(John 5:16-30, Ezekiel 37:1-14)
Mercy – the work of Father and the Son
The first few verses of John 5 tells the story of our Lord coming to the aide of the helpless who superstitiously stared at the signs of moving water and then hoped to get in first and be healed. One chap sat there for years, maybe all thirty eight years of him being invalid, and he was still in desperate need to be healed.
What a sad scene: a multitude of individuals – blind, lame and paralysed – at the Pool of Bethesda with a desire to be helped and be restored. This is sad a picture of helplessness.
This is the picture of a world without Christ. This is the world of John 1: a dark world, and darkness did not understand light. But God’s eternal plan of salvation was put into place: a new creation was about to called into existence. So, God sent his Son to be the light; God sent his Holy Spirit to give new birth.
On a Sabbath day, Jesus Christ stood amongst them. “Do you want to be healed?” “Who’s talking? I have been waiting thirty eight years, but I can’t get in the water; there’s always another stumbler in my way.”
With a word his desire became reality. “Get up, take up your bed, and walk”, our Lord said. Jesus Christ just spoke a word, just like his Father in the beginning – and the Light brought forth life. The man was healed and restored.
The Pharisees saw the man walking and complained about him carrying his bed on a Sabbath! For years they did not even see him in is misery. Like blood hounds they immediately wanted to know who allowed it to happen. When they found Jesus He said,
“My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” (John 5:17, NIV)
Just in the previous chapter Jesus told his disciples, “My food, is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4:34, NIV). In verse 36 Jesus said,
“For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. (John 5:36, NIV)
When God created the heavens and the earth He did so because He wanted to; He was under no obligation to do so. When He created Adam and Eve, He did so because He wanted to. When He gave them the garden to live to provide for them, and when He put them above all created things to rule over, He showed his mercy to them. That He did not consume them in his hatred of sin when they then rebelled against Him and sin, was an act of mercy.
When He sent Jesus Christ, who was with Him from the very beginning, to be the light and life of the world, providing a way out of the mess of sin and darkness, He did so as an act of mercy.
“For so God loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, so that whoever believe in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”
God’s rest on the Sabbath Day was for Him to continue his work – after the fall in paradise this work was a work of mercy. Jesus came as God to do the same work: He shows mercy and restores the sick, the blind and the lame – those who could not do anything for themselves. He gave them new life.
Such are we: in regards to salvation we can’t help ourselves. We need a Saviour – and He has come! He has authority from the Father, because with the Father He has been eternally God.
His work is a work of mercy. This mercy shines bright against the fall when man swung his fist against God and all of creation, of which God said “it was very good”, and corrupted everything with sin. The cycle of work and rest was interrupted; it became work and death. Death and sorrow entered and became part of our life. But exactly because of this, when Christ came to deal with sin and death, He became our eternal rest; He became our Sabbath.
For this they nailed Him to a cross. Because He restored works of mercy on the day of the Lord, and because He said He was equal to God, they killed Him. But who can kill God? Acts 2 states,
But God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him. (Acts 2:24, NIV)
Now Hebrews says,
There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. (Hebrews 4:9–10, NIV)
To be saved is to enjoy an eternal Sabbath of rest in Christ. But there is a warning for us,
For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. (Hebrews 4:2, NKJV)
We hear this warning in the same breath as we hear of God the Father and the Son’s work of mercy.
Life – a gift from the Father and the Son (verses 24-30)
It is not possible to honour the Father and not honour the Son.
He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father who sent Him. (John 5:23, NKJV)
But the opposite is also true:
Very truly I tell you, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. (John 5:24, NIV)
The words of our Lord are the words of the Father. The words of the Father right in the beginning brought forth light and life. The Spirit of God brings to life the Word of the Father and breathes life into the valley of dead bones. Jesus said the time has come for the dead to the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. He is God. He gives life.
He is speaking right now, here in this congregation. All over the world today people will hear his word and those who are enabled to hear that word, their hearts will be moved by the Spirit of God to receive that word. They will repent, believe, come to the Saviour, hear that they will not be condemned if they trust and believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.
More than that: even if they one day die in Him, they will be a day when He will appear on the clouds. He will then call them. They will hear his voice and will be raised to life, because our Lord declared at the grave of his friend Lazarus,
“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25–26, NIV)
But let this be very clear for us listening to this today: verse 22 states clearly,
The Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father. (John 5:22–23, NIV)
There will be a last day. The Bible calls it judgement day. Matthew 25 tells us of that day:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. (Matthew 25:31–33, NIV)
Revelation 20 talks about all of us appearing before the throne of God. The books will be opened – and if our righteousness on that day is not the righteousness of Christ, we will stand condemned. “Those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.”
The advice of the Bible today is not wait for that day to listen to voice of Christ calling you to life. Instead, listen – He is calling now. Those who hear his word and believe in Him who sent Christ have crossed over from death to life.
The Scriptures – good news about salvation (verses 31-47)
There are two ways to read and study the Scriptures: on is to find rules and regulations to live a good life in the hope to gain some brownie points to be saved. This is what the Pharisees did. Jesus said,
You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. (John 5:39, NIV)
The other way is to read the Bible and hear the word of Christ calling. To understand that He is our life, our door to the Father, our Shepherd who laid down his life for us. The Word of God dwells in them for they believe in the One He sent to be their righteousness in order to be forgiven and be saved.
After World War II the Nuremberg trials gained much attention because of a so-called “superior orders defence” principle. German officers who actually gassed millions of Jews pleaded not guilty because”an order is an order”: Because Hitler issued the order, he must be responsible for their crimes, they simply obeyed a lawful order.
But this principle did not help them. The court applied the principle that no person is not relieved him from his responsibility under international law if a moral choice was in fact possible to him. We are responsible for our actions
The same applied to the Pharisees, and of course to those who heard the voice of Christ, yet rejected it. In other words, we cannot put the blame on anyone than ourselves if we heard the Gospel and did nothing about it. Jesus Christ said,
These are the very Scriptures that testify about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me and have life. (John 5:39-40, NIV)
There is a danger in hearing the Word and then “make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God.” (5:44)
My dear friend, the hardest thing for us is to see ourselves sit at the well – sick, lame, blind, crippled – and to admit that we are as good as dead.
But then again – and this is a work of mercy – what is easier than hearing the word, to believe, to honour God, and to cross from death into life?
Listen to what Jesus says, “I tell you this so that you may be saved.” (5:34)
He calls you to a new life in Him. Listen, do not refuse to come to Him and have life. (5:40). On the contrary, make an effort to obtain the praise that comes for the only God (5:44). Then only will the day of judgment be a day of eternal happiness. The contrary is too scary to consider.
Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on 6 November 2016