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Jesus Heals on the Sabbath


After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

2 Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. 3In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. 5One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” 7The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” 8Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” 9At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.

Now that day was a sabbath. 10So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, “It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” 11But he answered them, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’ ” 12They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take it up and walk’?” 13Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in the crowd that was there. 14Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you.” 15The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. 16Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus, because he was doing such things on the sabbath. 17But Jesus answered them, “My Father is still working, and I also am working.” 18For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God.

The Authority of the Son

19 Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. 20The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished. 21Indeed, just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomever he wishes. 22The Father judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son, 23so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 24Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life.

25 “Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself; 27and he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28Do not be astonished at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29and will come out—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.

Witnesses to Jesus

30 “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me.

31 “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. 32There is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that his testimony to me is true. 33You sent messengers to John, and he testified to the truth. 34Not that I accept such human testimony, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. 36But I have a testimony greater than John’s. The works that the Father has given me to complete, the very works that I am doing, testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. 37And the Father who sent me has himself testified on my behalf. You have never heard his voice or seen his form, 38and you do not have his word abiding in you, because you do not believe him whom he has sent.

39 “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. 40Yet you refuse to come to me to have life. 41I do not accept glory from human beings. 42But I know that you do not have the love of God in you. 43I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; if another comes in his own name, you will accept him. 44How can you believe when you accept glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the one who alone is God? 45Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; your accuser is Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. 47But if you do not believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?”


19. Jesus therefore answered. We see what I have said, that Christ is so far from vindicating himself from what the Jews asserted, though they intended it as a calumny, that he maintains more openly that it is true. And first he insists on this point, that the work which the Jews cavilled at was a divine work, to make them understand that they must fight with God himself, if they persist in condemning what must necessarily be ascribed to him. This passage was anciently debated in various ways between the orthodox Fathers and the Arians. Arius inferred from it that the Son is inferior to the Father, because he can do nothing of himself The Fathers replied that these words denote nothing more than the distinction of the person, so that it might be known that Christ is from the Father, and yet that he is not deprived of intrinsic power to act. But both parties were in the wrong. For the discourse does not relate to the simple Divinity of Christ, and those statements which we shall immediately see do not simply and of themselves relate to the eternal Word of God, but apply only to the Son of God, so far as he is manifested in the flesh.

Let us therefore keep Christ before our eyes, as he was sent into the world by the Father to be a Redeemer. The Jews beheld in him nothing higher than human nature, and, therefore, he argues that, when he cured the diseased man, he did it not by human power, but by a Divine power which was concealed under his visible flesh. The state of the case is this. As they, confining their attention to the appearance of the flesh, despised Christ, he bids them rise higher and look at God. The whole discourse must be referred to this contrast, that they err egregiously who think that they have to do with a mortal man, when they accuse Christ of works which are truly divine. This is his reason for affirming so strongly that in this work, there is no difference between him and his Father.

20. For the Father loveth the Son. Every body sees how harsh and far-fetched is the exposition of this passage which is given by the Fathers. “God,” they say, “loves himself in the Son.” But this statement applies beautifully to Christ as clothed with flesh, that he is beloved by the Father. What is more, we know that it is by this excellent title that he is distinguished both from angels and from men, This is my beloved Son, (Matthew 3:17.) For we know that Christ was chosen, that the whole love of God might dwell in him, and might flow from him to us as from a full fountain. Christ is loved by the Father, as he is the Head of the Church. He shows that this love is the cause why the Father does all things by his hand. For when he says that the Father SHOWTH to him this word must be understood to denote communication, as if he had said, “As the Father hath given to me his heart, so he hath poured out his power on me, that the Divine glory may shine in my works, and — what is more — that men may seek nothing Divine but what they find in me.” And, indeed, out of Christ it will be in vain to seek the power of God.

He will show him greater works than these. By these words he means that the miracle, which he had performed in curing the man, was not the greatest of the works enjoined on him by the Father; for he had only given in it a slight taste of that grace of which he is properly both minister and Author; namely, to restore life to the world.

That you may wonder. By adding these words, he indirectly charges them with ingratitude in despising so illustrious a demonstration of the power of God; as if he had said, “Though you are dull and stupid, yet the works which God shall afterwards perform by me will draw you, however reluctantly, into admiration.” Yet this appears not to have been fulfilled, for we know that seeing, they saw not; as Isaiah also says that the reprobate are blind amidst the light of God. I reply, Christ did not now speak of their disposition, but only threw out a suggestion as to the splendor of the demonstration which he would soon afterwards give that he was the Son of God.

