Christ and the proof (or seal) is the miracle that filled their bellies. He filled their bellies so they could see the bigger picture and understand this.
John 6:28: "They replied, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?”
The people misunderstand His statement thinking He could give them some sort of secret formula that will give THEM the power to make bread. They still don’t get it. They are basically saying, “If you don’t want to do it, give us the power to do it.” In this way they confuse spiritual food with spiritual signs. They do not understand what He is offering them. All unbelievers are the same way, so we cannot be so hard on them.
John 6:29: "Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.”
Jesus explains the purpose of the miracle, to create faith in Him, the Son of God. The miracle is an example of how God promotes faith. He does not eliminate choice, He simply provides proof. In the end, all people choose to believe but God provides the proof necessary to influence that choice and He knows just how much proof to give to not override free will. If we choose to believe and continue to do so, we demonstrate God’s power working in us.
John 6:30-31: "They answered, “Show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in you. What can you do? After all, our ancestors ate manna while they journeyed through the wilderness! The Scriptures say, ‘Moses gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
Jesus just performed this fantastic miracle and they are asking for more proof or another miracle to convince them to believe. They wanted an old time miracle like manna from Heaven. They are basically saying “Moses provided manna for 40 years, do the same or BETTER and then we will believe.” Another way of refusing to acknowledge who Jesus was based on the witness of miracles He’s already made to them. The lesson here is clear, no amount of proof will make someone believe if they do not want to believe. Jesus refuses to be their human king because He is their divine king and they need to understand this. He does not deal with them on their terms but on His terms and salvation is based on the recognition of this.
John 6:32-33: "Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now he offers you the true bread from heaven. The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
The Lord corrects their understanding of both Moses and Manna. Moses never gave the true bread from Heaven, which is spiritual life; only God can give that. Manna itself never came from Heaven; it was described as that but they never saw it come down from Heaven, it simply appeared on the ground each morning. Manna had three purposes:
to feed the physical appetite
A witness of God’s power
It provided a preview of the true bread that would come from heaven and give spiritual life.
It is also good to note here that they are giving Moses the glory for the miracle of Manna where in reality Moses was simply the middleman or conduit of the miracle that God performed.
John 6:34: "Sir,” they said, “give us that bread every day."
All they are interested in is food and feeding the physical appetite. “Lord” here ("Lord" in some translations; "Sir" in others) is translated as a polite “sir”, not as we use it to mean “God” or “Savior”.
John 6:35: "Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."
Jesus stops speaking to them in parable terms and clearly states and defines His divine nature by linking Himself to the divine image that He has been describing. Throughout this chapter He has been declaring this in a variety of ways (verses: 14, 27 (twice), 29, 32, 33, 35). How many ways can He say this to them? They still don’t get it.
John 6:36: "But you haven’t believed in me even though you have seen me."
They do not believe. Even though they respond with disbelief, He still makes two promises for those who believe:
John 6:37: "However, those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them."
All those who come through the cross of Christ will not be turned away regardless of sins, or race, or gender, or social status. No need for fear, God will accept you. This is hard for sinners and unbelievers to grasp.