Study Series in John's Gospel

The Witness of His Healing Word

Study Series: The Gospel of John

Larger Context: Jesus’ Self-Disclosure in Word and Deed (1:19-10:42)

This Study: A Nobleman’s Son Healed (4:43-54)

Murray McLellan

V. 43-49 Now after the two days He departed from there and went to Galilee. For Jesus Himself testified that a prophet has no honor in His own country. So when He came to Galilee, the Galileans received Him, having seen all the things He did in Jerusalem at the feast; for they also had gone to the feast.

So Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe,”

The nobleman said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies!”

We now have Jesus continuing the journey began in v. 3. The welcome of the Galileans was dependent upon miracles. This was so unlike the faith of the Samaritans! (i.e. see v. 45, and 6:26, 66 )

The focus then turns to a certain nobleman in a desperate situation. His son is sick and near unto death. He hears that Jesus is in the vicinity and so he seeks Him out and makes an earnest plea to Him. Jesus seems to give him a gentle rebuke, almost as if to push him away. However the man will not be pushed away, and he persists and cries again.

Sickness and death are no respecter of persons.

They have no regard for one’s station in life or one’s age. This was a rich nobleman, and this was his young son at the point of death.

There can be a tendency for people to envy the rich. Yet, even a man like David was much happier in the fields as a shepherd than he was when he was a king in his palace. We must also learn that riches in and of themselves are not good or bad. Riches in and of themselves do not prove or disprove the blessing of God. It is not a sin to be wealthy. It is how we handle this that is important. When Jesus said, “How difficult it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God,” He didn’t mean that rich people are more sinful. What He was getting at, I think, is that the rich often have a tendency to be self-sufficient and proud, and can solve things in their own power. Money is not almighty. So do not trust in riches. Use your riches for the kingdom of God.

In our passage, this nobleman faced something that his riches could not help with – his son’s sickness unto death. He could not buy life. It is appointed unto man once to die and after this the judgment. Those joined to the Lord Jesus are safe, whether we die young or old.

The first grave ever dug in the history of the world was not dug for an old man, but for a youth – a young man murdered out of hate. The first person who ever died was not a father, but a son!

The nobleman’s desperate situation causes him to seek Christ. In Psalm 119:71, David wisely writes, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted.” Anything that makes us face reality and come to Jesus Christ is one of the greatest blessings that God can send into your life.

This man had heard what Christ could do and that is what motivated him to come to Christ. He didn’t care what anyone else thought. He was desperate. Have you heard what Christ can do? Have you heard how He can cleanse the poorest and vilest sinner?

V. 50 Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your son lives.” So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way.

This man needed to understand the authority of Jesus. Jesus was not just a miracle worker. Jesus’ authority was such that He could speak miles away and this man’s son was healed. This nobleman was about to grasp something of the authority of this Man called Jesus. Jesus did not have to “come down.”

The man believed the word of Jesus without seeing any deed! He heeded the rebuke. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1; NASB)

He believed the word of Jesus.

Can I take this promise for my son, if he is sick? Has Jesus Christ irrevocably promised to heal my son if I have enough faith? No! That is not a specific promise to me, concerning my son. It was to that nobleman and his son. The health, wealth, and prosperity gospel is widespread, but it is not built on the Word of God. That is not a specific promise to you. Can any person take this verse and say, “God owes me this”? No! Can God heal any sick person in the world today? Absolutely He can. Does He miraculously heal some people? Absolutely. Has He promised to heal every person who has enough faith? No, He hasn’t done that. In fact, to believe that will bring you into horrible despair, if you are not careful. Many are believing that God has promised something that God has not promised.

You can claim by the strongest faith in the world something that God has not promised. God has not obligated Himself to your faith, but to His oath, His covenant, and promise. When Jesus said to this man, “Go your way; your son lives,” He meant it and that man could count on that. But I can’t generalize that and make a doctrine out of it, claiming that I have the same right.

