John 5-8


Because there are four Gospels it is difficult to put them in chronological order and I believe it is more important to read each one rather than try to harmonize them. Jesus did not start His public ministry until John the Baptist was put in prison. The first four chapters of John record what Jesus was doing before that time. John does not go into chronological detail of the ministry of Jesus. Instead, from Chapter 5 on, he records Jesus’s final year before he was crucified and the major events that led to His death and resurrection.

Chapter 5 begins with the man who was healed at the pool by the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem where people would go for healing. The man that Jesus healed had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus healed him Jesus told him to take up his mat and walk which he did. Since it was the Sabbath the Pharisees accused the man of breaking the Sabbath because he was carrying his mat. When the man told them that Jesus had healed him the Pharisees charged Jesus with breaking the Sabbath by healing the man on that day..

Apparently this is the last straw for the Pharisees. Jesus has been healing on the Sabbath and thus, in the mind of the Pharisees, Jesus was breaking the Sabbath. They have already determined to put Jesus to death they just need a charge the people would accept. So, as they question Jesus, He is essentially being put on trial. Little did they know that they were being put on trial as well. Their words and deeds would expose what was really in their heart. Jesus has a way of shaking things up when He comes on the scene. Like sifting grain in order to remove the chaff from the kernels Jesus is looking for fruitfulness in the lives of those He encounters. What He is looking for in the Pharisees is if they really know and follow the law.

Deuteronomy 17:6 says, “On the testimony of two or three witnesses a man shall be put to death, but no one shall be put to death on the testimony of only one witness.” NIV

In Chapter 5 Jesus presents three witnesses for His defense. The healing of the man, as well as the other miracles He had been doing, was the witness of the Holy Spirit. The Word of God and the prophesies that point to Him was the testimony of the Father in Heaven.  Finally, the testimony of John the Baptist, which the Pharisees questioned themselves, was the third witness. John did not feel qualified to baptize the Son of God but Jesus told John that Jesus needed to be baptized in order to fulfill all righteousness. Matthew 3:15

Here is the point. God never violates His law. Matthew 5:17

There is a tendency among people to project their thinking and understanding on God’s Word. This was the error the Pharisees made. When one does this they are trying to make the Word conform to their understanding and interpretations, but man is corrupted by his sin nature. We are to surrender our will and understanding and be conformed to Jesus who is the Word. In the balance of our study we will see this worked out over and over with the people Jesus encounters. However, before we leave Chapter 5, there is much more we can learn about Jesus and the resurrection so let’s not overlook that by focusing on just one thing.

In Chapter 6 we read of the feeding of the 5000. Here again the things Jesus says and does brings out what is in the hearts of the people and His disciples. The feeding of the people who have gathered to hear Him and the teaching that followed was meant to reveal what were the core beliefs in the heart of the people and separate the chaff of worldliness from the kernel of belief in Jesus. The miracle that multiplied the bread and fish, along with His walking on water, was doing the same thing with His disciples.  The worldly thinking of living day to day must give way to the spiritual thinking of God and living for eternity.

The people enjoyed the free lunch and wanted more. Often time’s people will seek God for what He can do for them according to their wants and desires. In this sense they are attempting to direct God rather than submit to and respond to God. This too is chaff. The people want a miraculous sign from Him if they are to believe in Him and use the provision of manna to the nation as they traveled to the Promised Land as an example. Jesus reminds them that it was not Moses but God who provided them with food when the nation wandered in the wilderness but He seems to lose them when He is talking about eating his body and drinking His blood. In reality they were following the covenant they made at Mount Sinai which required sacrifices and offerings. In that covenant they were to eat the fellowship offerings they gave. A portion was to be offered to God on the altar. A portion was to be given to the Priest and they received the rest to “feast” on. So they were partaking in the blood and body of the sacrifice in order to have atonement for their sin and fellowship with God. That was the old Covenant. Jesus is bringing in the New Covenant spoken of in Jeremiah 31:31-34 and this is their Mount Sinai where they will decide whether or not to believe in Him.

Of course He is talking spiritually about what is going on in the heart and mind when one believes in Jesus, but they are thinking of food and stomach and many walk away. His disciples however, get it, and to them, and us, He makes it clear that the words He has spoken are the Spirit and the life, the bread, His body, and the blood.

This brings us to Chapter 7 and the Feast of Tabernacles or booths. Here we see that even within His own family there are those who do not believe in Him. The people at the feast are wondering who Jesus is and if He is the prophet Moses said would come. The Pharisees are aware what the people are saying and want to arrest Jesus and silence Him but the Temple Guard they sent to arrest Him came back empty handed.

Every encounter with Jesus forces a decision as to who He is. That decision may change later with the next encounter but everyone makes a decision when they encounter Jesus. One thing is clear in these chapters. Although one may reject Jesus He will keep coming back even to those who want to kill Him. This is the process of sifting the grain to remove the chaff from the kernel of fruitfulness.

On the last day of the feast the Priest would pour out a jar of water on the land symbolizing God’s promise to pour out His Spirit and blessing on the people given in Isaiah 44:1-5. In John 7:37-39 Jesus stands and declares that He is the fulfilment of that promise.

At the end of the feast a woman caught in adultery is brought to Jesus by the religious rulers in Chapter 8. In the law such a woman would be condemned to death the rulers said, but they wanted to know what Jesus would say. It is true; the Law makes clear what is sin. The Apostle Paul wrote that the wages of sin is death. He also declares we all have sinned so the conclusion should be that we all deserve death. So what we need then is some means to have our sins forgiven. Of course that was the purpose of the sacrifices. One could transfer their sin to their sacrifice by placing their hands on the head of the animal which was put to death.

When we think of the Law we tend to think of the legal right and wrong side of the Law. But there are two parts of the Law of Moses. The first part is the legal, Ten Commandment side.  But there is also the ceremonial side that includes the atonement for sin side and the Priesthood. If the Law is to work correctly the legal side should bring conviction of guilt regarding sin and drive the sinner to the ceremonial side where they confess their sin and offer a sacrifice to atone for their sin.

In this case the religious rulers are bringing condemnation not conviction. They want to put her to death. For her, in this situation, there is no hope of mercy or chance to offer a sacrifice. She is facing death. Jesus is demonstrating the work of the Holy Spirit as He writes on the ground. The Law was written in stone and is permanent.  What is written in sand can be wiped clean. We don’t know what Jesus wrote in the sand but we do know that it was bringing conviction in the hearts of the religious rulers for they all walked away when Jesus told them the first to throw a  stone at her was to be the one without sin. Jesus also taught in the Lord’s Prayer that if we are to be forgiven we must forgive. Matthew 6:9-15

Jesus did not give her a free pass. He told her to sin no more but in this story we see the heart of God for people. Jesus will die for her sin as He did die for your sin and mine. Have we placed our hands on His head seeking to transfer our sin on Him so we can receive forgiveness? Are we Christ like when it comes to forgiveness? Luke 23:34

In this encounter we see three things, the forgiveness of God, the conviction of the Holy Spirit in the heart and mind, and condemnation.  The forgiveness of God and the conviction of the Holy Spirit are at the center of the New Covenant. Condemnation is the work of the Devil. There is no hope or remedy in condemnation. This is why Jesus said the religious rulers were sons of the Devil because they were doing the work of the Devil. They had the Law but they misapplied it for even in the Old Covenant there was hope and mercy.

We need to be careful when we apply the law and make judgements. Are we doing God’s work or the Devil’s? We will study this more in Chapters 13-17 but for now I recommend reading Romans 7&8; Colossians 3

May God speak to our hearts.

Pastor Dave