Summary: Why would the religious leaders of Jesus’ day want to kill Him? For the same reasons that we reject Him today.
What a wonderful time of the year! The feel of fall is in the air. We often think of spring as the time of new beginnings—and it is. But so is fall. This morning we mark the beginning of a new Sunday school year. As part of that, many people moved up into new classes. That’s a new beginning. We’ve started a new church year and will be spending the next few weeks seating our new committees. We’ll start our new AWANA year in the next couple of weeks. The new school year has started. And of course, one of the most important things of the fall has started this past week. College football. With all of those new beginnings, it’s only appropriate that we have a new beginning in our study of the book of John. We started about this time last year looking at the book of John. We made it all the way through the first part of chapter 5 before we took a break this summer. But now it’s time to pick up where we left off. You might think it’s strange that we took a break where we did. Because as you read through chapter 5, this seems like one long continuing narrative. But really what we have here is what I call a hinge passage. John uses several of these transitional passages throughout his gospel. And the three verses that we’re focusing on this morning are one of them. He’s just finished telling us about a time when Jesus healed a man. It’s the third miracle that John records. The first one was when Jesus turned the water into wine at the wedding in Cana of Galilee. The second one was when Jesus went back to Cana and healed the nobleman’s son. You remember that the nobleman came to Jesus and asked Jesus to come and heal his son. Jesus didn’t come. But He did heal the son from a distance. The third sign was when Jesus went to Jerusalem and picked out one “impotent” man out of the crowd of sick and diseased people who were gathered at the pool of Bethesda. That man had been physically impotent for 38 years. Jesus healed him. He told him to take up his bed and walk. And the man did. There are a couple of things that John is very clear to point out, as he tells us about these signs. After Jesus turned the water into wine, His disciples believed in Him. But what’s interesting is that they didn’t believe because of the miracle. They believed because of Jesus’ Word. In the second sign, Jesus healed a man’s son. Out of all the people who were there in Cana, lots of them believed in miracles. But only one of them believed Jesus. When Jesus told the man that his boy was healed, he didn’t offer a bit of proof. He didn’t offer a bit of mystical, emotional feeling. As a matter of fact, Jesus offered nothing more to the nobleman than His Word. And that’s all it took. The nobleman believed Jesus because of His Word. And because of that, he and his whole family were saved. Then we get to the third sign that led up to our passage this morning. When Jesus healed the man and told him to take up his bed and walk, the man did. He believed in the miracle. But he failed to believe in the One who gave him the miracle. When the Jewish leaders confronted him about breaking Sabbath laws by carrying his mat, do you remember what he did? He basically said, “Don’t blame me—He’s the one that told me to do it.” And then when they asked him who it was that told him to do it, he said, “I don’t know.” Then Jesus sought him out one more time. He gave him one more opportunity. He told the man that he’d better live a sinless life or he was going to be in worse shape than he was to begin with. What would have been the right response to Jesus? To say, “Jesus, I can’t live a sinless life. I am a sinner in need of a Savior.” Then Jesus would have saved him. But the man didn’t heed the Word of Jesus. Instead, verse 15 says that he departed. And not only did he depart, he went and told the Jewish leaders who it was they should be looking for. The lesson so far in the book of John is that miracles don’t make believers. As a matter of fact, most of the time, miracles make people who are focused on miracles—not people who are focused on Christ. Jesus did miracles to show people that He is God and to validate His word as God’s Word. But when most people saw the miracles, they loved the show. They just didn’t love the Word. And because they didn’t love the Word, they were lost. How did John put it in 1:11? He came unto His own and His own received Him not. And that’s where we get to this hinge passage. Now, John moves us up the rejection scale. When Jesus went to Cana the second time, the people received Him, but only for the cool stuff He could do. They received Him for the show He could give them. Jesus made it clear that what looked like acceptance on the surface was really rejection. Then the rejection got turned up a notch by the pool of Bethesda. Even the one that Jesus healed rejected Him. Not overtly or directly to His face, but he rejected Jesus just the same. He accepted the gift of being healed, but still rejected Jesus as His Lord and master. Now, in this hinge passage, John brings us to the next level of rejection. And we will be at this level until we get to the final level which is the crucifixion. But it’s this level that we’re entering into that will lead to that final level. When I originally outlined this passage, I started with verse 17. But as I studied it, I realized that verse 16 is where it really starts. Verse 15 ends the particular event that started this level of rejection. And verses 16-18 give us the overview of all the rejection that is to follow. We can see that in the verb tenses in verse 16. Unfortunately they don’t come through in the KJV. I don’t know why the translators chose to use the past tense. In the original, the verbs are not past tense. They are what is called the “imperfect” tense. The imperfect tense of a verb means that it’s talking about an ongoing action. In other words, it starts here, but it keeps on continuing on. In verse 16, when the Jews persecuted Jesus, that’s when they started. But that was their beginning point. They kept on persecuting Him from that point on until they finally saw Him hanging on a Roman cross taking a punishment that He didn’t deserve. Another verb in the imperfect tense is where it says “He had done these things on the Sabbath day.” In other words, this wasn’t a onetime action by Jesus. He healed people continually on the Sabbath. The Gospels only record a few incidents, but Jesus did it repeatedly. And as a result, what we have over the rest of chapter 5 is a collection of Jesus’ words as He defended Himself against the accusations of the Jewish leaders. From this hinge verse until the end of the chapter, John steps out of the linear timeline. He gives us a listing of Jesus’ words that He used to explain His works. If this was a trial, then the Jewish leaders would be the prosecutors. Jesus would be the defendant. And do you know what Jesus’ defense was? The same one it is today. Jesus defense was and is that He is God. Over the next six weeks we will be looking at the six specific claims that Jesus made to say that He is God throughout the rest of this chapter. This hinge passage introduces that by giving us two reasons that the Jewish leaders wanted to kill Jesus.