Unit 07 – Opposition Against Jesus Grows

Unit 07 Opposition Against Jesus Grows

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Unit 07

Opposition Against Jesus Grows

07.01 Jesus Stuns The Jewish Leadership

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Chapter 01

Jesus Stuns The Jewish Leadership


07.01.00.A. JESUS TEACHING IN THE TEMPLE. Artwork by Lillie A. Faris.07.01.00.A. JESUS TEACHING IN THE TEMPLE. Artwork by Lillie A. Faris. The Jewish people had pre-conceived ideas of what the Messiah would be like, but Jesus did not match any of their ideas. Rather, He performed miracles and taught the principles of the Kingdom of God, and consequently created an intense following and intense opposition.

07.01.01 Introduction

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07.01.01 Introduction

The primary reasons the elite Jewish leaders opposed Jesus was because they held their Oral laws in higher authority than the Torah. Furthermore, these men used religion for their own wealth and security. They were extremely legalistic, wealthy, and with little or no compassion for those who had become economic slaves to the Romans.  Fortunately, most Pharisees, who controlled the local synagogues, were honorable, hard-working, loving and kind to their congregations — completely different from the aristocratic Pharisees, Hellenists, and Sadducees in Jerusalem.


In sharp contrast to the elite leadership, Jesus always spoke with compassion to those who came to learn or to be healed, especially to those who were rejected by the temple priesthood.  He never overloaded his audience with philosophy, theology, or excessive words.  In fact, Jesus trusted His followers, such as the Apostle Paul, to put together His ideas, theology, ethics, and guidelines for the church. He spoke of Scripture (Old Testament) as revelation that was self-authenticating, rather than a legal code to be feared or used as a weapon. Therefore, the people loved him.


Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 08, 2016  -  Comments Off on 07.01.02 EATING WITH SINNERS

07.01.02 Lk. 5:29-30; Mt. 9:12-13 (See also Mk. 2:15-17)




Lk. 29 Then Levi hosted a grand banquet for Him at his house. Now there was a large crowd of tax collectors and others who were guests with them. 30 But the Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to His disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?


Mt. 12 But when He heard this, He said, “Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do. 13 Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice (Hosea 6:6). For I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.”


The leading Pharisees taught that ritual purity was essential in order to have a close relationship with God. This was taught from birth to the grave.  But to remain pure there were a list of daily activities one had to perform and personal associations that had to be avoided whenever possible. For example, to eat a meal with someone was perceived as agreeing with his or her lifestyle.  The Oral Law taught that “If three ate together, they must say Common Grace.”[1]  For this reason, His critics could not understand how it was possible for a righteous man to pray to God with unrighteous men, and then eat with them.

 07.01.02a (2)


“The Pharisees and their scribes.”  The reading of the Law in local synagogues was done by scribes who were generally Pharisees, which is why most people were closely aligned to the Pharisees. The people felt comfortable because the scribes had studied the Written and Oral laws more than any other religious sect.[2]  Since the Pharisees and their scribes were often the teachers in local synagogues and schools, they naturally questioned Jesus.


“Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”  It is interesting that the religious leaders asked this question of the disciples, because Matthew, who was with Jesus, was a former tax collector – one despised by these same leaders. Nonetheless, it was common practice to eat only with those one shared common values and appreciation. The classic example is the prophet Daniel’s refusal to eat with the king of Babylon for three reasons:


  1. Eating involved prayer before and after every meal. The issue was how a righteous man could pray to God with pagans and sinners who broke nearly every imaginable law of God.


  1. Eating with someone carried a strong implication of an approval of their lifestyle and what that person believed. Dining was a form of fellowship. Denial of fellowship meant disagreement with someone. This was demonstrated by Daniel when he refused to eat with his king, even though he was a prisoner. Eating with the king meant Daniel was in agreement with him on a wide range of issues, including those of religious merit.


  1. Eating the king’s food would have caused Daniel to defile himself (Dan. 1:8) because the food was not kosher.[3]

Daniel obviously remained strong to his Hebrew faith. While he studied and learned of Babylonian ways, he did not accept or practice them.  As to first century religious leaders, they avoided eating with tax collectors and sinners. The term sinners had several definitions, especially when related to women.


  1. It is generally assumed that prostitution was the only kind of “occupation” a woman could have had that would have given her that social stigma. This has been promoted by some Jewish and Christian writers who suggest that no other kind of activity would have produced the title of sinner other than a career prostitute.[4] However….
  2. A sinner could have been a woman who had her hair uncovered in public.[5] Women always had their hair covered from the moment they were betrothed.


  1. However, she could simply have been a noble woman from one of the wealthy families who recognized her sinful nature. The Pharisees also defined a sinner as anyone who did not conform to their legalistic rituals, which included numerous prayers and washings throughout the day. The ultra-strict Pharisees even considered anyone who touched a Roman or Greek coin as filthy because he violated the command against graven images.[6]


It was a common belief that the messiah would never associate with sinners of any kind because they would defile Him. What they overlooked was that every time Jesus ate with them, He revealed the Kingdom of God. It was not that Jesus accepted their lifestyle, but rather, He was willing to forgive them.[7] This is vividly illustrated in John’s revelation of Jesus,


19As many as I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be committed and repent. 20 Listen! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and have dinner with him, and he with Me.


Revelation 3:19-20


To the leading Pharisees, one who committed adultery was just as much of a sinner as the person who failed to wash his hands in a particular fashion and for the required number of times prior to eating.


I didn’t come to call the righteous.”  Did Jesus really die for everyone, including these self-righteous Pharisees?  Of course He did.  This comment was one of sarcasm, because the righteousness of the Pharisees was entirely a human effort.

[1]. Mishnah, Barakoth 7.1.

[2]. Cited from Moseley, Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Jesus and the Original Church. 92.


[3]. See “Defile” in Appendix 26.


[4]. Blomberg, “The Authenticity and Significance of Jesus’ Table Fellowship with Sinners.” 232-33.


[5]. Bailey, Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes. 249-51; Compare with Josephus, Antiquities 4.8.23, and the complete section of Mishnah, Ketubbat, 6.6; Lightfoot, A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica. 3:251.


[6]. Lang, Know the Words of Jesus. 248; See also 02.01.14 “Pharisees.”    


[7]. Spangler and Tverberg, Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus. 139-1142.



Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 08, 2016  -  Comments Off on 07.01.03 DISCIPLES NOT FASTING

07.01.03 Lk. 5:33-39 (See also Mt. 9:14-17; Mk. 2:18-22)




33 Then they said to Him, “John’s disciples fast often and say prayers, and those of the Pharisees do the same, but Yours eat and drink.”

34 Jesus said to them, “You can’t make the wedding guests fast while the groom is with them, can you? 35 But the time will come when the groom will be taken away from them — then they will fast in those days.”

36 He also told them a parable: “No one tears a patch from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. Otherwise, not only will he tear the new, but also the piece from the new garment will not match the old. 37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins, it will spill, and the skins will be ruined.  38 But new wine should be put into fresh wineskins. 39 And no one, after drinking old wine, wants new, because he says, ‘The old is better.’”


Fasting was prescribed in the Torah for only one day in the year, the Day of Atonement.[1] The Pharisees, however, prided themselves on fasting twice a week – on Mondays and Thursdays, the same days the markets were open.[2] Ironically, after being in the public view for a few hours, they went home and bathed themselves to remove the defilement they perceived to have received by being among the common people.  The issue of fasting illustrates the difference between the legalism of the Pharisaic leadership and the motivating condition of the heart. Jesus did not preach against weekly fasting; only the evil attitude that the leading Pharisees connected with it. For this reason, the practice of fasting two days a week continued in the early Jewish church. The Didache, an early church book of instruction, states that believers should not fast on Mondays and Tuesdays as do the hypocrites[3] (Pharisees), but rather on Wednesdays and Fridays (Didache 8:1). The Jewish believers did not want to be identified with their Pharisaic counterparts.  This reveals that first century Christian worship was molded in the Jewish pattern.


“The groom will be taken away from them.”  This is clear wedding imagery.[4] It was to capture their attention because this was the first mention Jesus made of His death.  While Israel saw the messiah as one who would destroy her enemies, restore her fortunes, and build her into an international superpower, Jesus had a different plan.  He saw the deeper and more important need of the forgiveness of sin and the restoration of humanity into the image of God as was initially created.  Later, as the Passion Week approached, His words concerning His death became more direct.


