Description / Transcription
Gracious God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, giver of the Holy Spirit who spoke by the apostles and the prophets, pour out now that same spirit upon us as we read the pages that they have written. Open to us Your Word. Give us light. Grant us understanding. Give us wisdom. Help us to enjoy and obey all that we see in this Word, and not only to see it, but to savor it. Not only to be stirred, but to be changed from one degree of glory to the next. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Our text this morning comes from John’s Gospel, chapter 5. I invite you to turn there, to John, chapter 5. I’ll be reading from the first 18 verses. John, chapter 5, verses 1 through 18.
“After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 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?” 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.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.”
“Now that day was the Sabbath. 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.” But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.'” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk?'” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in that place. 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.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”
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.”
One of the things I hope you are learning as we move slowly through the Gospel of John is that you may not know Jesus as well as you think that you know Jesus. Many of us are extremely familiar with Jesus. We sing songs about Jesus, we read things about Jesus, we have studies about Jesus. Many of us have been around Jesus since we were young. One famous author generations ago even described the South as that “Christ-haunted place.” So we think we know all about Jesus.
But if you listen to Jesus, I mean really pay attention to Him, He is going to surprise you. He certainly surprised, and you could go further and say shocked, and you could go even further and say scandalized, those around Him in first century Palestine. And if you will set aside the sanitized, “Precious Moments” Jesus; nothing against Precious Moments you may have in your house, but you know the little figurines and they have little, soft pastels and you collect them and maybe have Jesus in a manger or you have a little shepherd Jesus or just a little rosy-cheeked, cute Jesus… Set that aside for a moment and you pay attention to this Jesus. He will surprise you, and He may even shock you, and He may even leave you feeling scandalized. He did it in first century Israel and if you pay attention, He will do it in 21st century Charlotte.
I want you to notice four things Jesus said in this passage, each one is increasingly surprising, shocking, scandalizing.
Look at verse 6. Here’s the first thing we read from Jesus. He asks the question “do you want to be healed?” Do you want to be healed. Here’s the setting: Jesus is back in Jerusalem. He’s already been in Jerusalem. Remember in chapter 2 with the cleansing of the temple, the turning over of the tables, driving out the money-changers, which led to the interaction in chapter 3 with Nicodemus. We don’t know exactly when this is; you see the transition in verse 1, “after this,” so sometime after He was in Jerusalem and Judea, remember He travels up to Samaria and then last week He was in Galilee, and now sometime after this, this could be as much as 18 months after His last time in Jerusalem in chapter 2 and 3. Sometime later now, He’s back and He’s there as there were set pilgrimage feasts and so He must come to Jerusalem, to an unspecified feast.
Jesus, John’s Gospel tells us, is at this well-known location, at least well-known at the time. Said is near the Sheep gate, as best as we can figure, a little opening in the north wall of the city. There is a Sheep gate referenced three times in the book of Nehemiah, so assuming that this is the same thing, there’s a littler aperture there on the north side of the city. And near this Sheep gate, verse 2 tells us there is a pool. Actually there were two pools, situated north and south, surrounded by four colonnades with the fifth colonnade there in between the two pools. And archeologists have, in recent years, excavated this year and have dug up the five colonnades. This is testified by modern scientific archeology that this place existed.
The name, in Aramaic, the language of the Hebrews, in Greek it actually says Hebrew but it means the language that the Hebrews spoke in the first century, Aramaic, called Bethesda, Bethsaida, there’s other ways to pronounce it, depending on the manuscript; Bethesda, which means “house of outpouring,” house of outpouring. A fitting name.
There were all of these, these covered porches, and it became a popular place for those with any manner of disabilities to go. You have a roof over your head, you have some protection from the elements, and as we’ll see, you have these pools, this body of water which supposedly had healing properties.
So Jesus is here, and He sees a man who has been lying there for quite some time. Now we don’t know, in verse 6, it says “there for a long time,” does it mean just for a long time that particular day or is it referencing the 38 years that this man has lived with this disability? Then He asks him the question: “Do you want to be healed?”
