The Power to Heal

The Danger of Worshipping Jesus?

John 5

Harry Emerson Fosdick preached a sermon on the Danger of Worshiping [sic] Jesus.  He mentioned both the theological inappropriateness of it and considered the deifying of Jesus as a way to escape the power of his example of compassionate suffering. Fosdick would have been among those that decried Jesus extravagant claims in 5:19-27.

Divine Healing

Location – In Jerusalem, by the pool of Bethesda – John does not explain the precise chronology, but quickly we find Jesus back in Judea after having made his sojourn to Galilee to avoid what he perceived was a possible conflict with the Pharisees. {4:1-3]. He has returned and does a sign that initiates his continual conflict with the Jewish religious elite.

Situation – Many sick and lame waited for the presence of healing conditions in the water [verse 4 a palpable gloss: absence from  earliest and best witnesses; diacritical marks indicating its spurious nature, vocabulary very non-Johannine, tremendous variety of variant forms]  Probably entered as a gloss to explain the power of the water. A man had been there for thirty-eight years and had never had any assistance to get into the water at the most propitious time.

A unilateral manifestation of power and compassion – Not only does Jesus bypass the Water, Jesus bypasses any expression of faith or reverence and performs the miracle of healing. He only engages the man in conversation long enough to hear him tell his story. In fact, Jesus asked if he wanted to be healed and the man only explained why he always missed the right time. This is a paradigm of sovereign, effectual grace. When were helpless, Christ died for us; when we ere dead, he raised us up; while we were hating one another, his goodness and lovingkindness appeared.

Violates humanly contrived restrictions of the Sabbath [Jesus shows that the day is a day for achieving wholeness]  Did Jesus purposefully create a situation of confrontation?

Jesus heals and commands him to walk and carry his mat

The Jews confront the man for carrying his mat. The load he carried violated one of the many regulations that had been introduced into Sabbath legislation in order to avoid any violation of the day.. Nehemiah 13:15-22 showed the importance of remembering the Sabbath to keep it holy. Calamity had come to Israel because of their violations and, in order to avoid such a thing again, they over-regulated the Sabbath.

The man reported to them precisely what had happened, indicating that he still did not even know Jesus’ name.

Jesus makes contact again and shows that he is interested more in holiness than healing [contrary to the implications of the Jews] 14. In John 9, Jesus indicates that the man’s blindness {9:3] was not a punishment for sin. That does not mean that no infliction is ever related to one’s sin. In this case Jesus seems to imply that it was and he warns the man that if he continues in sin, something worse might happen. Perhaps he means a more severe physical affliction, but most likely he refers to the fact that an unrepentant life will terminate in endless punishment in hell.

Initial opposition over a disagreement about the purpose of the Sabbath, but immediately escalates into something more radical. The language indicates that this work on the Sabbath was only one of several things of this type that Jesus did. In Mark Jesus claims to be the Lord of the Sabbath [Mark 2:8]. His answer here amounts to the same claim, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” This is a claim that the work of the Son of God is co-temporal and concomitant with that of the Father. AS the Father has created and sustains the world from moment to moment, so the Son is exerting his own power by “upholding the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3). The manner in which Jesus referred to the Father as “My Father” indicated the closest of possible relationships. It is to this, in addition to his authoritative posture toward the Sabbath, that the Jews took exception and for which they began a plot to kill him.

Divine Sonship

Divine Nature –Jewish perception of Father-Son relationship  17, 18 – They rightly understood Jesus as claiming an equal essence with the Father’s deity.

Father’s communicating of Himself and His prerogative to the Son

Son’s power and knowledge is an outflow of the Father’s power and knowledge; And though, because he is the Son his is a reflective or derived power, it is nevertheless, eternal like that Father’s and equal in efficacy. 19

This is a direct result [for] of the Father’s love for the Son.  In one sense, the Son exists in accordance with the eternal love that the Father exhibits for his own perfections; the image he has of himself and his perfections and his unalloyed love for those perfections is itself an eternal replication of himself, so that the Son, eternally generated in such a way, is the “radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature,” (Hebrews 1:3) and he is the “image of the invisible God.” There is nothing that the Father does that the Son does not know, so that greater works than healing a lame man will be done.

Verse 21 – Son gives life even as the Father raises the dead and gives life. Even as this is the sovereign prerogative of the Father so the Son claims an equal and correspondent sovereignty. “Son gives life to whom he will.”

All judgment committed to the Son – Even as John has indicated in this gospel, Jesus knew what was in men, so this claim shows that he knows every action and every motive so that he is able to render on the final day an absolutely just judgment.

