After a major clash with His hometown of Nazareth, Jesus has chosen the lakeside city of Capernaum for His new home base. Here He has two pairs of fishermen brothers with Him: Andrew and Peter, and James and John. They’ve just been wowed by Jesus verbally commanding a demon out of a wild man who interrupted Jesus’ sermon at the local synagogue. Now the group has trooped over to the house of Peter and Andrew for refreshments. But when they get there, Jesus is told that Peter’s mother-in-law is in bed with a very high fever. Does Jesus think that maybe He could sort of…well, heal her? Everyone’s heard how Jesus healed some really sick kid over in the city of Cana. But then again, the disciples don’t want to get Jesus mad at them for treating Him like a miracle machine. What a big sigh of relief when Jesus graciously agrees to help.
When Jesus touched her hand, the fever left her. Then she got up and prepared a meal for Him. (Mt. 8:15)
While Jesus and His boys are enjoying their after church meal, word is spreading through the community like wildfire that Jesus drove a demon out of some raving lunatic. As evening falls, a whole crowd of demon-possessed people show up at the house where Jesus is staying. Just what Peter and Andrew want: a mob of lunatics surrounding the house making a loud ruckus and calling for Jesus to come fix them all. Yikes. This situation could easily turn disastrous. But there goes Jesus: out the door without a hint of fear, and as the disciples watch in awe, He takes on the whole crowd.
That evening after sunset, many sick and demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus. The whole town gathered at the door to watch. So Jesus healed many people who were sick with various diseases, and He cast out many demons. (Mk. 1:32-34)
Now demons are known for being mouthy, and as Jesus gives them the boot, they keep trying to blow His human cover.
And the demons came out at His command, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But because they knew He was the Messiah, He rebuked them and refused to let them speak. (Lk. 4:41)
Demons are always trying to sabotage God. Of course they can’t succeed, but they try anyway. They’ve figured out that Jesus doesn’t want His Divinity broadcasted at the present time, which is why they keep screaming out a warning to everyone that Jesus is another God—the Son of Yahweh. So…why is this a problem? By now we’ve already seen Jesus flaunting His Divinity to certain individuals, like Nicodemus the Pharisee (see Lesson 46). Other times He just identifies Himself as the Messiah and leaves the Divine bit out of it, like when He spoke to the Samaritan woman at a well in our last lesson. Remember that NO ONE is expecting a second God. Messiah, yes. God, no. These are two very separate concepts to Old Covenant Jews and very few will be willing to even consider the concept of a second God. Jesus wants to gather a whole lot more attention to Himself before He starts introducing the concept of His Divinity on a wide scale. We’ll learn later on that the folks in Capernaum are a bunch of hardened rebels who value Jesus only as a quick fix to their problems. They don’t care who He is—they only care about what He can do for them. Jesus doesn’t want to waste discussions of His identity on these brats. Instead, He is using them to spread the word throughout the region of Galilee about who He is so that huge crowds will gather—crowds with a least a few souls in them who are sincerely seeking truth. Remember that Jesus can see into people’s hearts, and what He’s seeing here in Capernaum is not very pretty.
After a long night of healing the folks in Capernaum, Jesus gets up before dark and sneaks out of the house to some place where He can be alone and commune with Yahweh and the Holy Spirit. It’s nice to have a minute’s peace from spiritual rebels who are only valuing Him for the goodies He can give them. He doesn’t tell anyone where He went—not even His boys. When Peter and the others wake up and find Him gone, they start searching for Him. Soon the whole town is searching for Him. Everyone wants more miracles. How tiresome.
When Peter, Andrew, James and John finally catch up to Jesus, they try to persuade Him to stay in town. But Jesus doesn’t want to stay in this place any longer. It’s time to move on.
But Jesus replied, “We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too. That is why I came.” So He traveled throughout the region of Galilee, preaching in the synagogues and casting out demons. (Mk. 1:38-39)
When there’s no email, tweeting, or texting, people get really good at circulating hot news verbally and we’re told that news of Jesus spreads all the way up into Syria.
Now when you look at Bible maps, things look a whole lot bigger than they actually are because most of the time you’re looking at a close up. To get some perspective on how small the biblical world actually is, let’s do some comparing to modern US states.
