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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
January 16, 2000
Two Miracles, Two Responses
Like the hymn writer states, the love of deep love of Jesus is vast, unmeasured, boundless and free. This morning we are going to look at two of the miracles of healing that Jesus performed. The first takes place in Galilee and the second in Jerusalem. We are also going to be looking at the responses to those healings. Contrary to what some in the "signs and wonders" movement suggest, miracles have always brought a mixture of belief and antagonism.
Turn to John 4:43. We ended on this verse last week as we examined the response of the Samaritans to Jesus. The Samaritan woman who met Jesus at the well had returned to the city and told the men there what Jesus had said to her. Some of them believed at her testimony that Jesus was the promised Messiah. A group of these Samaritans came out to meet Jesus and after talking with Him were able to get Him and the disciples to stay with them for a couple of days. The result was that a harvest of eternal life was reaped. Many of them believed because of what Jesus said and those that had already believed because of the testimony of the woman were strengthened in their new faith that Jesus is the Savior of the World.
As we begin our text this morning, the time with the Samaritans has come to a close – verse 43. And after the two days He went forth from there into Galilee. Verse 44 tells the reason for Jesus return to Galilee, not his reason for leaving the Samaritans. As I pointed out last week, Jesus’ primary mission was to preach the gospel to the lost house of Israel, so he limited His time with the Samaritans. It is easiest to understand verse 44 if you recognize that verses 4-42 is an interlude on his way to Galilee. If I jump from verse 3 to verse 44, I would have the following – John 4:3 He left Judea, and departed again into Galilee. John 4:44 For Jesus Himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his own country. Recall that the reason that Jesus left Judea was to avoid a premature crisis with the Pharisees after their attention was turning from John the Baptist to Him (vs. 1). Jesus would not bring about such a crisis in Galilee, for as the proverbial statement Jesus testified to says, "A prophet has no honor in his own country."
Verse 45 shows that they gave Jesus some attention, but they did not honor Him. So when He came to Galilee, the Galileans received Him, having seen all the things that He did in Jerusalem at the feast; for they themselves also went to the feast. The Galileans who has seen the miracles Jesus do at the previous Passover some eight months earlier were interested in Jesus, but as verse 48 alludes, the interest seemed to revolve more around seeing another miracle than believing Him and wanting to honor Him. It would not be long before Jesus would go to Nazareth and teach in the synagogue there and be rejected (Luke 4:1-30). But first, Jesus returns to another place in Galilee which He had been to earlier and performs a miracle.
John 4:46 He came therefore again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a certain royal official, whose son was sick at Capernaum. 47 When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him, and was requesting Him to come down and heal his son; for he was at the point of death.
Cana of Galilee was the same place that Jesus had performed His first miracle of His public ministry when He turned the water into wine at the wedding. This was a miracle of the first order. It could be no slight of hand or "magic" trick for it required something only God could do. The very elements in the water pot had to be changed from molecules of hydrogen and oxygen into molecules also containing carbon, nitrogen and a metal needed for the coloration.
While Jesus is in Cana, a Jewish man who served as a royal official, (probably to Herod Antipas), who lived in Capernaum, (which was about 16 miles away), heard that Jesus had returned to Galilee. This man had either been in Jerusalem at the Passover and had seen Jesus’ miracles himself, or had been told about Jesus. Regardless of which, he is in desperate need of help for his son who was near death. We can well imagine that this man had already had the doctors present and had the local Rabbis involved. But now he hears that Jesus is nearby and he starts out to request him to come. If Jesus could heal his son, then he would plead for Jesus to come and do so. When he reaches Jesus he begins asking him to come to Capernaum and heal his son. I am sure every parent here can well imagine the urgency of his requests.
Jesus responds in verse 48. Jesus therefore said to him, "Unless you [people] see signs and wonders, you [simply] will not believe." Jesus is not trying to put the man off, for that would be contrary to Jesus’ great compassion. It is rather to clarify for the man a fallacy in his thoughts. The man’s request reveals that he believed that Jesus would have to be present to heal His son. It also reveals he believed that if Jesus did not make it before the child died, then it would be too late to do anything.
What Jesus says in verse 48 also shows that Jesus was not given honor by the Galileans. This man was a royal official, but was also included in that group. That is why we conclude that he was Jewish. They apparently believed that Jesus could do miracles, but they did not believe Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God. They seemed to regard Him as a powerful Rabbi or a prophet of some sort, but not who He was claiming to be – the Messiah, the Son of God. The grammar here is that they would not have any faith in Jesus unless they continually saw signs and wonders. The "signs and wonders" are miracles that astonish the people and are signs of divine activity.
This man urgently presses forward with his request in verse 49. "Sir, come down before my child dies." We can all understand the urgency in his request. What Jesus says to him is not what he could have ever expected.