Jesus compared His presence to the time a bride and bridegroom were together in their first week of marriage. Weddings lasted between three to seven days, depending on the wealth of the family.  There were no honeymoons at that time, and after the ceremony, the couple was inundated with family and visitors who wished them well.  This was the most joyful time of their lives, with an abundant celebration and food. Jesus related His time on earth with that week – a type of honeymoon period – and fasting could wait until He would be gone. By the way, the guests of the bridegroom is a reference to the disciples, and if there is one thing the guests at a wedding party don’t do, it is fasting!


“New garment . . . fresh (new) wineskins.”  Jesus did not challenge the Mosaic Laws, but challenged the traditions the religious leaders had placed upon the people. By the use of this metaphor of garments and wineskins, He gave a hint that He was about to usher in a new work, a New Covenant. A major issue of Christian scholars is their underestimation of the powerful influence of the Oral Law. They have often stated, and continue to say, that the imagery of old garments and old wine skin is a reference to the Old Covenant. However, Jesus said that one does not patch an old garment nor place new wine in an old wine skin.  He was not referring to an Old Covenant but rather, He was stating He was not going to “fix” the Oral Law.[5]

Rabbis had an obsession with observing all of the Oral laws. As stated previously, their oral traditions established “a fence” around the Written Law, to insure they would never break them and consequently, be thrown out of the country as happened between the years 605 and 586 B.C., when the Babylonians drove them into exile.

07.01.03a (2)


“Old garment …. the old (wine) is better.”   The key point in the wineskin narrative is that the old wine is better than the new. New what?  Does that mean that the Old Testament is better than the New Testament? Obviously not! Here Jesus made a reference to the old wine that symbolized the Written Law of Moses and “new wine” was symbolic of the Oral Law or “traditions of the elders” (Mt. 15:1-2).[6]  Therefore, when Jesus said the old wine was better than the new, He meant that the Old Testament was better than the Oral Law. Hence, God’s Word was to remain intact.[7]  The primary reason why Jewish leaders rejected Jesus was not because of His message of the Kingdom of God, but because He rejected the legalistic Oral Law that the leaders held in a position superior to the Hebrew Scriptures. As the cliché says, the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed; the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed.

07.01.03b (2)


07.01.03.A. AN OLD WINESKIN (2)

07.01.03.A. AN OLD WINESKIN.  Josiah, the author’s grandson, holds an old wineskin made from a sheep or goat that was typical of biblical times. After skins were used for fermenting grape juice into wine, they served as waterskins. They maintained the shape of the animal from which they were made.  The leather stayed pliable as long as it contained a liquid, but once it dried, it developed small cracks and became useless like this one. Photograph by a proud grandpa.


The problem of interpretation for the religious leaders stems from the fact that they believed their Oral Law came from Moses.  Their tradition says it came from Moses,[8] but in reality, it originated with Ezra and Nehemiah.[9]  So they were steeped in self-deception and chose to remain blind to protect their status, wealth and social influences.[10]

[1]. Lev. 16:29; 23:27; Num. 29:7.


[2]. Earle, “Luke” 2:79; Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament. 1:405.


[3]. See the discussion on hypocrites/hypocrisy in 08.03.04 (Mt. :5-15) and in “Pharisees” in 02.01.14.

[4]. The significance of the messianic banquet was very important to Jesus (Heb. Yeshua). The wedding imagery between Himself and His church as it was reflected in a first century Jewish wedding is discussed by Dr. John Fischer, a messianic scholar and rabbi at 09.03.04.V1 and a similar video by Professor John Metzger in 14.02.05.V2. See the following as well: Wedding garments needed at the wedding in Mt. 22:1-14 (13.03.07); discussion of the “best place” in Lk. 14:7-14 (12.02.05); the great messianic banquet in Lk. 14:15-24 (12.02.06); the wise and foolish virgins in Mt. 25:1-13 (14.01.07); only the father knew Mt. 24:36 (14.01.05); the preparation of a new home in Jn. 14:1-4 (14.02.14).


[5]. For further studies on this important subject, see the literature produced by Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum of Ariel Ministries in San Antonio, Texas. Dr. Fruchtenbaum expands upon the Jewish roots of Christianity and the Jewish background of the gospels.


[6]. See also Flusser, “Do You Prefer New Wine?.” 26-31.


[7]. Young, “Old Wine is Better.” 3:5, 3.

[8]. Mishnah, Aboth 1:1.


[9]. See 02.02.18 and 02.02.20.


[10]. Lang, Know the Words of Jesus. 198.


07.01.04 Jerusalem. The Second Passover

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07.01.04 Jn. 5:1-15 Jerusalem. The Second Passover




1 After this, a Jewish festival took place, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 By the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem there is a pool, called Bethesda in Hebrew, which has five colonnades. 3 Within these lay a large number of the sick — blind, lame, and paralyzed

[— waiting for the moving of the water, 4 because an angel would go down into the pool from time to time and stir up the water. Then the first one who got in after the water was stirred up recovered from whatever ailment he had].

5 One man was there who had been sick for 38 years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew he had already been there a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to get well?”

7 “Sir,” the sick man answered, “I don’t have a man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I’m coming, someone goes down ahead of me.”

8 Get up,” Jesus told him, “pick up your mat and walk!” 9 Instantly the man got well, picked up his mat, and started to walk.

Now that day was the Sabbath, 10 so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “This is the Sabbath!    It’s illegal for you to pick up your mat.”

11 He replied, “The man who made me well told me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’”

12 “Who is this man who told you, ‘Pick up your mat and walk’?” they asked. 13 But the man who was cured did not know who it was, because Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.

14 After this, Jesus found him in the temple complex and said to him, “See, you are well. Do not sin anymore, so that something worse doesn’t happen to you.” 15 The man went and reported to the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.

List of Characters of John 5:1-9


Man                                         =          Israel

Five porches                            =          Five books of the law

Thirty-eight years                    =          Time spent wandering in the desert

Stirring of the waters              =          Baptism


Some scholars have suggested that this account is an allegory;[1] a story because the event never occurred. Granted, at times it is difficult to determine what has allegorical significance and what doesn’t.  Clearly the crippled man and his thirty-eight years at the Pool of Bethesda, meaning the House of Mercy, are reflective of Israel and her journey. But whether the five colonnades (porches) are reflective of the five books of the law is another matter of interpretation. Caution is recommended against reading anything into the text because this narrative has all the factual markings of an actual event. But these allegorical connections do not mean the event never happened. The account of the Samaritan woman also has some allegorical connections, and no critic ever questioned the historicity of John 4:1-42.

This miracle is the third of seven signs identified by John.[2]  Yet, this account has a unique mystery and, unfortunately, verses 3b-4 are omitted from the New International Version.  The reason these few words (verses 3b-4) are difficult to understand is because this narrative is said to essentially describe a contest to obtain a healing, and that is outside of the character of God.  Scholars and translators believe that God does not tease the afflicted, nor does He create a contest in which only the winner is healed. This writer agrees! Therefore, the New International Version translators concluded these verses were not part of the original text. However, this writer believes that to correctly understand this passage, two other issues need to be addressed.  They are,


  1. The geological and climatic issues of the area, and


  1. The well-established religious cultic context that existed at this site.


The geological reason the water was “stirred” is that Jerusalem was built upon a dolomite limestone mountain which does not retain water very well.[3]  Since Israel has a rainy season (winter) and a dry season (summer), in the winter the limestone is saturated and in the summer it is dehydrated. When winter rains begin, the water that seeps through the dry aquifers pushes the air out and into the pool. Hence, the escaping air creates air bubbles and the illusion of a “stirring of the waters.”[4] This was not the only “gaseous” spring found in the Jordan valley and elsewhere.[5] Similar bubbling pools were also found in Babylon, where cuneiform inscriptions called them “holy wells.”[6]  The idea that one could get healed when the waters were stirred originated with pagan religions.  Those who laid in vain at the Pool of Bethesda were so desperate for a healing that they placed their faith in anything that might give them relief.