There is a promise of His Word that I can give you, though.

“Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Rom. 10:13)

And “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom. 10:9)

No “if’s” or “but’s” about it!

But what must I do if I want to be physically healed, now? Is there a promise I can go to in the Word of God? The answer is no. God can heal and He may heal and when we are sick, the first one we should run to is not the doctor but the Lord. We ought to ask Him what He’s teaching us and to show us if there’s something in our life that is the basis of this. We ought to pray for His grace to sustain us in this.

We must also recognize that if we are sick, it is not proof of our sinfulness. If we are not healed, it is not proof that we don’t have any faith. True faith is in specific promises and in the person of Christ Himself. It is not the preacher we believe, or the church – it is Christ. When I was in darkness and heard John 3:16, I heard the promise of Christ. I heard it as the word that Jesus spoke to me, and I believed Him, and I have been going on the Way ever since. (Remember the Samaritans in John 4:42.)

V. 51-54 And as he was now going down, his servants met him and told him, saying, “Your son lives!” Then he inquired of them the hour when he got better. And they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” So the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son lives.” And he himself believed, and his whole household. This again is the second sign Jesus did when He had come out of Judea into Galilee.

What mercy! This man did not deserve such a blessing from the Lord of all.

The man’s faith was shared. He wanted to make the truth known. He proclaimed it to his whole household and they believed.

However, as we shall see, this was not the response of the majority of those in Galilee. Though seeing two incredible signs, they did not believe, as did the Samaritans who had seen no signs (John 4:44).

A Man Healed at the Pool of Bethesda (5:1-15)

V. 1-6 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, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, [waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had.] Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”

[Note: the end of verse 3 and all of verse 4 are not in any of the earlier manuscripts. Some think it is an addition, reflecting what people thought caused the stirring of the water. I will leave you to study and draw your own conclusions as to the merits of these words.]

What misery sin has brought into the world. This should cause us to recognize how deeply we ought to hate sin. Sin was the original cause and fountain of every disease, and pain, and suffering in the world. These things are the fruit of the fall. Yet, with this before us, man still runs greedily after that which brings suffering.

Out of a great multitude of suffering people, Jesus singles out this one man.

V. 7-9 The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath.

Christ is the Friend of the friendless and Helper of the helpless! Jesus’ powerful word heals the man. “Rise!” What an anticipation of that great day referred to in 5:28-29!

The man did not just stagger away. He was healed and strengthened such that he carried off his bed (or mat); thus showing the completeness of the cure.

John tells us that it was the Sabbath. Thus, he sets up the confrontation to follow.

V. 10 The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.”

By Old Testament standards, the man was not breaking the law, since he did not normally carry beds (mats) around for a living. The call to do no work on the Sabbath, was a call to do no customary work. The Pharisees carried it to its absolute extent. (i.e. as some do today with other scriptures, such as ‘let a woman keep silent.’ etc.)

Often man tries to bind consciences with something the Scriptures do not specifically state.

V. 11-14 He answered them, “He who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your bed and walk.'” Then they asked him, “Who is the Man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.”
The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.

Some tragedies and illnesses are the result of specific sin.

Notice that the Jews are not interested in this man, nor his miraculous healing. They are critical and negative – focused on, what is in their mind, breaking the Sabbath. (How much joy in life is swallowed up by a legalistic, judgmental attitude where an individual sets up their opinions and views to critique all others?)

The Claims of the Healer (5:16-47)

V. 16-17 For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.”

Discussion of the Sabbath –

God’s First Work of Creation – Gen. 1:1-2:3

– Physical creation:

  1. Work announced
  2. Work finished
  3. Satisfaction with the work (It was good.)
  4. Rest in the finished work

The first Adam – natural, of the earth – given dominion.