If Jesus were in my pastoral ministry class, I might suggest He start with a different approach. Perhaps saying “hi, my name is Jesus. What’s your name?” or “hello, how are you doing?” or maybe even “I’m Jesus, nice to meet you. Can I give you a hand?” But He comes up to him in a way that may seem a little off-putting to us. The man is an invalid and he’s been there for 38 years, and Jesus has the audacity to come up to him and ask him this question of all questions: “Do you want to be healed?”
You might think “Jesus, yes he does. What kind of question is that, Jesus? He’s been in this condition for 38 years. Of course he wants to be healed.”
But Jesus is after something more. And this man assumes Jesus is talking about the pool, about the water, so he tries to explain his predicament, and he says to Him, in verse 7, “sir, I have no one,” so he’s speaking respectfully, “sir, I have no one to put me into the pool. You ask if I want to be healed. Obviously, you’re talking about this water here, but I have no one to bring me into the water. In times past when I’ve tried to get into the water, somebody cuts in front of me and they get into the, the bubbling goodness before I do.” This was possibly the bubbling of some natural spring that would feed into the body of water from time to time, and it seems that the locals believed that it could provide healing, that when the water was stirred, when the bubbles would come, either therapeutically, you know, thinking medicinally, there was something in this that would naturally heal them, or thinking supernaturally, that there was some kind of miracle that would produce healing.
We have, in our house, we have one of those deep tubs that we’ve never, I’ve never used, my wife’s never used, but the kids like using it because you can, you can bathe half of the DeYoung children in in at one time and if you let the water get up so, you have a really exciting proposition and you can turn on the jets and there is a little, and that is very exciting. If you’re of a certain age, it’s also terribly frightening what’s happening, but all the water stirs up and you can try to cover one; that’s a bad idea. Lots of things happen there and then we use towels to clean up the mess around.
The bubbles come, the stirring of the water comes. This is what is engaging to the people there waiting, hoping, that something in this water has some healing properties.
If you look in the squint print in your ESV, you notice that there’s a little footnote. Now, if we were doing some sword drills, okay, you have to find a Bible verse and, you know, you gotta get to it fastest. Here’s a tricky thing to do with your sword drill. Say okay, class, everybody, you get a special prize from you Sunday school teacher today. I buy you a new car. I want you to, first one to give me John 5, verse 4. Go! Well, if, if you made that bet and they had the King James, you’re out a car. But if they have the ESV, you notice there is no verse 4. Look at it: Verse 3, verse 5. What happened? Where’d verse 4 go? Who was numbering this thing? [laughter]
Well, you understand that the numbers, the chapters and the verses are not inspired; they’ve been around a long time, but they were not inspired by the Holy Spirit, and sometime centuries ago they had verse 4 and you’ll find that, say, in the King James Bible, but now we have access to better and older Greek manuscripts which don’t have verse 4 and so scholars are convinced, rightly so, that verse 4 was not in the original manuscript. So from time to time in your Bible you’ll see a little verse missing. Now that should not make you doubt your confidence in the Bible. In fact, it should give you great confidence that we as Christians don’t have anything to hide. We’re not trying to, you know, pull the wool over anyone’s eyes. When these things come to our attention, that there are better manuscripts, older manuscripts, we say “well, this, this wasn’t here,” and so there’s no verse 4.
But you have it down here in the footnote. So some manuscripts insert wholly, or in part, “waiting for the moving of the waters,” and then here’s what verse 4 was: “For an angel of the Lord went down in certain seasons into the pool and stirred the water; whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was healed of whatever disease he had.” And scholars are convinced that was not in the original.