50 Jesus said to him, "Go your way; your son lives." This is a very direct statement of fact. This can not be toned down to something like, "your child is going to live." This is a deed of Jesus’ omnipotence performed in a moment and the child was now fully restored to health.
The man had taken to heart the rebuke of Jesus and responded in a positive manner to Jesus’ words. 51 The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he started off. The man accepted the word of Jesus without seeing any deed. Verses 51-53 give us the rest of the story.
51 And as he was now going down, [his] slaves met him, saying that his son was living. 52 So he inquired of them the hour when he began to get better. They said therefore to him, "Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him." 53 So the father knew that [it was] at that hour in which Jesus said to him, "Your son lives"; and he himself believed, and his whole household.
There is some question as to what is meant by the "seventh" hour in verse 52, but it seems most probably that it is referring to Roman time, which would have been 7 p.m., and not Jewish time, which would have been 1 p.m.
The scene seems to be that after hearing Jesus’ pronouncement concerning his son, the man left to return home. It was now dark and he would have been tired. I think it is fair to conclude that he had spent the better part of the day getting to Cana from Capernaum in order to talk with Jesus. He stays somewhere overnight and then resumes his journey the next day. Meanwhile, his servants are overjoyed at the sudden change in the son’s health. They start off the next morning to tell their master the good news and they meet each other on the way. The father asks them when his son became better and they tell it was the day before at the seventh hour which was the same time Jesus had said, "your son lives."
The result was not only a stronger belief Himself, for verse 50 already said that he believed, but it resulted in his whole household believing. The "whole household" refers to all that lived in this man’s house including servants. Their belief would have been that Jesus is the Son of God and that His word could be trusted.
Verse 54 states, This is again a second sign that Jesus performed, when He had come out of Judea into Galilee. The miracle that Jesus performed could only have been done supernaturally for the boy was 16 miles or more from where Jesus was at and Jesus healed him simply through declaring it. Some Rabbis claimed to be able to heal through prayer, but Jesus did it directly. Jesus is God.
The response to this first miracle was belief in Jesus as the Messiah. The man and his household humbly put their faith in Jesus because what they had heard and now seen for themselves proved to them that Jesus’ claims were true. The response to the next miracle John records would be different.
We should keep in mind that John’s emphasis is upon those events which demonstrate that Jesus is the Son of God. John does not mention the events during what is sometimes called the "great Galilean ministry "except this one and the feeding of the five thousand in chapter 6. Matthew, Mark and Luke record the events of this time period and John assumes his readers would already be familiar with what was in those gospel accounts. John now jumps forward in time and place to record and emphasize a miracle that Jesus performed in Jerusalem that attested to His deity and which He also proclaimed. 5.
John 5:1 After these things there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. The "after these things" is a nonspecific time indicator that this is some undefined time in the future. There is some debate about exactly which "feast of the Jews" this might be, but it would be most reasonable that due to the antagonism already existing between Jesus and the Pharisees and Jesus’ retreat into Galilee to avoid a premature crisis with them, this would be a feast that Jesus has a strong compulsion to attend. The only feast that Jews were required to be in Jerusalem for was the Passover. The feast of Pentecost and the feast of Tabernacles are also advocated by commentators, but Passover is the most likely. This would make it April, A.D. 28.
Verses 2-5 describe a scene Jesus finds in a certain place in Jerusalem. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep [gate] a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. 3 In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered,
The sheep’s gate is on the northeast corner of Jerusalem directly north of the temple mount. The name probably comes from the sheep that would have been led through this gate and up to the temple for sacrifice. Bethesda is directly north of that gate about 200 yards. There is some question about the meaning of the name ranging from House of "mercy" or "getting well," in reference to what took place there, to house of "bubbling up," in reference to the nature of the spring there. The five porticoes, or covered colonnades, would help protect the sick, blind, lame and withered (literally, "dried up) from the weather, especially the hot sun and rain.
The rest of verse 3 & verse 4 explain the belief of those that were there. This section does not occur in most of the oldest manuscripts and even in some of the later manuscripts it exists as an inserted note. It would appear to be a marginal note that was eventually inserted into the text as an explanation of the statements made to Jesus in verse 7.
So under these porticoes lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered,[waiting for the moving of the waters; 4 for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.] 5 And a certain man was there, who had been thirty-eight years in his sickness.
Again, let me emphasize that the text presents this as the belief of this man and the other sick people that were there, not necessarily that of Jesus or John. At the same time, it must be remembered that there was much angelic activity at the time so that this may be a faithful and true explanation of what occurred there. Apparently when this pool was rediscovered in 1888 there was also found a faded fresco on the wall of an angel "troubling" the water.