Now we’re used to thinking that once Jesus calls His disciples to come follow Him, they stick to Him like glue. But when we combine all four Gospel accounts, we get a different picture. At first, Jesus and His early disciples keep separating. He calls them to join Him for some trip, then He goes His own way while they go back to their lives. Later they meet up again for another tour, then they separate. After Jesus tours Galilee, His four fishermen buddies go their own way again. In Luke 5, we find Jesus returning to the Sea of Galilee to catch up with them. This is the third time He’s reconnected with Peter and Andrew.
Now on this third encounter, Jesus is not alone. He’s got a very pushy mob around Him, and these people are so busy shoving each other out of the way to get closer to the Miracle Man that Jesus has no breathing room. Looking around, He sees two empty fishing boats available. One of them is Peter’s. Good—here’s a perfect way to get some space from this suffocating crowd. Hurrying over to help, Peter hops into his boat with Jesus and pushes off a ways from shore. Jesus now has a floating pulpit from which He can preach without being clawed at. He can also sit down while He talks—that’s a nice change. And the best part of all is that when He’s done talking, He can sail away from the mob, which He does.
Now Peter is glad to save Jesus from being manhandled, but he’s also exhausted. He and Andrew have been fishing all night and they’ve got nothing to show for it. Now Jesus has them gliding over deep water and He tells Peter to put out the nets for a catch. Um…no, thanks. Putting out the nets is work and Peter is tired of working. Plus, he’s been doing this fishing thing his whole life. He’s not an amateur. He knows that he’s not going to catch bumpkus at this particular spot at this time of day. But, then again, it’s hard to say no when alpha Jesus is sitting there expectantly waiting for you to hop to it, so Peter reluctantly obeys, dropping a big hint that he’s doing it as a favor to Jesus.
“Master,” Peter replied, “we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing. But if You say so, I’ll let the nets down again.” And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear! A shout for help brought their partners in the other boat, and soon both boats were filled with fish and on the verge of sinking.
When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m too much of a sinner to be around You.” For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him. His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed.
Jesus replied to Peter, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus. (Lk. 5:5-11)
This time, the four fishing brothers are going to stick with Jesus permanently. They won’t return to fishing until after He is crucified.
HEALING A LEPER
Continuing His tour through Galilee, Jesus and His boys are in another city near the lake when a leper comes hurrying to Jesus making a major scene. Pleading for healing and falling down on his face in the dirt, the man cries out:
“Lord,” he said, “if You are willing, You can heal me and make me clean.” (Lk. 5:12)
Now when you come across the term “leper” in the Bible, it’s not a reference to modern day leprosy, but a more general term that refers to any one of several skin disorders that caused someone to be unclean according to Yahweh’s Laws. Back in Leviticus 13, Yahweh gave explicit instructions for how priests were to diagnose various skin problems. He lists off several nasty symptoms, and tells priests when to declare someone ceremonially unclean. Now once a person comes down with a chronic skin disease that leaves them in a permanently unclean state, this is what they have to do:
“Those who suffer from a serious skin disease must tear their clothing and leave their hair uncombed. They must cover their mouth and call out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as the serious disease lasts, they will be ceremonially unclean. They must live in isolation in their place outside the camp.” (Lev. 13:45-46)
So if your father comes down with leprosy, he ends up getting cut off from the rest of your family. He becomes a reject of society and you’re not supposed to have any physical contact with him or else you’ll be unclean as well.
Under Yahweh’s Old Covenant, there were all kinds of ways that you could end up unclean. Depending on how you became unclean, you had to do various rituals to get clean again. If you touched a leper, for example, you became unclean. Maybe a guy bumps into you in a crowd and you turn around and see that he’s a leper. Terrific. Now you are considered unclean by Yahweh.
“Suppose you unknowingly touch something that makes a person unclean. When you realize what you have done, you must admit your guilt…Then you must bring to Yahweh as the penalty for your sin a female from the flock, either a sheep or a goat. This is a sin offering with which the priest will purify you from your sin, making you right with Yahweh.” (Lev. 5:3,5-6)
Just by touching you, lepers could cost you money and put you through all kinds of hassle, so naturally you want to stay far away from them. When Jesus’ disciples see a leper running towards Him, they would have moved way back. But Jesus doesn’t move back. He just stands there. Even more shocking, He actually TOUCHES the man. Was this necessary? Not hardly. If Jesus can throw a demon out with a verbal command, He could easily have spoken healing over someone. So why does He get all hands on with nasty leper man, thereby making Himself ceremonially unclean? Because He’s God and He gets to.
Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” He said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared. Then Jesus instructed him not to tell anyone what had happened. He said, “Go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.” (Lk. 5:13-14)
Now not all skin diseases were permanent. In Leviticus 14, Yahweh describes a whole rigmarole that healed lepers and priests have to go through in order to get the leper declared ceremonially clean again. Here Jesus is telling the healed leper to go get started with that procedure. Once the priest declares the leper clean again, the man will have his life back.
So…what about Jesus? According to Yahweh’s Law, when clean touches unclean, clean becomes unclean. So Jesus is now unclean for touching the unclean leper. And if He goes bumping into Peter, Peter becomes unclean. Jesus is now a walking contaminant until He goes through a bunch of sacred rigmarole. But He doesn’t. In the Gospel books, we never hear about Jesus going through cleansing rituals. Instead, He blows them off and goes around laying His hands on scores of unclean people one right after another. According to Yahweh’s Laws, this is sin. Yes, Jesus did sin. He sinned and He excused Himself for sinning because as God, He is above His own Laws. As we continue our study of Period 7, we’ll find more examples of Jesus sinning. He’ll break the Sabbath Laws. He’ll break the dietary laws. The Man is a total rebel, yet while everyone can see Him violating Yahweh’s clear commands, He claims to have Yahweh’s total approval. He claims to have the righteousness of Yahweh. Are you seeing how difficult it would be to swallow this?
Now today it sounds like blasphemy in the ears of Christians to say “Jesus sinned.” But it’s vital that we see how two-faced Yahweh is being when He declares Jesus to be the perfect sin offering for us. We often refer to Jesus as “the Lamb of God”—this title refers to a fact that He served as a SIN OFFERING for all of us. Now under the Old Covenant, a sin offering was a specific type of offering and to be considered valid, it had to be done in a very specific way. Jesus’ crucifixion on a cross couldn’t have been a bigger violation of Yahweh’s laws for a sin offering. In fact, everything about the crucifixion event directly countered what Yahweh demanded for an atonement sacrifice. This means that it is totally hypocritical for Yahweh to accept Jesus as a SIN OFFERING, because by Yahweh’s own definition, Jesus did not come close to meeting His requirements for this type of offering. To learn about three specific ways that Jesus flunked Yahweh’s requirements for a sin offering and what lessons we can learn from all this doubletalk, read How the Cross Broke the Law.
Now all you have to do is tell someone “don’t” and they’ll do it. Mark tells us that Jesus sternly told this healed leper not to go around blabbing about the miracle. Jesus wanted him to just go straight to the authorities (the priests) and get declared clean so he could get his life back. Well, the man doesn’t listen to Jesus.
But the man went and spread the word, proclaiming to everyone what had happened. As a result, large crowds soon surrounded Jesus, and He couldn’t publicly enter a town anywhere. He had to stay out in the secluded places, but people from everywhere kept coming to Him. (Mk. 1:45)
The crowds are now so massive that if Jesus stays in town, He’ll shut the town down by creating impossible traffic jams in the streets. His popularity has got Him banned to distant open spaces that can accommodate His fans. And His life is now an unending series of healing people who are pushing and grabbing at Him—most of whom don’t give a care about God. This is very draining work. No wonder Jesus keeps slipping off to be alone with Yahweh and the Holy Spirit. Luke tells us:
But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray. (Lk. 5:16)
THE HEALING OF A PARALYTIC
In Lesson 42 we learned that the Pharisees are a bunch of super snooty preachers and teachers who go around claiming to be perfect in the sight of Yahweh. Their rivals are the proud Sadducees, and the Sadducees rule in Jerusalem because they run the Temple. But the rest of the country is the Pharisees’ turf, and in Lesson 42 we learned that they are the ones who came up with community synagogues so they’d have pulpits that they could work from to control the thinking of the common people. Well, now this Jesus Guy is taking over the preaching in whatever synagogue He enters. This is extremely irritating to the Pharisees, but what can they do? Tell Miracle Man to sit down and hush up? That certainly won’t go over well with the people.
