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Jesus – Offers Hope to the Hopeless

From the series Jesus Unfiltered - Believe

Hope - a four letter word of rescue, for those who know the stifling constraints of a situation that seems utterly hopeless. Hope - the sure knowledge of a future in heaven with a loving heavenly Father. Chip reveals how Jesus offers hope to the hopeless and the one thing you can do, right now, to change your eternal future for the better.

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Message Transcript

We spent some time learning, So what is God really like in John? It’s His authorized biography. And in chapter 1, we learned that in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And everything that has come into being came into being through Him. And that Jesus is the Word. It became flesh and dwelt among us.

And that the God of the universe came – fully man, fully God – to explain the Father, full of truth and grace. In chapter 2, we learned that He wanted to launch a movement, a movement of love. And so, He started at a wedding where there is joy and laughter and dancing and He did the unthinkable, you know? One hundred and eighty gallons, really, in these big, six jars of wine, and declared that God is about life and love.

By the time we get to chapter 5, Jesus is now revealing, This is what God is like. He’s a life giver, He is a lover, He is someone who cares. He is someone who doesn’t tolerate hypocrisy and using religion to make money. And then chapter 5 opens up and you’ll notice on the front of your notes, it’s strange, there is a story, but it’s one of the most unusual miracle stories in all of the New Testament. We’ll look at it in a minute. It is just strange. It’s unusual. And I’ll tell you why.

And then after this miracle story, there is a conflict. And the conflict is actually intentional and strategic. Jesus actually picks a fight. He does some things habitually to get head to head with the religious leaders. After that, He does some teaching. And it has been veiled and, “Don’t tell anyone,” there is a secret Messiahship and He reveals it to this person, that person. But there is no more of that.

He literally takes the gloves off and goes head to head with the religious leaders and speaks as directly and as clearly about who He is, His relationship with the Father, why He came, and what we all need to know.

And then after that, there is a validation. He talks about witnesses that validate these outrageous claims that shock those people.

And then, finally, the question that He keeps asking them and asking us is, Will you, and you can write this down, will you believe? Will you believe? Will you trust Me? Will you believe who I say I am? Will you believe when I tell you who I am? Will you believe I am coming back? Will you believe to the point of putting your faith in Me and actually following Me? And so that is where we’re headed. What would Jesus say? Because you learn a lot about God and you learn a lot about people and how they respond to people whose lives don’t work, that are helpless, and absolutely hopeless.

Jesus purposefully challenges the cultural status quo to reveal His person and His purpose in the world.

So with that, if you would, open your notes. As we read this unusual, unusual story about a miraculous healing. As we, as I read it and you follow along, I want you to think about what is different about this. The man shows no faith. What is different? Where does Jesus go? What does He say or not say about Himself?

“Sometime later,” chapter 5, “Jesus went up to Jerusalem for the feast of the Jews.” We don’t know which feast, but it’s probably not the Passover. “Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate pool, which is in Aramaic called Bethesda, which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here, a great number of disabled people used to be – the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there, he had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, He asked him,” now, think of this, this is an unusual question, “do you want to get well?”

Duh! “Do you want to get well?” And just before we go on, I want you to visualize what it would be like to be an invalid for thirty-eight years. Shriveled limbs, complete atrophy, spindly little legs, absolutely no thighs. He can’t move, he can’t even get himself into this pool of water – an emaciated person, completely dependent on other people, absolutely hopeless. And Jesus asked what seems to be sort of a silly question, “Do you want to get well?”

“‘Sir,’ the invalid replied, ‘I have no one to help me get in the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes ahead of me.’” There was a tradition and a legend that this pool, an angel would visit this pool and when the waters would begin to bubble, people would go there and be healed.

“Then Jesus said to him, ‘Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.’ At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was the Sabbath, and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, ‘It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.’ But he replied, ‘The man who made me well said, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ So they asked him, ‘Who is the fellow who told you to pick up your mat and walk?’”

Now talk about strange, “The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away in the crowd that was there.” So he exercises no faith, Jesus doesn’t even say who He is, He does one of these “heals and runs.” You don’t see that a lot. And the guy can’t figure out what is going on.

“Later, Jesus found him at the temple and said, ‘See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.’ The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.”

Now, that is another strange thing. Usually after Jesus heals people, the rare response is, “Stop sinning or something worse is going to happen.” Here’s what I want you to understand, the Holy Spirit has placed this live, historical event in this chapter in this place and it will set up teaching and you will not understand completely what is going on here, until we get to the very end.

So, we have this strange, very strange actually, miracle. On the inside of your notes, I made a few observations, because as you all know, we are learning how to study the Bible as well as going through the book of John.