07.01.03b (2)

The well-established religious cultic context reason is this: The Greek religions became epidemic after the conquest by Alexander the Great.  In the three centuries that preceded Jesus, no one promoted pagan religions more than did Antiochus IV Epiphanes during the years 167-164 B.C. His reign of paganism and terror led to the Maccabean Revolt (see 03.04.20). Even after the Jews won their freedom, those pagan religions were never completely eradicated except within some villages and in the city of Jerusalem. While all signs of paganism were removed from within the Holy City and the temple, the Jews were rather lax about the removal of pagan shrines outside of the city walls, including the Pool of Bethesda. Hellenistic Jews enjoyed these pagan sites. Note the comments written after the Jews won their independence and religious freedom.


All the Gentiles accepted the command of the king.  Many even from Israel gladly adopted his religion; they sacrificed to idols and profaned the Sabbath.  And the king sent letters by messengers to Jerusalem and the cities of Judah; he directed them to follow customs strange to the land, to forbid burnt offerings in the sanctuary, to defile the sanctuary and the priests, to build altars and sacred precincts and shrines to idols.


1 Maccabees 1:41-47[7]


From the pen of Josephus is another historical account that affirms the widespread construction of pagan shrines and altars.


He also compelled them to forsake their own God and to adore those whom he took to be gods; and made them (the Jews) build temples and raise idols in every city and village and offer swine upon them every day.


Josephus, Antiquities 12.5.4 (253)[8]


As stated previously, the actions of Antiochus led to the Maccabean Revolt. After defeating the Greek tyrant, the Jews sanctified the temple but failed to purge the nation from its love of idols (Gk. eidolothutos 1494, meaning sacrificed to idols) or eradicate all pagan sites outside of the Holy City.[9] These idols were not only worshiped by Hellenistic Jews, but also by local Gentiles. Later, Herod the Great, who was also a devout pagan, built a temple for emperor worship in Samaria and encouraged pagan worship outside Jerusalem for the sole purpose of strengthening his position with Rome. Therefore, there is an excellent case to be argued that the place where Jesus performed this miracle had a strong pagan history – and desperate people will consider desperate measures to obtain their healing.

There is also a theological explanation for John 5:3b-4.[10]  He made reference to “an angel would go down,” who would stir the waters.  However, in those days, all gods were called “Lord” or by their name. This writer suggests that the invalid was waiting for an angel of an unknown god, most likely Asclepius, to heal him, but instead, it was Jesus who healed him. Whether the term “lord” is a reference to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, or a reference to a pagan deity is called a “textual problem.”[11] In this case as with others in Scripture, it probably was a demonic angel.[12]  Visitors today at the pool will see archaeological evidence and a sign indicating that this pool was at one time the Sanctuary of Asclepius (also spelled “Aesculapius”).[13]

In Greek cities, any place that was said to be a site of healing became a sanctuary to Asclepius, and became a focal point for many invalids and tourists.  For example, archaeologists in Corinth have uncovered a building complex dedicated to Asclepius with facilities for bathing, dining, exercise, and sleeping (for dreams).[14]   Sick persons would come and a dedication of healing was prayed using a reproduced body part (such as an arm or leg), which was made from bronze, marble, or terra cotta.[15] Any healing that was received, even if by natural recovery, was accredited to Asclepius.[16] Therefore, when Jesus healed the man, He demonstrated that He was greater than Asclepius – the Greek god of healing.

Pagan worship and traditions instituted by Antiochus IV Epiphanes in the previous century continued, to a limited extent, into the days of Jesus.  One of the major social issues between orthodox Jews and Hellenistic Jews was that the latter honored pagan gods and traditions.  Epiphanies had directed his men “to build altars and sacred precincts and shrines for idols and to sacrifice swine and unclean animals” (1 Macc. 1:47).[17] Ironically, the Pool of Bethesda was built about 200 B.C., just prior to the zenith of Greek paganism in Jerusalem, for the purpose of washing sheep that would be sacrificed in the temple. Yet air bubbles coming out of the limestone aquifers were credited to be the stirring of an angel of a pagan lord or deity.




07.01.04.A. RUINS OF THE POOL OF BETHESDA. The Pool of Bethesda has been identified by the foundations of the pool and its close proximity to the Sheep Gate. Archaeologists uncovered the ruins of a sanctuary to the healing god Asclepius built by Hadrian (A.D. 132-135). They believe Hadrian constructed this sanctuary on the ruins of a previous shrine built by Antiochus IV Epiphanies in the early 2nd century B.C. It is highly possible that the site had a legacy of healing at the time of Jesus. Photograph by the author.



07.01.04.B. THE INTERIOR OF THE RUINS OF THE POOL OF BETHESDA. The Pool of Bethesda today is a dry and dormant archaeological site, and rather deep. Over the centuries, due to the many destructions of Jerusalem, the elevation of the city has been raised creating the appearance that the pool was much deeper than it really was. During the first and second century B.C., hundreds of Hellenized Jews, Greeks, and Romans, came to the pool to receive a healing, caring little for which god or God healed them. Photograph by the author.


07.01.04.C. ASCLEPIUS ARTIFACTS FROM THE POOL OF BETHESDA. Artifacts from the cult of Asclepius found at the Pool of Bethesda. History and archaeology suggest that the pool was a pagan site for the Greek god of healing, Asclepius. Photograph by the author.


It is also a well-known fact that holy sites usually remained sacred when one people group replaced another. In this case, a holy site established by the Greeks remained a holy site long after the Roman conquest. Archaeological discoveries reveal that the Romans came to this site for healing after the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 135.[18]

Furthermore, emperors and rulers frequently claimed to be gods as a method to strengthen their control on the general population.  Stories were created in which they claimed to have been born of a virgin or to have performed miracles.  Likewise, priests claimed people were healed to encourage offerings.  For example, the following account is from a speech recorded in the second century (A.D.) regarding the healing powers of a water well at the Temple of Asclepius in Corinth.


But the god also uses it in other ways like any other co-worker and the well has often assisted many people in obtaining from the god what they desired.  For just as the sons of doctors and magicians have been trained to serve them and, while they aid them astound spectators and customers, so this well is the discovery and possession of the great magician who does everything for the safety of mankind.  It aids him in everything and for many men is like a drug.  For many, by bathing in it, have recovered their sight and many by drinking it have been cured of chest trouble and regained the breath of life.  It has cured one man’s feet and another part of the body for someone else.  Once someone drank it and spoke after being mute, just as those who drink the forbidden waters and have become prophetic.  For some merely drawing up the water has been like a means of safety.  And, thus, to the sick it is an antidote and a cure and for those in health, who reside nearby, it makes the employment of all other waters subject to blame.


Aelius Aristides, “Regarding the Well in the Temple of Asclepius.” Speech 39:14-15[19]  


This temple, like other temples associated with Asclepius, served as a hospital and had an enormous encampment of sick people waiting to be healed, while doctors practiced their craft.[20] Another second century (A.D.) writer recorded the account of a false prophet by the name of Alexander, who evidently was rather deceptive.


Alexander had secretly prepared a deception by depositing an egg, in which he had placed a small snake, at the base of the newly constructed temple, which he then “finds” and presents as the god Asclepius.  Before doing this, he assembles a crowd and speaks of the imminent good fortune of the city that was about to receive the god in visible presence. The crowd – almost the whole city, including women, old men, and boys, had come running – marveled, prayed, and made obeisance. Uttering a few meaningless words like Hebrew or Phoenician, he dazed the creatures, who did not know what he was saying save only that he everywhere brought in Apollo and Asclepius.


Lucian of Samosata, Alexander the False Prophet 13[21]

Still, the writings of another healer, found in an inscription dated AD 484, preserved the belief that Asclepius was the healer of men. However, stories as this are much older than the inscription. The date of when the account originated is not as important as knowing that such belief systems were widespread in the ancient world (see comment on Mt. 8:28-34).  The following account concerns a man with a stomach ulcer:


While he slept, he had a dream (in which)[22] the god appeared to him and ordered his assistants to hold him so that the god could cut out the affected part.  The man tried to escape, but he was seized and fastened to the door.  Asclepius then opened up his stomach, cut out the ulcer, sewed him up again, and finally released him.  The man awoke cured but the floor was covered with blood.


Inscription of Epidaurus[23]


In the past century archaeologists uncovered nearly sixty inscriptions and papyri concerning the healing cult of Asclepius. Records were found which indicate physicians used their personal wealth to establish shrines and altars to the Greek god.[24] However, Luke, a Gentile physician, was incredibly detailed concerning the miracles he recorded, attributing them to the power of Jesus.

