Jesus said, “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.” — John 5:24
In John 5, Jesus is found in Jerusalem near the pool of Bethesda where a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One man lying there had been crippled for 38 years. Jesus asked him, “Do you want to get well?” The man replied, “Sir, I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I’m trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” (Apparently, legend held that the first one in when the water was mysteriously stirred would 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 (John 5:1-9).
This miracle took place on the Sabbath. The religious leaders were greatly offended when they saw the man carrying his mat on the Sabbath which was a violation of their man-made laws. However, they were primarily offended by Jesus because he was performing miracles on the Sabbath and “calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God” (verse 18). So, they began to persecute Jesus vehemently, even trying to kill him. Length limitations do not permit a thorough analysis and explanation of Jesus’ response to their criticism and verbal attacks. However, in his response he provides proof of his claims to deity. He points to four sources of evidence:
- The testimony of the Old Testament (the writings of Moses—see verses 45-46).
- The testimony of John the Baptist (see verses 33-35 and Matthew 3:1-12).
- The testimony of his miracles (see verse 36 and John 10:38).
- The testimony of the Father (see verse 37 and Matthew 3:16-17).
Additionally, Jesus makes four charges against the Jewish religious leaders:
- They have never heard God’s voice (God’s voice in the Scriptures—see verse 37).
- God’s Word does not dwell them in them (see verse 38).
- They did not believe in the One the Father sent, namely Jesus (see verse 38).
- They diligently studied the Scriptures yet refused to come to the One the Scriptures testified about, namely Jesus.
Questions: Do you believe Jesus would make these same charges against many of today’s religious leaders? Would he make these charges against you?
Twice in this chapter Jesus says, “I tell you the truth.” When Jesus says this, he means “really pay attention.” Usually he is trying to explain something about salvation. So, let’s consider verse 24 carefully: “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.” What is Jesus conveying about salvation in this one verse?
First, you must hear God’s Word! Understand that hearing comes not by your physical ears, but by your spiritual ears. This explains why Jesus said over and over again in the gospels, “He who has ears, let him hear!” (Matthew 11:15; 13:9; Mark 4:9, 23; Rev. 2:11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). Think about this. Have you truly heard God’s Word? Paul writes in Romans 10:17, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”
Second, you must believe God’s Word. The Greek word from which we derive our English word believe means to “trust in.” Think of someone lying down on a hammock. That is a picture of what it means to believe, to rest your full weight upon! Have you rested your full weight upon Christ? Mental assent is not sufficient. Many who recite the Apostles Creed are simply mentally assenting to the truths contained therein. Saving faith means more than mental assent. One must trust with his or her own heart in Jesus. John 1:12 says it best, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” We are not born God’s children. We become his children the moment we truly believe and receive Jesus into our hearts by faith. In that moment, we are given the gift of eternal life and we have crossed over from death to life.