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WHAT DID JESUS MEAN WHEN HE SAID HE DID WHAT HE SAW THE FATHER DOING?

by Jacques More

Allow me to set the scene (John 5:1-23) for this statement by Jesus:

Jewish religious feasts were often timed with the Jewish days of rest, the Sabbaths.

One day, Jesus was going to a religious feast at Jerusalem and he went to enter at the North end of the city by the Sheep Gate. Now outside the walls of the town and by this entrance was the Pool of Bethesda.

At this pool many who were sick or infirm gathered in hope of being made well. They knew that according to a certain time(1)an angel came and stirred the water, following which, whoever was first into the water obtained their healing.

(1) Greek: kata kairon: kata + accusative [-on] = according to and, kairos as opposed to chronos means a more set/determined time. N.B. This section of scripture is found in the majority of extant Greek Manuscripts.

One man desiring to be healed, who had been infirm for 38 years, had often tried to get into the pool first without success.

When Jesus saw him lying there, knowing he had been in this way a long time, he asked the man:

Do you want to be made well?

The man's reply persuaded Jesus that he did want to be made well, for he had often tried to get into the pool for that very purpose. So Jesus said to him:

Arise, take up your bed and walk.

Immediately the man was healed, he took up his bed and walked.

The day this happened being the Sabbath, when he was seen carrying his bed, he was challenged for doing work on the Sabbath. His reply was that the man who had made him well told him to. Without reference to the reality that God had healed this man, but only conscious that a rule of law had been broken, and that, as a result of being told to do so, the Jews asked the man who it was that said 'Take up your bed and walk'. Since Jesus had left quickly the man did not know who it was.

But later, in the temple, Jesus met him and said to him to recognise he had been made well and that he should sin no more in case something worse were to happen to him. This helps point to the fact that Jesus did not hang around talking with him at the pool, but had moved on quickly.

The man however, now knowing it was Jesus who had made him well and since he had been asked to say who it was that had told him to carry his bed and walk, he went and told the Jews. This having occurred on the Sabbath, the Jews hated Jesus for breaking 'their law' and they wanted to get rid of him.

The Sabbath being a day of rest, not of work, Jesus answered their thinking by saying:

My Father till now has been working and I have been working: i.e. My Father right up to this moment works (eg. on the Sabbath) and I have just done likewise.

Instead of seeing the logic of this, the Jews reacted worse by wanting to kill Jesus even more. All they could see in what Jesus had just said was that God was his Father and that meant Jesus was making himself equal to God.

So Jesus tried to explain further what he was saying concerning the Father working and his doing likewise. This is where our text in question fits:

Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.

John 5:19

At this point Jesus opens a whole discourse, but we shall stop here and examine this statement a little further.

Was Jesus particularly referring to the miracle itself which he had performed on the man at the pool of Bethesda and, thereby, allowing an implication that the Father was 'doing' something on this particular man as opposed to the other folk needing healing?

Or,

Was Jesus referring to the principle of God having a desire, ability and regular performance of working on days like the Sabbath, thus ignoring man made deviations from his original command of rest on that day?

I believe it can be seen from the context detailed above that the scene is set only to recognise the latter as the correct answer: The Father working on the Sabbath was a normal event; Jesus only carried on doing so. What was foremost in Jesus' mind was how to reply to their thinking concerning the Sabbath, not that others needed healing and that they were by-passed.

If this is the case, as I believe, it makes sense, when Jesus told the disciples to heal the sick, raise the dead, cure the lepers and cast out demons, that he should state the kind of attitude with which they should do so. This he did by saying:

Freely you have received, freely give.

Matthew 10:8

Also, when teaching them about faith Jesus said:

Have God's faith.(2)

Mark 11:22

(2) cf. my leaflet entitled HAVE GOD'S FAITH is now a chapter in the book Serious Mistranslations of the Bible in the new name of ACTS 4:12. It is a step by step explanation of the Greek grammar showing how this is a true translation

You have (i.e. You yourself grab hold of...), in you (for yourself...) the kind of faith which God has. The kind of faith that leaves no room for doubt such that you can then speak and it will happen (Mark 11:23-24). The only qualifier Jesus put in this passage is that our hearts should be forgiving hearts: that we should love and operate out of a merciful heart (Mark 11:25-26). Not a proud and presumptuous one.

To conclude therefore, in healing, counselling or other ministry, any advise which advocates to watch what the Father is doing as Jesus did and to bless it, has the danger of being extra-biblical if it is understood that the Father may not desire anyone to be healed or to be helped. This is the case in the event of John 5:19 being used to back such thinking.

Jesus did say, not to cast your pearls before swine(3)and he also was aware the disciples themselves were not ready to receive certain teachings(4)- These texts point to wisdom required not to rush in 'willy nilly', and are useful for counsel in our acts approaching individuals to minister according to their present willingness and readiness to receive. So we do need to be sensitive to what the Spirit is showing us about that individual and aware of their own desire to follow God and be open to Him; this is not the same as allowing room to think that God may be unwilling or not desire to minister to that individual. Which is why Jesus said: Freely give.

FINAL NOTES:

(3) Matthew 7:6

(4) John 16:12 Jesus did not impose his teachings.



Ref. S.039

Unless otherwise stated Bible quotes are from the New King James Version

© copyright Thomas Nelson Inc. 1979,1980,1982.

© copyright Jacques More 1995. All Rights Reserved.

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