Teaching series from John

Jesus' Life-Giving Authority

John 5:1-47

Teaching t22478


Brief background. In chapters 2-5, Jesus presents Himself as the One who brings a new program. He also systematically dismantles the pillars of their religion:

The new “wine” of His life replaces the “water” of their purification rituals Jn.2).

Jesus is the new Temple that replaces the old temple as access to God (Jn. 2).

Even religious leaders like Nicodemus must be “born again” through faith in Jesus (Jn.3).

Jerusalem is no longer the place where observant Jews worship God; now anyone can worship God anywhere by relating sincerely and honestly to Jesus (Jn. 4).

Now in Jn. 5, Jesus dismantles another pillar—the Sabbath—and proclaims His life-giving authority.

I’m going to summarize the first third of this chapter so we can focus on the last two-thirds. Jesus heals a paralyzed man and tells him to pick up his mat and walk home. Jesus deliberately healed this man on the Sabbath (5:9), and man-made Jewish religious laws forbade carrying items on the Sabbath. The sin-police pull the man over and are writing the man a “carrying items on the Sabbath” ticket when he says: “Hey, the guy who healed me told me to carry my mat!” They don’t say: “He healed you? Wow! We want to meet him!” They say: “Take us to this guy who told you to carry on the Sabbath!” He does and they indict Jesus for Sabbath-breaking. We pick up John’s account at this point...

Jesus’ claim of divine authority

We might expect Jesus to respond by saying: “The Old Testament law never forbade carrying on the Sabbath.” But instead Jesus takes the conflict to a whole other level (read 5:17). Jewish rabbis had concluded that God was exempt from the Sabbath no-work laws because He was always “working” to maintain His creation. Jesus is saying: “My Father is exempt from the Sabbath laws, and so am I because I am His Son.” Read 5:18. They correctly understood that Jesus was claiming to be God—that is, to share the same nature as His “Father.”

You might expect for Jesus to say: “No, you misunderstood Me. I just mean that I’m God’s child like all humans are God’s children.” But instead, He repeats and elaborates on His claim of divine authority. I’ll summarize His three claims:

Read 5:19,20. The claim is: “I see and do everything My Father does.” If the Father wants to heal somebody like the paralytic, Jesus does it for Him.

Read 5:24-26. The claim is: “I permanently forgive and give eternal life to all who believe in Me.” Wow! That’s a lot of authority—and that’s really good news! No matter what you’ve done, no matter how bad you’ve been, the moment you put your faith in Jesus as God’s Son you pass immediately and forever out of death and God’s condemnation and into eternal life. Eternal life does not begin when believers die; it begins when we believe and continues into eternity. This is because eternal life is personal union and relationship with God/Jesus (17:3).

Read 5:22,23,28,29. The claim is: “I will raise all humanity from the dead for final judgment.” Namely, He will condemn those who didn’t believe in Him (‘done what is evil’) and receive those who believe in Him (‘done what is good’) into His eternal kingdom.

Can you see how deliberately polarizing Jesus is? Can you see why it is foolish to say that Jesus was just one of many prophets, religious founders, or moral teachers? There is no ultimate middle-ground response to someone who makes such claims. You either accept His claims and fall at His feet—or you reject His claims and call Him a liar or madman. Some people have tried to evade this polarization by saying that Jesus never made these claims, that the church later invented this Jesus and wrote these claims back into His mouth. But remember: John was an eye-witness of this interaction, and he had no self-serving motive to make this up. To the contrary, he suffered horribly for his insistence that Jesus (not Caesar) was Lord.

Jesus doesn’t say: “Just take My claims by blind faith.” He doesn’t even wait for them to ask for evidence. He anticipates their need for evidence (read 5:31) and proactively supplies three “witnesses” which were relevant to them and still available to us...

The “witnesses” for Jesus’ claim

Read 5:32-35. The Jews recognized John the Baptist as a godly prophet. He spoke against injustice wherever he saw it, and he was free from corruption by bribery or political advantage. They recognized him as a truth-speaker—and he insisted that Jesus was the Messiah. Should they not accept his testimony about Jesus?

This is the witness of a respected person’s testimony. God may put people in our lives who we respect and trust, and who tell us that Jesus is the way (EXAMPLES).

Read 5:36. The Jews could not deny that Jesus performed many restorative miracles that were expected from the Messiah (see Isa.35:5,6), and they had just verified one of these miracles. Should they not accept this testimony about Jesus?

This is the witness of a changed/healed life. God may put people into our lives who we knew were selfish, hopeless, chronically depressed, etc.—and then they become loving, hope-filled, joyful, etc.—and they attribute the change to Jesus (EXAMPLES).

