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John 5:1–47 Sermon Notes

Schrödinger’s cat is a thought experiment about quantum (very small) physics.

It was meant to show how it is absurd to try and apply quantum theories to larger objects, like a cat.

But in just the past few months, I’ve seen two different shows that mention Schrodinger’s cat and they use it (out of context) as a basis for building a multiverse plot line.

These shows were interesting to me at first, now they are just tiresome, because there are so many of them, and because the plot is the same…some poor sap gets entangled in multiple different universes…as you would expect, that’s not good.

The shows are literally called science fiction…but what has happened is that they have “instructed” large numbers of people in how to view the world.

So, the multi-verse is now widely believed to be a scientific fact…without people stopping to realize they were taught that fact by Dr. Strange and Spider Man.

I recently had a conversation with a non-believer who made some false comments about Jesus, the Bible, and Christian history…he wasn’t trying to be a knucklehead…he was just stating as facts…things that were in fact, not true.

Some works of fiction…had become sources of historical fact for my friend…I told him so and he was receptive.

I’ve said this before, it bears repeating, that It’s important to understand that for all the bumper stickers that proudly proclaim, “I believe in science”

Most people believe what “feels” right to them and they are more influenced by popular songs, shows, and other forms of entertainment than by actual factual information.

“I believe in science” is really a statement of faith, sometimes it is an emotional response against religion, or people who disagree on current science.

Of course, I believe the “scientific method” is important…but it is not scientific to only believe in what can be proven using the scientific method.

You can’t prove, the scientific method using the scientific method.

Plus, scientists are humans and humans make mistakes and sometimes they are just unethical.

The Wall Street Journal had an article stating that a 217-year-old publisher is closing 19 academic journals, “some of which were infected by large scale research fraud.”

“In the past two years, they had attracted more than 11,000 papers that appeared compromised.”

One physical science publisher discovered 900 fraudulent papers in one year.

So, “I believe in science” is a statement of faith…I’m not trying to make you a skeptic…except in terms of believing that humans have somehow disproven God, faith, the Bible.

I would love you to be skeptical that science can tell you how and why you are here.

Or that they have discovered things about humans that are true and contradict the Bible…they won’t.

I believe in the God who made the world to operate with cause and effect…so science is possible.

I believe that since God made the world, it is open…not closed…meaning normally the universe operates normally…but God can and does engage the world as he chooses.

Here are some Facts:

God is there.

God has spoken in his Word and through the revelation of his Son…to reveal himself to us.

Jesus is the eternal Son of God made flesh…who died on the cross to pay for our sins and who rose from the dead.

These are facts…many have been duped into thinking that they are fiction, or escapism, or just outdated.

What we must do, is what John resolutely does…lovingly, confront people with Jesus and the necessity of facing his truth claims and the necessity of deciding personally, what to do about them.

Because in all the world’s history and thought systems and religions and people…there is only one Jesus.

There is no one like him…John’s purpose is to paint a clear picture of Jesus and to force a decision about him.

Today we are in John five.

This chapter marks the shift from people being puzzled about Jesus to becoming openly hostile towards him…the lines are being drawn…choices are being forced.

You have to decide one way or another.

And this decision revolves around who Jesus is and what to do with his claims.

The first point of controversy is superficially over the Sabbath, but fundamentally over who Jesus is…that, after all, is John’s purpose in writing this gospel.

“But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God,, and that by believing you may have life in his name. ” John 20:31

5:1 After this, a Jewish festival took place, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 By the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem there is a pool, called Bethesda in Aramaic, which has five colonnades. 3 Within these lay a large number of the disabled—blind, lame, and paralyzed. 5 One man was there who had been disabled for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and realized he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to get well?”

Either John only told of this one healing, out of the many.

Or far more likely…Jesus selected this one guy for healing out of the many who needed it.

Can you imagine how the ones who were not healed responded…and there was a large number, John wrote.

How would you have felt had you been one of these disabled people and saw this happening?

Why him? He’s not even a good guy.

Why not me? What’s wrong with me?

Again, Jesus did not come to fix every physical problem…and he does not exist now, primarily to fix our temporary problems.