In the study of John 5:1-15, it is easy to place the focus of attention on the healing or Sabbath violation, but the real focus is on the legalism of the Pharisees.  The Jewish leaders were dead in their legalism, which is evident by their complete lack of compassion for anyone who was poor, sick, lame, crippled, or had another affliction. These legalists were overtly self-righteous with a powerful, condemning attitude toward anyone who did not agree with them. They exalted themselves with a demanding set of “do and don’t” regulations (cf. Rom. 6; Gal. 2:4)They could not begin to understand the grace and mercy that Jesus preached and demonstrated.  In their thinking, grace and mercy were licenses to sin. Furthermore, the fact that the man was sick for years was proof to them that either he or his family had sinned; hence, there was no need for mercy for him. The idea that an accident or illness could be the natural result of a fallen world had never occurred to them. But when the poor guy got healed, instead of celebrating, they criticized him for violating their Sabbath regulations.  Jesus then told him to carry his mat (a blanket), which was another Sabbath violation according to their Oral Law.


Video Insert    >

07.01.04.V1 The Invalid Man at the Pool of Bethesda.  Dr. Paul Wright and Professor Gordon Franz discuss the invalid man who spent 38 years at the Pool of Bethesda, as a reflection of national Israel.


A question that is almost never asked is this:  “Why was a Jewish man trying to get a healing by the Pool of Asclepius (Bethesda)…or at any pool for that matter? The answer is that he, like most people of Israel, had left their God as did many of their forefathers. Notice the comments by Professor Gordon Franz.

 07.01.04c (2)

“A Jewish festival.”  The identity of this feast is not given, but scholars believe it was the Festival of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits,[25] commonly referred to as “the Jewish Festival,” or just “Passover.” There were no other feasts at this time of year. If this is correct, then John referred to four Passovers (Jn. 2:13; 5:1-16; 5:4 and the Last Supper) making the length of the ministry three and a half years (the majority view), or possible four and a half years (a minority view).

“By the Sheep Gate.”  Technically, this entire phrase should read: “Now in Jerusalem, by the Sheep [Gate], there is a pool with a Hebrew name Bethesda.”[26]

“In Jerusalem there is a pool.”  The phrase reads is, not was, thereby clearly indicating the pool existed at the writing of this gospel.  The pool was destroyed during the Roman siege in A.D. 66-70. Therefore, this is clear evidence that this gospel was written within four decades after Jesus, that is, before the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem. Amazingly, some critics argue without evidence that John was written after the destruction of Jerusalem.[27]

“In Hebrew.” Some translators believe the word in this case was Aramaic. However, the more accurate translation is “Hebrew.” Nonetheless, Aramaic and Hebrew are sister languages, and this issue is of little or no significance because Aramaic was generally the language of the day, commonly used in business and other affairs of daily life among the Jews.  Hebrew was spoken in synagogues, at religious events, and used in legal documents. Jewish scholars, however, often spoke only Hebrew as not to be associated with the common people who were called am-ha-arets, meaning unlearned.[28]

The use of Hebrew was confirmed in the Dead Sea Scrolls, where various inscriptions and other fragments written by the Jews which are seldom found to be in Aramaic, Greek, or Latin.  At Masada, Hebrew writings were found on fourteen scrolls, 4,000 coins, and 700 ostraca.[29] Hebrew writings were more common than Aramaic writings by a ratio of nine to one.[30] Hence, there is a growing opinion in scholarship that Hebrew was the common language in first century Israel, especially among orthodox Jews. It appears that those who were orthodox in their faith definitely maintained the Hebrew language in worship and in social settings, a lifestyle not necessarily shared by Hellenistic Jews who probably used Aramaic or Greek.


07.01.04.Q1 What is the significance of this invalid man having suffered for thirty-eight years (Jn. 5:1-15)?

Many translators use the word “invalid” rather than “sick,” which suggests that his physical condition existed since birth. His life and the lives of other handicapped people were reduced to begging with no hope or purpose for which to live. Most certainly all of them wanted to be healed and, Jesus, with love and compassion, met their needs. But among them was one who was “sick for 38 years.”  The cause of this man’s illness is unknown. Yet God had a purpose for him because, not only would he tell others of the love of Jesus, but his illness was a reflection upon the Israelite people who wandered for 38 years in the wilderness from Kadesh-barnea to the Zered Brook. A summary is as follows:  After the Israelites left Egypt, they accepted the false report about Canaan from eight of the ten spies. As a result, God punished them to wander in the desert.  It was only after nearly four decades of life in the crippling hot desert that they entered into their Promised Land.  The impotent man symbolized the impotent nation. It is Jesus who takes any person from a spiritual wilderness, regardless of why, how long, or what the situation was, into the full enrichment of life by faith in Him.  He came to give life and to give it more abundantly to anyone who desires it (Jn. 10:10). Jesus healed the man and He wanted to heal the nation, but the nation rejected Him.

07.01.04d (2)

A point of interest pertains to why the Jewish invalid man was by the pagan pool, in the first place, waiting to be healed. Did he not have faith in God?  Why didn’t he go to his rabbi and ask for prayer? No wonder that Jesus asked him, “do you want to get well?”  The question seems to be rather unkind. It was asked to determine if the man really desired good health, if he had faith in the Greek god Aesclapius, or if he preferred to remain in his hopeless state and dwell in self-pity. There were many beggars in the land, and many of them identified themselves with their disability. Getting healed also meant that one could no longer beg for money and would have to work for a living. Therefore, the question was asked, Do you want to get well? And that may have implied, or would you prefer to continue begging the rest of your life and have people feel sorry for you?   

For a quick historical review, scholars believe that in the Inter-Testamental Period, when the Greeks dominated this area, this was a pool dedicated to the Greek god Asclepius – the Greek god of healing. After the Maccabean Revolt, all signs of paganism were removed from within Jerusalem, but this pool was on the outside of the city wall.  Therefore, it is believed that it was still honored by the local Gentiles and Roman soldiers.  Archaeologists have clearly demonstrated that in the 3rd and 4th centuries (A.D.) this was an active shrine to Asclepius. As to the crippled man, while he was waiting for a healing from a pagan god, Jesus came along and healed him. Without a word spoken, Jesus demonstrated that He was God!

Get up,” Jesus told him, “pick up your mat and walk!” Jesus did more than heal the man; He instantly restored his ability to walk.  After thirty-eight years of being an invalid, he was in no physical shape to walk, yet he had instant strength and balance when Jesus spoke.

The reaction of the religious leaders demonstrated they were passionately concerned about their laws and had no joy for the man who was just healed. The growing popularity of Jesus was seen as a threat by the Pharisees to their stability and religious power.  Not only had Jesus healed on the Sabbath, but He also told the man to carry his mat and, in the process, humiliated the Pharisees. This was a two-point violation of their Oral Law.  Some Oral laws permitted caring for the sick on the Sabbath,[31]  but the leading Pharisees chose to ignore them. Therefore, any so-called “violations” were merely those of their own choosing.

The Jordan Valley has several hot springs where sick people came for centuries hoping to receive a healing.  The ancients believed that, since the hot water or moving water was so unusual, a divine healing power must be present to cause the unnatural phenomena.  There were hot springs in Tiberius, only a couple of miles south of Capernaum.  Another popular site was the cold Spring of Gihon in Jerusalem.  For centuries foreigners came to these hot springs and to Jerusalem to be healed. Their travels were in vain, until the Healer came.

This is the Sabbath!”  It was the common opinion that failure to observe the Sabbath would cause the Jews to be exiled again, just as failure to keep the Sabbath[32] in the past led to their exile in Babylon. Furthermore, it was believed that, if all Jews would honor the Sabbath only once, the messiah would come. Orthodox and ultra-orthodox Jews believe the same today; if they observe the Sabbath only once and keep it holy, their messiah (whoever he is) will come.[33]

“It’s illegal for you to pick up your mat.” This law is not the written law of the Bible, but is one of the many oral laws that Jesus condemned and referred to as the “traditions of the elders” (Mt. 15:2). This is another case that reflects upon the previous passages concerning old and new/fresh wineskins. The rabbis had argued that any kind of menial activity was defined as work, which violated the term Sabbath that means rest.[34]  The irony of this miracle is that it occurred at the Pool of Bethesda, and Bethesda means House of Mercy.[35] Yet is was the religious establishment that totally lacked any mercy for the man who was healed, when they should have praised God for his healing.