21. For as the Father raiseth up the dead. Here he gives a summary view of the nature of the office which had been given to him by the Father; for though he appears to specify one class, yet it is a general doctrine in which he declares himself to be the Author of life Now life contains within itself not only righteousness, but all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and every part of our salvation. And certainly this miracle must have been so remarkable a proof of the power of Christ, as to yield this common fruit; that is, to open a door to the Gospel. We ought also to observe in what manner Christ bestows life upon us; for he found us all dead, and therefore it was necessary to begin with a resurrection Yet, when he joins the two words, raiseth up and quickeneth, he does not use superfluous language; for it would not have been enough that we were rescued from death, if Christ did not fully and perfectly restore life to us. Again, he does not speak of this life as bestowed indiscriminately on all; for he says that he giveth life to whom he will; by which he means that he specially confers this grace on none but certain men, that is, on the elect.

22. For the Father judgeth no man. He now states more clearly the general truth, that the Father governs the world in the person of the Son, and exercises dominion by his hand; for the Evangelist employs the word judgment, agreeably to the idiom of the Hebrew language, as denoting authority and power We now perceive the amount of what is stated here, that the Father hath given to the Son a kingdom, that he may govern heaven and earth according to his pleasure. But this might appear to be very absurd, that the Father, surrendering his right to govern, should remain unemployed in heaven, like a private person. The answer is easy. This is said both in regard to God and to men; for no change took place in the Father, when he appointed Christ to be supreme King and Lord of heaven and earth; for he is in the Son, and works in him. But since, when we wish to rise to God, all our senses immediately fail, Christ is placed before our eyes as a lively image of the invisible God. There is no reason, therefore, why we should toil to no purpose in exploring the secrets of heaven, since God provides for our weakness by showing himself to be near in the person of Christ; but, on the other hand, whenever the inquiry relates to the government of the world, to our own condition, to the heavenly guardianship of our salvation, let us learn to direct our eyes to Christ alone, as all power is committed to him, (Matthew 28:18,) and in his face God the Father, who would otherwise have been hidden and at a distance, appears to us so that the unveiled majesty of God does not swallow us up by its inconceivable brightness.

23. That all men may honor the Son. This clause sufficiently confirms the suggestion which I threw out a little ago, that when it is said that God reigns in the person of Christ, this does not mean that he reposes in heaven, as indolent kings are wont to do, but because in Christ he manifests his power and shows himself to be present. For what else is the meaning of these words, that all men may honor the Son, but that the Father wishes to be acknowledged and worshipped in the Son? Our duty, therefore, is to seek God the Father in Christ, to behold his power in Christ, and to worship him in Christ. For, as immediately follows, he who honoureth not the Son deprives God of the honor which is due to him. All admit that we ought to worship God, and this sentiment, which is natural to us, is deeply rooted in our hearts, so that no man dares absolutely to refuse to God the honor which is due to him; yet the minds of men lose themselves in going out of the way to seek God. Hence so many pretended deities, hence so many perverse modes of worship. We shall never, therefore, find the true God but in Christ, nor shall we ever worship Him aright but by kissing the Son, as David tells us, (Psalm 2:12;) for, as John elsewhere declares,

He who hath not the Son hath not the Father,
(1 John 2:23.)

Mahometans and Jews do indeed adorn with beautiful and magnificent titles the God whom they worship; but we ought to remember that the name of God, when it is separated from Christ, is nothing else than a vain imagination. Whoever then desires to have his worship approved by the true God, let him not turn aside from Christ. Nor was it otherwise with the Fathers under the Law; for though they beheld Christ darkly under shadows, yet never did God reveal himself out of Christ. But now, since Christ has been manifested in the flesh and appointed to be King over us, the whole world must bend the knee to him, in order to obey God; for the Father having made him sit at his right hand, he who forms a conception of God without Christ takes away the half of him.

