Letters to the Prison - Week 48

Hello, everyone.  We miss you.  Nothing takes the place of in-person fellowship, but we hope you find these messages to be encouraging where you are.
We’re considering John chapter 5 and we’re moving on from the healing of the lame man at the pool of Bethesda.  But before we do, there’s one last thing to consider.  After Jesus heals the man, look what happens:
•Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”-John 5:14
This gives us a lot of information about the lame man and his condition when Jesus met him.  For one thing, it is clear that the lame man wasn’t born with his condition.  In fact, what Jesus’ words here tell us is that the lame man’s condition was directly related to his sinful behavior.  He sinned and something really bad happened to him as a result.  His sin rendered him lame for 38 years (John 5:5).  Jesus here is warning the man not to continue in his sin lest “something worse” happen to him.  What are we to take from this?  We could think on this moment a long time, but here are some key thoughts to consider:
1.From this moment, we learn that obviously there are certain sins we can commit that have devastating consequences in this life --for us and for others.  We’re not told what this man did that had such a terrible effect on him.  Many have guessed, but the point here is not to say, “don’t do the specific thing that guy did or else you’ll be lame for 38 years.”  The point here is that some sins may have terrible and immediate consequences that could effectively ruin our lives.  Many of these effects are unknowable and unpredictable.  This is a warning to us not to sin at all.
2.We could easily read more into this moment than we should.  We are not to jump to any conclusions about sin in general because of what we see here.  The Bible has a lot more to say about sin and its effects.  For only a few examples, see John 9:1-3 (we’ll be studying that later); Luke 13:1-5; 1 John 5:16-17; and Romans 6.  In short, we need to carefully consider what all of Scripture has to say about sin and suffering.
Meanwhile, we’re moving on from John 5:18 where Jesus made the unmistakable claim to be God.  In that verse, Jesus claims that he and God are the same person.  That is an amazing claim to make.  But we don’t need to go far before we see the next profound thing Jesus says about himself:
•So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.-John 5:19
This is now the fifth time Jesus uses the words “truly truly” in John’s gospel.  When Jesus says this, it’s time to pay close attention.  Here, since Jesus has claimed to be the same person as God, it follows that Jesus does the same works God does.  As if that’s not amazing enough, look what Jesus says next about himself:
•For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.           -John 5:20-21
Here, Jesus is basically saying “if you marvel that I healed the lame man, wait until you see me raise the dead!  God raises the dead and so will I.”  Jesus is saying that since he is the same person as God doing the same works as God, he must have the same power as God.  Then, Jesus claims to have the same authority as God.  He therefore deserves the same honor as God.  Look what he says next:
• For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.-John 5:22-23
This is an interesting thing Jesus says to the men accusing him of blasphemy (remember back to John 5:18).  Jesus is telling them very clearly that if they truly want to honor God, they must honor Jesus as God.  So, by accusing Jesus of blasphemy, they’re dishonoring him and therefore committing blasphemy against God themselves!  
At this point, we should just pause to consider the gravity of what Jesus is claiming about himself.  He claims total equality with the God of the Old Testament.  If you’ve read any part of the Old Testament, you have some idea of who God is…  Creator of the universe and everything in it (Genesis 1-3)…  sent the Flood (Genesis 6-8)… God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Genesis 12-50)… the One who spoke to Moses from the burning bush (Exodus 3)… and led the Israelites out of Egypt –by parting the Red Sea (Exodus 14).  We could go on, but you get the point.  And, Jesus is making this claim to the very men who are authorities on the subject of the God of the Old Testament.  And he’s making that claim as he stands near the Temple of God –the temple Jesus claims to own! (John 2:16-17).  Even more incredibly, he tells those same men that unless they honor him as God, they are blaspheming!
These claims are either the ridiculous, insane, incredible rantings of an absolute lunatic…
Or they’re true.
We have to decide.  And the decision has eternal significance.  Look what Jesus says next:
• Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
 -John 5:24
There, with the sixth “truly truly” statement recorded in John’s gospel, Jesus makes plain the fact that those who believe that he is God have eternal life.  So, not only is Jesus saying that his claims to be God are true, he’s telling us that our eternal lives depend on it!
That’s a lot to take in.  But there’s so much more coming.  Until next week!  Keep reading John 5.  We love you!

Dean A.



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