And so here are a couple of observations I made. It’s a strange question. It is strange to ask, “Do you want to get well?” There is no mention of His motive. He’s not filled with compassion, we don’t hear anything about Jesus like other miracles. He doesn’t reveal His identity, there is no instrumental means. Often, He touches someone or He takes dirt and makes mud and puts it on their eyes. All He does is just speak.

He leaves immediately, that’s odd. I don’t know of any other miracle where He does a miracle and then just slips into the crowd. He purposefully creates controversy. He does it on the Sabbath so that as soon as this happens, they are uptight about this guy walking around and carrying this mat.

He does that, you’ll find in a minute, absolutely on purpose. The man expresses no gratitude. It’s not like, “Thank you, I appreciate it, it’s been thirty-eight years, I really didn’t want to get well, I was going for a forty-year record.” Think how strange this is!

Can you imagine? Your limbs would be shriveled; immediately you’re healed. You would have flesh, you would have strength, you would think, like, “Thanks,” or, “Who are you?” or, “What is going on?” Nothing. Very, very odd.

Jesus affirms the relationship between sin and negative consequences. The Bible is really clear that all sickness is not because of sin. In fact, in chapter 9, the disciples say of this young person who grew up and then, “Is he blind because of his parents’ sin or his sin?” And Jesus said, “No, there is not always a one-to-one correlation. It was neither of them.”

But it is true that some sickness, some illness, there is a relationship between sin and consequences. In fact, death, ultimately, is a result of sin. And apparently in this particular case, we don’t know how long or how many years he lived before the thirty-eight years but apparently there was some sin going on and that Jesus healed him.

We also know in the Jewish mindset, this is all set up because Jesus wants to make a point. In the Jewish mindset, there was a concept that if a person, if there was any deformity or any sickness, they believed it was all a result of sin. In fact, that’s why the disciples asked the question in John chapter 9.

And then if someone was healed, they correlated that with their sins being forgiven. And so, Jesus is literally doing a miracle in a strange, unique way because He wants to set the stage for a controversy so that He can reveal Himself to the religious leaders as clearly and as powerfully and in a way that connects with their background and their belief system.

And so, with that, we move on to this idea at the end where He actually identifies Himself as the One who healed. But then He also says, “Don’t do this anymore,” and He begins to intimate that He is going to judge: “Something worse may happen to you.” He says, “I know the future.”

With that, pick it up in verse 16. The conflict, then, is intentional and strategic. Notice, “So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted Him.” And if you want to put a little line under, doing those things, that’s in a tense of the verb that means He was “habitually.”

So He was healing on the Sabbath and then the next Sabbath, healing on the Sabbath and then healing on the Sabbath. In other words, the signet ring, the mark of being a Jew in this day was circumcision of your children, you’re a part of a covenant, and the Sabbath. It’s absolutely holy. That’s what makes us Jewish.

And they had an external belief system, I mean, think about this. Instead of asking, “Aren’t you the guy who has been laying here for thirty-eight years? Wow! This is amazing! You can walk! Who did it! How did it happen?” Doesn’t it seem odd to you that they are more uptight about him walking on a holy day than they are about the miracle that happened?

And, see, what Jesus is pointing out to them is that they made the means the end. They have such a rigid, religious system they have forgotten about mercy and grace and kindness and love and all they can think of and all they can see are the rules.

And so, He is habitually doing this because He is poking at them. He is picking a fight. “Jesus said to them, ‘My Father is always at His work this very day, and I too am working.’ For this reason, the Jews tried all the harder to kill Him; not only was He breaking the Sabbath, but He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.”

Notice He says, “My Father is working.” The Jews believed that when it says in Genesis, “God rested,” that somehow God wasn’t doing anything anymore. In fact, He only intervened maybe to punish wicked people or to empower righteous people.

And He doesn’t say, “The Father,” or, “Our Father.” He says, “My Father.” And they get the correlation and they realize, This is outrageous. You’re making Yourself out to be God?

And then notice their response. Their response is, “For this reason, they were trying all the harder to kill Him.” So now the stage is set. Jesus has pushed very, very hard. And now the issue is, “Who are you really? What is going on here? Who do You think You are? You’re claiming equality with God?”

And now what you are going to see is the most direct teaching. Shocking. If you could be in the room and watch Jesus teach and then watch these Pharisees, the hair would first go up on the back of their neck and then it would go straight up and then their red face and the veins would be bulging, “This is blasphemous! This is the most ridiculous stuff! Who do You think You are?”