In verse 6 we find that Jesus comes to this place. We are not told why He had left the activities of the Temple, but now He is present and He will perform a miracle that is contrasted to the healings attributed to an angel. John again sets forth this miracle to attest that Jesus is the Son of God.
John 5:6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time [in that condition,] He said to him, "Do you wish to get well?"
We are not told why Jesus chooses to extend such mercy to this man as compared to all the others present other than the fact that Jesus saw him lying there and knew he had been in that condition a long time. We are not told whether this knowledge about the man was something Jesus was told or that He had because of His omniscience. In either case, Jesus know extends compassion to the sick man and asks him a question. "Do you desire to get well?" Jesus often asked questions to open a conversation and to bring out what was on the person’s heart.
In verse 7, the man answers Jesus’ question, but not directly. He instead laments about why he has been sick so long.
John 5:7 (NASB) The sick man answered Him, "Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me." No one would help him. Around that pool for it was everyone for themselves.
How accurate a picture that is of the general state of mankind – everyone out for themselves, or to phrase it in more recent popular phrase, everyone is "looking out for number one," themselves. Man is self-centered by his sinful nature. Even the Mosaic laws requiring the Jewish people to treat each other as brothers and sisters, to have compassion and look out for one another’s welfare were not enough to overcome the inherent selfishness. There is a certain truth to the idea that you can not legislate morality, for such laws can not change the sinful heart of man. But God does legislate morality. His commandments were not meant to change the heart of man, but rather to set the standard for what is right and what is wrong. That is something our society and all societies must keep in mind. When a society fails to hold to God’s laws, its people will become increasing amoral and evil will abound.
It is only when a person recognizes their failure that they can repent from breaking the moral standards. It is at that point that they can seek after God for mercy and forgiveness and their heart can be changed, for God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
Is this sick man now hopeful that this kind stranger would help him into the pool? Was there still someone left in Israel that would show him such compassion? What Jesus says to him is beyond his wildest imagination.
Verse 8 – Jesus said to him, "Arise, take up your pallet, and walk." Jesus does not help him to the pool. No angels are called. Jesus’ command is simple and direct. Take notice that there is no call for the man to have faith either. As we will see in verse 13, this man did not even know this was Jesus much less who Jesus was. Jesus simply commanded it. The result, verse 9 – And immediately the man became well, and took up his pallet and [began] to walk. There is no gradual recovery and it is not a partial healing. The man is instantly cured of his sickness and new strength and vigor flows through him. Some have suggested that the man became well as he obeyed Jesus and took up his pallet, but that is not the grammatical structure. He is healed and as a result he picks up his pallet and was walking around.
This is another miracle performed by Jesus that demonstrates His supernatural nature. There is no medical treatment of any kind provided to the man. He is healed completely and solely by the power of Jesus’ command. John includes this miracle in His gospel account to demonstrate again that Jesus claim to be the Son of God is valid. But John does not end the account of the miracle here, for in the conflict with the religious leaders that results, Jesus directly asserts His deity and they understand the claim.
The end of verse 9 begins the story of the response to Jesus’
miracle of healing this man who had been sick for 38 years.
Now it was the Sabbath on that day. 10 Therefore the Jews were saying to him who was cured, "It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet."
The man is walking around with his mat, which was nothing more than a pad or a thin mattress, and he is seen by "the Jews." John’s usage of this term in this manner is to the religious leaders and more specifically, those who were or followed the pharisees. They had perverted God’s commands to keep the Sabbath into a command to be completely idle on that day. The commands contained in such passages as Jer. 17:19-27 and Neh. 13:15 not to carry a burden on the Sabbath were related to daily business affairs and commerce. They had extended this into minutiae of rules on how far you could walk, what items constituted a "burden" and the maximum weight that could be lifted. You were not allowed to run on the Sabbath (except to the synagogue if you were late). Such has been and always will be the end result of those who legalists. They forget the spirit and purpose of God’s commands and reduce them to detailed regulations they think they can keep. The Sabbath was set aside as a day of rest in following the example of God after making all of creation. It was a day that was to be set aside as holy (Exod. 20:8-11). The purpose of the Sabbath was to give men a day without work so they could concentrate on the worship of God. As Jesus said, "the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27).
These Jews challenged the man healed by Jesus because he was breaking their Sabbath regulations. His answer in verse 11 is very reasonable. But he answered them, "He who made me well was the one who said to me, ‘Take up your pallet and walk.’" You would probably answer the same way. Anyone that can cure a fellow like me who has been sick for so long also has the right, even on the Sabbath, to tell what to do. He recognized that the person that healed him was not an ordinary person. Please take note that the man’s answer to these Jews places emphasis on what was done for him – "He who made me well." For him, taking up his pallet and walking was simply the logical consequence of the miracle of being healed. But these Jews did not take it that way.