Verse 23 – Honor of the Father bound up [“just as”] with how one honors the Son. If Jesus had any intention of correcting the way in which the Pharisees understood his calling God his Father, then he certainly missed the opportunity. Instead he does all that he can to certify that they have understood him correctly. And if they are offended at his claim to be equal with God, then they do not honor the Son and thus do not honor the Father. This is an unvarnished claim to worthy of the same worship that is given to the Father.

Divine Prerogative of Life and Death Judgment

Hearing Jesus now 5:24-26  cf. Mt 7:24-27

Same as believing the Father “Believes Him who sent me” “Granted to the Son”

Present enjoyment of eternal life – “and is now here” 

25, Here he uses the nomenclature that surely is the corollary of the term that so offended the Jews – There it was “My Father, “ here it is “the Son of God.” And what does the Son of God do? He speaks with a voice that raises the dead both those that are spiritually dead in trespasses and sins presently and those that will be in their graves when the Son of God returns in his resurrected glory, an event he revisits in verse 28.

26 – He gives life to others because he, like the Father because eternally generated by the Father as the express image of his own nature, has “life-in-himself.” He as God is self existent, and the necessary being upon whom all else depends for existence and life.

Hearing Jesus then [in the future] 28

Resurrection of All –“all who are in the tombs does not omit those that were killed, mangled, lost at sea, burned etc. and had no tomb, but is a figure of speech for all who have died.

Resurrection to life – “Those who have done good.” This is not a salvation by works. Jesus commonly relates faith to doing the will of God, or doing his words. Matthew 7 24 (“hears these words of mine and does them”); Matthew 12:35, “The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good . . . on the day of judgment . . .”; Matthew 13:40-43 – “Then the righteous will shine forth . . .” Matthew 18:35 “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” Matthew 24 “Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.” Matthew 25:40 (entire context) “As you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” To obey his words, first of all means to conform to the requisite state of mind that is suitable to receive Christ in his fullness as righteous substitute. From such a state of mind we infer a love of righteousness that will then manifest itself in doing the will of God. The person that does not do the will of god has been brought to the requisite state of mind that would repent of sin and trust solely in Christ for righteousness. As Jesus taught in John 3, the birth from the Spirit of God, is the only sufficient power and moral inducement for producing such a mental and spiritual commitment.

Resurrection to condemnation – “Those who have done evil” The doing of evil is a sufficient cause for the resurrection to judgment.

Righteous Judgment of Jesus 30 – this is a reiteration of verse 22, but speaking now in his role of Messiah as both God and Man. As Messiah, he had to be God but he also had to be man. He had a will co-equal and eternally enmeshed in the will of the Father, but as Messiah he comes not to do his own will but the will of his Father.

Divine Testimonies to convince those who hear of the truth of these claims (“that you may be saved”) Had Jesus been the only witness to his status as Messiah (verse 31), his witness would not be true; for, according to Scripture all the witnesses that he goes on to mention would be necessary for anyone legitimately to conclude that Jesus is Messiah.

Testimony of John, a “Burning and shining light” – The forerunner, as predicted, must come. The Jews knew this to be so. Had John not born witness to Jesus as the Lamb of God, a determining aspect of the witness of scripture would be omitted.

Works the Father gave him to do [36] cf. John 3:1 – Later Jesus challenges the Jews to point to any work that he has done that is not worthy of the Father (John 10:25, 32, 37). The greatest work that the Father gave him to do was to die for his sheep (10:15-18)

Witness of the Father – perhaps referring to the voice at his baptism or perhaps a secondary reference to his works. They could not process the meaning of the voice from heaven at his baptism nor the appearance of the Spirit as a dove. They do not see the significance of this because they do not understand the witness of Scripture to the Messiah.

Scripture [39] – See also 46, 47 for Jesus’ testimony of the witness of Scripture to himself as in Luke 24:27

Jesus representation of the Jews

37 You have not heard his voice

You haven’t seen his form

You don’t have his word living in you  38

You don’t believe the one He sent

You are not willing to come to me that you may have life [40]

You have no love for God within you 42

You don’t seek the glory that comes from the only God

Your accuser is Moses for you don’t believe his writings

VI.  The great tragedy of such great advantage wasted and frittered away into greater condemnation because of a darkened soul and a hostile heart. They saw the healing and they overlooked its significance and sought a reason to be offended at Jesus; they hear his warning about the future judgment and they ignore it without giving it serious attention; they hear his words pointing to the scriptural reasons they should believe, and they increase in their hatred. If our familiarity with the words of Scripture and the story of Jesus does not result in faith in him, his words, his completed work of dying for the sheep, then we justly will be present in the resurrection of judgment (5:29)

Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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