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Sunday, October 1st, 2023
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26
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Bible Commentaries
John 5

Bell's Commentary on the BibleBell's Commentary

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Verses 1-15

  1. INTRO:
    1. Q: Do people really receive Divine healings at certain places/spa’s? - I know of people who swore by Murrieta Hot Springs when it was open to the public.
      1. There is the spa at Lourdes; the shrine at Guadeloupe; the pool of Bethesda.
        1. Surely some medicinal value. Maybe high in minerals, iron, etc.
      2. Every country has special places like this, where people flock by the hundreds to be healed!
      3. Unfortunately their focus gets distracted on how they might be healed, rather than on the One who can truly heal.
    2. First 3 miracles in John show how a person is saved:
      1. 1st (water to wine) salvation is through the word of God [whatever He says to U do it]
      2. 2nd (healing the Nobleman’s son) salvation is by faith; [Took faith to bel son was healed]
      3. 3rd (healing the paralytic man) salvation is is by grace. [unmerited healing at Beth-esda]
    3. Outline: A Bed Carrying a Man; A Man Carrying a Bed; Hypocrites Carrying Legalism.
    1. A BED CARRYING A MAN! (1-7)
    2. (1) Each incident of controversy is set w/in the context of a Jewish Festival.
      1. This takes place in downtown Jerusalem.
    3. (2) The Sheep Gate – Today St Stephan's gate [Located northern wall close to the N.E. Corner]
      1. Just outside of St. Anne’s church (acoustics).
      2. Found in 1960. 2 adjacent pools. W/an area that enclosed them between the 2 pools(5 porticos/covered colonnades). The sick would congregate there in its shade
        1. Believe it to be the place as they found a fresco there w/an angel stirring the water{from 1889} believing that the early Christian era believed it to be there.
    4. Bethesda (or Bet-zatha) - House of Grace/Mercy. [Grace? kindness to those undeserving]
      1. Also Has been translated: “House of mercy,…the portico,…of the Olive”.
      2. In that Jesus saw a multitude of sick people, but He chose only 1 man & healed him. [Ought to humble all of us to know we are chosen “in Him” & not because of our own merits but because of His grace!] {eg. 5:21}
    5. (3) The Great Multitude Suffering from all kinds of ailments. Waiting, believing, despairing
      1. Many were brought & left. The odds pretty high on being the 1st in.
      2. The blind wouldn’t see the water stir; The deaf hoped to be watching the water at the rt. time, for they wouldn’t hear the rush for the pool; The lame had to rely on a friend to lift them over & drop them in; The sick hoped they’d just feel good enough to even get up when it was time.
    6. (3,4) Note: Not in some manuscripts. (yet, doesn’t change story see vs.7)
      1. Legend? - A ripple from a subterranean spring at bottom stirring water(thus the placebo effect)? - Or, once a person was in when this took place & they were healed…poof a legend is born?
    7. (4) How were the “new arrivals” treated? People Vying & jockeying for position on the waters edge. “Hey, to the back!” Probably like trying to get front curb at the Rose Bowl parade(squished).
    8. (5) This opening scene/squalid; the stench/repulsive; the circumstances/depressing.
      1. How much hope do you think he had after 38 years?
      2. 456 consecutive months of waiting; 13,680 days getting beat to the water!
      3. Paralysis had obviously set in; now he looked just like a fixture.
    9. (6) Jesus asks an interesting question to a man who has been sick 38 years, Do you want to be made well? - Why does He ask this?
      1. Maybe because some depend on their unfortunate condition for financial support given by healthy individuals out of pity.
      2. Maybe because those who have experienced prolong pain or misfortune have surrendered even the will to attempt to overcome their situation in life
      3. Maybe because He’s bringing this man to the very bottom of his rope! So he’ll let go & fall into the ever loving arms of our Savior!
        1. Get to the end of yourself quickly!
      4. Do you want to be made well? - Do you want to be healed of your addictions? Do you want to be made well of your marijuana; drinking; adultery; stealing; lying; gossip; anger; incest; embezzlement; covetousness; pornography?
        1. Are you waiting for a sign, a stirring of the water?
        2. Run to the place where U recognize you can’t do it on your own & you need Jesus!
    10. With the tender compassion of a child choosing the runt of the liter, Jesus gives special attention to this withered man.
      1. He’s the pound puppy that no one wanted(missing hair chunks; ribs showing; ears dropping; kink in his tail) - Oh, don’t laugh, so were you(I)!
    11. Jesus – Saw him, knew his conditions, & knew how long.
      1. Jesus knew all about this place; all about each person; all about their legend; He knew their hopes(or lack thereof); their frustrations; disappointments; & anticipations.