Jesus, for his own reasons, picked this guy out of the many and asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

This man held to a popular superstition that the first person into the well after the waters are disturbed would be healed.

When you are suffering long and hard you hold out hope for almost any relief.

John doesn’t paint this guy in a very favorable light.

He doesn’t simply say, “Yes, please” when asked if he wants to get well.

He complains that he doesn’t have anyone to help him get into the water in time.

Jesus tells him to “Get up!” “Pick up your mat and walk.”

*This powerful voice of Jesus to speak physical healing will be highlighted by John shortly in an even more profound way.

There are implications here in this story, for our true future resurrection hope.

The man got well, picked up his mat and started to walk.

Now that day was the Sabbath, 10 and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “This is the Sabbath. The law prohibits you from picking up your mat.” 11 He replied, “The man who made me well told me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ”12 “Who is this man who told you, ‘Pick up your mat and walk’?” they asked. 13 But the man who was healed did not know who it was, because Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.

John highlights that this was on the Sabbath because it becomes the opportunity for offense by the Jews and the opportunity for Jesus to reveal his true nature.

Meanwhile, back to the former cripple.

He was rebuked for carrying his mat on the Sabbath…a ridiculous charge.

But the man didn’t say, “Hey, who cares, if I carried a mat on Saturday, I was crippled for 38 years…I should be dancing !”

Instead, he blame shifted…”The man who made me well told me to do it.”

“Who is this man, they asked?” I suspect they knew.

“I have no idea.” He said.

Think about it…if you were healed after 38 long years…wouldn’t you want to know who did it?

At the very least, “I don’t know, but I’m trying to find him so I can follow him!

But he didn’t go looking for Jesus, even though he could walk now, Jesus had to go looking for him.

14 Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well. Do not sin anymore, so that something worse doesn’t happen to you.”

We don’t know the full story behind this rebuke, but we can surmise a couple of things.

1. The guy clearly didn’t seem to have a grateful heart.

2. It seems that his disability had been the result of some past sin.

There are two ways to fall off the wall into imbalance in regard to looking at human suffering.

One, is to believe that every specific illness is the direct consequence of some specific sin.

In John 9:3, Jesus will confront that wrong idea when asked about a blind man, “Who sinned, this man or his parents?” “Neither” Jesus replied.

No, not every problem is because of some specific sin.

The other imbalance is to believe that no ailment is ever the result of a specific sin.

That is not true either. Sin can directly lead to physical and other forms of suffering.

Who knows, perhaps this man had become crippled by getting drunk and falling off a wall?

Maybe Jesus hand-picked this guy because his disability was the consequence of a specific sin.

Healing him physically, was pointing to his larger need…salvation.

Whatever it was, his real problem was a heart problem…because…it was ongoing, after having been healed.

Jesus warns him, “Look, you have received a grace gift…now stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”

The something worse may be final judgment.

The guy then goes to the Jews and tells them that Jesus made him well.

This isn’t a sign of him finally coming to a place of gratitude.

He knows they are not looking for Jesus to congratulate him…they have already revealed their hostile intentions.

15 The man went and reported to the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. 16 Therefore, the Jews began persecuting Jesus because he was doing these things on the Sabbath.

Verse 16 is where this story is heading, and that verse is taking us to the next section where Jesus gives a long and theologically dense response to the Jews who are now full throttle in going after him.

I will select some verses to make our points of application.

First key point:

Point #1: Jesus clearly taught that he is equal to God.

17 Jesus responded to them, “My Father is still working, and I am working also.” 18 This is why the Jews began trying 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 to God.

Why did this statement, “My Father is still working, and I am working also.” evoke a murderous response?

Because they recognized in his words, echoes of Genesis 2

Gen 2:2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so, on the seventh day he rested from all his work.

1. God didn’t rest because he was tired, he rested because he was done.

2. This seventh day rest is ongoing…but God did not stop doing the “work” of running the cosmos.

God is still working; he is involved in the details of the world…we call it Providence.

So, Jesus says to the attacks regarding his breaking the Sabbath, that like his Father, he is always working.

So, the same factors that apply to God apply to him…God made the cosmos…he is always at work in the universe…same for Jesus.