Now one day Jesus is back in His home base of Capernaum doing some preaching out of His home. If He has too many fans to fit in a city, we can just imagine how jam-packed this house is. And of course everywhere Jesus goes there is a never ending stream of people who are trying to get miracles out of Him.
Once we understand the context, it puts a different spin on the famous story of the paralyzed man whose friends lower him down through the roof of a house so that the man will be thrust into Jesus’ face. Is this really a great act of faith or is it utterly obnoxious? Jesus is trying to teach, but these men don’t mind mangling a house that’s not even theirs just to try and make Jesus conform to their own agenda.
One day while Jesus was teaching, some Pharisees and teachers of religious law were sitting nearby. They had come from every village in all Galilee and Judea, as well as from Jerusalem. And Yahweh’s healing power was strongly with Jesus.
Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a sleeping mat. They tried to take him inside to Jesus, but they couldn’t reach him because of the crowd. So they went up to the roof and took off some tiles. Then they lowered the sick man on his mat down into the crowd, right in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the man, “Young man, your sins are forgiven.” (Lk. 5:17-20)
The language in this passage reminds us that we’re reading one human’s perception of Jesus. Notice how Luke says “And Yahweh’s healing power was strongly with Jesus,” as if there were other times when Jesus’ power was weak. Well, no, Jesus is God Almighty and His power doesn’t fade in and out like the bars on your cell phone. Plus, Jesus isn’t siphoning power from Yahweh, He has His own power. But these are all such radical concepts for Jewish minds to grasp, so we’re going to find our four Gospel writers over-humanizing Jesus with many of their comments. Here He’s wrongly depicted as flowing with another God’s power instead of with His own power. And once we realize how flawed the Gospel narratives can be with their perceptions of reality, we have to question their conclusions about why Jesus heals people. Here Luke assumes that Jesus was impressed by the faith of these friends who dug the roof apart so they could interrupt His sermon and shove their buddy in Jesus’ face. Was Jesus really smiling on this behavior or was He just being extremely gracious and using the opportunity to multitask? Notice how instead of just giving the man physical healing—which is clearly what he wanted—Jesus says “Your sins are forgiven.” This is of course a far greater gift, but it’s also an extremely blasphemous statement in the ears of Old Covenant Jews. Jesus is trying to start a fight.
Looking for anything they can use to try and taint Jesus’ reputation, the Pharisees immediately jump on the bait Jesus throws them.
But the Pharisees and teachers of religious law said to themselves, “Who does He think He is? That’s blasphemy! Only Yahweh can forgive sins!” (Lk. 5:21)
This is the connection Jesus wants these men to make—He is claiming to have Divine Authority.
Jesus knew what they were thinking, so He asked them, “Why do you question this in your hearts? Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!”
And immediately, as everyone watched, the man jumped up, picked up his mat, and went home praising God. Everyone was gripped with great wonder and awe, and they praised Yahweh, exclaiming, “We have seen amazing things today!” (Lk. 5:22-25)
Yes, they’ve seen amazing things but far more importantly they’ve heard amazing things. Jesus is claiming Divine Authority. Such a shocking claim should be inspiring some very serious questions among these souls. But is it? No, it’s not. We’ll learn later on that these people are only coming for the miracles and the quick fixes. They’re not really listening to the things Jesus is saying. If they were, they wouldn’t be finding Him so fabulous.
Jesus likes to keep going out by the sea, and wherever He goes, He is followed by a mob. He’s working hard to get some teaching into these people between miracles. But on this particular day, He pauses in front of a tax office and calls out to a man named Matthew (aka Levi). Now Matthew is a tax collector, and since it is Roman taxes that he is collecting, he’s despised. Tax collectors were known to be immoral cheats who overcharged their fellow Jews and then pocketed the extra money. So when Matthew jumps up to respond to Jesus’ call to come follow Him, no one is thrilled. And when Matthew then invites Jesus to dine at his house with his tax collecting buddies and other choice sinners, the Pharisees see a new opportunity to criticize Jesus. If He’s so anointed by Yahweh, what’s He doing hanging out with the moral lowlifes? Since when does righteousness soil itself among unrighteousness? Remember that the Pharisees considered themselves to be morally perfect. This looks like a good opportunity to harass Jesus’ disciples.
