All-church focus 2018 devotional

August 29th, Day #11 - John 4:46-5:18

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“Do you want to be healed?” – John 5:6


Sometimes our obstacles and challenges become our identity that we cling to. Sometimes they can even be our excuse to avoid doing what God has shown us to do. 


Is this true of you? Do you really want to be healed? 


Surrender it all to Jesus for His healing.


GAME ON

Read John 4:46-5:18


Do you ever wonder where the “big” miracles are today? Do we too casually consider many things “good or bad luck”? Do we still recognize Almighty Sovereign God is in control of everything?


Jesus was visiting Cana in Galilee when a royal official came and begged Him to come and heal his sick son. Jesus healed the son and faith followed. Next, Jesus heals a crippled man and tells him to stop sinning. We don’t know if faith followed his healing. We learn here that sometimes sickness can be from sin, but sometimes not. Either way, Jesus heals when it is His will.


Physical and spiritual healing are often intertwined. Why? We look to Jesus for hope and healing because we have faith He can make us better. When He heals, our response is to follow Jesus out of overwhelming gratitude and to tell others about Him.


How will we respond? Will we seek Jesus, study His Word, and believe? Or, do we accept the good things from Jesus and become indifferent? As the passage points out, Jesus is a choice. Will we trust Him to do what He says He will do?

Stay curious. Never give up hope for yourself or others because Jesus gives hope for all.


YOUR MOVE

Let’s look to what God wants to say directly to you today through John 4:46-5:18

 

Scripture: Write down any verse or phrase from the passage that most captures your attention today. Why do you think that is?

 

Observation: How do those that are affected by Jesus’ healing respond afterwards?

 

Application: Often, when God answers our prayers, we move on so quickly to the next thing that we miss out on offering up our prayers of gratitude and thanksgiving. Think back over the past week, and jot down where you saw God move in your in life.

 

Prayer: Now, take some time to give God thanks for providing or protecting you over the last week. Offer up your life today as a fragrant offering of thanksgiving and see how that affects your day!

BONUS ROUND

Why was did it seem like such a big deal that Jesus healed someone on the Sabbath? What was the Sabbath anyway? Read here to learn why this was such a big issue in that culture! 


Commentators cannot agree on how John 5-11 should be organized, but there is a general consensus that chapter 5 opens a new section separate from chapters 1-4. John is no longer comparing Jesus with institutions of Jewish piety and history (chs. 2-4), but with some of the major festivals of Judaism. These chapters refer specifically to festivals such as Passover and Tabernacles. Jesus makes an appearance in the Jewish festivities and exploits some imagery, which lends deeper understanding of who he is. Our goal as exegetes must be uncovering the religious and cultural patterns understood by John and his original audience in order to gain a clearer picture of Jesus' activities.  Some refer to these chapters as John's "festival cycle." Once this pattern is recognized, new insight is possible on otherwise difficult paragraphs...one effective way to organize the section is to group the four major festivals together, leaving the Lazarus story to one side (as foreshadowing of death and resurrection).

 

An outline of the festivals makes John's structure clear:

 

• The Sabbath Festival in Jerusalem (ch. 5)

• The Passover Festival in Galilee (ch. 6)

• The Tabernacles Festival in Jerusalem (chs. 7- 8)

• Case Study: A Blind Man and "Light" (ch. 9)

• The Hanukkah Festival in Jerusalem (ch. 10)

 

One cannot overestimate the importance of such festivals in first-century Judaism. Leviticus 23 offers a list of these festivals and stresses their importance. The cycle of festivals was old (Purim and Hanukkah were the newest, but centuries-old in Jesus' day) and the liturgies of the temple and the responsibilities of Jewish families well established. Three times each year, Jewish families were expected to travel to Jerusalem for worship (Passover in spring, Pentecost seven weeks later, Tabernacles in autumn), thanking God for the harvest of crop and herd and  remembering great episodes from Israel's history.