Read 5:37-39. The Jews had been amazed at the authority of Jesus’ teaching (Matt.7:28,29)—it probed and convicted their consciences, yet also offered undeserved mercy and love. They also knew that Jesus fulfilled specific Old Testament Messianic prophecies that were not possible to fake (e.g., LINEAGE; BIRTH-PLACE; HEALINGS; etc.). In this way, the Father was testifying both subjectively and objectively to Jesus as His Son. Should they not accept His testimony?

This is the witness of God speaking through the Bible. God may bring passages of the Bible to us that resonate deeply within our hearts (ROM. 7 & REV. 3:20 FOR ME; ISAIAH PASSAGE FOR SPURGEON). He also provides even more Old Testament Messianic prophecies that Jesus fulfilled that defy chance fulfillment , or other objective evidences that Jesus is the Messiah. So in objective, intellectual ways and in subjective, existential ways, God draws us to Jesus through His Word.

Can you recognize these “witnesses” in your life? Jesus is pursuing you through them. He will give you sufficient evidence that His claim and offer are genuine, but He will not overwhelm you or make you come to Him because He wants a love relationship with you. But in spite of the evidence and Jesus’ amazing offer, people still reject Him...

2 reasons why people reject Jesus

Why would people reject Jesus? Why were the Jews in Jn. 5 doing this (5:40)? Jesus exposes two common reasons...

“Certain people’s approval is more important to me than God’s approval.” Read 5:41-44. “Glory” here means fame/honor, respect, popularity, approval. Notice how Jesus says that they cannot believe in Him because they want honor from other people more than the honor that comes from God through believing in Jesus.

Some people turn down Jesus’ offer because receiving it would jeopardize the approval of their family, friends, lover, etc. I had a friend who admitted to me in tears that he knew Jesus had changed my life and was real—but that he could not receive Jesus because his family would perceive this as a personal betrayal. When I said, “But this is more important than your family’s approval!,” he just turned away weeping.

Some people never bother to even consider Jesus’ offer because they spent their whole lives enmeshed in the pursuit of certain people’s approval. C. S. Lewis called this the deluding power of “the inner ring”—the deceptive exhilaration of being accepted by a certain group, and the crippling fear of being excluded by them. You can go through your whole life chasing this elusive “carrot” (e.g., THE IN-CROWD IN MIDDLE/HIGH SCHOOL; FRATERNITY/SORORIETY IN COLLEGE; THE POWER-BROKERS AT WORK; THE “IMPORTANT PEOPLE” IN SOCIETY; etc.).

You may say: “People’s honor is tangible, but God’s honor is invisible.” Yes, but people’s honor is also fleeting and fickle, and it will corrupt your life. But God’s honor is permanent and dependable! And if you entrust yourself to Jesus, you will experience God’s love and honor, and it will renovate your life!

“I’m good enough on my own; I don’t need Jesus’ forgiveness” Read 5:45-47. They put their hope in Moses, but they didn’t believe in the Person Moses pointed to. Moses here represents the Old Testament Law, including its commandments and sacrifices. In other words, they were misusing the Law as a means of building their own (comparative) righteousness.

They “played by the rules,” they judged others who didn’t, and they felt superior and secure in their “righteousness” (Lk.18:9-12). I hope you realize that this is not limited to Jewish religious leaders! You can “put your hope in Moses” without even knowing who Moses is (EXAMPLES OF “RULES”: RELIGIOUS; GREEN; POLITICAL; SOCIAL MORALITY; SOBRIETY; etc.).

The tragic irony is that “Moses accuses you.” God never gave us His Law to save us; He gave it to show us that we are all guilty before Him (e.g., “ALWAYS LOVE GOD FULLY, NEVER COVET ANYONE, KEEP ALL OF THEM,” etc.), and that we all need else to save us. God’s Law even provided a picture of this Savior through its sacrificial system (EXPLAIN SUBSTITUTIONARY ATONEMENT). Jesus is the blameless Sacrifice whose death totally forgives all who believe in Him (no matter how comparatively bad—Lk.18:13,14)!

How do you respond to this assertion that God will accept “bad people” who believe in Jesus, but not “good people” who won’t believe in Him (RESPONSE TO TEX WATSON STORY)? If this offends you, then you are “putting your hope in Moses” and rejecting the One he pointed to! Why not take your place with the rest of us as “bad people” who need Jesus’ death to forgive us? What would stop you except for your pride?

One statistician, Peter Stoner, conservatively estimates the odds of 8 of these predictions (LIST) being fulfilled by chance at 1 in 1017. That’s a big number! Think of an area the size of Texas, covered 2 feet deep in silver dollars. What are the odds that a blindfolded man would select one marked silver dollar on the first attempt? The odds are 1 in 1017—and that’s just for 8 of them! See Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands a Verdict (San Bernardino: Here’s Life Publishers, 1979), p.167.