But what you see there is that verse, some copyist, later in copying the Bible, must have inserted that as an explanation. Now, it’s not the inspired explanation, but it does give us a sense for how locally they must have understood what was happening with the stirring of the water. They had, they had some notion that when this bubbles up, that an angel is stirring the water and there is something divine going on, and so we rush down into it and we’re going to be healed. That’s what the man is waiting for. Perhaps he’s, he’s tried it a number of times, kind of like a snake oil salesman, he’s taken another pill, and another pill, and he’s getting into the water and still it’s not helping.
This is what the man is looking for, hoping for, waiting for, and so when Jesus says “do you want to be healed?” he thinks “okay, are you going to help me rush in there when the stirring comes?” But Jesus has something else in mind.
And John, have you noticed? We constantly see Jesus talking on one plane and people understanding Him on another. “Nicodemus, you must be born again.” Nicodemus: “how do I, I can’t get back in there. How is that going to happen?” He says to the woman at the well “I have living water.” “What, you have living water? You don’t even have a bucket.” To the disciples: “I have food which you know nothing of” and they all murmur “who gave Him food? Where’d He get food?” And now, “do you want to be healed?” “Well, yeah, I want to get in the bubbly water.”
Jesus is talking up here, they’re listening down here. I wonder if that happens in your life.
So Jesus asks a simple question. He has a way of cutting through a lot of pleasantries, doesn’t he? Do you want to be healed? He wants to know what the man really wants. He wants to know what you really want. See, Jesus is always driving at two things: Do you see your need, and do you trust in His provision? And He’s doing both of these things when He comes to this man, there for 38 years, and He asks him the very straightforward question, “do you want to be healed?” So He wants to identify does the man see his need, and of course, this man could painfully see his need. He was aware of the hopelessness of his situation.
Do you see your need? What do you want? What would you answer if Jesus came to you and said “what do you want from Me?” Do you understand your need, not just your need here but your deepest need?
And not only that, but when Jesus asks the question “do you want to be healed?” He’s not just trying to identify the man’s need, He is implicitly offering to him His provision. “Do you trust Me?” Jesus says. “Because I’m here, and I want to know, do you want to be healed?”
Jesus’ question was an offer. “I can do more for you than you even know to ask.” Do you believe that about Jesus? He can do more for you than you even know to ask.
Remember that strange story from the Old Testament, when the prophet tells a man, you know, to bang the arrows on the ground, and he does it three times and he says you should have done it more than three times and I would have given you more victories. Some of us don’t bang our arrows on the ground nearly as much as we should. Jesus can do much more for you than you think.
“Do you want to be healed?” He asks the man. That’s surprising.
Then we come to verse 8. Here’s the second thing Jesus says, and this is even more surprising. “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” This is even more startling. We might expect Him to say, after the man explains his predicament with the water, “oh, I’m sorry to hear that. Let me help you in the water.” That’s probably what the man was expecting. Here’s a nice man, he wants to know if I want to be healed, I explained I can’t get in the water, his reply ought to be “I’m sorry, let me help you get in the water.”
I wonder if the man thought for a second “wait, wait, you’re not helping me in the pool?” This man has been sick for almost as long as I’ve been alive, which is almost as long as Pastor Bernie’s been at the church. [laughter] He always appreciates me reminding people of that, that he’s been here since before I was born, so you gotta, you gotta listen to Bernie.
That’s a long time, 38 years. The average life expectancy for a man at that time was 40 years old. Now we’ll see in a moment that he may even be quite a bit older than that, that he may have come upon this disability some time later in life, but now, after almost four decades, this strange man that we presume he’s never met before has the audacity to say to him “get up.” As if he had never thought of that, as if he’d never wanted to do that, if that never crossed his mind, that that was the dream of his life to get up.
Now it’s important to notice what’s not here. There’s no magic formula, there’s no spell. Jesus does not speak in the secret language of elves or wizards. He doesn’t need to rush up before the bubbles come in the water. He doesn’t say, as they might have expected Him to say, “oh, man, well, let’s, I’ll wait here with you, I’ll wait here and when we see the stirring, I’ll rush you to the front of the line.” No, you don’t have to wait for that. You don’t need to look for gold dust or angel feathers. No healing spring, no angelic assistance, no special water was needed. Jesus’ word was enough.
