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Six Witnesses Of The Messiah

“There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true.”—John 5:32

A verse by verse study through John 5

A constant theme of Jesus’ ministry on earth was to challenge his audience to acknowledge his Messiahship. Nowhere is this more evident than in the fifth chapter of the gospel of John.

The Setting
Verses 1 to 4

“After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.”

One of the unique features of the gospel of John is the way it is laid out. After an introductory chapter, each of the next eleven chapters opens with a specific incident in Jesus’ life and proceeds to a sermon or lesson drawn from the event. Chapter ten, which appears to break the pattern, is really an extension of the ninth chapter.

Although the feast in the chapter here under consideration is not specified, it was probably at the feast of the Passover. All of the feasts were good opportunities for Jesus to spread his message throughout Israel, since the devout of all parts of the country made regular pilgrimages to Jerusalem to keep these feasts.

The Pool of Bethesda

Now known as “The Pool of the Virgin,” the ruins of this pool lie in the courtyard of St. Anne’s Church near to St. Stephen’s gate, the “sheep gate” of the Bible. The archaeological remains reveal it to have contained two pools, one at a slightly higher elevation than the other. Porches with porticos surrounded the pools on all four sides, with one porch dividing the two pools, giving the five porches noted in the two accounts.

Ruins of a sluice gate connecting the two pools have been unearthed, suggesting the thought that unscrupulous priests may have secretly opened these gates periodically to roil the mineral-rich waters, creating a soothing effect upon the bathers. By fostering the belief that this was caused when an angel troubled the waters the more superstitious of the people would frequent the pool, for which an admission fee was charged. It was into this setting that Jesus walked.

The Miracle
Verses 5 to 9

“And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath.”

Since the man was bed-ridden and alone, he was obviously not going to be one of the first into the pool when the waters were agitated. Knowing this, Jesus initiates the conversation by asking of his desire to be made well. It is noteworthy that Jesus on this occasion does not wait for the man to approach him and assert his faith in Jesus’ powers to heal. Rather, the man’s response to Jesus’ command, “Take up thy bed and walk,” was sufficient demonstration of that faith, and the man was healed.

The Sabbath
Verses 10 to 13

“The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed. He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk. Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk? And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place.”

While frequently Jesus chooses to confront the leaders of Israel head on concerning the works of healing on the sabbath, on this occasion he quietly walks away, and the Jews confront the healed man himself. They dare not accuse Jesus of healing on the sabbath, for they were operating the pool ostensibly for that same purpose on the sabbath. So their charge is that he was doing the work of a porter—carrying his bed—on the day of rest.

His answer to their question as to who bade him to carry his bed reveals the fact that he was evidently not previously acquainted with Jesus nor his healing ministry. He “wist not who it was,” for Jesus did not even linger long enough to reveal his identity to the man.

Sin No More
Vereses 14 and 15

“Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee. The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole.”

Though the healed man knew not who Jesus was or where to find him, Jesus knew where to find the man. His presence in the temple was customary under Jewish law to render thanks to God for the gift of health (see Matt. 8:4).

His presence in the temple, however, does not necessary signify that he had been a good and faithful man. While birth defects were rampant in those days and the unclean sanitary conditions led to many other diseases, still others were caused as the natural effects of a poor moral life style. That this may have been the case in this incident is implied by Jesus admonition to the man to “sin no more.”

Healing on the Sabbath
Verses 16 and 17

“And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day. But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.”

Having found out that it was Jesus who did the miracle the Jews revealed their hypocrisy by accusing him of healing on the sabbath, though they themselves frequented the “pool of healing waters” on the sabbath day, hoping for their own maladies to be cured.

Jesus’ response was puzzling to them. He claimed the precedent for his healing was the fact that his Father worked on his sabbath—the seventh creative day. On another occasion he had used a different line of reasoning to answer the challenge of working on the sabbath. “And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day?”(Luke 14:5).

There was a kind of work which the Jews recognized that was permitted by God on the sabbath day—the emergency helping of an ox or other animal out of a dire situation. The prophet Isaiah extended this same principle to helping people on the sabbath: “And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday: . . . If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words” (Isa. 58:10, 13).

As the ox was the possession of man, so mankind was the possession of God. Early on the seventh creative day—God’s sabbath—man fell into the pit of sin and death and was expelled from Eden. Ever since, God has been at work to bring man back from that pit condition. It was in the forwarding of that activity that Jesus was sent to earth, and it was to illustrate that same endeavor that he had healed this impotent man on the sabbath day.

Equality with God
Verses 18 to 20

“Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God. Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel.”