Finally, by the display of various elements of the Kingdom of God, such as the miracles on the Sabbath, two deadly charges were brought against Jesus by the religious establishment.


  1. He was the breaker of their Sabbath rules


  1. He was a blasphemer against God


Throughout the rest of His ministry, Jesus would be repeatedly accused of these two charges.


07.01.04.Q2  Why did the invalid man at the Pool of Bethesda not need faith to be healed (Jn. 5:1-15)?

This question has been challenging for pastors throughout the centuries, especially since the healed man may have believed that his healing was the result of the stirring of the waters.  The primary reason is that this was early in the ministry of Jesus, many did not know that He could perform miracles. So He performed miracles which captivated their attention so they would listen to His message about the Kingdom of God.  But there are other considerations as well:


  1. Jesus performed the miracle to demonstrate that He was, in fact, the One who heals diseases (Isa. 53).


  1. Jesus challenged the Pharisees on their Sabbath regulations and


  1. Before hundreds of witnesses, Jesus demonstrated His power was superior to the healing cult of Asclepius that was located at this pool (outside of Jerusalem).


  1. However, at this early point in His ministry Jesus performed a number of miracles where no faith was required. This was because He validated His ministry as a Healer – not only of the physical body, but of the entire person. These miracles established public awareness and an audience to whom He taught the principles of the kingdom of God – the rule of God in their lives. At the point where the religious authorities rejected Jesus, from that time on both Jews and Gentiles needed faith to receive their healing.[36] The traditional answer is that once Jesus was accepted as a Healer and Teacher, then faith was required to receive a miracle.


  1. Prior to his rejection by the religious leaders who represented national Israel, no one needed to have faith to receive a healing because people were just learning who Jesus was. When a person was healed, Jesus told them to tell other of the great miracle God had done for them. This included multitudes, Jews and Gentiles, all without faith.[37]


07.01.04.Q3 Did Jesus demonstrate His power over the Greek god Asclepius (Jn. 5:1-15)?

This writer believes that just as God demonstrated His power over the ten plagues of Egypt, Jesus may have done likewise by performing seven miracles or signs as found in the gospel of John.[38]  In the account of the plagues of Egypt, the God of Moses demonstrated His power over the gods of the Egyptians. In a similar manner, it appears that when John wrote his gospel, he may have implied that Jesus demonstrated His power over local deities,


  1. To demonstrate His divine power and authority.


  1. To demonstrate His superior healing power over the gods of the Greeks and Romans,


  1. To demonstrate His superior healing power over the mystical healing superstitions of the Jews.


The influence of the Greek invasion during the Inter-Testamental Period was alive and well during the ministry time of Jesus.  First century Judaism experienced a culture confrontation that is similar to, if not more intense than, what believers face in the world today.[39] The miracle power of God as performed through Jesus must have revealed the shallowness of Greek mythology and religions.

Students of the Bible today often have difficulties comprehending how much Hellenism influenced Judaism in the first century. Another example is found in coins minted merely a half century before Jesus.[40] A coin of John Hyrcanus II, the high priest (63-40 B.C.) has the name Jehohanan on one side and a double cornucopia (horn of plenty) from Greek mythology on the reverse side.  In Greek mythology, the cornucopia was said to involve the birth and nurturance of the infant god Zeus. According to the myth, Zeus was protected by a goat that functioned as a nurturing goddess, but accidently broke off a horn when feeding the infant milk.  Hence, the horn has become known as the “horn of plenty.”


07.01.04.D. A COIN OF JOHN HYRCANUS II.  A coin of John Hyrcanus II, the Jewish high priest (served 63-40 B.C.), has a double cornucopia that was based upon Greek mythology. It is another illustration to show that Jewish leaders chose not to cleanse their land from Greek paganism. Wikipedia Commons.


Statues of idols have been found in Caesarea Maritima, the city built by Herod the Great along the Mediterranean Sea. It was well populated by both Jews and Gentiles, and had a hippodrome, a theater that every tourist sees today, pagan temples, etc. Among the idols are two statues of healing gods shown below.

It was common practice among many cultures, that when a person was sick or injured, he or she went to the temple to discuss the matter with a priest. The priest would either create a body part out of clay or other material, or get a body part from a storage room where such pieces were kept. Clay or wooden reproductions of body parts were known as votive offerings.[41] The person in need of healing and the artificial body part were then anointed with prayer.

07.01.04e (2)

The following image can be found in the full single-volume eBook of Mysteries of the Messiah as well as in the corresponding mini-volume. Search for the following reference number: 07.01.04.E. STATUETTES OF HEALING GODS.  LEFT: Portion of a marble statuette of the god Asclepius (height 26 cm; Courtesy of the Sedot Yam Museum). RIGHT: Portion of a statuette of his daughter, the goddess Hygieia (height 24 cm. Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority). Both statuettes are of the first century and from Caesarea Maritima.


This practice was not restricted to the Greeks.  First Samuel 6 records the account of when the Philistines captured the Ark of the Lord from the Israelites, the Philistines became sick with tumors and rats invaded their land. In response the Philistines asked their priests and diviners what they should do. The answer was to return the Ark with models of rats and tumors made of gold (1 Sam. 6:5). They did and were healed.

Finally, after this point, the religious leaders intensified two charges against the Prophet of Nazareth:


  1. He broke their rules that pertained to the Sabbath observances (Jn. 5:16, 18) and,


  1. He was a blasphemer of their God because He claimed equality with His Father (Jn. 5:17-18).


The first charge was reason for opposition, persecution, and possibly death. The second charge was serious enough to warrant the death penalty. But the problem was that the Romans had removed the authority for the Jews to inflict capital punishment. Therefore, Jesus was carefully observed for any possible charge that could bring Him before Pilate, which is what eventually happened.

[1]. On March 9, 2013, Dr. James H. Charlesworth of Princeton Seminary gave a report in Jerusalem in which he outlined several archaeological discoveries that support the historical reliability of the gospel of John. Essentially, he said that John knew the details of Jerusalem as it was prior to the A.D. 70 destruction, details that were unknown to archaeologists only a decade ago. For additional details, see “Gospel of John Backed by Archaeology.” Artifax. 28:3 (Summer, 2013), 11-12.

[2].  The Seven Signs: Water into Wine (Jn. 2:1-2); Healing the Nobleman’s Son (Jn. 4:46-54); Healing the Paralytic (Jn. 5:1-17); Feeding the 5,000 (Jn. 6:1-14); Calming the Storm (Jn. 6:15-21); Healing Man Born Blind (Jn. 9:1-14) and Resurrection of Lazarus (Jn. 11:17-45).

[3]. Interview with Arie bar David, tour guide and lecturer in August, 1999.

[4]. Mackowski, Jerusalem City of Jesus. 83.

[5]. Farrar, The Life of Christ. 199.

[6]. Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. 321 n8.

[7]. First and 2nd Maccabees belong to a classification of extra-biblical books known as the Apocrypha. These two literary works are deemed highly reliable historically. See 02.02.03 “Apocrypha” for more information.

[8]. See also Josephus, Antiquities 12.5.1-4.

[9]. Idols are not mentioned in the gospels because these statues to pagan deities were not permitted within Jewish communities. They were, however, prominent in Gentile communities within the Jewish regions and are mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament. Vine, “Idols.” Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary. 2:317.

[10]. Farrar, Life of Christ. 173.

[11]. See the comments by Gordon Franz in 07.01.04.V2.

[12]. Other biblical examples are found in Mt. 25:41; Jude 6; 2 Cor. 11:13-15; and Rev. 19:20.

[13]. For additional information on the cult of Aesculapius, see Estee Dvorjetski,“Healing Waters.” 16-27, 60.

[14]. Furnish, “Corinth in Paul’s Time: What can Archaeology Tell us?” 25.

[15]. Stillwell, “Greece – The Birthplace of Science and Free Speech.” 250.

[16]. Zondervan’s New International Version Archaeological Study Bible. (2005 ed.). 1674.

[17]. Metzger, The New Testament. 223.

[18]. Zondervan’s New International Version Archaeological Study Bible. (2005 ed.). 1728;   Shanks, “After Hadrian’s Banishment: Jews in Christian Jerusalem.” 26-36, 62.

[19]. Boring, Berger, and Colpe, eds. Hellenistic Commentary to the New Testament. 266.