And what He is going to do is He is going to bring them to a crossroads like never before. Literally, the gloves come off. No innuendo, no inferences. He is going to say, “This is who I am.” And the direct teaching happens in two specific areas. Area number one, He is going to explain His relationship to the Father. You and the Father. We don’t get it. You have hinted at these things, You have made Yourself to be equal with God.

The second thing He is going to do, He is going to explain His relationship to the world. The entire world. We pick it up in verse 19, “Jesus gave them this answer: ‘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 does also.’”

Notice He makes the point, “The Son is dependent,” but He also makes this outrageous claim that He can see what the Father is doing. And then He is making an outrageous claim that the same things the Father is doing, He is doing. Literally, these guys, the veins are starting to bulge.

Verse 20, “For the Father loves the Son and shows Him all He does.” Now, can you imagine that? This person standing in the flesh? “The Father God, the Maker of the universe, Yahweh – He shows Me all that He does.” Their mouths are kind of open, they are looking at one another, Who does this guy think He is?

“Yes, to your amazement, He will show Him even greater things than these.” So He says that the Father and the Son have mutual love for one another. They share knowledge. The Father is all knowing; I’m all knowing. Verse 21, “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom He pleases to give it.”

Now, this outrageous. That little phrase, you might circle it, “just as,” they would have no problem. The Father raises the dead? Only God can raise the dead, right? Well, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And He says, “Yeah, the Son, I have that same power.”

Verse 22, “Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son.” A Jew would go to 1 Samuel 2:6 or Deuteronomy 32:39. It would be, “Only God can judge.” Only God could judge. He is saying, get this, “The Father and I are one; We have the same power. He is all-knowing; I am all-knowing. I see everything He does. In fact, the Father doesn’t judge. He has given Me to judge.”

And then the last one is sort of over the top. Why does He judge? “That all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent Him.” So He says He is dependent, He has mutual love, they are both all-knowing, they have equal power, He is the judge, and He should receive the same honor as God.

Jesus is bringing people to a crossroads. There are only two options. You either believe and bow before Him, based on these miracles that He is doing, or you realize that, We have to get rid of Him and kill Him and reject Him.

And it’s interesting, I would just pause today, I have been in a number of meetings lately with leaders of all kinds of backgrounds of Christianity and it’s really interesting that people are fine with Jesus being a teacher, people are fine with Jesus having good moral influence, people are fine with Jesus can help shape the culture to make it better for everyone. But what I want you to know is that is not the Jesus of the New Testament.

The Jesus of the New Testament says, “I’m the Judge, I’m God, I’m unique, I verify it by miracles, I am the only way to the Father, I have come from heaven, I see what the Father does, We have the same power, We should receive the same honor, I am the Second Person of the Trinity, and I am worthy to be worshipped and I am going to demonstrate to you why.”

And I will tell you, you can say, “God,” in public, but it’s really interesting when you begin to talk about Jesus and the uniqueness of Jesus.
Every man, every woman, when you hear the truth, when you hear Jesus, when you hear the gospel, when you hear the good news and you believe, here’s what happens: you receive eternal life.

Notice there are three things that are true of all of us. One, we have physical life. We are born with physical life. Number two, we all die. And number three, after we all die, we are all judged. The Scripture says, “It is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment.” You can go all around the world, any kind of religion, and I will tell you, there is some judgment somewhere. Even if it’s some sort of plan where you come back as someone else depending on how you did.

After you die, intrinsic in mankind is there is a judgment. There has to be for justice and equity. And the Bible clearly teaches that you have a physical life, everyone that has a physical life will die, and after everyone dies, we will be judged.

Those who hear and believe receive, right now, eternal life. They cross over from death to life. And there is no judgment. There is no judgment. You don’t come into condemnation, is the word.

Can I just ask you, just for you personally, have you ever crossed over from death to life? I’m not asking if you’re a nice person, I’m not asking if you go to church, I’m not even asking if you intellectually believe in God. I’m asking, on a certain day, at a certain time, have you ever heard – now, I know you have heard because you are in this room right now, you’re hearing the truth of the gospel and Jesus’ claim. It happens to be coming through my voice, but I’m just reading what He said.

If you have believed…and by “believe,” isn’t mental assent. It’s entrusting, believing to the point of acting and trusting to follow. Then you have eternal life. You cross over from death to life. And the promise is there is no condemnation. You won’t be judged because your sin, and my sin, for those of us who have trusted Christ, have been placed on Him as our substitute and we have been forgiven and we have received the life of Christ; and He received, when He died on the cross, the penalty for our sin. Does that make sense?