Verse 12 – They asked him, "Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up [your pallet,] and walk’?" They are so blinded by the necessity of keeping the regulations they had made up that they totally ignore the amazing thing the man had just said. They just want to know who was responsible for giving him a command that broke their rules. They didn’t care that this man had just been healed.
I have seen the same thing by modern day pharisees. They skip over the fact that someone one was just saved by God’s grace through Jesus Christ and concentrate on trying to get them to fit their personal standards of righteousness – he needs appropriate clothes, a shave and a haircut, and he has to stop smoking. They major on the minors and sometime on the completely insignificant and in doing so lose sight of the work that God is doing in an individual.
Verse 13 tells us this man could not answer their question. But he who was healed did not know who it was; for Jesus had slipped away while there was a crowd in [that] place. Jesus had not healed the man to gain attention for Himself. He did it out of compassion and in demonstration of His divine power. Jesus was in control of when and how He would reveal Himself and the time was not yet, so He slipped quietly away in the crowd. But the story does not end there.
Verse 14 – Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, "Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse may befall you." Jesus compassion was more than just for the man’s physical condition. He also had compassion on this man’s soul. Some time later, the time indicator here is indefinite, Jesus finds this man in the temple and ministers to his soul. Jesus’ message is the same He had been proclaiming at the Jordan river and in Galilee – "repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Mt. 4:17). It is sin that separates us from God and it is sin that causes our problems – our own sin, other people’s sin and the curse of sin on the world.
We are not told any more of the conversation they had or of the man’s response other than verse 15 – The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. Note that the man is not tattling on Jesus, he is proclaiming the name of the one that had done such a wonderful miracle for him. It was Jesus that had made him well. This man was healed by Jesus and responded with belief and a desire to proclaim him to others. The Jews continued to ignore the miracle and responded with hatred.
Verse 16 – And for this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. Jesus had told a man to violate their self-imposed rules and He had done work on the Sabbath – he healed someone. In their anger they began to persecute Jesus. We are not told the specifics of this, but they became hostile to Him in some manner. It would appear from Jesus’ response in verse 17 that they were verbally harassing him.
Verse 17 – But He answered them, "My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working." This made them even more enraged because they knew what this meant – verse 18, For this cause therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.
Many people do not recognize Jesus’ claim to be equal with God, but Jesus’ opponents did. Jesus’ statement in verse 17 is not just calling God His Father, but claiming that His work, including healing a man on the Sabbath and telling him to walk, was the work of God.
Jesus is the Son of God. He is deity. Those who are humble, like the Samaritans we talked about last week, like the royal official from Capernaum whose son was healed, and like this man who was sick for 38 years, are given God’s blessing for God is gracious to the humble (1 Pet. 5:5). But God resists the proud, like these self-righteous Jews, and they become blind to what God is doing in their very midst and end up opposing God Himself.
Be careful for there are still people around who are just like these proud Jews were then, and it is not hard to fall into the same pit with them. Those who respond to God in such a self-centered way lose both any joy in having a relationship with God and being able to recognize Him at work.
Recognize Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God, deity in human flesh. Then respond to Him with belief in Him and His word as did the father from Capernaum. In humility submit to Him and His commands as did the sick man at Bethesda. Those who do will gain the blessings of a personal relationship with Jesus and the joy of seeing God at work.
Sermon Study Sheets
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Tell in your own words what two miracles Jesus performed. What were the responses of the various people to these miracles.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. Why did Jesus leave Judea? Why was Jesus going to Galilee? How does John 4:44 fit within that context? Why did the Galileans received Jesus? Did they honor Jesus? What did Jesus first miracle in Cana demonstrate about Jesus? Where is Capernaum in relationship to Cana? How far? Why do you think this man thought Jesus could help his son? What did the man believe Jesus would have to do in order to help his son? Why did Jesus rebuke the people in verse 48? What did Jesus do for the man? What was the man’s response? Describe the nature of this miracle? How does it show Jesus is the Son of God? What was the response of the man’s household to the miracle? Where is Bethesda? Why were there a multitude of sick and lame people there? What did Jesus do for the man who had been sick for 38 years? What happened to the man? How did he respond to the miracle? What interest did the "Jews" have in this man? What was their response to the miracle? What was their response to Jesus’ claim in 5:17?
Sermon Notes – 1/16/2000 a.m.
Two Miracles, Two Responses – John 4:43-5:18
Jesus Goes to Galilee (4:43-46)
The Second Miracle at Cana of Galilee (4:47-54)
Initial Faith (47)
Weak Faith (48)
Strengthened Faith (49-52)
Confirmed Faith (53,54)
The Miracle at Bethesda (5:1-18)
The Pool at Bethesda (1-5)
Jesus’ Compassion (6-9)
The Response of the Jews (9-16)
Jesus’ Declaration (17)
The Hatred of the Jews (18)
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