But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked Jesus’ disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with such scum?”
When Jesus heard this, He said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” Then He added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show compassion, not offer sacrifices.’ [Hos. 6:6] For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” (Mt. 9:10-13)
This is another great zinger from Jesus. The Pharisees prided themselves to be experts on the Old Testament, so when Jesus throws Hosea 6:6 in their faces and says “Go learn the meaning of this,” He’s really insulting their intelligence. And indeed they are worthy of insult, because the verse Jesus quotes is Yahweh saying that heart attitude is far more important to Him than religious rituals. The Pharisees practiced an abundance of meaningless rituals, but their heart attitudes were seriously rotten. If they were actually paying attention to the Scriptures they claimed to be such experts on, they’d realize how displeasing they were in the sight of Yahweh. But no, they have decided they are already perfect, and this arrogant attitude makes them unteachable. So Jesus then says “For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” The lowlifes Jesus is eating with are far more honest about their moral failings than the Pharisees are about theirs. This makes the lowlifes much more attractive to Jesus. They might actually listen to the truth, unlike the snooty Pharisees.
Way back in Period 2, Yahweh laid down hundreds of laws that He wanted His followers to abide by. Some of those laws became real bones of contention between Yahweh and His people, for we see them coming up over and over again throughout the Old Testament as Yahweh complains about being ignored. The Sabbath Day Law was one of those commands that became a particular pet peeve.
Now many don’t realize there was a Sabbath Day and a Sabbath Year—these were two different concepts. The Sabbath Year was about not farming every seventh year to give the land a rest. Now if you’re an agricultural society and the whole country decides to take a year off from growing anything, what happens? The people starve. Ah, but Yahweh promised to provide a miraculously large crop every sixth year so that the people would have more than enough food to get them through. Hm. If you were a farmer, do you think you’d have the faith to take every seven years off in order to honor Yahweh? The ancient Jews weren’t fans of this system.
Now the Sabbath Day was a totally different concept. The Sabbath Day was about taking a break from regular life on the last day of the week—what we would call Saturday. There was to be absolutely no working on the Sabbath Day. The main point in shutting down society every seventh day was to motivate people to dwell on their relationships with Yahweh. It was supposed to be a “rest and think of Me” day. It was a way of forcing an interruption in the usual hurry and scurry of life that keeps people from ever thinking about important things. Today the Sabbath Day law is no longer in effect, and look at us: we’re so addicted to being busy that we can’t still for five minutes. Life flies at us in fast, instant forms and we multi-task our way into nervous breakdowns. When’s the last time you were able to just lounge around the house all day without feeling like a guilty slacker? In today’s world, so many of us are driven to the point of crazed. This is human nature: go faster, do more. Get multiple lines so you can flip back and forth between callers. Talk and text at the same time so you can have multiple conversations at once. It’s always rush, rush, rush, and barely notice who and what you’re rushing through. Well, Yahweh isn’t a fan of this, so He intentionally put the brakes on His followers every seven days. He DEMANDED that every seven days everyone had to STOP and do NOTHING of earthly productivity. The Sabbath Day was a time for physical rest and spiritual rejuvenation.
Well, who wants to rejuvenate with a God they don’t even respect? The Old Testament Jews never respected the Sabbath Day. Sure they’d rest for a while after Yahweh really flipped out on them, but as soon as they thought He was over His huff, they started doing normal life again. In the Old Testament, the Sabbath Day became a joke among the Jews and a very bitter topic for Yahweh.
But in the New Testament we find that it is a central theme of Jewish society. Not because the Jews suddenly care about Yahweh, but because the Pharisees and Sadducees are always looking for some way to control and condemn people. The Sabbath laws opened up a tantalizing area for debate. Just exactly what should qualify as “work” on the Sabbath? What a delicious opportunity to show off how pious you were by flaunting how well you were keeping the Sabbath Day. The Pharisees and Sadducees loved being Sabbath Day nitpickers. It was so much fun, and Yahweh had set up a wonderful precedent for them in the Torah by actually ordering the execution of a man who dared to collect firewood on the Sabbath Day (see Num. 15:32). What’s more basic than collecting firewood? What a great launching pad for declaring that it was wrong for anyone to carry anything on the Sabbath Day.
