The Supreme Court of the United States is an imposing structure. It commands a certain amount of awe, not just because of its incredible detail, but also due to its weighty history and purpose. The fifth chapter of John’s gospel feels very much like a courtroom; while the Jewish leaders begin by putting Jesus on trial for breaking their rules, they themselves end up in the hot seat as He calls forth witnesses to remind them of His role in inspiring God’s law and executing divine judgment.
As a reminder, we’re taking a world tour through the book of John, noting the highlights of each chapter. If you’d like to join me at this point or start from the beginning and work at your own pace, I’d love your company! For now, though, let’s unload from the bus and take a peek at one of the most intriguing legal scenes in all of redemptive history.
Scripture writing: my favorite passage to copy out using The Message was verses 24-25. I love how it’s an invitation to hope in the middle of Jesus’ analysis of His accusers’ hard hearts:
“It’s urgent that you listen carefully to this: Anyone here who believes what I am saying right now and aligns himself with the Father, who has in fact put Me in charge, has at this very moment the real, lasting life and is no longer condemned to be an outsider. This person has taken a giant step from the world of the dead to the world of the living. It’s urgent that you get this right: The time has arrived—I mean right now!—when dead men and women will hear the voice of the Son of God and, hearing, will come alive.”
Studying: the most significant takeaway for me was from a note on verse 39 in The Gospel Transformation Study Bible:
According to Jesus, the only way we can derive life from the Scriptures is to see Jesus in the Scriptures, for all the Scriptures bear witness to Him. The entire Bible, Genesis to Revelation, is ultimately about Jesus. Throughout Scripture God is unfolding the grace that culminates in Christ. The Bible is therefore not fundamentally about what we do for God but what God does for us.
When you read every part of the Bible like it’s about Jesus—anticipating Him, foreshadowing Him, pointing out our need for Him—even the texts that used to seem old and dry morph into dynamic places to see the Savior. Matthew Henry says that “Christ is the treasure hid in the field of the Scriptures.”
Commentaries: speaking of Matty H, the concept of his that most stood out to me was about verse 34:
Christ in His word considers our infirmities and condescends to our capacities, consulting not so much what it befits so great a Prince to say as what we can bear, and what will be most likely to do us good.
I found it striking because dignity means so much to me. Yet Jesus didn’t let what should be the case (that He would be heard openly and welcomed warmly) hinder His movement toward these stubborn, foolish leaders. Does anyone else find this compassionate handling of wayward human hearts comforting?
D.A. Carson points out a beautiful truth in verse 20:
‘In order that you may marvel’… does not mean that Jesus derives some sort of cheap thrill at people’s astonishment, and therefore shapes His mission to generate more of it, like a second-class illusionist who lives for the next round of applause. Jesus is here dealing with opponents. Because they are opponents they do not rest their faith in Him. How then shall He communicate to them more of the Father’s gracious self-disclosure in the Son? His progressively revelatory ‘works’, including His ‘signs’, teaching, and divine authority as life-giver and judge, are designed in part to make His opponents marvel. That may be their first step toward faith.
Sermons: Mark Driscoll’s message about Jesus’ response to the Jewish leaders included this simple but profound nugget of wisdom:
When you know who you are, you know what to do. When you know Who loves you, it doesn’t matter what anyone else says or thinks about you. This is what gave Jesus confidence without arrogance.
I had to stop and replay the end of John MacArthur’s “The Most Startling Claim Ever Made, Part 1” a few times because I couldn’t fully wrap my head around it. His explanation about our being caught up between the love of the Father and of the Son for one another is SO GOOD. Instead of me trying to put it into a nutshell, just watch it for yourself—start at 41:36 and go through 45:57.
Journaling: a big aha moment was how Christ approached the paralyzed man. He put a question mark where I’d have assumed a period. Jesus, the Master of a good question, would rather invite someone’s voice, no matter how desperate, whining, or small-sighted it may be, than to heal in silence and go on His way. Talk about conviction for a girl who naturally gravitates toward tasks and away from people!
Meditation: my favorite translation of verse 20 was from The Amplified Bible:
For the Father dearly loves the Son and shows Him everything that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will be filled with wonder.
I realized that wonder seems to be much more of a priority for God than it is for me. Have I outgrown His heart in my attempt to mature? I prefer understanding, comprehension, intellect; He knows all things fully and is after my wide-eyed living, a childlike faith that keeps gasping in amazement.
So there you have it: the epic courtroom scene between the stubborn people of God and the compassionate, fiery Judge who came to set us free from the silly laws we force on ourselves. We’ll load up now and hit the road again, but may we never lose sight of how worthy Jesus is of everything we have.
*Following the study schedule right along, my binder is beginning to thicken up a bit with doodles, prayers, and tons of background information on the text. This summary is just the condensed version, the highlights of each approach—you can find my full binder notes for John 5 here.