24. He that heareth my word. Here is described the way and manner of honoring God, that no one may think that it consists solely in any outward performance, or in frivolous ceremonies. For the doctrine of the Gospel seems as a scepter to Christ, by which he governs believers whom the Father has made his subjects. And this definition is eminently worthy of notice. Nothing is more common than a false profession of Christianity; for even the Papists, who are most inveterate enemies of Christ, do in the most presumptuous manner boast of his name. But here Christ demands from us no other honor than to obey his Gospel. Hence it follows, that all the honor which hypocrites bestow on Christ is but the kiss of Judas, by which he betrayed his Lord. Though they may a hundred times call him King, yet they deprive him of his kingdom and of all power, when they do not exercise faith in the Gospel.

Hath eternal life. By these words he likewise commends the fruit of obedience, that we may be more willing to render it. For who ought to be so hardened as not to submit willingly to Christ, when the reward of eternal life is held out to him? And yet we see how few there are whom Christ gains to himself by so great goodness. So great is our depravity that we choose rather to perish of our own accord than to surrender ourselves to obey the Son of God, that we may be saved by his grace. Both, therefore, are here included by Christ — the robe of devout and sincere worship which he requires from us, and the method by which he restores us to life. For it would not be sufficient to understand what he formerly taught, that he came to raise the dead, unless we also knew the manner in which he restores us to life. Now he affirms that life is obtained by hearing his word, and by the word hearing he means faith, as he immediately afterwards declares. But faith has its seat not in the ears, but in the heart. Whence faith derives so great power, we have formerly explained. We ought always to consider what it is that the Gospel offers to us; for we need not wonder that he who receives Christ with all his merits is reconciled to God, and acquitted of the condemnation of death; and that he who has received the gift of the Holy Spirit is clothed with a heavenly righteousness, that he may walk in newness of life, (Romans 6:6.) The clause which is added, believeth on him who sent him, serves to confirm the authority of the Gospel: when Christ testifies that it came from God, and was not invented by men, as he elsewhere says that what he speaks is not from himself, but was delivered to him by the Father, (John 7:16; 14:10.)

And shall not come into condemnation. There is here an implied contrast between the guilt to which we are all naturally liable, and the unconditional acquittal which we obtain through Christ; for if all were not liable to condemnation, what purpose would it serve to free from it those who believe in Christ? The meaning therefore is, that we are beyond the danger of death, because we are acquitted through the grace of Christ; and, therefore, though Christ sanctifies and regenerates us, by his Spirit, to newness of life, yet here he specially mentions the unconditional forgiveness of sins, in which alone the happiness of men consists. For then does a man begin to live when he has God reconciled to him; and how would God love us, if he did not pardon our sins?

But hath passed. Some Latin copies have this verb in the future tense, will pass from death to life; but this has arisen from the ignorance and rashness of some person who, not understanding the meaning of the Evangelist, has taken more liberty than he ought to have taken; for the Greek word μεταβέβηκε (hath passed) has no ambiguity whatever. There is no impropriety in saying that we have already passed from death to life; for the incorruptible seed of life (1 Peter 1:23) resides in the children of God, and they already sit in the heavenly glory with Christ by hope, (Colossians 3:3,) and they have the kingdom of God already established within them, (Luke 17:21.) For though their life be hidden, they do not on that account cease to possess it by faith; and though they are besieged on every side by faith, they do not cease to be calm on this account, that they know that they are in perfect safety through the protection of Christ. Yet let us remember that believers are now in life in such a manner that they always carry about with them the cause of death; but the Spirit, who dwells in us, is life, which will at length destroy the remains of death; for it is a true saying of Paul, that

death is the last enemy that shall be destroyed,
(1 Corinthians 15:26.)

And, indeed, this passage contains nothing that relates to the complete destruction of death, or the entire manifestation of life. But though life be only begun in us, Christ declares that believers are so certain of obtaining it, that they ought not to fear death; and we need not wonder at this, since they are united to him who is the inexhaustible fountain of life.

25. Verily, verily When the Evangelist represents the Son of God as swearing so frequently in reference to our salvation, hence we perceive, first, how eagerly he desires our welfare, and next, of how great importance it is that the faith of the Gospel should be deeply fixed and thoroughly confirmed. The statement has indeed some appearance of being incredible, when we are told that this is the effect of the faith of which Christ speaks; and therefore he confirms by an oath that the voice of his Gospel has such power of giving life that it is powerful to raise the dead It is generally agreed that he speaks of spiritual death; for those who refer it to Lazarus, (John 11:44,) and to the widow’s son at Nain, (Luke 7:15,) and similar instances, are refuted by what follows. First, Christ shows that we are all dead before he quickens us; and hence it is evident what the whole nature of man can accomplish towards procuring salvation.