Now continuing forward in our study of Period 7, we learn that Jesus has returned to Jerusalem to celebrate another annual feast—likely the feast of Tabernacles. John tells us that there was a certain pool by one of the gates in Jerusalem (the sheep gate) which was believed to have healing powers. Because of this, masses of sick people would sit or lie around the pool, staring at the water and waiting for it to move. The rumor was that an angel from Yahweh would occasionally stir up the water, and whenever this happened, the first person to touch the water would be healed. Well, we can imagine what a pretty scene this was: a bunch of sick people staring at the water, vying for the best spots, and then violently shoving each other out of the way in a mad dash to be the first one into the water. Yeesh.
John tells us that there’s a certain man who has been camped by this pool for 38 years. That is a VERY long time. And because he’s ill and slow, he doesn’t stand a chance of ever being the first one into the pool. But still he sits, for nearly four decades, dreaming of a miracle cure.
Along comes Jesus onto this disturbing scene. He walks right over to Mr. 38 and asks:
“Would you like to get well?”
“I can’t, Sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.”
Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!”
Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking! (Jn. 5:6-9)
Notice Jesus doesn’t say anything pleasant to this man—He doesn’t compliment the man’s faith or suggest that the healing has anything to do with the man’s positive internal response to God. We’ll learn more about this man’s condition in a moment. But what becomes immediately clear right now is that rebel Jesus is looking to start another fight with the Jewish leaders. You see, it happens to be the Sabbath Day. What was it that we’re not supposed to be doing on the Sabbath? Carrying things. So what does Jesus tell Mr. 38 to do? Carry his mat. What a sly Troublemaker.
But this miracle happened on the Sabbath, so the Jewish leaders objected. They said to the man who was cured, “You can’t work on the Sabbath! The law doesn’t allow you to carry that sleeping mat!”
But he replied, “The Man who healed me told me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’”
“Who said such a thing as that?” they demanded.
The man didn’t know, for Jesus had disappeared into the crowd. (Jn. 5:9-13)
Now Jesus is really toying with them: He stirs up trouble, then ducks out of sight. But He’s got one more thing to say to Mr. 38, so He follows him to the Temple.
But afterward Jesus found the man in the Temple and told him, “Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you.” Then the man went and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had healed him. (Jn. 5:14-15)
Yahweh has clearly taught us in the Old Testament that just because someone is ill, it does not mean they are displeasing to God. Many today try to say it does, but they are delusional. The Bible has many examples of righteous, God pleasing men going through all manner of miseries on earth, so let’s not put our faith in ridiculous lies just because we want to have an excuse to look down our noses at other people.
Now while all sickness isn’t about discipline, God certainly does use illness as a disciplinary measure in some cases. Jesus’ comment to Mr. 38 makes it clear that this man has not been doing much to please God. Jesus tells him to “stop sinning”, suggesting that the man has a long history of heart rebellion which even now he hasn’t totally turned away from. Jesus also threatens the man that if he doesn’t get his act together, God will nail him with something even worse than the disease he’s had for 38 years. Now we know why Jesus didn’t say “Your faith has made you well.” It doesn’t sound like this guy has much faith—just a bunch of attitude.
God has a long history of using rebels to further His agenda on earth and Jesus is using Mr. 38 to stir up all kinds of trouble for Himself in Jerusalem. As word spreads that Jesus violated the Sabbath laws, some intense anger begins to brew among the already threatened Jewish leaders.
So the Jewish leaders began harassing Jesus for breaking the Sabbath rules. But Jesus replied, “My Father is always working, and so am I.” So the Jewish leaders tried all the harder to find a way to kill Him. For He not only broke the Sabbath, He called Yahweh His Father, thereby making Himself equal with God. (Jn. 5:16-18)
This is a very important passage. We’re very early on in Jesus’ public ministry and these leaders are ready to KILL Him. Why? Because the Jewish leaders understand that Jesus is claiming to be another God.