Of course, Jesus’ words are surprising because they’re miraculous. And you notice with Jesus, this is not an ambiguous miracle. This isn’t a, you know, the man was complaining of a sore back for six months and then he said “I think the back is better.” This is a man who was known to everyone for 38 years as being unable to walk, and in an instant, he goes from being carried on a mat to carrying his mat. So that’s surprising.
But it’s not just the miracle that startles us. It is the simplicity of Jesus’ command. Now listen, the Bible is a complex book, and there are doctrines and truths and mysteries that have occupied the most brilliant minds for thousands of years and will continue to occupy our minds for all eternity, so this is a book that is deep and rich and complicated. But I hope you understand that at the same time, in another sense, it is also a profoundly simple book.
What is sanctification? Paul says “put off, put on.” That’s what you ought to do. Vice, put it off; holiness, put it on. How can I be saved? Well, let me give you, there’s 12 steps and then there’s a secret formula, and then you need to go to a mountain, you need to make seven pilgrimages… No. Repent and believe. Repent and believe.
What will happen on Resurrection morning? I would imagine that Jesus will say to us, just as He spoke to this man, and He will say very simply “get up” and all of the dead in Christ will rise. As you’ve heard before, it is such a good thing, I supposed, that, you know, Jesus said “Lazarus, rise forth.” If He had just said “come forth,” all the dead would have come at that moment if He didn’t specify, such is the power of His Word.
“Get up.” Simple, straightforward, command.
Could it be that you are looking for something more sophisticated from Jesus? When He has already given you more than enough? We tie ourselves up in knots sometimes with intellectual quandaries that are, are important and sometimes sincere, but if we really could know ourselves, we might see that some of those intellectual quandaries are the ones that we just make for ourselves to avoid, avoid having to come to terms with Jesus.
We see our kids do this all the time. “Come downstairs, it’s time for dinner. Come downstairs, it’s time for dinner.” Okay? Very simple, very straightforward. Twenty minutes later when they’ve come downstairs, they say “oh, I, oh, dinner tonight. Tonight’s dinner. [laughter] I, wow, I didn’t. I heard something, I thought maybe you were talking to my sister. I didn’t, I didn’t know. I, I had things going on.” All of a sudden it becomes very complicated, there’s lots of difficult things we’re trying to understand.
No, Jesus simply says “you want to be healed? Get up, take that straw mat you’ve been lying on all these years, roll it up, and walk.”
Some of you looking for something more complicated, more sophisticated. Maybe it’s the simplicity of the Gospel. You know, foolishness to the Greeks. “No, no, no, I don’t think this is going to work. This has been around for a long time and I’ve heard this and my momma told me this and my granddaddy told me this and nah, there’s gotta be something else than believe in Jesus, died on the cross, coming again.”
Maybe not. All this man needed to hear was “get up” and believe than when Jesus says “get up,” you can get up, and so he did.
Now what happens next is not surprising. The Jewish leaders are upset with Jesus. He did this on the Sabbath, we’ll say more about that in a moment. But what is surprising is what Jesus says later in verse 14.
So here’s the third surprising statement from Jesus, and this one really baffles us. “Afterward,” verse 14, “afterward, Jesus found him,” so the man that He healed in the temple, “and said to him, ‘See, you are well. Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.'” This is where things go from surprising to shocking. What a downer, Jesus. Why don’t you just come and throw him a party? Give him a hug? So great to see you on your feet!
Jesus found him, maybe He was looking for him, in the temple, that is the temple precincts, the courtyard. That makes sense that this man would go there. After all these years, this is where you would go to celebrate, say “yes, I’m, I’m on my own legs, walking. I’ll go to the temple.”
