Story 43: The Right Side of Belief Part 1: Hearing what He really said

John 5:19-30

Venice: Saint Mark basilica Judgement mosaics

This mosaic of the Judgment of Christ is in St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy. The Basilica was finished somewhere around 1073 AD and the mosaics were done by the end of the 13th century. People have come to gaze on the beauty and intricacy of this image for almost a thousand years. Many must have responded to its message as well: Some seeing an image of deep hope, while others a sense of foreboding dread. All it takes to be freed from the fear of judgment is to believe in the power and message of Christ in His death and resurrection.

The book of John was the last of the three Gospels to be written. At the end of his book, John tells the reason he wrote his Gospel. It was so that, “…you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name’” (John 20:31).

In John 5, the Apostle records a powerful message that the Lord Jesus gave in Jerusalem. It teaches us a lot about who the Lord really was. When Jesus gave it, He had just healed a man by the Pool of Bethsaida. The religious leaders were angry because the Lord had broken the Sabbath by telling a man to pick up his own mat as part of his healing. The religious leaders had added extra rules about what could and could not be on the Sabbath.  When Jesus ignored their rules and told others to so as well, it showed that He wasn’t very impressed with their authority.

The religious leaders were more angry that Jesus broke their rules than excited to see the life of a deeply broken man transformed. How awful.  They were having to work pretty hard to ignore that Jesus’ miracle was the exact kind of thing their great prophet, Isaiah, said the Messiah would do when He came.

The religious leaders confronted Jesus and got mad again. This time they were upset because Jesus said that God was His Father. That meant He was calling Himself the Son of God. The religious leaders were so enraged they started to look for a way to put Jesus to death.

Let’s pause for a second here and ask what else they could have done. They could have asked Jesus to use His power to help them bring healing to all the people suffering in their nation. They could have asked Him to explain what He meant when He said God was His Father. They could have used their positions of power and influence to declare that He was the Messiah to the rest of the nation. They could have believed. But they didn’t. Instead, they treated Him with the disdain of a heretic.

Jesus boldly answered them. We can learn a lot from what He said:

“‘I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by Himself; He can only do what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does, the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows Him all He does. Yes, to your amazement He will show Him even greater things than these. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom He is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father.’”

Wow. In their limited range of worldly power, the religious leaders dared to judge the Son of God, but one day, He would be the Judge of all humanity.   They were treating Him with breathtaking shame and dishonor, but those very men will honor Him on that Day of Judgment, whether they honored Him on earth or not. These men thought they could worship the God of Israel at the same time they were shaming and rejecting His Son. Jesus was letting them know that they couldn’t have it both ways. If they didn’t embrace Christ, they were rejecting His Father as well. He went on:

“‘I tell you the truth, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not be condemned. He has crossed over from death to life.’”

Well, that is amazing, isn’t it? All the religious leaders had to do was believe. All we have to do is believe! It is so simple. But it was the one thing the religious leaders refused to do. Then Jesus said:

 “‘I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself.   And He has given Him authority to judge because He is the Son of Man.’”

Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear His voice and come out-those who have done good will rise to life, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. By myself I can do nothing; I judge only what I hear, and My judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but Him who sent Me.’”

A lot is happening in these verses. Some day Jesus said He is going to judge humanity, and those who do good…those who believe (in the depth of genuine belief that causes them to live for Him)…will have everlasting life. Those who don’t believe will be condemned.

Jesus could have struck the religious leaders with lightening right then and there. That would have been tempting for a lot of us! He could have bowed down in fear and let them silence Him. But He did nothing apart from the will of His Father. Instead, the very God that the religious leaders thought they were serving stood in front of them and showed them incredible grace. He gave them a warning, telling them that they were on the fast track for judgment. He knew that His Truth, the concrete, real Truth ordained from the Throne of Heaven, would ultimately prevail.

Would the religious leaders repent? Would they be wise enough to question what they thought they knew? Would they allow themselves to see?

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