Jesus doesn’t say, your rules are dumb and misguided…of course there is nothing wrong with healing a man who had been an invalid for 38 years.

That would have been a proper response

Instead, he says that whatever justifies God working on the Sabbath justifies him doing the same.

They understood his point, he was making himself equal with God, and they were now determined to kill him.

Point #2: When you see Jesus, you “see” God. Jesus reveals his Father.

19 Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you; the Son is not able to do anything on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, the Son likewise does these things. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he is doing, and he will show him greater works than these so that you will be amazed. 21 And just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so the Son also gives life to whom he wants. 22 The Father, in fact, judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 so that all people may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.

-Jesus and God are one and they are distinct. Different persons, one being.

If you fail to honor Jesus, you fail to honor God.

If you see Jesus and his works, you see God and his works.

This is either sheer madness or…the whole world should pay attention to Jesus and his claims.

No wonder they wanted to kill him.

Jesus is the cosmos creating God incarnate.

You think raising the lame is something…much greater things are coming.

Greater things include raising the physical dead…in his earthly ministry…and in the future, he will himself raise the from the dead, and then at the end of this age, he will raise the dead to resurrection life or to judgement.

If you are puzzled by how John would write in 3:17 that God did not send Jesus into the world to condemn it but to save it.

And here he says that judgement is given to Jesus.

John hasn’t forgotten what he just wrote a couple chapters earlier and he isn’t confused.

Yes, the Son of God will impart final judgment…but that is not why he came.

He came so that we might be saved…and escape judgement.

But not all will escape…and…

3. Jesus forces a decision

24 “Truly I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not come under judgment but has passed from death to life.25 “Truly I tell 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 just as the Father has life in himself, so also he has granted to the Son to have life in himself. 27 And he has granted him the right to pass judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not be amazed at this, because a time is coming when all who are in the graves will hear his voice 29 and come out—those who have done good things, to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked things, to the resurrection of condemnation.

Jesus spoke to the lame man “stand up”…he will say to Lazarus, “Come forth” and to a dead child, “get up”

All this is gives credibility to the fact that he is the life…it is in him.

He will say to the dead someday…”live” and those who have trusted him, will be raised in resurrection.

The good works of the NT is to believe in Jesus.

A choice is required…lines are being drawn.

We must “believe”.

Not mere intellectual assent to some religious ideas…but belief equals following, obeying Jesus.

4. It all points to Jesus…what does? everything does…he is the decision point in human history.

31 “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true.

He is not saying he can’t be trusted but he is quoting the Law.

Deut. 19:15 A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.

He is accommodating himself to them…

If you don’t believe me being my own witness…let me give you more…he then lists others who are witnesses to him…three in fact.

1. John the Baptist (they clearly recognized him as a unique prophet)

2. The Father, his witness was revealed in the works Jesus that was given to accomplish (miracles, death, resurrection)

3. Scriptures, entire OT, Moses himself…give testimony.

32 There is another who testifies about me, and I know that the testimony he gives about me is true. 33 You sent messengers to John, and he testified to the truth. 34 I don’t receive human testimony, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35 john was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. 36 “But I have a greater testimony than John’s because of the works that the Father has given me to accomplish. These very works I am doing testify about me that the Father has sent me. 37 The Father who sent me has himself testified about me. You have not heard his voice at any time, and you haven’t seen his form. 38 You don’t have his word residing in you, because you don’t believe the one he sent. 39 You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, and yet they testify about me. 40 But you are not willing to come to me so that you may have life.


People are looking for something to make sense out of everything.

Most don’t have a coherent worldview…it is a kind of Frankenstein worldview of cobbled together body parts from various religions, philosophies, and TV shows.

There are a limited number of possibilities for the world as it is:

1. A closed cosmos
-It is nothing but matter

-No supernatural, just natural.

*There is no science that can prove the cosmos is closed…it is a matter of faith.

2. An open cosmos
-There is something other than, that transcends, the physical universe…it (he) is outside of space and time

*There is no way we could figure out who made the cosmos on our own…we are trapped in this fishbowl ourselves.

Brings us to Jesus.