So I have no idea where you’re at with your life, but I would just tell you, I would just shut me off – I’m going to keep talking. But I would not even listen to me anymore if you are not one hundred percent sure that you have eternal life right now and I would pray quietly, to God, and I would confess my sin, tell Him I’m sorry, ask Him to forgive me, and ask the Spirit of God to come into my life and make me a new person.

And what I will tell you is, He promises to do it. He is the Savior of the world. And you matter to Him. And He brought you in this room, on this day, so you could know that.

Notice He goes on, He says He is not only our Savior, He says He is our Judge. He is our Judge. He says, “The Father has life in Himself,” verse 26, “so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself.” We actually learned that in chapter 1. “In Him was the life and the life was the light of man.”

“And the Father has given Him authority to judge because He is the Son of Man.” You might put in your notes, “Daniel 7.” It’s the favorite term of Jesus for Himself. In Daniel 7, it talks about the ultimate judgment. And the ultimate judgment and the Son of Man will come.

And Jesus, these are Bible scholars! When He uses the phrase, “And the Son of Man will judge,” they are going, “Daniel 7! Who do You think You are?” And He says, “It’s not who I think I am, it’s who I really am.”

Notice, it’s almost like He is looking at their faces, “Do not be amazed at this,” well, why are you shocked? “…for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear His voice and will come out,” speaking of Himself, “those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.”

When a genuine faith, accepting God’s grace, it always responds – a living faith. Good works never gets you into a right relationship with God, but a right relationship with God always produces good works.

And then, verse 30, “By Myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and My judgment is just, for I do not seek to please Myself but Him who sent Me.” So, He is the Savior of the world, He is the judge, He is literally throwing down the gauntlet.

And they are angry at Him! And He is upsetting their lives. And now He is taking off the gloves, “This is My relationship with the Father. I am dependent, but I am co-equal, co-powerful, co-knowing. Here is My relationship to the world. I have come, I’m not down on you! I came to save the world. But here’s what you have to understand. I came to save the world, but I will be the Judge. I am the Son of Man.”

And then the logical question is: Anyone who makes outrageous claims about truth needs to have some backup testimony. And so that’s what we see in the next section.

Verse 31, follow along in your Bibles. “If I testify about Myself, My testimony is not valid.” In a Jewish court, the testimony of one person doesn’t hold up. “There is another who testifies in My favor, and I know that His testimony about Me is valid.”

And now He is going to give three verifiable testimonies. He is going to say, “I have My own testimony.” And then He is going to also say, “The Father has a testimony about Me.” But He is going to give three specific testimonies that they can verify in their historical space/time continuum.

“You have sent to John,” speaking of John the Baptist, “and he has testified to the truth. Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it so that you may be saved.” Remember? Everybody knows John is a prophet, you all know he was a prophet, no one criticizes John the Baptist. He was an Old Testament prophet, God sent him, he prepared the way, he was the light. And he testified of – what? Of Me! Remember the baptism. Remember, I am the One, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

And then He goes on to say, “John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you choose for a time to enjoy his light.” Verse 36, “I have a testimony weightier than that of John.” So in other words, John verified that I am the Messiah and if you were open, if you were listening, he is an Old Testament prophet. But I’ve got one that’s even weightier than that.

“For the very work that the Father has given Me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent Me.” And the work, here the word is for miracles. The water to wine, the mat. Think of how dramatic this miracle is. And there is a reason why you’re going to see, just in a minute, why He did that miracle that way.

And He says, John the Baptist – testimony number one in a legal court. Testimony number two is the miracles. And then notice testimony number three. “And the Father who sent Me has Himself testified concerning Me. You have never heard His voice nor seen His form, nor does His Word dwell in you,” – why? “for you do not believe the One He sent,” speaking of Himself.

And then, see, the Jews actually believed, in fact, one of the great rabbis, Hillel, taught that if you studied the Torah, the more you studied, the more you became an expert in Law, that eternal life was found in actually studying the Scriptures. And the more you knew and the more knowledgeable, that’s how you would get eternal life.

He says, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that in them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me and have life.”

By the way, this is a great, dramatic statement. The only people who will not have life are people who refuse to come to Him. God wants to give life. “I do not accept praise from men, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not accept Me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him.”

And then here is a verse, many, many years ago, verse 44, I memorized. I memorized it because I realized, You know what? God is always wanting to grow my faith, and there are certain barriers to my faith and to your faith.

“How can you believe if you accept the praise from one another yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the one and only God?” I memorized that and wrote it on a little card about thirty-some years ago and I realized that it is so easy in life to want to live your life for the praise of people, for what other people think of you.

