Gospel Words: the Lord at Bethesda

John 5:1-16
John 5
Throughout this Gospel, and especially these early chapters the Lord is shown eclipsing and superseding all the old objects of honor and trust. The Pool of Bethesda bore witness even then to Jehovah as healing Israel (Ex. 15). Not merely was it occasional only, but incomplete and conditional; like the law, it required strength enough to avail oneself of it. He that was quite powerless lay there in vain. Another stepped in before he could be put into the water when troubled by the angel. To will was present with him, but not to do. “O wretched man that I am!” was all he could feel. He needed the only One Who could speak the effectual word, “Arise, take up thy couch, and walk “; then he did so immediately, sabbath as it was. What was an angel's act in comparison?
Such a sight aroused Jewish enmity; for with seared conscience they exaggerated and idolized every form. They disliked the healing power of the True God on a sabbath. The man did not profit by the warning given him of worse than sickness, but learning who it was that healed him, went and told it to the Jews, who persecuted Jesus. His answer was, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” How overwhelming for their evil and pride! how glorifying to God! how full of blessing to every man who truly owns his sin and misery!
It is the revelation of the Father and the Son, Who works as man in the midst of men. This is the truth, yea grace and truth come through Jesus Christ. Let the Jews vainly boast of the law given by Moses, which they kept not, it could not but be a ministration of death and condemnation. But the veil of unbelief was lying on their heart; and they neither judged themselves nor believed on Him Who did indeed say that God was His own Father, making Himself equal with God. And therefore those blindly religious yet wicked men sought the more to kill Him.
O my reader, flatter not yourself. You were not so tried. You are no less guilty and lost. You may pay homage with the lip; but are you in heart and life slighting Him Who came and died for you? Are you not neglecting so great salvation? Do you not annul the gospel, as if God's proclamation were but a fair and kindly form, and not a message of life and peace to the believer? Does not God pronounce His wrath to abide on him who is not subject to the Son? If you are believing on Him, God's word is that you have life eternal in His Son.
So the Lord then declared that the Son loyally takes as man the place of entire subjection, and does nothing of Himself, save what He saw the Father doing. He emptied Himself of glory, taking the form of a bondman; and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even death of a cross. From what a height, and to what a depth, that God might be perfectly and at all cost glorified even about sin and ruin! And so He is. Wherefore also God highly exalted Him.
Here the Lord opens the great truth, starting from the sign on the sick man, and going on to His giving life eternal to those who believe, and His executing judgment on those who, not believing, do evil. Thus it is that all may honor the Son even as they honor the Father. The Son quickens whom He will, in communion with the Father who raises the dead and quickens. But He alone of Godhead became man, and suffered man's contempt and hatred even to the Cross. He therefore has all judgment given to Him, for in that full and final sense He alone judges. Bodily healing was but a sign. The real question is between life eternal and future judgment.
Hence we have the solemnly blessed message: “Verily, verily, I say to you, He that heareth my word and believeth him that sent me hath life eternal and cometh not into judgment, but hath (or, is) passed out of death into life” (ver. 24). All turns on hearing Christ's word and believing Him that sent the Savior Son of God. If one hear and believe, he has life eternal, and does not come into judgment which is no less everlasting, but has passed out of death as it was into life as now given in Him. Life eternal is in contrast with judgment which awaits those who here below only dishonored the Son, but must honor Him to their own perdition in that judgment.
Next is shown on one side man's real state, not infirm only but “dead” before God; and even now the voice of His Son for men that have heard to live. “Verily, verily, I say to you, An hour cometh and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that heard shall live” (ver. 25). For the Son was come, and as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself. Being man, He receives all from the Father, jealous to honor Him alone, as man's only right place. Thus He quickens now, as at the end He will execute judgment, according to the authority given Him, because He is Son of man.
None should wonder at this. An hour cometh which will demonstrate both His giving life as Son of God, and His executing judgment as Son of man. It is an hour, “when all that are in the tombs [distinguishing these from the spiritually dead of ver. 25] shall hear his voice, and shall go forth: they that wrought the good things unto a resurrection of life; and they that committed the worthless unto a resurrection of judgment” (vers. 28, 29). There are thus two resurrections of opposed character (not a general one as the unbelief of Christendom feigns). They answer to life and good fruit now had by faith in God's Son, and to the unbelief with its unremoved death and corrupt ways. The Revelation which the Lord gave John adds the fresh light of the kingdom over the earth and all things, in which the changed saints reign with Him for a thousand years, and a little more, before the judgment of the wicked dead and their consignment to the lake of fire. It is a book of times and seasons, which the Gospel of John is not: but both thoroughly agree as to a resurrection of life, and a resurrection of judgment.
O my reader, can any words of man add to the Lord's solemn call? Hear the voice of God's Son now, that you may have life in Him and may not come into that judgment which is woe forever.