The Eighteenth in a Series of Sermons on the Gospel of John
Apparently, the Jews were demanding witnesses to confirm that Jesus is who he claims to be. They have accused Jesus of being a Sabbath-breaker and a blasphemer. The three greatest figures in the Judaism of Jesus’s day were Moses, Abraham, and David. Jacob and Joshua were not far behind in terms of status. If the Jews want witnesses, ironically, Jesus can adduce all five of Israel’s greatest historical figures as witnesses who will testify that Jesus is the coming one and redeemer of Israel. In John 5, Jesus ends a lengthy discourse by telling his accusers that he is that one of whom Moses had been speaking when referring to the great prophet yet to come. Jesus has told the Jews that he cannot break the Sabbath commandment because God works on the Sabbath. He also told them that he cannot blaspheme God because he speaks only the words the Father gives him. Now, at the end of this exchange, says Jesus, it is the testimony of Moses which ultimately condemns those accusing Jesus of all sorts of sins which were in Israel at the time capital crimes. Moses condemns Jesus’ accusers because they do not believe the very Scriptures they cite in response to Jesus’ miracles and teaching. If you want witnesses, well then consider Moses, Abraham, David, Jacob, and Joshua who all testify on Jesus’ behalf. The Jews of Jesus’ day have not learned one of life’s most important lessons: “be careful what you ask for.”
We are continuing our series on the Gospel of John, and we are in the process of working our way through John chapter 5, in which Jesus has returned to Jerusalem from the Galilee region for a feast of the Jews. The chapter recounts the miraculous healing of a man who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years and the lengthy discourse which follows between Jesus and those Jews who had been accusing him of breaking the Sabbath and claiming to be God. Although, the chapter recounts one event and the dialogue which follows, I have broken the chapter into three sections so as not to hurry through and skip the important details we find in the text. In this chapter, Jesus reveals a great deal about his divine identity, as well as important details about the nature of his messianic mission.
Two Sundays ago, we covered Jesus’ miraculous healing of the invalid at the Pools of Bethesda (vv. 1-18), who without offering so much as a word of gratitude pointed out Jesus to the Jewish leaders who, in turn, promptly accused our Lord of breaking the Sabbath and speaking blasphemies. Last week, we took up the first part of Jesus’ response to the Jews (vv. 19-29), wherein Jesus made four specific declarations about his deity and his divine authority in response to these accusations. In verse 19, Jesus tells his accusers that he does only that which is his Father’s will, and in fact, that he can do nothing apart from his Father’s will–this is a major theme in the latter portion of the dialogue we are covering. Jesus also speaks of how he is the object of the Father’s love–pointing to an intimate and eternal inter-Trinitarian relationship between the Father and the Son. This relationship also implies Jesus’ deity.
Jesus goes on to tell the Jews that even now he raises the dead through his word (regeneration) because the authority to do so has been given him by the Father. There is indeed a bodily resurrection of the dead at the end of the age, and whether or not people rise to eternal blessing or curse depends upon whether or not Jesus gives them life. Declaring himself to be the Son of Man, who, in Daniel 7:13-14, enters into the presence of the Ancient of Days (YHWH), Jesus goes on to tell those questioning him, that all authority to judge all people and nations has been given by the Father to Jesus. It is Jesus who gives life to the dead bones in Ezekiel’s vision, which in the vision is a task YHWH ascribes to himself. It is Jesus who will raise the dead (both the righteous and the unrighteous) from their graves on the last day.
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