John 5 Part 3

Resumed from part 2

John 5:23, “So that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.” He saying men must honor Me just as they honor God and that word for honor is the word for worship.
Jesus did come to bring love and tolerance, not to sin but to follow the Scriptures. A lot of people have the mistaken idea that Jesus is a way but not the way. They think people can come to God in their own ways. That’s not an option. Jesus is making salvation available. You can decide if He’s wrong but if you take Him seriously, He’s claiming to be the way. Now that teaching will not make you popular. You have to understand that. Nor did it make Him popular in His day as well. It’s a strong teaching but I’m not making it up. Don’t shoot the messenger! The fact is that this is exactly what He claims. You have to ask yourself if Jesus isn’t the way, what options do you have? I’ll tell you what it is. Your option is you’ve got to work your way to God. It’s not going to be by grace through faith and the finished work of Christ on your behalf. Every other option is called bootstrap theology. You know how it works. You grab your bootstraps and try to lift yourself up into heaven. It doesn’t work. That’s the only option I know of. Every other religion, every cult, they all teach human works. If God’s perfect, how do you think you’re going to make it? We can’t even be perfect with our friends or with our loved ones. How can we be perfect before God? You see the point here? It’s a dilemma. In fact, Jesus is the One who claimed the human heart is actually the problem. We have a heart problem- both in the sins of the flesh and also sins of the spirit. These sins include coveting, envy, malice, and pride. Who of us have never had those problems? You see, we say, “I’m not an adulterer or I haven’t committed murder.” But the others will do very well. Jesus says it’s much more radical than you supposed. I think that’s one of the reasons that people water it down. This is not popular stuff in an age that elevates tolerance of truth as a virtue. Jesus, I find to be rather intolerant of error.As we approach John 5 and looking forward to John 6, these two chapters seem to share a common theme. It is that of causes and the nature of Israel’s actual lack of faith in Jesus. It deals with the issue of rejection. Why did Israel reject her Messiah? Chapter 5 focuses particularly on what this looked like in Jerusalem during the Sabbath festival whereas chapter 6 explores what happened there at a Passover festival in Galilee. We go to Jerusalem in chapter 5 and back up to Galilee in chapter 6. There we see in both cases we have rejection- the Jews who refuse to accept Him as their Messiah.
Lord, we thank you for this time that we have together to study Your word and to reflect upon it. I ask that You’d give us clarity of insight and willingness to not only hear but to respond to what we hear. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
This is a very common theme in the synoptic gospels. Remember the Synoptics- Matthew, Mark, and Luke- all concern “seeing together” (that’s what synoptic means). They all present conflict stories and also the Passion narratives but John adds something more.
What we have in John is a typology- a theme of what this looked like. John’s gospel places Jesus on trial and not just at the end of His life. In a way, we see that He’s been on trial continually.
His arrival forces us to see. What evidence do we have that He is who He claims to be in view of His audacious claims? We’ll see His claims become much more direct and much more explicit than they were in the first four chapters of John. How are we to handle this? What are we to do with it? If He is, in fact, who He claims to be, the implications are nothing less than stunning. Whereas if He is not who He claims to be then He was a blasphemer and needs to be ultimately disciplined. In fact, the law would say He was to be stoned to death. You have this issue that really eliminates the possibility of seeing Him just as a mere teacher but it’s far, far more than that and claiming a great deal more than that. We have a template of accusations and response- a template of prosecution and the defense. The interesting irony is that wherever Jesus is on trial, the world gets on trial. It turns it around and ultimately it’s we, not Jesus, who is going to be on trial because the issue will be what do we do with this Person? He cannot be overlooked or ignored.
I want to point out a couple of things in this story. One of those things is in chapters 1-4 we saw that Jesus was being compared with institutions of Jewish piety in history. Now in chapters 5-10, we see a festival cycle. Jesus, in this new section of John, is being seen in the light of the major festivals of Judaism. In chapter 5 we would see the Sabbath festival. We’ll see how Jesus handles this. This takes place in Jerusalem and what the controversy will be. There’s another festival that will appear and that will be the Passover in John 6. That takes place in Galilee. Then in John 7 and 8, you’re going to have the Feasts of the Tabernacles.
In John 9 there’s kind of a case story- a blind man and the issue of spiritual light and darkness and receptivity.
There is an Iranian film called the Color of Paradise. It’s not famous by any stretch but I believe it can be used to illustrate this theme of light and darkness. It’s a beautiful and touching film. It contrasts a blind Iranian boy’s physical blindness with his father’s spiritual and moral blindness. His passion and desire would ultimately be to see the face of God. Another film that illustrates the same thing is Woody Allen’s intriguing development of Crimes and Misdemeanors that is based upon the novel Crime and Punishment. In this novel, you have a man who is an optician and so it immediately deals with the idea of sight. This optician is morally and spiritually blind. He hires someone to rub out his lover because she’s threatening to ruin his family. He has her bumped off and he eventually lives to be able to explain this to himself. In other words, although he’s filled with guilt at first, in about a year he realizes he’s going to get away with murder- literally! He finally comes to accept that and to actually embrace life and to move on from there. The interesting irony is that this optician’s brother turns out to be a Rabbi who goes physically blind. Woody Allen wrestles with the fundamental question about the goodness and evil that we find in life. He never arrives at a satisfactory conclusion but at least he raises the issues very, very well. Similarly, in John’s gospel, we see this theme of light and darkness being repeated again and again. Often people will be seen as dealing on a physical level but Jesus is speaking about moral and spiritual darkness and blindness. That becomes particularly evident in chapter 9.
