Jesus’ Teachings After a Controversial Sabbath Miracle

"Christ healing the Paralytic at the Pool of Bethesda", Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, 1667-70.

“Christ healing the Paralytic at the Pool of Bethesda”, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, 1667-70.

Last week I wrote about Jesus’ healing of a crippled man on the Sabbath. Remarkably, his critics were enraged because in doing so he had broken one of the many rabbinic laws about Sabbath!

In Jesus’ response to his critics, three times he introduced what he had to say with the words, “I tell you the truth” (NIV). This introductory declaration occurs 25 times in John’s account of the Gospel so we must treat it as very important.

But first a brief aside about the words themselves: While the New International Version translates the original language as, “I tell you the truth,” the King James Version says “Verily, verily I say unto thee…”, a more literal and compelling rendering.

The Greek word for “verily” is “amen”, a word found throughout the Scriptures. It means, “It shall truly and certainly be.” Thus, this word launches our Lord’s sentence with vigor and conviction. In addition, repeating the word, verily, verily, is one way to increase the word’s force. It is like his saying “I really, really, mean this!” Or “I speak this with certainty”.

The miraculous healing of the man crippled for 38 years should arrest his critics to hear the claims Jesus is about to make. In his first “Verily, verily” statement, he asserts of himself: “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it” (John 5:21).

With these words he makes it clear that he and God, the Father, are one in being. The rage of his detractors was greatly inflamed by the claim that Jesus made himself equal with God (John 5:16-23). He also made it clear that the Father his critics professed to worship was compassionate on every day — and so was he.

His second declaration was an even more amazing claim. “I tell you the truth, (verily, verily) whoever hears my word 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). He is claiming not only the power to heal, but also to grant eternal life and the forgiveness of sins.

Our Lord’s third claim growing out of the conflict over his Sabbath healing of the man crippled for 38 years seems stronger yet: “I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear him will live” (John 5:25). This promise is to those who are willing to hear without resistance when the Father calls.

In his healing of the crippled man at the Pool of Bethesda Jesus again had performed a miracle that validates his origin and his divine power. Into the intense and sometimes hostile discussion that follows he weaves these certainties: Only I can give eternal life; the Father raises the dead and gives them life, and so do I; a day has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear him will live.

These ringing statements are claims of truth about the shared life of God the Father and his Son, Jesus our Lord: about his compassion to us all, his eagerness to give the gift of eternal life, and the assurance that there is life after death. On those subjects only Jesus can say with certainty: “I tell you the truth.” And only we who respond in humble, contrite faith can receive these great statements of truth for our eternal benefit.

Image credit: The National Gallery


2 thoughts on “Jesus’ Teachings After a Controversial Sabbath Miracle

  1. Hi: I need to hear you and others affirm the truth that Jesus confers eternal life on his followers. It seems I and perhaps others as well, struggle more with faith in these verities as life winds down. Thanks Don.

  2. This final part of the tryptich of blogs on Jesus’s teachings on the Sabbath, is inspiring, reminding us of Jesus’s divine promise of resurrection and eternal life. His wonderful assurance,giving hope to we His flock, and open to all who believe and accept and open their hearts to Him.

    As always Jesus underlines His great promise , with words of guarantee like ‘amen ‘ and verily verily’ , His seal that assures us of their truth.

    I like the way the NIV translates the New Testament Greek word ‘amen’ as ‘I tell you the truth ‘

    The AV translation of ‘amen’ as ‘verily verily’ followed by ‘I say unto thee’ when the words come from Jesus,is powerful and memorable.It has a beautiful ring.

    There is a place too for a bible like the NIV or the Message, which makes the scriptures as clear in meaning as possible for modern audiences, by expressing things in the everyday language people use today

    The authorized King James bible,written in the Jacobean English of the early seventeenth century is often poetic and sounds very beautiful.But perhaps clarity of meaning is most important when it comes to the Bible.The message is more important than style,I think.

    Christians use the New Testament Greek word ‘amen’ every week in church.It is normally the last word recited when we say the prayer Jesus taught us,The Lord’s prayer.

