Letters to the Prison - Week 47

Greetings!
We do miss our face-to-face fellowship with you.  It is encouraging to stand together and sing praises to God and consider his word together.  We hope to return to that sooner rather than later.  Meanwhile, we hope you’re studying John’s Gospel with us.  If you don’t have a Bible and want one, ask for one!  
So, we’re looking at John 5:1-18 which records the healing of the lame man at the pool of Bethesda.  Last week, we looked at the lame man’s reaction.  This week, we’ll see how the Jewish leaders reacted to the healing.  But before we do, there’s something to observe about the Bible itself:
Look carefully at the first 5 verses of John chapter 5.  Depending on which translation of the Bible you’re looking at, you might see that there’s a verse missing –or not.  For example, in the King James version (or the New King James version), verses 3-5 might read something like this:
3 In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.
4 For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.
5 And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.
-John 5:3-5 (KJV)
In other translations like the English Standard Version (ESV), you might see that verse 4 is missing entirely.  The reason for this is that the earliest and most reliable manuscripts of John’s Gospel do not include verse 4.  It would seem that someone other than John added the verse to John’s gospel long after he had finished writing it.  We could speculate why, but the point is that this tells us two things:
1)We can’t be entirely sure of the nature of the pool at Bethesda.  The people gathered around it clearly thought there was some health benefit to it, but whether or not an angel appeared occasionally to stir the water and heal people is simply unknown.
2)What we can be sure of is that the words in our Bibles are as accurate as possible.  The people who translated and copied the Bible went to great efforts to make sure that what we read today is correct and accurate.  Where there is any question about the accuracy of a verse -or in this case, whether a verse even belongs there or not- such a question is made clear so that no one is confused or deceived.
This is one of many reasons why we can trust the Bible.  People who stake their lives (and eternity!) on the truth of the Bible need to know that it is accurately recorded.  Those who believe what the Bible says about God also believe that God is powerful and able to defend the integrity of his word so that it can reach his people and encourage them with the truth even today.  Which brings us to this:  If you’re wondering which “version” of the Bible is the best, here’s the answer:  It’s the one you’re reading.  If you are reading God’s word with the hope of learning more about him and the truth of his work, God will meet you there and will show you the truth.  This is why we study it.  So, let’s get on with it!
Resuming our study of John chapter 5, we’ve seen Jesus perform this amazing and profound healing act.  With a simple command, he restored a man who had been lame for 38 years.  That man faithfully and obediently did what Jesus told him to do.  He got up, picked up his bed and walked.  Which brings us to verse 10 where we see how the Jewish leaders reacted to this miracle:
•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.”-John 5:10
So, did Jesus command the lame man to violate God’s law of the Sabbath?  Or is something else going on here?  The short version is that the Jewish leaders had created a ridiculous number of man-made laws that they would often twist to suit their own ends.  They then taught these laws to the uneducated masses as if they were God’s laws.  They used their power and authority to abuse the people rather than teach them the truth about God.  Jesus contested and condemned such practices all the time.  One key example of this can be found in Mark 7:1-13.
Here in John 5, we see how these men completely ignored the miracle that went on –they didn’t even ask the man why he was carrying his bed… didn’t say anything about his condition.  They just grilled him for violating the “law” and asked him who told him to pick up his bed (John 5:10-13).
These men were so interested in maintaining their man-made rules that they completely overlooked the miracle that occurred.  Or worse, they knew a true miracle had happened and wanted to cling to their own power and control so badly that they tried to devalue the miracle by showing how it violated the “law.”
Either way, the Jewish leaders had no interest in giving God the glory for what happened to the lame man on that day.  We’ll see much more of their hard-hearted denial of Jesus as we go through this study.  But for our overall purpose of answering the question “who does Jesus say he is?”  Verses 16-18 say it all:
•And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”  18 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.-John 5:16-18
Right there in verse 18 is perhaps the clearest comprehensive statement about who Jesus and others say Jesus is.  Jesus claims to be God.  Here we see that he himself is making the claim, his enemies recognize clearly that he is making that claim, and John is the one reporting all of this to us.  Jesus’ claim to be God couldn’t be any more clear.
So, the question then:  Is Jesus who he says he is?  Is he God?  Do you believe it?
We hope you’ve answered “YES” to those questions!  Until next week, keep reading John 5.  We love you!

Dean A.

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