September 15 – John 5:18-29


Passage Intro

This week we’re dropping in on part of a monologue from Jesus, so it’ll be helpful to get our bearings. If you back up in John 5 you’ll see Jesus heal a paralyzed man at the pool of Bethesda, who was later accosted by Jewish leaders for breaking the Sabbath by carrying his bed roll. The man responded to their accusation with a simple explanation, “The man who healed me told me to,” to which the leaders ask, “Who is this man?” After this exchange Jesus found the man in the temple complex, warned him away from sin, and then began addressing those grumpy Jewish leaders, likely a group of Pharisees, in verse 17, the same “them” in our passage this week.

Interestingly enough, Jesus’ whole speech, from v.19-47, is directly addressed at answering that last question, “Who is this man?” Jesus massively escalates the situation by explaining that he doesn’t just have the authority to tell a man to carry his bed on the Sabbath, he also has the authority to judge all souls and give eternal life to people. The leaders are asking about a simple legal decision about a bedroll, but Jesus reveals that he’s the highest judge in the cosmos, appointed by God to judge the living and the dead. The leaders attempt to pronounce their judgment on this man based on their own authority, but Jesus says his authority comes from God himself, seeing as he’s one with the Father, so he gets to call the shots.

And nothing can give us greater comfort than knowing Jesus is calling the shots. These leaders were only interested in telling a man what was right and wrong, but Jesus addresses their deeper need to know what makes someone right with God. Jesus says that true life comes not to the person who does and does not, but to the person who believes. Jesus returns to this theme in John 6:29, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” Thus our confidence both in facing eternal judgment and in knowing whether we’re right with God rests not on our performance but on Jesus himself.

And that is very good news, even in light of what Jesus says here about judgment. If the idea of judgment scares us, or if we feel under threat of it ourselves, the answer to our fear is the Judge himself, who made payment for our sins himself. Jesus’ death and resurrection make this passage about hope rather than condemnation. And though verse 29 on it’s own sounds contrary to this, making ti seem like eternal life is granted to those who behave right, Jesus’ theme is clear in verse 24: “Whoever hears my word and believes [God] has eternal life.” Jesus doesn’t say, “will have,” or, “is eligible for.” The promise definitive, instant, and sure; those who believe have eternal life.

Questions for Discussion

• Can someone read John 5:18-29 for us?

• What stood out to you from this section?

• What does Jesus say about judgment here?

• What are some of the different ways doubters, seekers, and followers might react to this?

• What does Jesus tell us about himself here? What do you think that means for us?

• How could a future hope for resurrection affect the way you live tomorrow?