[20]. For further study on the ancient descriptions of the cult of Asclepius, see Pausanias, Description of Greece 2.27.2; 10.32.8; 7.27.5; Aristophanes, Plutus 410:653ff; Wasps, 122; Strabo, Geography 14.1.44; Plautus, Curculio 1.1.61; 2.1.

[21]. Boring, Berger, and Colpe, eds. Hellenistic Commentary to the New Testament. 310.

[22]. Parenthesis for clarification are mine.

[23]. Giannelli, The World of Classical Athens. 211.

[24]. Horsley, New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity. 2:10-11, 21-23; Phillips, Man, Myth, and Magic. 5:1248.

[25]. Since the Feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits were celebrated within an eight-day period, these were generally referred to by the most important of the three feasts, Passover.

[26]. Mackowski, Jerusalem City of Jesus. 55; Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament. 2:131.

[27]. Examples are found in Jerusalem: Center of the World, where various scholars present opinions, some of which are based on Gnostic gospels and other illegitimate writings. Goldberg and Suarez, Producers. Jerusalem: Center of the World. (DVD).

[28]. Bailey, Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes. 292; Geikie, The Life and Works of Christ. 2:348.

[29]. An ostraca is a pottery fragment that was used as a writing surface or material, since papyri and parchment were extremely expensive. See “ostraca” in Appendix 26 for more details. An example is the King David Fragment at 03.02.01.A.

[30]. Bivin and Blizzard, Understanding the Difficult Words. 37.

[31]. Mishnah, Eduyoth 2.5; Mishnah, Sabbath 6.3; Mishnah, Mekilta Exodus. 22.2; 23.13.

[32]. An excellent resource for further Sabbath study is Hagner, “Jesus and the Synoptic Sabbath Controversies.” 270-88.

[33]. For more information, see “02.02.18 Oral Law,” “02.02.20 Oral Tradition,” and especially Jubilees 50:6-13 at 02.04.06.  In fact, during the Maccabean Revolt, since the Jews refused to fight on the Sabbath, the Greeks slaughtered more than a thousand men, women, and children. Thereafter they decided to defend themselves as not be removed from the face of the earth (1 Macc. 2:31-38).

[34]. Josephus, Antiquities. 1.1.1.

[35]. Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. 198.

[36]. For more details on this important point, see 09.01.03.Q1 “What was the significance of the Beelzebub discussion?”

[37]. Adapted from Fruchtenbaum, The Jewish Foundation of the Life of Messiah: Instructor’s Manual. Class 10, page 17.

[38].  The Seven Signs: Water into Wine (Jn. 2:1-2); Healing the Nobleman’s Son (Jn. 4:46-54); Healing the Paralytic (Jn. 5:1-17); Feeding the 5,000 (Jn. 6:1-14); Calming the Storm (Jn. 6:15-21); Healing Man Born Blind (Jn. 9:1-14) and Resurrection of Lazarus (Jn. 11:17-45).

[39]. For more information, see 03.05.12, “Summary Influence of Hellenistic Reform” (331-63 B.C.)

[40]. Ancient coins are cleaned and restored by a process known as the Deep Proton Activation Analysis.

[41]. In churches that still consider votive offerings today, the parishioner can give gifts such as candles, flowers, or monetary donations.


Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 08, 2016  -  Comments Off on 07.01.05 RESURRECTION AND LIFE

07.01.05 Jn. 5:16-30     




16 Therefore, the Jews began persecuting Jesus because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. 17 But Jesus responded to them, “My Father is still working, and I am working also.” 18 This is why the Jews began trying all the more to kill Him: Not only was He breaking the Sabbath, but He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.

19 Then Jesus replied, “I assure you: The Son is not able to do anything on His own, but only what He sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, the Son also does these things in the same way. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows Him everything He is doing, and He will show Him greater works than these so that you will be amazed. 21 And just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so the Son also gives life to anyone He wants to. 22 The Father, in fact, judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 so that all people will honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.

24 “I assure you: Anyone who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not come under judgment but has passed from death to life. 25“I assure you: An 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.                      

26 For just as the Father has life in Himself, so also He has granted to the Son to have life in Himself.  27 And He has granted Him the right to pass judgment, because He is the Son of Man.

28 Do not be amazed at this, because a time is coming when all who are in the graves will hear His voice 29 and come out — those who have done good things, to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked things, to the resurrection of judgment.

30 “I can do nothing on My own. I judge only as I hear, and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.


In this narrative, Jesus stated His equality with God the Father.  This was utterly unprecedented in Jewish and pagan history, and demonstrates the unique divine character of Jesus. No one who desired to be a messiah would ever dream of equating himself with God – especially to the Jewish people. But Antiochus IV Epiphanies did this in the second century B.C., and he was hated by everyone, including his own Greek people.


Jews began persecuting Jesus.”  As the differences between the establishment of Jerusalem and Jesus became more intense, persecution began at the highest levels of Judaism – the upper echelon of Pharisees and the Sadducees. The irony is that while the leaders were rejecting Jesus, His popularity was growing. The religious legalism had become the choking point in everyone’s spiritual life.[1]   Their rigid and prideful rules exalted themselves, not God (Lk. 18:9-14).[2]

My Father is still working.”  Since a boy or young man was considered equal to his father, when Jesus referred to God as “My Father,” He claimed equality with God.  Furthermore, when He said “I work,” He claimed to be the Son of God in the sense that He had the power and right of working as God works.  These statements were thought to be blasphemous. Nonetheless, the question was not whether Jesus possessed power to do these things, but it was whether He exercised His power agreeably to the will of the Father or in opposition to Him. Jesus answered them accordingly.

In Hebrew thinking, the oldest son was always considered to be equal with his father.  Hence, when Jesus referred to “My Father,” Jesus was obviously not speaking of His earthly father, who probably had passed away by this time, but His heavenly Father.  Therefore, the Jews understood Jesus to say that He was equal to God in heaven.  Then He stated that God is always at work to keep the universe running and He, Jesus, is part of that work. Given this context, it is easy to understand why they were so vehemently upset with Him.

The Son is not able to do anything on His own.”  The Fourth Evangelist recorded these interesting words that reflect upon the Sonship and mission of Jesus (vv. 30-47). This statement is not inconsistent with His deity, but rather, there are five main ideas presented here:


  1. The dependence of the Son upon the Father (v. 19),


  1. The life-giving mission of the Son (v. 21, 24-26, 28-29), and


  1. The judging mission of the Son (v. 22, 27).


  1. Jesus sees what the Father is doing.


  1. Whatever the Father does Jesus does, because He and the Father are One.


The Sonship of Jesus is the dominant theme (vv. 19-47) with a call to man to come to Him. Note the witnesses:


  1. The first witness of the Sonship of Jesus is God Himself. The phrase “there is another”

(Jn. 5:32) refers to none other than God Himself.


  1. The second witness is John the Baptist (vv. 33-35), who was the witness of the Light, but

was not the Light himself.


  1. The third witness is found in the works of Jesus, meaning the entire ministry of teaching,

miracles, and His life.


  1. Finally, the fourth witness (vv. 37-38) is the same as the first – that of God the Father Himself.


Moses had given the Israelites the Law in which they would have found freedom, if they would have accepted the Spirit of the Law. However, since they had become legalistic, the Law was to be their condemnation.  They worshiped the letter of the Law of Moses, but killed the spirit of that Law even though the ancient patriarch spoke of Jesus in Deuteronomy 18:15. This was confirmed by Luke in Acts 3:18.  Jesus was especially hard on the Jews at this point, because if they could not perceive and accept the words and spirit of Moses, how could they accept the words and Spirit of Jesus?   The legalists could not accept Jesus or His words because they were not willing (Jn. 5:40) to do so. They would not receive His words (Jn. 5:43) and they did not seek God’s glory (Jn. 5:44).

“The Father raises the dead.”  The Jews fully accepted the fact that God, and God alone, could raise men from the grave.  Jesus demonstrated His authority and power to do likewise, and thereby demonstrated that He was God in human form.