When the Papists wish to set up their free-will, they compare it to the Samaritan whom the robbers had left half-dead on the road, (Luke 10:30;) as if by the smoke of an allegory they could darken a clear statement, by which Christ declares that we are fully condemned to death. And indeed as we have been, since the revolt of the first man, alienated from God through sin, all who do not acknowledge that they are overwhelmed with everlasting destruction do nothing else than deceive themselves by empty flatteries. I readily acknowledge that in the soul of man there remains some remnant of life; for understanding, and judgment, and will, and all our senses, are so many parts of life; but as there is no part which rises to the desire of the heavenly life, we need not wonder if the whole man, so far as relates to the kingdom of God, is accounted dead. And this death Paul explains more fully when he says, that we are alienated from the pure and sound reason of the understanding, that we are enemies to God, and opposed to his righteousness, in every affection of our heart; that we wander in darkness like blind persons, and are given up to wicked lusts, (Ephesians 2:1; 4:17.) If a nature so corrupted has no power to desire righteousness, it follows that the life of God is extinguished in us.

Thus the grace of Christ is a true resurrection from the dead. Now this grace is conferred on us by the Gospel; not that so much energy is possessed by the external voice, which in many cases strikes the ears to no purpose, but because Christ speaks to our hearts within by his Spirit, that we may receive by faith the life which is offered to us. For he does not speak indiscriminately of all the dead, but means the elect only, whose ears God pierces and opens, that they may receive the voice of his Son, which restores them to life. This twofold grace, indeed, Christ expressly holds out to us by his words, when he says, The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they who hear shall live; for it is not less contrary to nature that the dead should hear, than that they should be brought back to the life which they had lost; and therefore both proceed from the secret power of God.

The hour cometh, and now is. He thus speaks of it as a thing which had never before happened; and, indeed, the publication of the Gospel was a new and sudden resurrection of the world. But did not the word of God always give life to men? This question may be easily answered. The doctrine of the Law and the Prophets was addressed to the people of God, and consequently must have been rather intended to preserve in life those who were the children of God than to bring them back from death. But it was otherwise with the Gospel, by which nations formerly estranged from the kingdom of God, separated from God, and deprived of all hope of salvation, were invited to become partakers of life.

26. For as the Father hath life in himself. He shows whence his voice derives such efficacy; namely, that he is the fountain of life, and by his voice pours it out on men; for life would not flow to us from his mouth, if he had not in himself the cause and source of it. God is said to have life in himself, not only because he alone lives by his own inherent power, but because, containing in himself the fullness of life, he communicates life to all things. And this, indeed, belongs peculiarly to God, as it is said, With thee is the fountain of life, (Psalm 36:9.) But because the majesty of God, being far removed from us, would resemble an unknown and hidden source, for this reason it has been openly manifested in Christ. We have thus an open fountain placed before us, from which we may draw. The meaning of the words is this: “God did not choose to have life hidden, and, as it were, buried within himself, and therefore he poured it into his Son, that it might flow to us.” Hence we conclude, that this title is strictly applied to Christ, so far as he was manifested in the flesh.

27. And hath given him power. He again repeats that the Father hath given him dominion, that he may have full power over all things in heaven and in the earth. The word (ἐξουσία) here denotes authority Judgment is here put for rule and government, as if he had said, that the Father had appointed him to be King, to govern the world, and exercise the power of the Father himself.

Because he is the Son of man. This reason, which is immediately added, deserves particularly to be observed, for it means that he comes forth to men, adorned with such magnificence of power, that he may impart to them what he has received from the Father. Some think that this passage contains nothing else than what is said by Paul, that Christ,

having been in the form of God emptied himself by taking upon him the form of a servant, and humbled himself even to the death of the cross; and therefore God hath exalted him, and given him a name more illustrious than any name, that every knee may bow before him
(Philippians 2:7-10.)

