John 5:1 Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals.
There he would pick a fight with the religious authorities, to expose their hypocrisy, and set in motion his crucifixion. No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord (John 10:18), he said. So Jesus went to the pool of Bethesda to heal a man on the Sabbath, knowing this would infuriate the religious leaders.
There were many candidates around the pool that day (John 5:3), and Jesus chose a difficult case. The man struggled with a disability for thirty-eight years, perhaps a form of paralysis. Do you want to get well? (John 5:6), he asked.
Most people want to be well, of course, but a few prefer to be sick, in order to avoid the responsibilities that come with being healthy. If Jesus healed this man, he would be expected to get a job, take care of himself, and contribute to society. This is more than some people are willing to do.
Shortly after a man got out of prison, he threw a rock through a jewelry store window. Then he went inside and waited for the police. He had been in prison for years, and did not want the responsibility of living in society. Not everyone wants to get well.
John 5:8-9 Then Jesus said to him, Get up! Pick up your mat and walk. At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
Ordinarily, Jesus worked in response to people’s faith. Take heart, daughter, . . . your faith has healed you (Matthew 9:22). According to your faith let it be done to you (Matthew 9:29). And, Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted (Matthew 15:28). But in this case, Jesus healed a man without any appearance of faith. We ought to pray with faith, of course, but Jesus does not need our faith in order to work. He can do anything, for anyone, anytime he wants to.
John 5:14 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.
It is hard to imagine anything worse than what this man had been through. But even though his body was well, all was not well with his soul. The sin is not identified, but it must have been serious, for Jesus to bring such a pointed rebuke.
Perhaps he struggled with bitterness since he had been in that condition for thirty-eight years. Now he was past the prime of life, so he would never reach his potential, or recover the lost years. In spite of being healed, this man might have spent the rest of his life complaining. So Jesus warned him bluntly: Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.
Fanny Crosby was the author of over eight thousand hymns, including some that are still sung today. When she was six weeks old, she developed an eye condition, and was taken to a doctor. But the doctor used the wrong medicine, and she was permanently blinded.
She might have become bitter, but she thought of her blindness as a gift from God, to help her focus on him. She said, If I could meet [the doctor] now, I would say thank you, over and over again for making me blind. The most important thing about our hardships is how we respond to them. They can make us bitter, or they can make us better.
John 5:22 [T]he Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son.
Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath in order to offend the religious leaders. Here he is defending himself, but intentionally makes things worse. They were already concerned that he was making himself equal with God (John 5:18), so Jesus confirmed their fear by asserting that he would judge the world.
The Bible supports this claim in many places. [H]e is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead (Acts 10:42), said Peter. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed (Acts 17:31), said Paul. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10), wrote Paul also. Since Jesus is both God and man, he is qualified to be our judge.
This is a great encouragement to believers because our judge is the one who died for our sins. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1), wrote Paul. We do not have to wait until Judgment Day to see how it will go for us, because the Bible tells us how it will go for us. [God will] present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy [Jude 1:24], wrote Jude. The dread fear of Judgment Day has been replaced by joyful expectation.
John 5:24 Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.
This may be the clearest statement in the Bible that people have eternal life the moment they believe in Jesus Christ. We can imagine a line in the sand with Jesus on one side and everyone else on the other. The moment of faith is like taking the Savior’s hand and crossing over to his side. At that precise moment we are assured of eternal life.
Some people think they are right with God because they are moving toward the line. With age, perhaps, they are becoming more kind, caring and compassionate. But moving toward the line is not the same as crossing over the line. You can move toward the line your entire life and die on the wrong side of it.
Others think they are right with God because they are very close to the line. Perhaps they go to church, give money, and sing in the choir. But being close to the line is not the same as crossing over the line. You could be close to the line your entire life and die on the wrong side of it.
Crossing over the line is taking the hand of Jesus Christ and saying, I believe in you, Lord, and I’m coming over to your side today. It does not matter who you are, where you’ve been, what you’ve done, how many times you’ve done it, or how many times you do it in the future. The moment you believe in Jesus Christ you have eternal life. You will not be judged. You have crossed over from death to life.
Reflection and Review
Why did Jesus heal on the Sabbath?
Why don’t some people want to get well?
How is coming to Jesus like crossing over a line?