What Jesus said appears to us at first as a horribly rude thing to say. And you know why it looks rude? It looks rude because we equate love with sentimentality. And I hope you’re seeing throughout the Gospel just how unsentimental Jesus can be. He would be absolutely destroyed on Twitter for this. “Did you see what Jesus said? Very insensitive, very rude. What a faux pas.”
Jesus should have said “look, you’re healed! I’m so happy for you.”
But that’s not what He said. Because Jesus knows what this man doesn’t. Jesus knows that walking in righteousness is more important than walking on your own two feet.
Jesus’ contemporaries assumed that there was always a direct relationship between sin and suffering. We saw that in the Scripture meditation in your bulletin form John chapter 9. A man born blind. His disciples said “Rabbi, who sinned? This man or his parents that he was born blind?” That was the understanding. That’s how people made sense of the world. So he’s born blind—obviously something went wrong with this guy, his parents, he’s being punished for something. They had the mindset very much like Job’s miserable comforters. “Okay, Job, you’re suffering,” and Job maintains his innocence and his righteousness, and his so-called friends come along and say “would you just repent? Obviously, all these bad things have happened to you because you are a bad person.”
But it was not the case. And you need to hear very clearly that it is often not the case. If bad things just happened to bad people, how do you explain Jesus? Nothing more heinous, more evil, more wicked in the history of the world than the crucifixion of the Son of God, who had done nothing wrong, so, no, there is not always a one to one correlation between you have bad things going on, you must have done something bad, or in your life, you’re paying the penalty. That’s their operational mindset.
So I just wanted to make that very clear, that that is usually often not the case.
However, however, Jesus’ words in John 14, as shocking as they are, seem to suggest that at least in this man’s instance, there was a relationship between his sin and his suffering. And we do see this in the Bible.
Later we will come to the table, and the warning in 1 Corinthians 11 is that if you eat and drink of this in an unworthy manner, the Lord will visit you, with punishment perhaps. He says that’s why some of you are sick and some of you have died, because your sin led to suffering. So sin to suffering is not always a straight line, but sometimes there is a connection. We can only speculate what it was with, with this man. We simply don’t know. Was he reckless early in life? Was he engaged in wild living? Did he have, you know, some drunken brawl that left him beaten to an inch of his life and paralyzed, and clearly people could see that he was in this condition as the result of some sinful behavior? We don’t know. But Jesus seems to know, and He seems to assume that this man knows, that he had been in this condition at least in part through some bad choices in his life, sinful choices. And now he’s better.
This is the third sign that we’ve seen in John’s Gospel, and we see once again that Jesus knows what He’s talking about when He warns the people about wanting just the signs. We all want signs, we all love signs. Whole ministries get built up around signs. And Jesus had plenty of signs. They were important. There are seven of them demarcated in John’s Gospel. And yet, Jesus is constantly warning people against an infatuation with signs.
Here’s what Jesus is saying in a nutshell: “You’re better. I fixed your problem. But mark it very well. You still have a bigger problem.”
So a man is on his way, rejoicing as he ought to be, and Jesus stops him short. Not because he does not love the man, but because Jesus is profoundly loving, to want the man to see that for all of these years, as he had feet or legs that did not work, he had a deeper need. He had a heart that did not work.
You remember the story in Luke chapter 13? Some people say, you know, what do we do with these Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices? How do we make sense of these bad things that have happened, and Jesus says do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the others because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.
Or the 18 on whom the tower of Siloam fell and killed them. Do you think they were worse offenders? No, I tell you, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.
Whatever the connection with this man, between his sin and his suffering, the point that Jesus is making here is the same one He made in Luke chapter 13: There are worse things than will come upon you than broken legs, worse things than eyes that don’t see, worse things than backs that ache. There are worse things, if you do not deal with the deeper problem, which is your sin.