But for my own part, I regard the meaning as more extensive: that Christ, so far as he is man, was appointed by the Father to be the Author of life, that it may not be necessary for us to go far to seek it; for Christ did not receive it for himself, as if he needed it, but in order to enrich us by his wealth. It may be summed up thus: “What had been hidden in God is revealed to us in Christ as man, and life, which was formerly inaccessible, is now placed before our eyes.” There are some who separate this argument from its immediate connection, and join it to the following clause; but this is a forced interpretation, and is at variance with Christ’s meaning.

28. Wonder not at this. We may be apt to think that he reasons inconclusively, in drawing from the last resurrection a confirmation of what he had said; for it is not an instance of greater power to raise up bodies than to raise up minds. I reply, it is not from the fact itself that he makes a comparison between the greater and the less, but from the opinion of men; for, being carnal, they admire nothing but what is outward and visible. Hence it arises that they pass by the resurrection of the soul with little concern, while the resurrection of the body excites in them greater admiration. Another effect produced by this gross stupidity of ours is, that those things which are perceived by the eyes have a more powerful influence in producing faith than those which can be received by faith alone. As he mentions the last day, that limitation — -and now is — is not again added, but he simply declares that the time will one day arrive.

But another objection springs up; for though believers expect the resurrection of bodies, yet they cannot rely on their knowledge of it, so as to conclude that souls are now rescued from death, because bodies will one day rise out of the graves. And among ungodly men, 103103     “Des contempteurs de Dieu et incredules;” “with despisers of God and unbelievers.” what would be reckoned more ridiculous than to prove a thing unknown (to use a common phrase) by a thing less known? I reply, Christ here boasts of his power over the reprobate, so as to testify that the Father has committed to him the full restoration of all things; as if he had said, “What I now tell you that I have commenced, I will one day finish before your eyes.” And, indeed, when Christ now, by the voice of his Gospel, quickens souls which had been sunk in perdition, it is a sort of preparation for the last resurrection. Again, as he includes the whole human race, he immediately makes a distinction between the elect and the reprobate. This division shows that the reprobate, as they are now summoned by the voice of Christ to come to judgment, will also, by the same voice, be dragged and brought to appear at his tribunal.

But why does he mention those only who are shut up in graves, as if others would not be partakers of the resurrection, whether they have been drowned, or devoured by wild beasts, or reduced to ashes? The answer is, that as the dead are commonly buried, by the figure of speech called synecdoche, he employs a part to denote all who are already dead. And this is more emphatic than if he had said simply, the dead; for those whom death already deprived of life and light the grave withdraws, as it were, from the world.

Shall hear his voice. The voice of the Son means the sound of the trumpet, which will sound at the command by the power of Christ, (Matthew 24:31; 1 Corinthians 15:52.) For though an angel will be a herald or forerunner, (1 Thessalonians 4:16,) this does not hinder what is done by the authority of the Judge, and as it were in his own person, from being ascribed to himself.

29. And they who have done good. He points out believers by good works, as he elsewhere teaches that a tree is known by its fruit, (Matthew 7:16; Luke 6:44.) He praises their good works, to which they have begun to devote themselves since they were called. For the robber, to whom Christ on the cross (Luke 23:42) promised life, and who had all his life been given up to crimes, expresses a desire to do good with his latest breath; but as he is born again a new man, and from being the slave of sin begins to be a servant of righteousness, the whole course of his past life is not taken into account before God. Besides, the sins themselves, on account of which believers every day subject themselves to condemnation, are not imputed to them. For without the pardon which God grants to those who believe in Him, 104104     “Sans le pardon que Dieu fait a ses fideles.” there never was a man in the world of whom we can say that he has lived well; nor is there even a single work that will be reckoned altogether good, unless God pardon the sins which belong to it, for all are imperfect and corrupted. Those persons, therefore, are here called doers of good works whom Paul calls earnestly desirous or zealous of them, (Titus 2:14.) But this estimate depends on the fatherly kindness of God, who by free grace approves what deserved to be rejected.

The inference which the Papists draw from those passages — that eternal life is suspended on the merits of works — may be refuted without any difficulty. For Christ does not now treat of the cause of salvation, but merely distinguishes the elect from the reprobate by their own mark; and he does so in order to invite and exhort his own people to a holy and blameless life. And indeed we do not deny that the faith which justifies us is accompanied by an earnest desire to live well and righteously; but we only maintain that our confidence cannot rest on any thing else than on the mercy of God alone.

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