John 5 begins with the healing at the pool called Bethesda, in which Jesus heals a paralyzed man who had been waiting for someone to help him for 38 years. Jesus tells him to get up, take his mat, and go home. The Jewish religious leaders saw this man carrying his mat and told him that it violated Sabbath law to carry his mat (never mind the fact that he could walk in the first place!). At a later point Jesus returns to the temple and found this man and encouraged him, then began to teach to those present about the authority of the Son of Man; “For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. The father judges no one, but has given all judgement to the Son, that all may honour the Son, just as they honour the Father. Whoever does not honour the Son does not honour the Father who sent Him,” (21-23).
Chapter 6 tells of Jesus feeding the five thousand during which many people found Him while He was by the sea of Tiberias, and followed Him as He did many miracles. Having only five barley loaves and two fish, Jesus gave thanks and began distributing this food to the five thousand, ending up with twelve baskets of leftover bread! Jesus then crosses over to the other side of the sea by walking on the water until He found the boat the disciples were in. Upon joining them in their boat, they immediately found themselves at their destination.
The crowd followed Jesus around the lake and began asking him questions, though Jesus knew they were mostly after Him because He fed them, not because they believed He was the Son of God. To prove His point, He began teaching them lessons that were difficult to hear, specifically indicating that He is the Bread of Life and better than the manna that came out of heaven when Moses led them. After hearing all He said, most people turned away, save the 12 disciples. Jesus asked if those 12 would walk away too, and peter replied “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
Many kinds of personalities are presented in these two chapters. First, we see a group of religious leaders utterly overlooking that a man who had been miraculously healed after 38 years of suffering and focusing instead on the legalistic issue of carrying his mat on the Sabbath. We see more of the same blindness when the Jews were seeking to kill Him for calling Himself equal with God. They so clung to their scriptures and ideas that they failed to see God-made-man right before their eyes!
We see a lack of trust in the disciples when it comes to feeding the five thousand, as if Jesus had not worked countless miracles in their sight. On top of that, we see still more following Jesus merely to have themselves or a friend healed of their diseases, or even just their belly filled, with never a thought as to who Jesus really is. Jesus points out their double-minded ways, for the crowd asks Him what it is do be doing the works of God and He spells it out for them as plainly as a point could be made, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” It couldn’t be any clearer, yet most of them just weren’t interested.
Jesus goes on to tell them exactly who He is in more specific terms, using familiar Jewish imagery and revelation to make His point; “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe … For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of Him who sent me … Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” At this point, it is more work to have rejected Jesus as the Holy One of God than accept Him, a common state of mind that remains prevalent even today. He goes on to show those of the crowd who claimed to follow Him their true motives. By teaching on things especially difficult to understand, the crowd got offended and melted away instead of wanting to figure out what Jesus was saying. At that point, the hard truth that Jesus revealed turned out to be too much against their desire for food or healing.
Jesus constantly points out exactly who He is, why He came, and how we ought to respond. We cannot pretend any longer that we do not know or cannot figure it out. The truth is that the path that leads to eternal life is narrow and difficult, and many prefer their comfort, pride, and autonomy to the truth.
Application and question:
God does not make partners with other means of salvation. There is nothing besides faith in Christ that can save. No works can earn it, no suffering achieve it, no actions merit it. It is totally and utterly Christ, full stop. If you believe in Christ, does your life reflect it? Is it something you put into action as a response to His love and kindness? Have you made Christ the Lord of your life, or do you follow Him for what He might do for you?
So often we see “Christians” who profess belief in Jesus yet refuse to make Him their master. Submission is such a dirty word these days, and the exalting of self is seen as the highest of virtues. This isn’t new, but it definitely isn’t right! Christ constantly reminds us that in order to follow Him we must deny ourselves and pick up our cross. The time has come for us to stop insisting on our own ways and bend our stiff necks. Live the way Christ wants you to live.
Confront and reject pride, lust, drunkenness, envy, slander, pre-marital sex, pornography, foul language, and everything else counted as sins. This won’t happen overnight and that is OK – sanctification takes time, but also constant submission and repentance when we get it wrong as well as a keen, critical eye on our own behaviour. It also yields profound joy when we reject our own sinful nature and find in us the rampant growth of new life! A well of joy and peace begins burbling in our hearts as we make more and more room for God. For a time it may feel like you are ridding yourself of pleasure, and in a way, you are, for it is sinful pleasure. The plan is not only to rip these things out of our lives but to replace them with a far superior pleasure: that of walking each day with Jesus Christ and all the vast benefits and blessings that come with it!
At the end of all things our lives will reveal who we’ve chosen: ourselves, or Jesus. He makes it absolutely clear that to choose one means we must reject the other, for He will not settle for second in our lives. Furthermore, He is faithful to give us what we want. For those who want Christ, He has promised eternity together. For those who reject God, He has promised eternity apart. Let us live each day with an awareness that today we have a chance to choose our forever, and that when it comes to choosing to follow Jesus Christ, it is all or nothing.
Lord, I’m sorry for making other things and people the master of my life. Thank you so much for sending Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, and I pray that you would make of me less so that you become more. Please teach me to kill my sin by the power of your Holy Spirit so that I may be truly surrendered to you, not just in word or thought but in heart and deed. Put people in my way that can point out my blind spots and keep me from becoming conceited in my humility. Though parts of me don’t want more of you and want to remain in the shadows, I pray that you make yourself the only desire in my heart, so that love would overflow into the lives of others. Amen!
Song: New Wine - Hillsong Worship
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.