And you can make lots of really dumb, bad, unwise, downright sinful decisions trying to get people to like you or to impress people. “How can you believe when you seek the praise of men but do not seek the praise…?” See, I have to tell you, I don’t have it down at all, but in my heart of hearts, I want the God of heaven to look down and say, Chip, now that I like. Chip, I’m proud of you.

And yet I am living in a world and you’re living in a world where we are pressed from every direction. And so many of our priorities are out of whack, because we are seeking the praise of people and what they think matters more than what God thinks.

And you know what? When you look at the facts, think about these guys. They are smart, they are intellectual, they are knowledgeable, they know all the Bible, and they reject Jesus. Because, honestly, what He is poking at is they are going to lose control if they believe in Him. They are going to be just like all those common people. He is messing with their world. Religion has become a place of power and politics and, for many of them, financial gain.

He goes, “But do not think I will accuse you before the Father.” Have you noticed? Truth; grace. More truth; grace. Truth then grace. Well, why did Jesus come? He came to explain the Father, full of truth and grace.

He just nailed them between the eyes and then He goes, “But do not think that I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses,” He is speaking of the Scriptures, “on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”

The testimony of John the Baptist, the testimony of the miracles, and the testimony of the Scriptures, along with Jesus and the Father, He said, “I have made My case. The Father and I are one. I am the Savior of the world and I will judge the world and I have just given you the clearest opportunity ever, ever, ever to have a personal, eternal relationship, beginning the moment you hear and then believe, put your faith in Me.”

See, the message – here’s the message of this entire chapter. There is hope for the hopeless. That’s the message. There is hope! I don’t care how bad, how difficult, how painful – there is hope.

In this man, his physical condition was hopeless, helpless. In our spiritual condition, we are helpless. If there is anyone that could do it through knowledge or morality or something, the Pharisees have a big leg up on all of us.

The man’s question from Jesus was, “Do you want to get well?” At least he, “Yes!” The question for us is, “Do you want to get well?” I mean, spiritually. See, a lot of people understand the gospel. Everything in John 5:24, some of you have heard it many, many times and people are praying for you and, “You should come to Christ and place your faith in Christ and blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah.” And, Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, you know what? You don’t want to get well! You would rather be sick in your sin. You would rather have the consequences of your sin because you like it, because you’re comfortable in it.

And when you see it juxtaposed to this physical, all of a sudden you realize, That is nuts! It was easy to see when it was physical but it’s harder to see in ourselves.

The man’s response was, “I need help.” Our response is, “All you need to do is ask for help.” Isn’t this amazing? A merciful, loving God – the moment an individual would simply say, “Help! Have mercy on me, God. Forgive me. Cleanse me.” Whoo. God longs to. He loves you, He’s for you, He cares about you.

The man received physical life and power. What do we receive? Spiritual life and power. The warning to the man was, “Your sin will be judged.” This isn’t one of those where he had faith. This is a guy who gets physically healed but I don’t think he’s right with God yet.

This is an unusual order. He makes him whole – he doesn’t have faith, he doesn’t have gratitude, but here is the illustration now: “I have helped you. Now, deal with the issues in your life.”

And He says to us, “There comes a day for every, single person when we will be judged.” And many people, very, very sincerely, and I was one of them for many years, I’ll do that later. Yeah, maybe someday. Yeah, I get where you’re coming from. Yeah, I mean, but after, or later, right now, gosh, my roommate – what would he think, she think? Right now I’m kind of doing some stuff but…

The Bible says, “Today is the day if you hear His voice.” I am always sobered by the reality that on this day, at this moment, you are hearing His voice. You may never hear it this clearly ever again in your life.

To say, “Later, maybe,” just is, “no.” He wants us to respond, to obey to the light that He might give us more.

Part of this passage raises a significant issue. I asked you when we started to think of a really hopeless time, a helpless time, a difficult time. And part of it, you have to say, Well, why all this pain? If God is a loving God, is a good God, why all this pain?

In Shadowlands, C.S. Lewis writes, “God creates us free, free to be selfish, but He adds a mechanism that will penetrate our selfishness and wake us up to the presence of others in the world, and that mechanism is called suffering. To put it another way, pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world. Why must it be pain? Why can’t He wake us more gently, with violins or laughter? Because the dream from which we must be wakened, is the dream that all is well.”

All is not well. If you do not have a relationship with God, through the person of Christ, you are spiritually in a hopeless situation and you need a Savior. He goes on to say, “If you are self-sufficient, you have no need of God. If you have no need of God, you do not seek Him. If you do not seek Him, you will not find Him. The suffering in the world is not the failure of God’s love for us; it is His love in action.”