The important of this Father-Son language that Jesus and Yahweh use goes over our heads today. We don’t see that this was an intentional means of advertising Jesus’ Divinity. When Yahweh calls down from Heaven and identifies Jesus as His Son, He’s identifying Jesus as a separate Being from Him who shares His same Divine Nature. When Jesus then claims Yahweh as His Father, He’s repeating that incredibly blasphemous claim. So back and forth throughout Period 7, we find both Yahweh and Jesus confirming Jesus’ identity as a second, fully Divine Being who shares the exact same Nature as Yahweh. Jesus is NOT saying that He is Yahweh in another form, instead He’s claiming to be the same kind of Being as Yahweh: another uncreated, almighty God. WOW. You can’t get any more blasphemous than this under the Old Covenant. Jesus is directly countering that first and most holy of all commands:
“I am Yahweh your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery. You must not have any other god but Me.” (Ex. 20:2-3)
THE VALIDATION OF JESUS
Now here’s a very important point: from our perspective, Yahweh came first. He was the first God to introduce Himself to us and He taught us that He is RAGINGLY jealous. He DEMANDS over and over in the Old Testament that we worship NO ONE but Him. This means that there is NO WAY we can accept Jesus as God unless the God we already know to be true—Yahweh—confirms that Jesus is speaking the truth. It is ESSENTIAL that we hear from Yahweh’s lips that He’s alright with this Man claiming to be His equal. This is why it is so vital that Yahweh calls down from Heaven and publicly affirms Jesus’ Divinity. If we don’t have that, then all we have is an arrogant fruitcake running around who claims to be Divine. Today there are many such fruitcakes running around. Some claim to be another God. Some claim to be Jesus. What do you do when you run into such a person? You have to look for guidance from the Gods you already know to be true: Yahweh, Jesus, and the magnificent Holy Spirit. We always have to look to the Gods we already know to confirm any new Gods who try to come along. Without explicit confirmation from Them, we absolutely reject anyone who claims to be God. See how it works? If Yahweh hadn’t backed Jesus up, the Jews would have had to reject Him—there was no other option. But Yahweh DID back Jesus up, and that’s what makes the whole thing so jaw-dropping awesome.
Now unlike us the Jews immediately grasp the import of the Father-Son language that Jesus is tossing around and they are LIVID. It is totally outrageous for some Jewish man to go around claiming to be equal with Yahweh. NO ONE is equal to Yahweh, and according to Yahweh’s laws, blasphemers like Jesus ought to be executed. These religious leaders feel entirely justified in murdering Jesus. As far as they’re concerned, Yahweh DEMANDS that they murder Jesus according to the rules He laid down in the Torah.
Now if Jesus had just run around making blasphemous claims, He would have been very easy to exterminate. But the problem is that He’s doing all these incredible miracles. This makes Him enormously popular with the people, and that means if the religious leaders aren’t careful in how they deal with Jesus, they could have a massive riot on their hands. And then there’s another complication: Rome is always hovering, breathing down everyone’s neck and just waiting for an excuse to pound someone. Roman authorities are extremely sensitive to riots. If the Jewish leaders start hurling rocks at Jesus’ skull, the Jewish people will flip out, then Rome will flip out, and suddenly scores of Jewish citizens will be getting bludgeoned with swords and nailed to crosses. That darn Jesus has managed to pin the religious leaders into quite the nasty corner with His miracles. They REALLY want to kill Him, but not in a way that’s going to backfire on them. Rats! For the moment, all they can do is stand there fuming while Jesus keeps running His blasphemous little mouth, which He is now doing on an epic scale:
“I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by Himself. He does only what He sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows Him everything He is doing. In fact, the Father will show Him how to do even greater works than healing this man. Then you will truly be astonished. For just as the Father gives life to those He raises from the dead, so the Son gives life to anyone He wants. In addition, the Father judges no one. Instead, He has given the Son absolute authority to judge, so that everyone will honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son is certainly not honoring the Father who sent Him.
I tell you the truth, those who listen to My message and believe in Yahweh who sent Me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.
And I assure you that the time is coming, indeed it’s here now, when the dead will hear My Voice—the Voice of the Son of God. And those who listen will live. The Father has life in Himself, and He has granted that same life-giving power to His Son. And the Father has given the Son the authority to judge everyone because He is the Son of Man. Don’t be so surprised! Indeed, the time is coming when all the dead in their graves will hear the Voice of Yahweh’s Son, and they will rise again. Those who have done good will rise to experience eternal life, and those who have continued in evil will rise to experience judgment. I can do nothing on My own. I judge as Yahweh tells Me. Therefore, My judgment is just, because I carry out the will of the One who sent Me, not My own will.