3. Jesus is the singularity in history. There has never been anyone like him, not even close.

His life and his claims and his actions…demand a decision.

-Thousands of years of Scripture and historical events pointed forward to him.

-His own truth claims were extraordinary, to say the least

-Historical evidence is conclusive regarding his life, death, resurrection

Jesus is the decision point for humanity…he is the way, truth and life.

People often conflate undeniable “truth” with what are called Incorrigible beliefs.

“Gravity is a force whereby things fall down on our planet they don’t fall up.”.

Undeniable and universal fact.

“I believe that vanilla ice cream is the best flavor.” Incorrigible belief.

-Meaning, you can’t tell me that I don’t think vanilla is the best flavor, I am telling you what is true for me.

What has happened is that all kinds of beliefs have become ice cream beliefs…what is true for me, is my truth.

But there are, gravity facts and there are ice cream beliefs…and they are not the same thing.

If you jump off a tall building, you will die…regardless of what you believe or feel about gravity.

If you are convinced that vanilla ice cream is the best flavor…that’s fine, no problem there.

God’s laws are gravity not ice cream.

What God says about marriage, and gender, and sexuality, and ethics, and purpose…is gravity not ice cream…you can’t have your truth, you can only believe the truth or not.

Belief in the gospel, faith in Jesus, is gravity not ice cream.

There are not many ways to heaven, all religions are not the same…not even close.

Don’t be apologetic or shy about the gospel…it is the only thing that explains the world as it is because it is true.

What we see with things like the multi-verse is a sort of cultural “hail Mary” pass because the world is not able to be explained by purely naturalistic causes.

People don’t like the implications, so they come up with ideas to compensate.

So, when you hear…”You Christians believe in irrational things like a personal God and a heaven and hell.”

What is not rational is to believe in eternal existing, or self-creating cosmos.

You can’t have an actual infinite going backwards, there is no eternally existing cosmos…if there was an infinite past you could never get to today..

There was a beginning.

You can’t have a self-creating cosmos…that isn’t even a meaningful sentence, it is just contradictory set of words.

How could it create itself before it existed.

*In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God…he was with God in the beginning…all things were made through him.

*He came to his own but his own did not received him…but to those who did receive him he gave the right to become children of God.

Historical Fact: Jesus has more data points as to his life than any figure in antiquity.

Historical Fact: Jesus rose from the dead. We have looked at this evidence many times.

Historical Fact: The Old Testament prefigured Jesus. In prophecy, in events, in types (temple, kings, prophets) …it all pointed to Jesus, who perfectly fulfilled all that was written about him.

At some point you need to simply say, the verdict is in… the case is closed.

Now…just figure out day to day…how to be faithful to the facts of who Jesus is.

Because he is, who he says is…and everyone has to decide what to do with his claims.

Imagine being one of those in that large number of disabled people waiting around the pool for the waters to be stirred and then trying to quickly get in hoping for a cure.

Then you see one guy, a guy known to be grumpy…not a good guy.

And this guy, Jesus, heals him…and leaves you in your physical suffering.

What are you supposed to think about that? What DO you think about that? Was Jesus cruel for not healing everyone? Would he have been less cruel if he had healed no one?

But then again, about that guy that he healed…he is dead now. His legs failed him again, in death.

What matters the most was whether he believed the claims of Jesus and followed him in faith or not.

“What good would it do to walk, for a few years, then die and lose your own soul?”

We want relief from suffering. We want the best physical life possible now.

Some, according to God’s plan, have more and some have less physical health than others.

In the end, the little bit of time we spend in these bodies, either enjoying health or suffering with illness, will be of small consequence to the weight of eternity.

I hope that if I were there and watched Jesus heal this man, and I was left crippled…that as I cried out in desperation, “Jesus, please heal me.”

And if he were to say, “No that is not my will for you.”

I hope I would say, “I still want to follow you, because you have the words of life.”

What will you do with Jesus and his truth claims?

In the next chapter, we will see that many will walk away from Jesus because his truth claims are hard to take.

But Peter will say, what I hope we all would say as the Lord asks him…

“Are you leaving too?”

“No, Jesus, where would I go?…you have the words of eternal life.”

Indeed he does.