      2. Above knowing about them, he cared about them.
      3. It was normally a very dismal place, but not on this day…Jesus was there!
    12. (7) His plight!
      1. I have no man - but he didn’t need help he needed healing.
      2. Wearily watching the pool, but no angel came, or came not for him.
        1. The danger of this pool is looking to an angel for Hope, rather than the Almighty!
      3. Yet, maybe his time would come, he waited still.
      4. He knew not there was One near him whose word could heal in a moment.
      5. Many are in this same plight!
        1. Waiting for some singular emotion, remarkable impression, or celestial vision; they wait in vain & watch for nought. (Spurgeon)
        2. What are you looking to/for? - Still waiting for an angel, or a wonder?
    13. “I want to…But…I can’t!” – “Yes but…”; “I’ve tried”; “I‘ve done everything already!”
      1. ​​​​​​​There are no hopeless situations. There are only people who have grown hopeless about them.
      2. Some men only see a hopeless end, but the Christian rejoices in an endless hope!
    14. A MAN CARRYING A BED! (8-9)
    15. Rise form your bed of despair & in the energy of faith take up your bed & walk!
      1. Rise – Impossible, the very thing he could not do on his own volition!
      2. Take up your bed – No going back. Didn’t want him to save his spot, in case this wore off.
      3. Walk – Continued success; peripateo “to walk about”.
        1. He obviously wanted everyone to see this man.
      4. Why didn’t He heal all? – He didn’t come to physically heal the world, but to spiritually heal us! The ones he does heal physically are just doubly blessed with more of His Mercy.
        1. By His stripes we are healed refers to being healed spiritually! We know this by Peters commentary on Is.53 [See 1 Pet.2:24]
    16. This reminds me of Ps.23 - Here’s the Great Shepherd meeting a sheep, by the sheep gate, near the sheep pool. Whom He leads beside still waters (or waters of rest); Whom He causes to lie down in green pastures (no longer on brown mats). Whom he can now say, the Lord is my Shepherd!
    18. (10) They valued their traditional principles more than people.
    19. The law police show up write him a ticket for not Jay-walking but Mat-walking! :)
      1. Really? For carrying a krab’batos(poor-man’s mat)
      2. Was this the work described in Ex.20:10? You shall not do any work on the Sab
        1. This did not break the Law of Moses, but their interpretation of it!
          1. Pharisees came up with 39 categories of unpermitted work along w/a # of tedious restrictions. [The Rabbis in Jesus day said you are sinning if you “carried a needle in you robe” on the Sabbath]
    20. This is where religion gets really stupid & embarrasing! Anytime there’s no joy over the man’s healing, but only concern of a technicality. [Not jut Judaism, but Christianity]
      1. A man deprived of work for 38 years is accused of working too much!!!
    21. Legalism - Legalists measure spiritual growth against a yardstick notched incrementally by good works.
      1. They’re driven by self-made standards, but in the end stunt growth not promote it [Its the art of turning wine back into water!]
      2. When we lift the veil on legalism...we find hypocrisy not holiness.
      3. Legalists made lists of do’s & don’ts based on tradition or personal preference; then they judge themselves & others on their performance.
      4. This is...“Checklist Christianity!
      5. Paul describes it in Gal.2:4 false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves.
        1. Grace & freedom are the hallmarks of christianity, not law & bondage.
      6. Law & grace are opposite living standards. But this doesn’t mean there wasn’t grace for those who lived under the law; nor no laws for us under grace.
        1. Grace never promotes a do-as-you-please philosophy or a loose life of selfishness, sinfulness, & licentiousness.
      7. OT Israelites under Law were motivated by fear & empowered only by flesh; NT saints under grace are motivated by love & empowered only by the H.S.
    22. Pockets of legalism thrive in almost every church & probably in each of our hearts somewhere.
    23. (14) Found at the temple - Probably went there to give thanks.
    24. Just like the woman at the well, Jesus brings up the deeper condition of the man’s relationship with God, the sin issue, to bring the ultimate healing.
      1. Did sin get him into this situation? - Some sickness is directly tied to sin (Venereal Disease from sexual promiscuity, for instance)
      2. The world says, “you made your bed, now lie in it!” Jesus says, “you made your bed, but I say you can get out of it!”
    25. (15) The Testimony – He didn’t tell the Jews it was Jesus who had made him walk about w/his bed! No! “It was Jesus who made me well” (phys. & spiritually)!
    26. No matter how miserable your life has been, no matter how lame your spiritual life, or how long you’ve been limping - Jesus can change it!
      1. Q: Do you wish to be made well? Do you desire a change? Do you long to be restored to everything God created you to be?