Let me ask you a hard question, a hard question, honestly think to yourself: If Jesus could remove in this next moment your suffering, think about what, what it is that feels most poignant about your suffering right now. Maybe it’s physically legs that you wish worked, maybe it’s you’re so lonely and you want to be married, or maybe it’s you’ve been trying forever to have kids, or it’s cancer that won’t go away, or it’s a sense of utter loneliness… If Jesus could come and in the next moment remove that suffering from you, but left you in your sin, would that be enough for you?
We know the right answer is “no.” But I just wonder how many of us, myself included, would be tempted, in the throes of suffering like this man experienced, to take that bargain. “So let’s see, Jesus. I can walk after 38 years. I can have my wife better. I can have a baby. I can have the suffering removed. You mean, you’re gonna fix my problem, that I’ve been pouring out my heart. You’re gonna fix my problem, but I still have sin, I’m still dead in my sins and trespasses.”
There’s a whole lot of “Christians” who would take that deal in a heartbeat, and they would be eternally the worse because of it.
What is it that you really want? A change in your circumstances, or a change in you?
You notice the healed man never expressed gratitude, even appreciation, even interest in Jesus. This makes sense of chapter 4 last week when He’s in Galilee why He rebukes them when they come and ask to heal this man’s son, and Jesus says “look, I know that’s all you want, is you want signs, you want me to fix it.” And they come to this man and say “why are you walking around like this on the Sabbath?” and he says “don’t blame me, somebody told me.” “Who was it?” “I don’t know.” And you get the distinct impression that as soon as he meets Him again and he knows who He is, he’s eager to go back to the Jewish authorities and tattle on Jesus. “Um, excuse me, excuse me, um, priests, yeah, come here, come here a second. Yeah, I met Him again, Jesus. He’s over there.”
He didn’t really want a savior, not if he could have the sign.
Here’s the sad reality for many of us: We don’t really want a Christ, we’d be happy with a life coach. We’d be happy with somebody to come and would you help me, you know, manage my family better and use my time and get me a job and, you know, kind of give me some, some better health. We’ll take a skilled surgeon over a suffering savior.
And then Jesus has one more thing to say, verse 17: “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” We’ve gone for surprising to shocking to outright scandalizing. There are two issues arising here, one on top of the other. The first is the Sabbath; it’s not that Jesus broke any Old Testament regulation, but He did break with their traditions in the Mishnah which is a century later than this, but compiled likely the sort of traditions that were around in the first century. We read of 39 classes of prohibited work on the Sabbath, increasing carrying an object from one domain to another.
Ironically, as happens when you feel like you need to parse out every little jot and tiddle of obedience, you could be carried on a mat for healing, but you could not carry your own mat. So, it was considered that if you were carrying a person on a mat, carrying of the mat was just incidental, that you were trying to carry the person, but if there was no person on it, then you were just carrying this mat and then you’re breaking the Sabbath.
They don’t blame the man, but they blame Jesus. Who told you that you could do this on the sabbath? Carrying your straw mat from one place to the next.
And, again, we think that Jesus ought to be interested in perhaps trying to find some common ground with the Jews. Well, why doesn’t He just say to them, “hey, time out, listen, I want to honor the Sabbath as much as you do. I love the law of Moses as much as you do. Let me just explain what the Sabbath is for, and let me just tell you why I was doing what I was doing.” But that’s not Jesus’ style. You almost get the feeling He likes to provoke.
Jesus built bridges for people who wanted to walk across, but for the proud and the hard-hearted, He preferred blowing up bridges to building them. These were the rebellious and the hard-hearted, so He wasn’t trying to find some common ground with them. He knew what they were after. This Sabbath issue hinges on the definition of work, so Jesus provocatively says in verse 17, “you’re mad at Me for working, or telling somebody to pick up a mat, you think I’m violating the command to rest. Well, let Me tell you, My Father’s working and so I’m going to work, because I’m My Father’s Son.”