“Son of God … Son of Man.”  Jesus referred to Himself with both titles.   The Son of Man, or Bar enosh in Aramaic,[3] was a title was used extensively by the prophets Daniel and Ezekiel in reference to men of the earth.  Jesus was a Son of Man, in that He was born of a human mother, had human emotions and sufferings, as do we.  The Son of God came to earth in human form.  When Jesus spoke to His fellow Jews, He used the phrase Son of Man in reference to Himself, as this was acceptable to them.  They would have objected to the phrase Son of God so strongly, that they would not have heard anything else Jesus said.[4]  The phrase Son of Man in the book of Enoch is a figure, who is waiting in heaven until God sends him to earth where he would establish his kingdom and rule over it. This book was common knowledge to the Jewish people, so when Jesus used the phrase about Himself, it was clearly referring to the long-awaited Messiah.[5] The expressions of “Son of Man” and “Son of God,” express the deity of Jesus,[6] but the former title also asserts His humanity.[7]

He has granted Him the right to pass judgment.”  Jesus declared that God the Father gave Jesus the authority to judge every person on the Day of Judgment.  This statement struck another fierce chord of anger in the religious leaders, for they heard Him say that He (Jesus), one day would be judge over their eternity. Most certainly, they questioned how He dared to speak such words.  Yet He did and they were so true.

The reason why men today do not receive the words of Jesus and treat them as true is because they do not have love for God the Father. If the Jewish leaders loved the Father, they would have recognized Jesus and loved Him as well.  In fact, in the course of time some members of the Sanhedrin and other significant Jewish leaders did recognize Jesus and demonstrated their love for Him.

[1]. Wigoder, “Bethesda.”

[2]. For references to grace and freedom in Christ, see Jn 8:32; Rom 8:1-4; Gal. 5:1; Eph. 2:4-9, as opposed to social conformity manipulated by laws, guilt, and bondage (Gal. 3).

[3]. Wijngaards, Handbook to the Gospels. 44.


[4]. Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ. 161; Harrington, “Man, Son of.” 9:1189.

[5]. See the Dead Sea Scroll “Son of God” fragment at 05.04.02.A.


[6]. Jn. 3:13; 5:27; 6:27; cf. Mt.26:63-64; Tenney, The Gospel of John. 105.


[7]. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament. 1:312.



Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 08, 2016  -  Comments Off on 07.01.06 DISCUSSION OF AUTHORITY

07.01.06 Jn. 5:31-47



 31 “If I testify about Myself, My testimony is not valid. 32 There is Another who testifies about Me, and I know that the testimony He gives about Me is valid. 33 You have sent messengers to John, and he has testified to the truth. 34 I don’t receive man’s testimony, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35 John was a burning and shining lamp, and for a time you were willing to enjoy his light.

36 “But I have a greater testimony than John’s because of the works that the Father has given Me to accomplish. These very works I am doing testify about Me that the Father has sent Me. 37 The Father who sent Me has Himself testified about Me. You have not heard His voice at any time, and you haven’t seen His form. 38 You don’t have His word living in you, because you don’t believe the One He sent. 39 You pour over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, yet they testify about Me.    40 And you are not willing to come to Me so that you may have life.

41 “I do not accept glory from men, 42 but I know you — that you have no love for God within you. 43 I have come in My Father’s name, yet you don’t accept Me. If someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. 44 How can you believe? While accepting glory from one another, you don’t seek the glory that comes from the only God. 45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, because he wrote about Me. 47 But if you don’t believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”


In this passage Jesus informed His challengers that:


  1. They did not have the love of God in their hearts.


  1. They pursued honor from the crowds and from each other.


  1. Because they chose to honor each other, they likewise refused to honor God.


What was obvious to everyone was that Jesus spoke the truth and exposed the sins of the religious leaders. When He said that Moses was their accuser, He had reference to the Mosaic passages in Genesis 49:10, Numbers 24:17, and Deuteronomy 18:15-18. If they were truly as faithful to the laws and teachings of Moses as they claimed, then they would have recognized their error. They refused to consider that Moses spoke of Jesus because they had their own agenda.[1]

“My testimony is not valid … because he wrote about Me.”  Why would the testimony of Jesus not be valid? He followed the Old Testament laws in every detail.  If He spoke only of Himself, and was the only witness to His words and works, then He would be in violation of Deuteronomy, that reads,


The one condemned to die is to be executed on the testimony of two or three witnesses. No one is to be executed on the testimony of a single witness.

Deuteronomy 17:6


A minimum of two witnesses was standard practice in Jewish law.  For a capital punishment case, two witnesses were needed to condemn a man to death.  To identify the beginning of the Sabbath, two or three medium-sized stars had to be seen in the sky to announce the end of sixth day and the beginning of the seventh.[2]  The Deuteronomy passage was the standard of law for making decisions in all aspects of Jewish society and for biblical interpretation. For this reason, Jesus made a point to present witnesses on His behalf.  He presented four points, more than was needed.  The witnesses to His Messiahship and testimony were:


  1. John the Baptist (Jn. 5:33),


  1. His works (Jn. 5:36),


  1. The Father, Who had spoken audibly at His Baptism (Jn. 5:37), and


  1. The Scriptures (Jn. 5:39) because He fulfilled the Hebrew prophecies.


But the Oral Law stated that a man was not to be believed if he was speaking about himself. Even the Greeks said that a person could not present evidence that would support self-interest.[3]

John was a burning and shining lamp.” The past-tense of the statement is clear evidence that the ministry of John the Baptist to be the revealer of truth was over.  It is assumed that by now he was either in prison or martyred.

“If you believed Moses.”  The statement obviously implies they did not obey Moses, although they claimed to do so.  In Jewish thinking, “belief” exists only when there is obedience to what is believed. Transposed to today, if one says “I believe in Jesus” and does not do what Jesus says, he has made a false statement concerning his belief. To “believe” or to “love” Jesus carries the requirement to be obedient to His principles of life. “Belief” and “love” when related to God are always associated with obedience to Him.



The fourth law of the Decalogue is the law of the Sabbath.  On this day, all Jews were expected to rest from their weekly activities.  Because the Oral Law essentially placed a protective theological “fence” around the Torah, it had many restrictions that would have to be broken before the commandment would be broken.  In Aboth 1:1 there is an interesting statement that clearly defines the purpose of the Oral Law.


Moses received the Torah at Sinai and handed it on to Joshua, Joshua to elders, and elders to prophets.  And the prophets handed it on to the men of the Great Synagogue.  They said three things: Be prudent in judgment.  Raise up many disciples.  Make a fence around the Torah.

Mishnah, Aboth 1:1[4]


However, the legalistic attitude cannot be totally attributed to the Jewish leadership because even Moses said that anyone who gathered sticks for firewood on the Sabbath deserved stoning (Num. 15:32-36).  Therefore, if gathering firewood on the Sabbath deserved stoning, why not for gathering some grain for food or for some other reason?

As previously stated, they held the common opinion that because they had broken the Sabbath laws in the past, God permitted Solomon’s temple to be destroyed and their forefathers taken into captivity in Babylon (605-586 B.C.).  They obviously did not want another occurrence of this punishment (2 Ch. 36:20-21). For this reason they were extremely dogmatic about their oral laws, which included highly restrictive Sabbath rules. Their intent was that if anyone broke the Oral Laws, or the “fence,” that surrounded the Written Law, the person could be punished before the Sabbath and other Mosaic Laws were broken.  Therefore, the land would be saved from God’s anger. Although the maximum punishment of breaking the Sabbath was death by stoning,[5] it was never practiced or Jesus would have been executed on these charges.   While the intent was good, its application became extremely oppressive and idolatrous.  The major problem was that these Oral laws were held in higher authority than the Mosaic Law, and this led to conflicts with Jesus.

Coupled with the extreme intent to maintain the proverbial “fence” around the Torah, the religious leaders had also become arrogant, wealthy, and smug in their lifestyle. They became blind to the needs of the common people whom they served.  Yet amazingly, they did realize that the single issue of life was more important than Sabbath rules.  In the event there was an urgency to save a life, the Sabbath rules were set aside.  They had little disagreement on this matter, but their attitude was completely different concerning a sick or disabled person.  In such a case they believed that the healer should wait until sunset, when the Sabbath was over, and then perform the healing.

