“Would You Like to Get Well?”

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John 5 is a chapter in which there are many interesting contrasts. One of the most interesting contrasts is that of people’s reactions to the offering of two different miracles.  One man receives his miracle and the other group of people refuse theirs.  Let’s take a look at what happens.

The chapter opens with Jesus returning to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days.  He passes the pool of Bethesda where there were five porches filled with people who were sick, lame or blind – people hoping for a miraculous healing if they could be the first to get into the pool of Bethesda when the waters were stirred by the angel of the Lord.  There Jesus encounters a man who has been lame for thirty-eight years.  Jesus  asks him, “Would you like to get well?”  The man replies that he can’t because he has nobody to help him get into the pool and someone always beats him to it.  Jesus then commands him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!”  The man is instantly cured and begins to walk!

Let’s think about this man for a minute before we move on to what happens next.  This man has been lame for thirty-eight years.  Thirty-eight years of not being in the workforce and able to support himself.  Thirty-eight years of limited social involvement.  Thirty-eight years of being abandoned by friends and family.  Thirty-eight years of watching the waters, of waiting for them to be stirred, and of trying to get into the pool first. That’s a very long time to wait and hope for a miracle, and yet he didn’t give up.  He remained by the pool, ever watching for his chance to receive a miracle.  He had done all that he could do but in the end he was unable to help himself be healed.  He knew that help would have to come from someone else if he were to receive his miracle.  This man who had nobody to help him is ultimately helped by the Son of Man, who cures him in an instant.  Oh, to have a heart like his that remained hopeful and believed through such a long period of suffering!

When the Jewish leaders see the healed man as he leaves Bethesda, they are not amazed that he has been cured.  They do not celebrate his healing with him and welcome him back into society.  Instead, they are concerned that he is breaking the law by working on the Sabbath by carrying his sleeping mat.  They demand to know who commanded him to do such a thing, breaking the law of Moses.  When they find out it was Jesus, they begin harassing Jesus about it.  Jesus replies in verse 17, “My Father never stops working, so why should I?”  This claim, which makes Him equal to God, enrages the leaders, who plot all the more to kill Jesus.

Jesus, fully aware of their murderous thoughts, continues to explain that He is authorized  by the Father to do the things that He does.  He even goes so far as to offer the Jewish leaders the gift of eternal life in verse 24, where He says:

“I assure you, 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.”

The Jewish leaders react with surprise so Jesus continues to reason with them.  He lays out all the witnesses that testify that He is the Son of God in verses 31-47:

  • John the Baptist testified as to who Jesus is,
  • Jesus’s teachings testified as to who Jesus is,
  • Jesus’s miracles testified as to who Jesus is,
  • The Father has testified as to who Jesus is,
  • Scriptures testify as to who Jesus is,
  • Moses testified as to who Jesus is

In their culture, two witnesses to something were treated as irrefutable evidence and Jesus laid out many more than just two witnesses to testify for Him, and yet the Jewish leaders still refused to believe that Jesus is who He said He was.  You can almost feel Jesus’s heart breaking as He tells the leaders in verses 39 and 40, “You search the Scriptures because you believe they give you eternal life.  But the Scriptures point to me!  Yet you refuse to come to me so that I can give you eternal life.” [Emphasis added.]  He makes another desperate plea for them to believe in verses 45c-47 where He says, “Yes, Moses, on whom you set your hopes.  But if you had believed Moses, you would have believed me because he wrote about me.  And since you don’t believe  what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?”  These men, scholars of the Scriptures, were unable to accept that Jesus was the Messiah and therefore they denied themselves the miracle  of eternal life.

What if the man by the pool had refused Jesus’s miracle because he wasn’t being helped into the water, where he thought the miracle would come from?  What if, unlike the Jewish leaders, we looked at the evidence for ourselves and chose to believe?

We, like the people we just read about, have decisions to make.  Will we prepare our hearts to receive a miracle, even when it seems distant from us?  Or will we be so insistent that the miracle look a certain way that, if packaged differently than we expect, we refuse it?