If I were to testify on My own behalf, My testimony would not be valid. But someone else is also testifying about Me, and I assure you that everything he says about Me is true. In fact, you sent investigators to listen to John the Baptist, and his testimony about Me was true. Of course, I have no need of human witnesses, but I say these things so you might be saved. John was like a burning and shining lamp, and you were excited for a while about his message. But I have a greater witness than John—My teachings and My miracles. The Father gave Me these works to accomplish, and they prove that He sent Me. And the Father who sent Me has testified about Me Himself. You have never heard His Voice or seen Him face to face, and you do not have His message in your hearts, because you do not believe Me—the One Yahweh sent to you.
You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to Me! Yet you refuse to come to Me to receive this life.
Your approval means nothing to Me, because I know you don’t have Yahweh’s love within you. For I have come to you in My Father’s Name, and you have rejected Me. Yet if others come in their own name, you gladly welcome them. No wonder you can’t believe! For you gladly honor each other, but you don’t care about the honor that comes from the One who alone is Yahweh.
Yet it isn’t I who will accuse you before the Father. Moses will accuse you! Yes, Moses, in whom you put your hopes. If you really believed Moses, you would believe Me, because he wrote about Me. But since you don’t believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?” (Jn. 5:19-47)
WOW! Can you see picture the religious leaders standing around listening to this speech and feeling like they’re about to explode? Jesus is going on and on about how He has Yahweh’s full support in everything He does. He says Yahweh Himself has validated Jesus’ Divinity (which He has). And then He says that Yahweh has stepped down from the role of eternal Judge and handed His gavel to Jesus instead. It is now JESUS who will be judging everyone in eternity–but don’t worry, He discusses His judgments with Yahweh first. Really?? But there’s more–Jesus publicly mocks the religious leaders for being dumbbells about Scripture. Don’t they see how the ancient Scriptures point to Him? Now we learned in Lesson 42 that the Pharisees acknowledged the entire Old Testament, whereas the Sadducees insisted that the first five books that Moses wrote (the Torah) were the only valid Scriptures. Here in the Temple, Jesus would have both Sadducees and Pharisees in His audience so He mocks them both. He bags on the Sadducees for not seeing how Moses pointed to Him. He bags on the Pharisees for not seeing how Yahweh spoke of Him through the mouths of Old Testament prophets. He reminds them that they have already scrutinized John the Baptist and some considered him to be a legitimate prophet. But now that John’s prophecies have come true, they’re rejecting Jesus as the promised Messiah.
This speech Jesus gives is full of condescending mockery. And He’s dishing it all out in a nice public area where plenty of other Jews can hear Him. This would be like you grabbing the mic at a huge Billy Graham crusade and then going on and on about what idiots Billy and his boys are—even what idiots all the preachers of the day are. This is outrageous talk. Once a Man starts claiming to be God, He just can’t sound any more arrogant. Everyone is stunned. Everyone is scandalized. The whole Jewish community is being thrown into theological chaos over this one shocking Individual. And as much as they all just want to scream at Him to shut up, they’re horribly haunted by all the miracles He’s doing. Healing people who are lying on the brink of death. Curing lifelong ailments. Driving out demons with a single word. Is there even the remotest possibility that this son of a carpenter from the dumpy town of Nazareth could be telling the truth? How can devout Yahweh worshipers even dare to ask such a question in the privacy of their own souls without fearing that they’ll bring Yahweh’s jealous wrath against themselves? Has anyone ever told you that Jesus was “sweet and loving, meek and mild”? It’s becoming clear that such people haven’t ever really read the Gospels with their eyes open, isn’t it?
So what will rebel Jesus do next? He’s sparked quite the raging theological debate in Jerusalem with one simple violation of the Sabbath laws. Boy, that Sabbath is a great way to stir up trouble all over Israel. It’s time to return to Galilee and see what new fights He can start with more Sabbath Day shockers. And this time He’ll even get His disciples to follow His bad example—that ought to really wig out the old Pharisees. What fun.
UP NEXT: Know Your Bible Lesson 49: The Sermon on the Mount
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