Implicit there is this understanding that the Jews had, okay, who is keeping the universe running? In a sense, God rested on the seventh day, we know that, and in a sense that Sabbath from our dead works, Hebrews 4 tells us, is a perpetual Sabbath, but there’s another sense in which, well, God is upholding the universe by the word of His power. God is still at work, so Jesus rightly says “well, My Father’s working.” And they see through it, they see through it in a heartbeat.
You know, sometimes you, you find liberal churches, people that “oh, I don’t know if Jesus was really God” or “I don’t know if He really thought that and He didn’t really have an awareness of His divinity,” and these, look, come on, nonsense. They get it. He said “My Father’s working, so I work.”
The Sabbath leads to the bigger problem. Does this Jesus guy think He’s on par with God the Father?
When the Jews went into exile in Babylon, that experience had convinced them of at least one thing: Worshiping another God is always catastrophically wrong. There’s one thing we need to get right as Jews: We worship one God. There’s only one God. And now this guy Jesus of Nazareth, saying “well, My Father.” It’s not in the same sense that we would pray “our Father,” He, He’s speaking of this equality.
The rabbis traditionally held that four people in the Hebrew Bible made themselves like God: Pharaoh, King Joash (who rebelled after the high priest died), Hiram (the Prince of Tyre), and Nebuchadnezzar, and all four of them ended very poorly. They were the sort of four quintessential folks who made themselves like God, and here comes Jesus, another one.
Verse 18 contains the first reference in the gospel of John to their plot to kill Jesus. Listen, sometimes people say “you know, they killed Jesus because He was so inclusive, they, they hated Jesus because He was so loving.” And it is true. He, He upset them. He upset them. He was, He was considered a friend of sinners and tax collectors; that bothered them. But in all four gospels, let’s be clear, we see that they killed Him because they thought He was a blasphemer. They hated Him because He made Himself equal with God. They didn’t kill Him because He just was, you know, a flower child from the 60s. They killed Him because He had the audacity to say “I am one with the Father.”
This is the beginning of a distinctively Christian form of monotheism. Sometimes people just lump it together, the three great monotheistic religions, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam; that’s only true in the most superficial sense of the word. Christianity has an entirely unique view on monotheism, that you cannot know, the Bible tells us, the New Testament tells us, you cannot know God now apart from knowing Jesus Christ as the Father’s Son. So it separates Christianity from cults and false religions, that you have the Son equal with the Father.
Do you see how all of these surprising statements from Jesus work together? Because He is equal with the Father, He can heal, and because He can heal, He in that equality with the Father, He has the authority to forgive sins, and because He has that authority, He can tell this man to go and sin no more. It all comes together in Jesus.
Here’s the thing about Jesus: A lot of people are interested in Jesus if they can take part of Jesus. “I like that sort of Sermon-on-the-Mount-y Jesus. I like that kind of, you know, neither do I pick up stones, I like, I like that Jesus. I like the Jesus with the sinners and the tax collectors” or maybe you like the Jesus who turns over tables. But we all want a little part of Jesus. But although Jesus offers Himself freely, He only offers Himself completely. He doesn’t say “come and pick, come and choose, come and focus on whatever part of Me you find to be most appealing.” He says “I offer myself to you, but you have to take all of Me. Jesus the questioner, Jesus the healer, Jesus the sin crusher, Jesus the God-Man.”
Make no mistake, Jesus is surprising, Jesus is shocking, Jesus is scandalous, and He’s better than you think, He’s bigger than you think, and He is more than enough for all that you need. He asks you the question this morning as He asked the man on the mat: “Do you want to be healed? Really? Do you want to be healed?” Not fixed, not solved, healed of your deepest problem, which is you.
My deepest problem is me, my heart. It’s your heart. Do you want that healed? Do you want that forgiven? Do you want that changed? If so, He says “take and eat, all of you, for the forgiveness of sins.”
Let’s pray. Father in heaven, we give thanks for so great a savior and we pray that you might humble us as sinners, that we might come and be healed. We pray in the sweet name of Jesus. Amen.