When God created the world, He rested on the seventh day (Gen. 2:2).  This was a rest from His “creative work.”  However, He never rested from His “work of providence,” meaning work in the lives of man, or maintaining the creation on the Sabbath or any other day.  If God had rested from His work of providence, the universe would dissolve into nothingness as it once was.  Therefore, it is generally agreed among theologians that the work of providence continues as an activity of God.[6]

Finally, this study is focused on the various issues that shaped the ministry environment of Jesus and, therefore, does not dwell on the theological subjects. However, some basic theological issues cannot be avoided. In the passage (John 5) that follows, John sets forth the divine nature and office of Jesus in relation to God the Father. For a clearer understanding of the gospel writer’s message, note the following distinctions:


  1. God is His Father and He is the Son of God in such a high and incommunicable sense, that Jesus is equal with the Father in nature (Jn. 5:18);


  1. Jesus enjoys the Father’s perfect love and knows all His counsels (Jn. 5:20);


  1. Jesus performs all the works that His father performs (Jn. 5:19-21);


  1. Jesus has life in Himself as the Father has it, and gives it to whom He will (Jn. 5:21, 26)


  1. He claims equal honor with the Father (Jn. 5:23) and


  1. He raises the dead and judges them (Jn. 5:21-22; 24-29).


As the Son of God on earth, Jesus always acts in subordination to the will of the Father.


  1. He has not come on His own accord, but His Father sent Him (Jn. 5:23, ff);


  1. The Father has appointed Him to do certain works and miracles (Jn. 5:20, 22, 26)


  1. Jesus can do nothing by His own accord, but must function in accordance to His Father’s will (Jn. 5:19, 39)


  1. The Father, who sent Jesus, bears witness to Him by the works that He (the Father) has given Him to do (Jn. 5:36) and by the Scriptures of the Old Testament (Jn. 5:39, 45-47).


It is as the Son of man – the Word made flesh – who not only redeems, but also judges men (Jn. 5:27). Jesus has …


  1. Equality with the Father in nature.


  1. Submission to the Father in office,


  1. Union with human nature in the work of redeeming and judging men,


  1. And in all these, perfect union with the Father in counsel and will.


Not only did the Jewish leaders reject the God – Jesus relationship, but the early church had struggles with it, as well. Gentiles, coming from various pagan religions, were equally challenged.


[1]. Concerning Jesus in the Old Testament and eternity past, see 04.01.01 and the related video link.

[2]. The Jewish people observed the biblical tradition that the day begins at sunset, not midnight or sunrise.

[3]. Barclay, “John.” 1:195.

[4]. See video 02.02.16.V by Messianic Rabbi  John Fischer who discusses the term “fence around the Torah” from a first century Jewish perspective.

[5]. Mishnah, Sanhedrin 7.4.

[6]. Bruce, Jesus Past. 28.

07.02 The Sabbath Challenge

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 08, 2016  -  Comments Off on 07.02 The Sabbath Challenge

Unit 07

Opposition Against Jesus Grows


Chapter 02

The Sabbath Challenge





07.02.01 Introduction

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 08, 2016  -  Comments Off on 07.02.01 Introduction

07.02.01 Introduction

Prior to discussing this topic, a brief review of the first century Sabbath restrictions[1] is necessary along with a review of two influential schools of theology in Unit 02.[2] The School of Shammai held that it was unlawful to comfort the sick or visit the mourner on the Sabbath, but the School of Hillel permitted it. In the case of a violation, the school of Shammai demanded physical punishment whereas the Pharisees, as strict and legalistic as they were, offered a milder punishment that was often in the form of a monetary fine.[3] Those who confronted Jesus for healing on the Sabbath were most likely to be followers of Shammai, rather than Hillel. To add social conflict to the mix, other religious sects held other beliefs – and most of them were under the “Pharisee” umbrella.


Without question, the pious Jews of the Inter-Testamental Period and at the time of Jesus were concerned that they not offend God and again be evicted from their land.  They knew the reason their forefathers had been sent to Babylon for seventy years was because they failed to honor the Sabbath. Therefore, by the time Jesus came, observing the Sabbath had become a weekly ritual of unprecedented importance.  Unfortunately, in the process of doing so, the elite Pharisee leadership lost sight of their responsibility to care for the congregations.[4]

The leading Pharisees believed they had established a series of righteous acts that, when completed, would establish not only favor with God, but also essentially permit one to earn his salvation.  Below are samples of thirty-nine categories of activities from the Oral Law that limited activities for the Sabbath and for any Friday identified as a Preparation Day.[5] 


Flesh and onions and eggs may not be roasted unless there is time for them to be roasted the same day, nor can bread be put into the oven when darkness is falling, nor may cakes be put upon coals unless there is time for their top surface to form into crust.

Mishnah, Shabbath 1.10


If a double stove had been heated with stubble or straw, cooked food may be set on it (on the Sabbath); but if with peat or wood, cooked food may not be set on it until it has been swept out or covered with ashes.  The School of Shammai says: “Hot water but not cooked food may be set thereon.”   The School of Hillel says; “Both hot water and cooked food.”  The School of Shammai says, “They may be removed (on the Sabbath) but not put back.” And the school of Hillel says: “They may also be put back.”

Mishnah, Shabbath 3.1[6]


An egg may not be put inside a kettle (on the Sabbath) so it shall get cooked, nor may it be cracked within (hot) wrappings; but Rabbi Jose permits this.  Nor may it be buried in (hot) sand or in the dust of the road so that it shall get roasted.

Mishnah, Shabbath 3.3[7]


A vessel may not be put under the lamp (on the Sabbath) to collect the (dripping) oil; but if it was put there before nightfall it is permitted.

Mishnah, Shabbath 3.6[8]


Rabbi Aha in the name of Rabbi Tanhum ben Rabbi Hiaay said, “If Israel repents for one day, forthwith the son of David will come.”  Said Rabbi Levi, “If Israel would keep a single Sabbath in the proper way, forthwith the son of David will come.”

Jerusalem Talmud, Tannit 1.1


If a man removed his finger nails by means of his nails or teeth, and so, too, if [he pulled out] the hair on his head, or his mustache or his beard; and so, too, if a woman dressed her hair or painted her eyelids or reddened [her face], such a one Rabbi Eliezer declares liable to a sin offering.

Mishnah, Shabbath 10.6


According to some Pharisees, Sabbath regulations even prevented mourning the loss of a loved one, due to a legalistic regulation based on Proverbs 10:22 that read, “The blessing of the Lord brings wealth and he adds no trouble to it.” They distorted the proverbs of life in an attempt to be pure and holy before God.[9] Another rule forbade women to look in a mirror on the Sabbath.[10] Jesus was passionately upset over these restrictive bondages.


Video Insert    >

07.02.01.V Insights into the Sabbath Regulations. Dr. Malcolm Lowe discusses some unique insights that pertained to the Sabbath controveries.


Finally, it must be emphasized that not all Pharisaic rabbis held the same views concerning Sabbath regulations. There were those who said that a Sabbath rest was defined as ceasing from work activities so one could reconnect with God, family, and friends, and reflect upon the blessings of God in the past week.[11] This agreed with Jesus who clearly said that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. But that statement tends to open more questions than it answers. Some Messianic believers say that for six days God performed His work in the creation, and the seventh day is set aside for His superior creation (mankind) to focus attention on Him.[12] When examining how the modern church honors the Sabbath, it clearly is in frequent violation in both practice and teaching. When one’s attention is totally focused on Christ Jesus, as it should be on that day, then the issue related to many potential activities becomes a moot point.


[1]. See 02.04.06 “Sabbath Day Observances.”

[2]. See 02.01.14 “Pharisees,” 02.01.18 “School of Hillel,” and  02.01.19 “School of Shammai.”

[3]. Geikie, The Life and Works of Christ. 2:106.

[4].  For more information, see “02.02.18 Oral Law,” “02.02.20 Oral Tradition,” and Sabbath regulations in Jubilees 50:6-13 at 02.04.06.  In fact, during the Maccabean Revolt, since the Jews refused to fight on the Sabbath, the Greeks slaughtered more than a thousand men, women, and children. Thereafter they decided to defend themselves so as not to be removed from the face of the earth (1 Macc. 2:31-38).

[5]. The Day of Preparation was the day prior to special holy days such as Passover; a day when work would end and the people prepared themselves for the special event or a special Sabbath (Mt. 27:62; Mk. 15:42; Lk. 23:54; Jn. 19:14, 31, 42). It was rooted in Lev. 23:5-7; Num. 11:18; Jos. 7:13.

[6]. Parenthesis by Danby, ed. Mishnah.

[7]. Parenthesis by Danby, ed. Mishnah.

[8]. Parenthesis by Danby, ed. Mishnah.

[9]. Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. 510, 1046.

[10]. Babylonian Talmud, Shabbath 149a; Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. 92.

[11]. Parry, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Talmud. 60.

[12]. Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. 199-202.  


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