 

The Sabbath was the only weekly festival, observed in homes and synagogues in Israel's villages. But in some respects, the Sabbath set the tone for what it meant to have a period of time set aside for reverence and devotion for any festival. The first day of Passover (according to Lev. 23:7) was to be "a sacred assembly" in which no work could be done. The onset of festivals mimicked the observance of Sabbath. This means that the Sabbath set the pace, outlining the pattern of Jewish devotion for what was to follow.

 

Some scholars have argued strenuously that John 5 is a troubling chapter in that it does not refer to its festival directly and is out of place sequentially.  Note how Jesus is in Galilee at the end of chapter 4, then he moves to Jerusalem in chapter 5, and unexpectedly in 6:1 he goes "to the other side of the Sea of Galilee." If chapters 5 and 6 are reversed, so the argument runs,

John's stories about Galilee are gathered together (4:46-54; 6:1-71) and his Jerusalem stories come together as well (5:1-47, followed by 7:1 ff.). The new chapter order would be John 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 5, 7, 8, etc.

 

While this solves some problems, it fails to see the intrinsic value of the Sabbath of chapter 5 as heading an all-important festival list. John's literary efforts are not haphazard. If anything, a careful study of this Gospel shows that sequence and image are never accidental, but quite sophisticated. The festival here is the Sabbath (see 5:9), and the argument that flows from it is based on rabbinic expectations for behavior and piety on the Sabbath. But above all, John (and Jesus) has a "Sabbath understanding" of the festivals that we will see surface repeatedly in the festival cycle. Festivals were made by God to bring good gifts to his people, not to legislate and control behavior. This outlook will unfold particularly in chapter 5, and like so many Synoptic conflict stories, Jesus' understanding of the Sabbath gets him into considerable trouble.

 

Chapter 5 not only opens the festival cycle, but it also introduces a theme that will weave its way throughout the Gospel. John's Gospel places Jesus on trial not simply at the end of his life (as in the Synoptics), but rather continually.  Jesus' arrival in the world forces men and women to take stock of his coming, to examine and decide the truth of his mission and word. In this sense, Jesus is "in the dock" or on trial in every episode. In fact, one of the ways John introduces the miracles of Jesus is to offer them as "evidence" as if Jesus were on trial. But there is an ironic twist here because in the end, it is not Jesus who is on trial; the world is on trial. Even though Jesus is clear that he is not judging the world (8:15; 12:47), still, the entry of the Light into the world exposes the darkness and judges it for what it is. "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil" (3: 19).

 

Judicial settings appear in John with surprising frequency. Jesus is examined by Nicodemus, the woman, and the Jewish leaders (chs. 6, 8, and 9).  Jesus must produce witnesses for his case (John the Baptist, God, followers, healed men in chs. 5 and 9), and he produces evidence that may substantiate his claims (particularly his works, d. 5:36; "The very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me"; d. also 10:25, 37- 38; 14: 11; 15:24). Above all, in the final scenes of the Gospel, Jesus appears before Pilate and the high priest in a climactic judicial sequence in which he is found innocent (18:38), but nevertheless is killed. This judicial background is important because it sets the stage for the meaning of John 5. This chapter is not simply about a Sabbath day when Jesus heals a man and then is accused of breaking the law. Mark 3:1-6 provides that sort of story. This chapter is a template of accusation and response, of prosecution and defense. A simple outline of the chapter makes this clear:

 

The Crime (5:1-15)

• A man at Bethesda is healed on the Sabbath

• The man is interrogated

• The criminal [Jesus] is identified

 

The Decision to Prosecute (5:16-18)

• First basis: Jesus violates the Sabbath

• Second basis: Jesus is making divine claims

 

Jesus Goes to Trial (5:19-47)

• Jesus describes his "criminal" work

• Jesus brings witnesses in his defense

• Jesus prosecutes his opponents

• Jesus identifies their crimes

• Jesus challenges their ability to appeal

 

John 5 therefore is a trial- perhaps it is "the trial" of Jesus played out for us. This episode serves a literary role for John that exceeds its particular setting in Jesus' historic life, showing us the kind of accusation and rejection Jesus experienced, his defense, and above all, the genuine spiritual jeopardy his opponents are in.

 

 

*This resource is an excerpt from The NIV Application Commentary on John by Gary Burge (Zondervan, 2000), pages 170-173.