Why did God rest? Was He tired? No, He had finished His creative work or purposes. He had finished all He had set out to do. See also Ex. 31:17 where we are told that God rested and was refreshed! There was a rejoicing and delighting in the completed creation. Mark 2:27 tells us that the Sabbath was made for man; that man might enter into God’s rest and joy and refreshment in the creation. Adam entered into God’s rest. It was not just once every 7 days. The 7th day Sabbath was a picture/type first given in Ex. 16 in conjunction with the exodus. Adam entered into God’s rest and that rest ended when he sinned.

After the fall, God went back to work – “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.”

God’s first work after the fall … “The Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.” (Gen. 3:21) (The same Hebrew word “made” as in the days of physical creation. God took up the work of preparing rest for His fallen creatures.

Notice the parallel in the new creation.

God’s Second Creation Work

– Spiritual creation (the new creation)

  1. Work announced (Gen. 3:15) – the announcement of the intended work to remedy the tragedy of the fall.
  2. Work finished (John 19:30) – God finished His planned work of redemption and re-creation at the cross.
  3. Satisfaction in the work ( Acts 2:25-36; Rom. 1:1-4) – God expresses His satisfaction with the finished work by raising our Lord from the dead.
  4. Rest in the finished work ( Heb. 1:1-4; 10:12) – God rested in what He accomplished through the work of His Son. Jesus sat down. Was it because He was tired? No, He rested because He finished the work His Father had given Him to do.

The last Adam – spiritual, the heavenly Man – given dominion.

In the New Covenant, we are refreshed in the rest of the completed new creation – Christ’s finished work. We enter into and enjoy God’s rest!

John continues to show that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures. He is the fulfillment of the Sabbath. ( In the Old Covenant – Sabbath was the sign – “remember the Sabbath”. In the New Covenant – Lord’s table – “remember ME”.)

What place does the Sabbath have in our lives? Is Sunday the Christian Sabbath? Should you work on Sunday? Do we look at all passages and give them equal weight or does the New Covenant have the priority in a revelation that has progressively moved towards Christ as the fulfillment? Indeed John’s point has been that we must give logical priority to the New Testament because revelation is progressive and the New Testament is the

pinnacle and consummation of redemptive history. Thus God the Father declared, “This is My Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” Jesus is preeminent over Moses and the Prophets. In fact, He is their fulfillment (Matt. 5:17, 17:1-8; Heb. 1:1-4; Acts 3:24; 13:32-39; Rom. 1:1-4).

If someone with no Bible knowledge came to you and asked how they could be made right with God, to which part of Scripture would you direct him/her to?

Did Adam practice a 7th day Sabbath in the garden before the fall? No, it would seem that every day for Adam in the garden was a Sabbath.

(No Sabbath day after the fall until Ex. 16:23; and then established as a sign for Israel at Mt. Sinai. – Neh. 9:13- 14)

Sabbath – the sign of the Old Covenant (Ex. 31:12-18) [The surrounding nations were never condemned for failing to observe the Sabbath, for it was the sign of God’s covenant with Israel.]

How do we understand, “perpetual” in light of Col. 2:16- 17? (Ezek. 20:12-20) It would seem that the “picture” gives way to the fulfillment which is everlasting (just as the Day of Atonement and other Old Testament types were “perpetual” – as they were fulfilled in Christ.

The Sabbath was extremely important to God – see Num. 15:32-36; Ex. 35:2-3; Ezek. 20:12-13; 2 Chron. 36:20-21.

1. The Sabbath constantly reminded Israel of the rest that Adam lost in the Garden of Eden because of his sin. He could compare his present life of hard work, needed just to survive, with the life where everything needed was provided by God, without pain and labor on his own part. In other words, the Sabbath was a weekly, constant visible reminder of the wages of sin!

2. The Sabbath also gave Israel a promise and hope of a coming Redeemer who would restore the rest that had been lost in Eden. The Sabbath was a picture of Christ and the rest that He would give.

The Sabbaths of Lev. 25 are great reminders of God’s rest! Jesus is the true and final fulfillment of everything the Sabbath pointed to.

