The Gospel of John now moves to the early ministry of Jesus, both in demonstrating his authority as from God, and reaching out to all beyond Israel alone. To the Pharisee Nichodemus, the message was spiritual not physical – you must be born again. To the woman at the well, again, spiritual more than physical – water that springs up to eternal life. To the disciples, spiritual more than physical – food that is doing the will of the Father as a crop for eternal life. The miraculous signs of John’s gospels now speak to the identity and authority of Jesus as the Son of God:
- Changing water into wine at the wedding at Cana (Jn 2:1-11);
- Healing the royal official’s son (Jn 4:46-54);
- Healing the paralyzed man at the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem (Jn 5:1-15);
- Feeding the 5,000 (Jn 6:5-14);
- Walking on water (Jn 6:16-21);
- Healing the man born blind (Jn 9:1-7); and
- Raising Lazarus from the dead (Jn 11:1-45).
The narrative continues with the third of seven signs in John – the healing of the paralytic who had suffered for 38 years.
16 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. 17 In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” 18 For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. John 5:16-18.
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. John 5:24-27.
1. Jesus’ Miracles with Authentication. Certainly, Jesus, who could do what only God could do – raising the dead, healing the sick, curing the paralyzed – authenticates Jesus as from God. And that is His message. And believing in Him brings the gift of eternal life. He has passed from death to life.
2. The Corollary Message about God and the Kingdom. But the message is not just about eternal life. Jesus purposefully ‘worked’ or healed on the Sabbath. And to the phony religious leaders, this was anathema. For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him. Jesus’ crime was twofold: working of the Sabbath (though this work by any standard was only merciful and good) and making Him equal to God (though, again, the miracles verified both that and that he was from God the Father.
3. Hypocrisy Exposed. It is this phenomena – the evil hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders – who purport to speak for God, but do not even know him, that becomes not just the message of Jesus, but the contrast to the true message from God.
39 You study[a] the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life. John 5:39-40.
As a graduate student, I sat in on a lecture at a local university by a professor of theology. His lecture began with an excellent summary of the Bible, from the Garden of Eden, through the redemptive message through Abraham, Israel, David and the Prophets, climaxing in the affirmation by Jesus that he was the fulfillment of the whole of the Scriptures. My heart was moved by the lecture. But then he said, ‘So that is the message of the Bible. It doesn’t mean a thing to me!’
There is the difference. The issue is not knowledge alone, academic excellence. It is a heart and mind and soul issue. he religious leaders played a game keeping religion external. Jesus’ message was internal. It was and is intended to engage the heart, the soul and the mind. It brings hope and joy and peace to that God-shaped vacuum in each of us. But you can’t just wear it like a jacket. It is to be heard and believed, and in that, provides for you and me the gift of eternal life. Blessing on you this week. Next, we go to the feeding of the five thousand.