        1. If so, Jesus is your ticket out of that slum.
        2. He’ll give you the grace & strength to take up your bed(you’ve made) & walk.
    27. Compassion: (verb) is used 12 x’s in NT [1 Good Samaritan; 11 God’s compassion]
      1. Originally referred to man’s inner parts {heart, liver, abdomen, intestines, even womb}
      2. In our modern english we use the phrase “he has guts” regarding courage.
        1. Yet, courage has nothing really to do with our intestines.
      3. Sometimes sharp pain in the abdomen accompanies intense feelings of compassion/pity for those we love.
      4. Hear God’s deep love & sensitivity to your pain this morning!

Verses 16-47

  1. INTRO:
    1. What we have in chapter 5 is the courtroom drama of 3 episodes of, not L.A.Law, but Jerusalem Law! (Dun Dun)
      1. Episode #1 we had last week, w/Jesus healing a paralytic man, at the Pool of Bethesda, on the Sabbath. Today we’ll watch Episode 2 & 3,Christ on Trial!
      2. Episode #2 includes Christ’s 6 Claims!
      3. Episode #3 Jesus introduces 5 Witnesses, to substantiate His claims.
    2. This is the 1st recorded hostility towards Jesus in Johns narrative.
  2. 6 CLAIMS! (16-30)
    1. The godless Pharisees condemn Jesus on 2 counts: Heals on Sabbath & Makes Himself equal w/God.
      1. Jesus responds back with these 6 claims!
    2. What connection does vs.17 have with His healing on the Sabbath?
      1. This was the Fatherworking” through me on the Sabbath.
    3. FIRST CLAIM, I’M EQUAL W/GOD! (17-20)
    4. Throughout the passage Jesus never refers to God generically as our Father.
      1. It is always My Father, or The father.
        1. In doing so He claims a unique relationship w/God.
        2. Also, equality in the work they share.
          1. Like a shadow, which is neither identical to nor independent of the substance from which it is cast, so the Son & the Father are distinct from, yet dependent upon, each other. (Charles Swindoll; John; pg.78.)
    5. (18) One can say they don’t believe Jesus was God (i.e. Equal with) but you can’t say that it wasn’t what Jesus was trying to communicate. It’s very clear!
      1. By the way, this verse is the same in the J.W. New World Translation.
    6. Jews objected to Jesus because of their staunch monotheism.
      1. Christians are monotheist as well, yet maintain that the nature of the one true God is that He is Triune; 3 persons - one God.
      2. To the Jewish mind, Jesus’ claim to be God was blasphemous because it suggested the idea of 2 Gods.
      3. Jesus’ claim however was that He was God in human form.
      4. Trinity: 1 in essence & 3 in person.
        1. Not Modalism - 3 modes in which God works (Father, son, husband)
        2. Not Tritheism - 3 beings who together makes up God.
          1. Modalism is too close; Tritheism is too separate.
          2. Trinity doesn’t refer to parts or roles.
      5. How they are similar! - The work of Salvation is in 1 sense common to all 3 persons.
      6. How they are different! - Yet in activity, there are differing operations. The Father initiates creation & redemption; The Son redeems the creation; The H.S. Regenerates & sanctifies, applying redemption to believers.
      7. The doctrine of the Trinity does not fully explain the mysterious character of God. Rather, it sets the boundaries outside of which we must not step.
        1. It defines the limits of our finite reflection.
    8. He claims to have the same power the Father has over the dead.
      1. This will be witnessed by them in ch.11 in the raising of Lazarus.
    10. Today, Jesus is the Savior; Tomorrow, He will be the Judge.
      1. Most people think that the Father is the final Judge of mankind. [Jesus will be]
    11. Those who claim to worship/honor God but ignore the Son are not even worshipping God
      1. They are only fooling themselves.
      2. Just as a judge is esteemed as “Your Honor”, & all participants rise when he enters the courtroom, so it is only fitting that the highest judge, enthroned at the right hand of God the Father, should receive such honor from his creatures
    13. Most Assuredly or Truly, truly - ring out like a town crier’shear ye, hear ye” drawing attention to this important message.
      1. It’s important because it carries good news: eternal life w/o the threat of judgment. But 2 things are required:
        1. A hearing ear & a believing heart!
        2. Anyone who accepts this gift by faith buries forever the fear of eternal separation from God. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus…For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom8:1,38,39
    14. Not only does Jesus claim to be the judge, He claims to be the ticket out of the courtroom for any who stand guilty!
    16. In another dramatic “hear ye, hear ye” announcement, Jesus gives us some of the Bible’s clearest information regarding resurrection. 3 crystal clear facts:
      1. There will definitely be life after death.
      2. Every person will be affected by it.
      3. Mankind will fall into 2, & only 2, categories.
    17. (29) Done good - not works, but the natural outgrowth of the saving gospel’s seed, planted in the heart of the believer at the time of new birth. If it’s there it will sprout!