Yearly Sabbath (every 7th year directed Israel to trust God – as when they gathered manna. God would provide enough in the 6th year to live on and for seed for the 8th year). God was tutoring them that they do not live by their works but by God’s grace! It pushed the Israelite from works to faith.

The greatest of all the Sabbaths was every fifty years – the year of Jubilee, when all the debts were cancelled and slaves set free.

You can imagine an Israelite who was in debt and had lost the family farm, now serving a harsh task master. He would rise early on the morning of Jubilee and eagerly await the trumpet of the ram’s horn and the announcement that Jubilee had come!

This is exactly what our Lord did in Luke 4:19 when He said He came to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. He was putting the gospel trumpet to His lips and saying, “Jubilee has come! The Lord’s great Sabbath has dawned!” All our debts are paid and we are totally free!

The Sabbath rightly understood takes you to the foot of the cross and to the resurrection, and causes you to gaze upon the ascended Christ – our Sabbath – let us remember Him – for He is holy and He has separated us to enter His rest!

Jesus, like the earlier Joshua, leads God’s people into rest (Matt. 11:28-30). On the sixth day of the week, Jesus finished God’s work of redemption (Mark 15:42) The rest of Joshua 21:44-45 was not the ultimate rest any more than the manna was the ultimate bread of life. It was a token and promise of a fullness of rest still to come (Heb. 3:1-4:11). There is no gathering manna today. God has provided plenty – trust Him. Cease from your labors and enter into the refreshing rest of God’s perfect and completed work!

Fulfilled! That is why the stronger brother does not observe any day holier than another (Rom. 14:1-6; Gal. 4:9-11). The Sabbath no longer has significance as a day, but in the fulfillment of what it pointed to – Jesus, who gives rest – the One in whom we have ceased from our works. For those who rest in Christ, every day is a Sabbath – a redemptive rest of refreshment! (Contrast Rev. 14:11 with 14:13 and our ultimate rest and refreshment in the very presence of God!)

V. 16-18 For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.

Jesus turns the Sabbath issue into a Christ issue. Who is He? The Son insists that He has the right to do what the Father does. Just like the Father, the Son works on the Sabbath. If God did not keep on in His sovereign governing, every Sabbath, the world would fall apart. Even the rabbis were aware of this, and so they wrote that God does work on the Sabbath but He does so without breaking the law. They “reinforced” the law with such restrictions as not carrying burdens above one’s shoulders or beyond one’s domain or home. So they said that God does not break the Sabbath because the whole universe is His domain. Also, since God is bigger than the universe, He never does anything above His shoulders. God lifts nothing to a height greater than His own stature.

Jesus’ response to them is that “My Father [“My” showing a distinct and unique relationship that Jesus claimed as His own] is always at work. He doesn’t stop for any Sabbath day.” And Jesus claims the same exemption!

In verse 18, we see that the Jews recognize that He is claiming God’s prerogatives. He is either God or a blasphemer!

V. 19 Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.

The Son never acts independent of the Father. He cannot for they are one. Whatever the Father does, the Son does. Everything Jesus does is agreeable to the Father.

The fact that Jesus does all that the Father does presumes ability. If I saw Wayne Gretzky do something, that does not mean I can do it, for I am not equal to him in ability.

V. 20 For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel.

Because the Father loves the Son, He shows Him everything He does, and the Son does it all. The Son loves the Father and expresses His love in obedience, doing everything His Father shows Him. (Thus the redemptive work turns first and foremost on the love of the Father for His Son and the love of the Son for His Father.) The Son, by His obedience, reveals the Father, for the Son does whatever the Father does, and thus, He expresses the Father in His perfect obedience. Jesus cannot imagine doing something that is not the Father’s will. Hence His prayer in the garden.