In chapter 10 we see the Hanukah festival. The Hanukah festival was one of the recent ones as well as Purim compared to the other festivals of Judaism. In Jesus’ time though they were already hundreds of years old. In Leviticus 3, three of these festivals required that Jews would go up with their families to Jerusalem. They were Passover in the spring, Pentecost seven weeks later and finally in the autumn, Tabernacles, to thank God for the harvest of crop and to remember great episodes in Israel’s history. Jesus is going to be saying, just as I actually fulfill the institutions of Judaism concerning the temple and concerning other areas of life itself, so also will I fulfill the imagery here of these festivals.
We see in this gospel that the festivals were made by God to bring good gifts to people not to legislate and control behavior. What has happened in Judaism is it’s ossified all these things and made it a rigidity of external do’s and don’ts and lost all the joy. Religiosity has a way of really killing the spirit. We can lose the true vitality that comes from a living faith.
In chapter 5 we have an interesting development. We have accusations and Jesus’ response. We have Him being prosecuted but then we also see His defense. The crime, first of all, is to be seen in verses 1-15 where Jesus is accused as a criminal who violates the Sabbath. We see a man at Bethesda and he’s healed on the Sabbath day. The man is going to be interrogated by the Jewish religious leaders and ultimately the criminal, Jesus, is identified. Then in verses 16-18, we have the decision to prosecute. Jesus meets with tremendous hostility now that this man has identified who He is. There are two bases for this prosecution. First, they claim He violates the Sabbath. Secondly, He’s making divine claims. We have the issue of the Sabbath feast and Him claiming to have the prerogatives that only God could have. In verses 19-47 we have Jesus going on trial.
In this era, Jewish trials were different than what we have today. In our time, a person might be accused and so forth and eventually found innocent or guilty. In those days, defendants didn’t simply just prove their innocence and thus end the trial. The trial would work to uncover the truth and if the accusers were found to have made false claims in court, they could actually find themselves placed in the defense and subject to serious jeopardy. That’s an interesting twist on the law. Wouldn’t it be something if people making lawsuits would be liable for the consequences? In fact, punishments they hoped to inflict upon their opponent could actually turn back on them. The implications of the judiciary system would be profound if the consequence of people found making false claims would then in the same trial be prosecuted. It would actually lead to a great deal of less litigation. People would realize they had a real downside. Also, the person who filed the lawsuit would have to pay the court fees if it is thrown out. This is what they do in England and they have a lot less litigation in England than we do because they have a lot more sensible approach to this matter. Frankly, anybody can sue, sue, sue- but what if you had to pay the court fees? Do you see my point here? The Jews had a different thing and here’s what happened. He goes on trial defending himself, marshals 5 witnesses as evidence to himself as we’re about to see. Then at the end of the chapter, he’s accusing them. It’s all reversed around and they’re the ones on trial. That’s how this chapter will unfold.
May I stress something I’ve mentioned before but I must mention again and again? It’s so important for us to see this. Being Jewish isn’t the problem. You must understand that Mel Gibson’s film has been criticized for being anti- Semitic because it talks about the Jews. He’s specifically talking about the Jews who reject Jesus- those who were in the religious establishment. This gospel was written by a Jew about a Jew and all the disciples were Jewish. You have to understand it’s not anti-Semitic. It’s written about Jesus who’s a Jew and they were Jews and it was written about that. It’s idiotic to say it’s anti-Semitic if you follow the gospels. In fact what the gospel tells us is that really many of the Jews accepted their Messiah but many didn’t. The main point is that the leaders, the religious leadership, the establishment, ultimately rejected Him. That’s the point he’s making.
Furthermore, you need to understand that when John is writing this gospel, he’s also writing to show that this rejection of Jesus is the paradigm of what his actual listeners are experiencing in their own lives. It was written around 80A.D. or maybe a little later but at this time the Jewish believers who were in their assemblies, which were often called synagogues, were being persecuted as being part of a Christian synagogue as opposed to the Jewish synagogue. In other words, they were being persecuted by their own. This paradigm is saying, look, our Lord said that if you will follow Me, you too will be persecuted so don’t be surprised. Look at John 15:20, “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word they will keep yours also.” He stresses here that what they’re going to be experiencing is a conflict just as He’s experiencing conflict. It’s a comforting word to understand that this is no surprise. This is what happens when you testify the truth. It will not go over well with the world system. Ironically, the ones who will most hate it will be people who are in a religious establishment who would see their own positions as being threatened if this thing were really true. We have this paradigm that John’s developing to help us understand this model of the gospel. This issue is not something that is new. It’s an ancient concept.
May I point out one other verse that is often overlooked in this discussion of who really “murdered Jesus”? The answer is all of us. What the Bible itself says about this is instructive. Acts 4:27, “For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel.” In other words, he’s saying it was Herod and Pontius Pilate, both the Jewish and Gentile authorities as well as the Gentiles and peoples of Israel- they all gathered against Him. See the point here? It’s not just the Jews but it was the Jews and the Gentiles. It was no accident. The Romans and the Gentiles crucified Him. As you know the Jews were not allowed to actually crucify. Their method of capital punishment was stoning. They couldn’t do it under the laws of that day because they didn’t have the right to that in that culture at that point. They had to get Pilate to go along with it and instigate it through him. The point is it’s not just one group or another.

 

Continued to part 4

 

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