 

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The Eyes Have It

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In John 3, we learn about two different people and their different reactions to the appearance of Jesus.  One man is highly educated and has studied the Scriptures his whole life in preparation for recognizing the Messiah when he appears.  The other man is an uneducated wild man who spends his life preparing the way for the appearance of the Lord.  Shouldn’t both of them respond similarly to the Messiah when He comes on the scene?  Yet these men react very differently.  Let’s look today at Nicodemus and John the Baptist.

Nicodemus is the educated man, one of the Jewish leaders.  When Jesus comes on the scene, it seems to turn everything that Nicodemus knows on its head.  He comes to see Jesus under cover of darkness as he seeks answers to his deepest questions and Jesus is eager to address them.  Jesus tells him that he must be born again in order to get to heaven.  Nicodemus does not respond with an overwhelmingly faith-filled reaction or even a stimulating debate.  Instead, he asks, “What do you mean?”  It’s as though he has never heard this concept before.  He asks this same question of Jesus not once but twice during their discussion of spiritual rebirth.  He is being given the key to eternal life and yet he struggles to understand it.

In contrast, John the Baptist fully understands his position with regard to Jesus.  He understands that his life’s purpose was to prepare people for the arrival of Jesus on the scene, and when Jesus appears, John the Baptist has no problem fading from the public view.  In verse 30, John the Baptist tells his followers, “He [Jesus] must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.”  This is a concept with which many believers have a hard time grappling, and yet John the Baptist is crystal clear on this point in his own heart and life.  He also clearly understands what it takes to have eternal life, as he explains to his followers in verses 34-36.

So how do two such different men with such a similar purpose come to have such different reactions?  Nicodemus looks at Jesus’s teaching through earthly eyes.  This is evidenced when he says in verse 4, “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?”  Although he has studied things of the spiritual world his whole life, he has a hard time seeing things in the spiritual realms.  On the other hand, John the Baptist has no problem seeing with spiritual eyes, even though he has had no formal training.  As we see in verse 31, he fully understands where Jesus comes from and what his nature is, and he also understands his own place in the equation.

Seeing into the spiritual realms can be a difficult thing for us humans.  We understand things from our earthly perspectives, but it can be hard to understand spiritual things around us.  Whenever I struggle to understand the spiritual realms, I take comfort in Jesus’ response to Nicodemus.  He doesn’t mock Nicodemus or chastise him for not understanding; instead, he provides more information and gives Nicodemus handles to try to grasp what He is saying.  Doesn’t He do the same for us?  As James tells us, God will give us wisdom and He won’t resent our asking.  Let’s ask Him today for eyes to see into the spiritual realms.

Foundations

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John is a book of the Bible that was written by the apostle of that name.  In John 1, he establishes that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, who existed before time began and who created all things.  He further establishes that Jesus is also fully human and lived here on earth among us.

John then recounts the testimony of John the Baptist with regard to who Jesus is.  John the Baptist was sent to prepare the way for Jesus, and one day as John the Baptist is baptizing people, he sees Jesus coming towards him.  He then proclaims to the people gathered there that Jesus is the Son of God.

The identity of Jesus is the foundation for all that is to come in the book of John.  Without understanding who Jesus is, it is not possible to understand his actions and his words.

What I find fascinating about John 1 is that Jesus so clearly understands the importance of the identities of others.  As He meets Simon Peter, Jesus tells him, “You are Simon, the son of John – but you will be called Cephas” (which means Peter).  (John 1:42, NLT)  The footnote in my Bible indicates that Cephas and Peter both mean “rock”.  Simon has received more than a new name – he has received his true identity.  This prepares Simon Peter for what is ahead for him; it is a foreshadowing of what is to come.

Jesus also tells Nathanael who he is when he meets him in verse 47.  Jesus says, “Here comes an honest man – a true son of Israel.”  (NLT)  Amazed, Nathanael responds in verse 49, “Teacher, you are the Son of God – the King of Israel!”  There is something about being known by Jesus which brings out a response of faith from Nathanael’s heart and a desire to proclaim who Jesus is.

I remember a time when Jesus told me who I am.  He proclaimed that I am “Chosen”.  Having my Creator reveal my identity to me totally shifted my understanding of who I am.  Has He revealed your identity to you?