The God of the Bible, though one, is not simple but complex. The Muslim god, Allah, may be one, but he is not triune like the true God of the Bible. What Allah was supposedly doing before creation – gazing at his navel or whatever – we can only guess. He was not loving as our God – the one God who is a triune God – where Father, Son, and Holy Spirit loved one another in glorious fellowship.

Christ can do what His Father shows Him! In so doing, He discloses the Father to us. The greater works (i.e. “than these” – i.e. greater than physical healing) will include His giving life to the dead! (i.e. v. 24-30)

Notice the purpose of the greater works…” that you may marvel.” (Take time to reflect on Jesus’ greater works that cause you to marvel. This is a part of worship and God is seeking true worshippers!)

The Father admires the Son and calls us to enter into the wonder and enjoyment of admiring the Son who has performed the great work of our redemption – that though we were dead in trespasses and sins, He has made us alive – by grace we have been saved! Marvel at such a mighty Savior!

V. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will.

Jesus is not just God’s “agent.” He gives life to whom He will. The Son has the same power as the Father. There is no power that the Father has that the Son does not have, or He could not do all the Father does! (Contrast 2 Kings 5:6-7)

Just as Jesus chose one man out of a multitude to heal – so He chooses those for whom He does a greater work; that of giving life!

V. 22 For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son,

The Persons of the Godhead have a distinction of roles and functions (i.e. the Father did not die on the cross). The Father delegates all the judgment to the Son, but the Son does not act independently of the Father, doing His own thing.

V. 23 that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.

For the jealous God of the Old Testament Scriptures to say this means the Son is one with Him in all rights and privileges. All the worship and honor and adoration and praise that He has stated is exclusively His, He says to direct to the Son. He is to be worshipped as God is worshipped. In fact to withhold that worship from the Son is to withhold it from God the Father. To not worship the Son is to not worship the Father.

In the final count, God will not ask: “What church did you go to?” or “How hard did you try?” or “How sincere were you?”

He will ask you first and foremost: “How have you responded to My Son? I have determined that all should honor My Son.” Why? Because the Father loves the Son. To not honor the Son is to violate the Father’s love for the Son.

V. 24-26 Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself,

The more you think about this, the more your brain hurts. For God to have life in Himself, must refer to the truth that God is self-existent. He has not derived from, nor is He dependent upon anyone or anything. He has life in Himself. Now, if He’s granted the Son to have life in Himself, how can you speak of it as life in Himself? How can you grant “self-existence” and it be self- existence? If it is self-existence, how can you grant it? This is a hard saying for someone who can hardly understand time, nor hardly remember what I did two weeks ago!

If it said, “…so He granted Him to have life,” it would have made more logical sense, but, of course, if it said that, the Son would not be on par with God. This must

be an eternal grant or decree where the Son was appointed as the dispenser and giver of life to all mankind (see 1 John 5:11). It is not as if there was a time when the Father had life in Himself and the Son didn’t and then the Son was eventually granted “life in Himself.” This is not possible for then it would not be self-existence or life in Himself.

We know from John 1:4 that “in Him was life and the life was the light of men.” Indeed, Jesus is the dispenser and giver of life. We need to hear His word (v. 24), for His words are God’s words! (See Deut. 18:15-19) He alone can speak life to our dead hearts. In Him is life. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. We who are in Christ in whom is life, have eternal life and we will not come into judgment. The sentence of death and damnation has been removed from us even now. We have moved from the sphere of death (dead in heart and sentenced to condemnation) to the sphere of life! (See also John 3:16-18).

Jesus alone can speak life to our souls. Hear Him! Hear His word! (John 10:27-28; Eph. 4:21) Lazarus was dead and in the tomb. Christ called him and Lazarus heard His voice and he lived! In like manner, though we were dead in trespasses and sin, Christ called us to resurrection life! ( I believe that the phrase “and now is” lets us know that Jesus is speaking of the spiritual life He imparts to sinners who are spiritually dead.) How can the Son do this? Because He has life in Himself! He seeks out men and women from among the dead and “gives life to whom He will.” Like the prodigal son, He can bring you from death to life (see Luke 15:24). There is a huge difference between life and death.