Building on Jesus’ response to their charge of working on the sabbath, the Jews now accused him of claiming equality to God since he said he was the Son of God. While not denying his sonship, Jesus proceeds to show that this does not imply equality. He looked to God for leadership in all his works. Some of his Father’s works he copied because of “what he seeth the Father do” and other works he waited for more specific directions, when God would “shew him greater works than these.” In his subsequent discussion it would seem that these “greater works” related particularly to the raising of the dead, foreshadowing not just the climactic miracle of his ministry, the raising of Lazarus, but the ultimate raising of all the dead of earth of which that miracle was a picture.

Raising the Dead
Verses 21-23

“For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will. For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.”

Crediting God as being the ultimate source of resurrection, he asserts his own prominent role in that process. He states that his role will include the decision making process as to who will live and who will not. This selective work of judgment he informs them was given over in total by the Father to the Son. He further asserts the point that the purpose of this turning over of judgment to the Son was so that their would be an equality in honor given to both the Father and the Son.

In order to understand this selective role in the resurrection process we need to first comprehend the order of resurrection. The Apostle Paul states that there is such an order, with two classes predominant. “But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming” (1 Cor. 15:23).

In describing “Christ the firstfruits,” the Apostle John has this to add: “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years” (Rev. 20:6.)

The first to be raised from the dead are a select class, the church, the bride of Christ. It is in rewarding this class with immortal life (Rom. 2:7), that Jesus “quickens,” or gives life to “whom he will.”

Life in Himself
Verses 28 to 30

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.”

Those who receive life in this text meet two qualifications for this favor: they are those that both heareth my word and believeth on him that sent me. These qualifications are obviously limiting factors. These are spoken of as already passing from death unto life.

The dead who hear the voice of the Son of God in this verse are not the dead in the graves but the living dead, born under a death curse which has not been fully carried out in their case. (See Matt. 8:22; Luke 9:60; Rev. 14:13)

These, hearing and heeding, shall not only live but share that unique life which the Father gave his Son, life in himself. This phrase describes a life that is not dependant upon outside sustenance for its continuance; in other words, immortal life.

They That Hear Shall Live
Verses 24 to 27

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.”

In this chapter Jesus talks of two different resurrections. The first group consists of a select group, “they that hear,” while the second group is all inclusive, “all that are in their graves” (v. 29). The first group consists of the footsteps followers of Jesus, while the second includes all who have died as a result of their relationship to Adam, the progenitor of the entire human race–“As in Adam all die” (1 Cor. 15:22).

The resurrection of the first group was already about to begin when he spoke these words, and thus he writes that not only is their resurrection hour coming but “now is.” While the words “and now is” are of questionable authenticity, being lacking from many of the oldest manuscripts, they do express a truth for the resurrection process of the Christian begins when he comes under the blood of Christ for his justification. The Apostle Paul says, “there is now therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1), and again, “we have now received the atonement” (Rom. 5:11).

These, elsewhere called the Bride of Christ, share with their Lord in having “life in themselves,” independent life, immortal life. These are they who, through “patient continuing in well doing, strive for glory, honor, and immortality” (Rom. 2:7). And these, like their Lord, shall be given authority to exercise judgment in his kingdom (1 Cor. 6:2).

Life for All
Verses 28 to 30

“Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.”

The phrase “marvel not at this” connects the magnificent work of resurrecting the followers of Jesus to an immortal life, with a work of even greater scope, the resurrection of “all that are in their graves.” These are not only “dead,” but actually “in their graves.”

These countless hordes of humankind who have died over the past six thousand years are divided in this description of the resurrection in two categories—”they that have done good” and “they that have done evil.” It is this same division that is the subject of one of Jesus’ parables about this same judgment work—the parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matt. 25:31-46)

The doers of good are predominantly the faithful worthies of ancient times many of whom are listed in a catalog of heroes of faith in Heb. 11. These are deemed worthy of a “better resurrection” (Heb. 11:35.)

The rest are lumped into one huge category, they who have done evil. However these, too, are to be raised from the dead. Not, as the King James version of the Bible implies, to a “resurrection of damnation” but, as we find it in the Revised Standard and other more accurate translations, to “the resurrection of judgment,”

The Greek word here in question is the word krisis from which we get our English word “crisis.” As that word connotes, it describes the climactic point of time, as in an illness, when the patient either takes a turn for the better or the worse. The word itself does not imply which direction that turn will take. Thus it will be in the resurrection of “they that have done evil.” The experiences of the resurrection time will be of an educational nature and their reaction to that experience will determine whether they decide to do good and live, or continue to do evil and die. It will truly be their crisis.

The judgment which Jesus refers to in verse 30 is this judgment of his Millennial kingdom, or one-thousand year reign in which “he will judge the world in righteousness” (Acts 17:31). “Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not” (Mal. 3:18).

The Parade of Witnesses
Verse 31

“If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true.”