      1. ​​​​​​​3 Jn.11 Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good.
        He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God.
      2. The good” life emerges through a relationship w/Christ;
      3. The evil” life encroaches through separation from Him.
    18. The only escape route from judgment/condemnation/spiritual death, on the last day...faith in Jesus Christ.
    20. As a shadow does not move on its own initiative, so Jesus moves only in cadence with the fathers footsteps. [or hand-n-glove analogy]
    21. So, Have Christ’s radical claims made any radical changes in your life?
  3. 5 WITNESSES! (31-47)
    1. ​​​​​​​(31) Not true - Not that it’s false, but it wouldn’t be valid as testimony(needed 2/3 Deut 19:15)
    2. So ultimately, how do you prove your case?...you need witnesses!
      1. So, Can I get a witness? Yes, 5 witnesses are introduced to verify His claims!
      2. Imagine yourself, as a juror & Jesus on trial as the defendant.
    3. Jesus, You can call Your first witness to the stand…
    4. FIRST WITNESS, GOD THE FATHER! (32,37,38)
    5. (32) Another - another of the same kind. [allos] (14:16 send you another/H.S.)
      1. Heteros(eteros) - another of a diff kind (Paul speaking of another gospel in Gal.1:6,7)
    6. Bears witness - Gk. indicates continual action. The Father continues to testify to the claims of Christ.
      1. At Jesus Birth (the Father announced the arrival w/prophets, angels, & a star);
      2. At Jesus Baptism (the Father testified, “This is my beloved Son...”)
      3. And later in Jesus’ life (the Father reaffirms His own testimony at: the Transfiguration; the Crucifixion; the Res.; & the Ascension)
    8. Now John is called to the stand. The burning & shining lamp.
      1. Heat in the heart; light in the mind! [Both, head & heart are needed]
      2. Jonathan Edwards from his Religious Affections: There must be light in the understanding as well as the fervency of heart, for if the heart has heat without light, there can be nothing divine or heavenly in that heart. On the other hand, where there is light without heat, such as stored with notions and speculations but having a cold and unaffected heart, there can be nothing divine in that either.
    9. (35b) They were willing to listen to John for a time - but then like moths flitting near a candle, these Jews had swarmed around John, until they got too close to the flame. Then, one by one, they took flight. The light, they liked. It was the heat that drove them away!
    11. The defense now moves from verbal to visual. Exhibit A.
      1. He’s already turned Cana well water into the finest of aged wines; healed a gov official's son long-distance; & restored a paralytic. [And there’s more to come!]
        1. Like: feed 5000; walk on water; heal blind man; raise Lazarus from dead.
    13. Search - to investigate. It corresponds to the Hebrew technical term used by the Rabbis for the study of the Scriptures.
    14. This answers the question...Is it possible to study the Bible w/o finding spiritual life?
      1. Answer...yes. What's lacking? Any who are not willing to come to Jesus for relationship. [Read 2 Cor. 3:14-16]
      2. God’s word was not truly abiding in them; & God’s Son was not the object of their faith.
    15. It’s easy to get caught up in the technical, peripheral, or superficial stuff.
      1. It’s easy for a Lawyer to become enamored w/the intricacies of the law & yet never develop a heart for justice.
      2. It’s easy for a Doctor to become swept up in the state-of-the-art medicine & machines & yet never develop a heart of compassion.
      3. It’s easy for the serious student of the Scriptures to become enraptured w/ exegesis instead of Jesus, carrying on a love affair w/the printed page rather than w/the person of Christ.
        1. The Bible was given not simply as a legal document or self-help book but as a love letter. And if that letter doesn't draw us irresistibly to Jesus, then its possible that we, like the prosecutorial Jews, do not have His Word abiding in us! (Charles Swindoll; pg.86)
    16. FIFTH WITNESS, MOSES! (45-47)
    17. Jesus now turns the courtroom tables & points His finger at His accusers.
      1. Jesus pulls His trump card, His ace from the deck of Jewish heroes...MOSES!
      2. Why Moses? - One of the founding fathers of Judaism; spearheaded the Exodus; gave them the Law; was looked up to w/reverence.
    18. (45) Accuse - a legal technical term to bring charges in court.
    19. (46) When did Moses write of Jesus? - Deut.18:15,19 The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear...And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him.
      1. Peter backs up, it was speaking about Christ, in Acts 3:18-23.
    20. THE VERDICT!
    21. The defense rests. As a member of the jury, you must deliberate. You must weigh the evidence. It’s a sobering decision, for the verdict you reach about Christ is a serious one.
      1. It’s quite literally a matter of life or death - your life or your death!
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on John 5". "Bell's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbb/john-5.html. 2017.
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