V. 27 and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.

The Son of God also insists He is the Son of Man, and as such, He is the God-sanctioned Judge of all. He is that Son of Man in fulfillment of Daniel 7:13-14. Being a man, it is totally appropriate and fitting that He be our judge. As such, He will judge us not only with omniscience but with the knowledge of experience. He was tempted in all points as we are and yet without sin. This gives Him the right to judge us. His righteousness will condemn all who fall short of His perfection.

V. 28-29 Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.

There is coming a day when Jesus will say, “Murray McLellan, come forth!” Do not marvel, for He has life in Himself. And Jesus will say, “Adolph Hitler, come forth!” He will rise to be condemned. Some will cry as in Rev. 6:16, “…hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” Others, will admire Him, and enter into the joy of their Lord, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

All will “be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2 Thess. 2:12) Be assured, God “has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:31)

Woe to all who fancy that this world is all and that this life ends everything. They are greatly mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God the Son. Notice that those who have life are “those who have done good.” True faith produces the fruit of good works. This is not the cause of salvation, but the mark of the saved.

V. 30 I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.

Jesus can do nothing independent from the Father. This is impossible. His nature does not allow Him to do anything contrary to the Father. His will is to do the Father’s will. There is total harmony between the Son’s will and the Father’s.

V. 31-32 If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true. There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true.

In other words, Jesus seems to be saying that if His only witness is His testimony or claims, then you could conclude that His witness is false. However His Father bears witness of Christ through:

  • His forerunner, John the Baptist
  • The miraculous works He has done
  • The Scriptures which the Jews professed to honor all of which testify that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

V. 33-35 You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved. He was the burning and shining lamp, and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light.

The Father’s first witness was John the Baptist, who came into the world to bear witness to the true Light. He had publicly identified Jesus as the Lamb of God – the Spirit-anointed Son of God (Psalm 132:17). Though John is likely dead by this time (notice the past tense used), they had rejoiced in his light for a time, being caught up in the messianic excitement regarding the promised kingdom.

V. 36 But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish – the very works that I do – bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.

As valuable as the testimony of John was, there was a far weightier testimony… the Father’s testimony of His works which He gave Jesus to do – including the signs which all ultimately point to the climatic work of redemption achieved in the cross and exaltation of the Lamb of God.

If the enemies of our Lord could have proved that His miracles were only tricks or false claims, they would have been only too glad to show the world and to silence Him forever. The truth is, however, that Jesus’ miracles were so many, so public, and so incapable of being explained away, that our Lord’s enemies could only say that they were done by Satanic agency. Jesus’ miracles were great in number and in power. They were public and visible and could bear any examination.

V. 37- 38 And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form. But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe.

  • They never heard His voice (like Moses who testifies of His voice; Ex. 33:11) – though One stands speaking to them!
  • They never saw His form (like Jacob who testifies of His form; Gen. 32:30-31) – though One stands before them!
  • They do not have His word abiding in them (like Joshua; Josh. 1:8-9) – though the Word of God was abiding in their midst!
  • Their unbelief blinded them to the reality that they were in the very presence of the Son of God.

V. 39-40 You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.

The third testimony of the Father regarding His Son was the Scriptures. Their tragic failure to grasp God’s truth was nowhere more clearly manifest than in their approach to the Scriptures. Their problem was not that they didn’t read or study it. They even made their boast in it. In fact, they diligently studied the Scriptures. Jesus insists that there is nothing life-giving about studying the Scriptures, if one fails to discern their true content and purpose. “These are the Scriptures which testify of Me,” Jesus declares. [See John 1:45, 2:22, 3:10, 5:45- 46, 20:9.]

D.A. Carson states it this way. “The Old Testament Scriptures by predictive prophecy, by type, by revelatory event and by anticipatory statute point to Christ, His ministry, His teaching, His death, and resurrection.” Like John the Baptist, the Scriptures rightly understood, point away from themselves to Jesus.