    Even so ,I know some Christians have a vague rather than a precise understanding of what the word means.For some it is more a sound than an expression of meaning.

    ‘I tell you the truth’ is clearer.So is ‘this is the truth’. ‘Truly,truly’ or simply ‘truly’ would convey the meaning too,perhaps not so sonorously.

    When praying I sometimes use a different word of the same meaning, for ‘amen’, ’trespass’, ’hallowed’ and other important words frequently used in worship.So as never to lose sight of the meaning.

    As for ‘amen’ ,it is vital every Christian knows Jesus told us the truth,the blessed truth that we are offered eternal life and the lifting of our burden of sin.

    Really! Christ ,the lamb of God truly does take away the sin of the world.Just as the ancient Agnus Dei prayer says.

    For Jesus truly is wholly the Son of God as well as the Son of Man.Jesus is God of God,the second person of Triune God. Only God can give eternal life and Jesus is God.He shares one life with the Father and our Lord,the Holy Spirit.

    Again and again Jesus assured us of the certain truth of resurrection and eternal life .Eternal life is guaranteed those who heed Christ .Amazing,but true, without a shadow of doubt. Jesus,God of God is determined we who believe Him shall have eternal life

    ’My sheep hear my voice .I know them ,and they follow me.I give them eternal life,and they will NEVER perish.NO ONE will snatch them out of my hand ‘’ John 10 :27 – 28

    The capitals NEVER and NO ONE are mine since this is how I hear this astonishing message of hope and assurance from Christ’s lips. The words jump out of the scripture ,blessing us.

    Here in UK,now November, we have just observed the Christian feast of Hallowtide at the beginning of Nonember ,the tridium of Hallows eve,Hallows day and All Souls Day.

    All Soul’s,2nd November , is often,here, now renamed Remembrance of the Faithful Departed. In our church we hold a Requiem Lord’s Supper on that day , or on the nearest Sunday, for those gone before.

    So death is very much on our minds.Next Sunday is Remembrance Sunday for fallen soldiers.

    The lesson at church last Sunday 6th November was Luke 20 : 27 – 38 ,where some of the Sadducees question the authority of Jesus and try to trip Him up with awkward questions about the Resurrection and marriage. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection.

    Jesus explains that those who are resurrected and chosen to take part in the age to come, are like angels and can no longer die and will not marry or be given in marriage.They are God’s children and children of the Resurrection.The lesson ends with Christ saying –

    “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive” Luke 20:38 NIV

    Yesterday,Sunday November 6th,I was privileged to have been asked to compose and lead from the microphone, the prayers of intercession during the Eucharist,between the Creed and the Peace.

    Knowing in advance , by the Lectionary, that the lesson for the Sunday would be from Luke 20 ,I wrote one of the 10 prayers to relate to the Gospel lesson of the day. The prayer , the last in a series of intercessions for Sunday November 6th was –


    ‘’Jesus said of the Lord, “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive” Luke).

    Christ,who delivered us from death, gave us this wonderful assurance –

    ‘’My sheep hear my voice .I know them ,and they follow me.I give them eternal life,and they will NEVER perish.NO ONE willsnatch them out of my hand ‘’ ( John )

    Thankyou,loving God,for this wonderful message of hope ,promised by your Son who you gave as our Saviour to deliver us from death.

    Lord,empower us ever to follow our loving Shepherd, unhesitatingly and without straying. As we remember those who have gone before us, grant us, with them, a place in your kingdom.

    ( Here I named three members of our congregation recently gone before)’’.


    After each of the prayers of intercession , including this ,the final one of ten, the intercessor always begins a short phrase of petition asking God to accept our prayer,which the comgregation completes.On November 6th I chose ‘’Lord in your Mercy’’ and the congregation responded ‘’Hear our prayer’’.

    Then after a period of silent reflection to feel God’s responsive presence,the president of the Lord’s Supper continues the service by preparing Communion.

    Jesus’s great statement of truth, His wonderful promise to we who are his flock,open to all,is central to our Christian faith.We must believe it.Christ told us the truth. Verily verily.Amen.


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