Jesus healed a man who had been an invalid for 38 years (John 5:1-47). This brought persecution from the Jews, and they thought they had him cornered this time because he had healed on the Sabbath. These enemies had murder in mind; surely he would back down.
Instead, courageously Jesus stood up to them. In doing so he spoke timeless words that range from the immediate to the eternal. Here are some of the things he said.
First, he answered their charge that his miracle had broken the law of the Sabbath. The Rabbis had set out a long list of foolish prohibitions. To this he said, “My Father is always at his work to this very day and I, too, am working” (John 5:17). A compassionate God never quits and never forbids compassion.
Then when they thought they had him blocked on a more severe charge of making himself equal with God, he met the charge with further truth, disclosing what his relationship with the Father really was and what it involved: “Just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life,” he said, “even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it” (John 5:21).
His words about eternal life went further. “I tell you the truth, he who hears my words and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24).
Standing up to them he even talked about a final judgment: “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out — those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned” (John 5:28,29).
Out of this debate with a gathering of his enemies somewhere near the temple there flow several of the deepest and richest teachings Jesus gave about who he was, what his relationship with his Father was, and what the Father wants us to know about the life to come. It’s a chapter worth deep pondering. It offers good news!
All this and more arises out of a confrontation that could have been dangerous but turned out to be revealing for those responding to the call to believe.
But Jesus’ closing question raises the issue of what believing requires in order to receive that life. Jesus puts his finger on the key issue: “How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44)
It’s clear that only when we say from our hearts, “Jesus Christ first, all others second,” will we experience this assurance of eternal life!