Many of the Jews were like men searching for wealth and tossing the many gold nuggets over their shoulder into the garbage, because they were looking for riches in another form. Thus, they missed the very treasure right in front of them.

The Scriptures testify of the great and only Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This is why I lost interest in a lot of the books on my shelf, after my redemption, for the name of Christ was not there. There is one book that testifies in fullness of Jesus. “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:10) and of all Scripture! This book is the voice of the Spirit speaking of Jesus, and He presents Jesus to us as the resting place of our faith.

Jesus is the Alpha and Omega of the Scripture. It is His glorious light that is diffused through every page. The first Adam comes before us at the beginning, as the introducer of death. With his name and doings, only death is linked. But in his place comes the second Man, the last Adam, the Giver of life – yeah, Life itself. And in all the Scriptures, the quickening, life-giving fragrance of His name is diffused.

If therefore some of the Jews refuse to come to Jesus for life, that refusal constitutes evidence that they are not reading their Scriptures as they were meant to be read. In fact, they are deliberately standing aloof from the Fountain of Life. The world is dead and needs life. The Scripture speaks of life, and this life is in Christ. Yet, man will not come. He does not want to be made well. He loves darkness (John 3:19; Matt. 23:37).

Literally verse 40 states, “You do not will to come.” The loss of a man’s soul is always attributed in Scripture to man’s own lack of will to be saved. It is not in God’s unwillingness to receive. It is not in a lack of sufficiency of Christ’s redeeming work and atonement. It is simply and entirely man’s entire fault. Man’s salvation, if saved, is entirely of God. Man’s ruin, if lost, is entirely of himself. This is how the Bible states it.

V. 41-42 I do not receive honor from men. But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you.

They do not know Him, but He knows them! Jesus does not live with an eye for the honor of men (though they do … v. 44). Jesus’ single passion is to do what pleases His Father. He loves His Father, whereas they do not love God. A man may be convinced in his mind, but as long as his heart loves anything more than God, there will be no true faith.

v. 43-44 I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?

Many profess to worship the one true God, but they do not sincerely love Him. (That’s why many will never leave the religions of men – they seek the honor of men.) If they had loved God, they would have loved God’s Son. They are willing to receive false Christs, for the false Christs flattered them and honored them. But, as Paul points out in Rom. 2:29, a true Jew is one who is circumcised in heart and whose praise is not from men, but from God.

V. 45-47 Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you – Moses, in whom you trust. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

The very Moses whom they esteem so highly as the mediator of the Sinai covenant will be their accuser. Moses will be the first to accuse them of their failure to understand the law covenant. They took it as an end in itself and not as a witness to Christ Himself.

We notice too that it is not in one specific passage, but in the books of Moses.

John is calling his readers to understand and believe in Jesus and the law of Moses in a way that many Jews of Jesus’ day did not.

Closing comments: (for ch. 5)

In the Old Testament, Israel was the son of God (Isa. 11:1 and Ex. 4:22). But God makes a promise in Isa. 9:6-7 to give a greater Son. Jesus is the Son of God – the true Israel – the ultimate King.

In the Old Testament, Israel is the vine. But as God’s vine it is a failure, producing bad fruit (Isa. 5; Ps. 80:14-16). Then Jesus comes along and says, “I am the true Vine!”

In our passage here in Chapter 5, Jesus reveals that He is the true Son – the ultimate Israel!

~ Murray

About Murray McLellan
Murray is the lead church planter and Bible teacher at Grace Fellowship Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. He and his wife Cheryl have labored in the Gospel for many years despite the many discouragements along the way. Our brother is associated with “InDepth Studies”, the Acts 29 network of church planters, and more recently the uniquely Canadian C2C church planting network. In new covenant circles Murray is a long time contributor to new covenant thought and discussion.
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