First of all, I’d just like to say that John’s gospel is brilliant. Wow. If you’ve never taken the time to slowly read it, looking at the allusions Christ makes, recognizing themes and currents of meaning…do it. Today would be a good day to start.
Ok then, so: what I’m thinking about today is John 5. The chapter begins with a healing account, which leads into Christ speaking about His authority, and finishes with Christ telling the Jews about the confirmations of His authority. Jesus starts things off with a piercing question which preempts healing, and ends them with a condemning question which is preceded by a promise of betrayal.
Concerning the healing account: What we see here is one of the many numerous instances in which Jesus upsets the Jews because of His refusal to live on their sinfully legalistic terms. It is the Sabbath day, and Jesus sees an invalid who has been attempting to be healed in a nearby miraculous pool for 38 years. Jesus heals the man and tells him to take his bed and go. The Jews Got upset because the man was carrying his bed on the Sabbath, and because of the ensuing conversation with Christ began “…seeking all the more to kill Him…”. We see this several times throughout the gospel accounts, so we shouldn’t be surprised by the blindness and spiritual pride/sickness of the Jews.
What sticks in my mind, firstly, is the question that Jesus asks the invalid man upon meeting him. “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?'” John 5:6
This question from Jesus does several things, but mostly what it is doing is alluding to what’s going to happen in a few moments between Himself and the Jews. Let’s see how this works out:
- Notice the response of the invalid man. He fairly emphatically asserts that YES he does want to be healed, but because he has no one to put him into the pool, he can’t ever get there to receive the healing. So, yes he wants healing, but has nobody to help him be healed.
- Christ, then, heals the man, showing that He is the ultimate healer and has all authority to do so.
- Then, the Jews get upset and accuse Jesus of 2 things: breaking the Sabbath and making Himself equal with God (imagine that)
- Jesus responds by saying that everything He is doing points to the fact that He is exactly who He claims to be, because He couldn’t be doing these things otherwise. And THEN says that God is going to do even GREATER things than merely healing invalids. Jesus says that the dead will be raised to life, and that He is the one who is going to give it to them!
- He ends the passage by saying that John the Baptist and the entirety of Scripture (indeed, Moses himself!) give testimony to the fact that what Christ claims about Himself is true, viz., that He is the Christ, the only God, who bestows the gift of eternal life on those who believe His words.
Ok, so, here we go: let’s tie Jesus’ question to the beggar to the exchange with the Jews.
Christ’s question of the invalid is a question of physical healing for him, but symbolic for the fact that He asks the same question concerning spiritual healing for the Jews. Christ is in Jerusalem (and indeed: the world!) to offer the gift of spiritual healing that leads to eternal life!
“…the Son gives life to whom He will…” verse 21
“…whoever hears my words and believes Him who sent me has eternal life…” verse 24
“…an hour…is now here when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.” verse 25
However, instead of responding to this offer of healing in the affirmative like the invalid, (who says, “Yes! I just don’t have anyone to help me and I can’t do it by myself!”), the Jews reject the testimony of the authority of Christ and hope in their adherence to the law of Moses for their salvation from judgement before God. So instead of the absolute helplessness and desperation of the invalid, we see in the Jews a spiritual pride and refusal to bow humbly before God. He tells them point blank in verse 40: “…you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”
Then Christ drops a bomb on them. He tells the Jews that the very one in whom they have placed their hope will accuse them before the throne of God! Christ says that He has all every ounce of authority to do the accusing (verse 22: “The Father…has given all judgment to the Son.”) but He doesn’t even need to! The very one who they trust in will betray their sinfulness to God.
“Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope.” Verse 45
Christ, in His healing of the invalid, symbolizes His offer of eternal life to all those who will receive it. The invalid symbolizes the fact that we are spiritual invalids who cannot heal ourselves, and so must rely on the Son with desperate hope for eternal life! The Jews reject the Son’s authority and refuse His offer of healing, and so will be betrayed by the one in whom they have placed their hope on That Day.
May we never forget in whom rests all authority to judge, condemn, forgive and heal: Jesus Christ! May we never, like the Jews, assume that our obedience will justify us before God; let us, with the invalid, desperately wait for the One to heal us, and forgive and justify us.
Do not be one of the many who respond to Jesus’ question of “Do you want to be healed; to have eternal life?” with: “No thanks, I’d rather death, judgment and betrayal!”
Father, THANK you for sending the Son to us! Our gracious Lord Jesus, THANK you for offering healing to us. Thank you that you, and only you, have offered to carry us into the healing waters that we might have eternal life! Help us always trust in your authority, never letting our pride push us to reject your testimony and stand alone before your judgment. Oh Savior, heal us! You alone give life, and we marvel with great joy that you have offered it to us. Blessed be your name, O Lord, the author and perfecter of our salvation, the one who carries us who cannot heal ourselves, who speaks to the dead so that they might live. Thanks be to the God of our salvation!