Like a lawyer in court, Jesus proceeds to call a number of witnesses to his defense that he is indeed the one he claims to be—the Messiah, the Son of God.

He prefaces his remarks by stepping aside as his own witness, even though he could do a credible, yea, an irrefutable job of doing so. But he recognizes that such evidence was not admissible in the court of the Jewish judgment. He therefore declines to testify on his own behalf, not that his witness would not be true, but that he realized that his testimony would not of itself make it true.

The Visible Witness
Verse 32

“There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true.”

This first independent witness is left unnamed. There is one clue however which suggests to whom he is referring. He prefaces his remarks with the word “there,” as though he is pointing to someone. He may well have been doing just that, for this conversation appears to take place in the temple after the exchange of words between Jesus and the impotent man he had healed at the pool of Bethesda.

That man, by the very virtue of his being healed and, by implication, cleansed of sin. (See Mark 2:9.) The testimony of his experiences should have been sufficient to convince an objective person of the accuracy of Jesus’ claims.

John the Baptist
Verses 33 to 35

“Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth. But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved. He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.”

The second witness he calls forth is one that they themselves had previously summoned. “Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins” (Matt. 3:5, 6).

It was John who had said of him, “Behold the Lamb of God” (John 1:29, 36). That testimony was true, but Jesus puts it forth as secondary, declining to base his Messiahship on testimony from man. Nevertheless he chides his audience with their fickleness saying that they were “willing for a season to rejoice in his light.”

The Testimony Of His Works
Verse 36

“But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.”

His third witness are the very works he did, the works predicted in their Old Testament scriptures for their Messiah. This was the witness he had used on another occasion when John the Baptist had sent his disciples to inquire about Jesus’ claims to being the great Deliverer of Israel. “Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them” Matt. 11:4, 5).

God—the Fourth Witness
Verses 37 and 38

“And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape. And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not.”

On three occasions God had publicly testified to Jesus being his Son, though the Jews at large had not distinguished the words he spoke—at his baptism (Matt. 3:17); in the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:5) and near the end of his ministry (John 12:28).

This was a testimony they could not accept for one simple reason, they had “not his word abiding in them.” In fact their failure to recognize his Messiahship was proof that this was so.

The Testimony of Scripture
Verses 39 to 41

“Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. I receive not honour from men.”

In the New Testament the word “scriptures” always refers to the Old Testament. It was there in prophecy and type that his ministry was spelled out. The evangelist Matthew, striving particularly to show Jesus as the Messiah to his fellow Jews, repeatedly interrupts his biography of Jesus with the words “as it is written,” referring to Old Testament prophecy. Scores of prophecies have been collected which found their fulfillment in the few short years that the man from Galilee walked on the face of this earth.


But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?”

Jesus came right to the point—the fact that they did not recognize him showed their lack of the love of the Father. Love of God will lead to an objective search for truth. This was the “key of knowledge” which the leaders of Israel had taken away from the people in preventing them from hearing Jesus in an open forum (Luke 11:52).

He was accused of blasphemy and egotism by claiming to be God’s Son and representative. Ironically, he calls their attention to the fact that they would have been quicker to accept him if he had come in his own name and merit. This demonstrated that they were giving priority in honor to that which was acceptable to their peers, receiving “honor one of another,” instead of diligently seeking that “honor which cometh from God only.”

Moses, the Final Witness
Verses 45 to 47

“Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?”

His final witness also becomes their accuser. It was Moses who predicted the precise role that Jesus was to play. “The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken” (Deut. 18:15).

The Apostle Peter refers to this prophecy as the ultimate prophecy of Jesus’ role in God’s plan in Acts 3:22, 23. Jesus himself, in demonstrating his role to the two on the way to Emmaus also refers back to Moses. “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27).

Again, in a parable about Israel, the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, we find a parallel allusion to Moses. “Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” (Luke 16:29-31).

It is the same even in our day. The first books attacked by “Higher Critics” in their assault on the accuracy of the Bible are the books of Moses. These writings, the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch or Torah, are fundamental to understanding the whole and to identifying Jesus as the Messiah.

The Law

Moses testified of Jesus in yet another way. It was through the mediatorial work of Moses that Israel received their law. This law was the standard of righteousness of a perfect man. None of them could keep it, therefore they were judged by it—it became “a curse” unto them (Gal. 3:13).

But Jesus did keep that law. He was the only one who did. By recognizing that fact the Jew had the ultimate witness to Jesus as being the Messiah. “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:24).

Thus, in the fifth chapter of John, we see how the failure of a poor lame man to recognize Jesus led to a presentation of six solid witnesses to the fact that he who said “take up thy bed and walk” and “thy sins be forgiven thee” to one poor man on Bethesda’s porch is the Messiah who one day soon will say the same to all of the billions of earth’s humanity who have ever lived.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

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