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“1 After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. 3 In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. 4 For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. 5 And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? 7 The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. 8 Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. 9 And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath. 10 The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed. 11 He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk. 12 Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk? 13 And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place. 14 Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee. 15 The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole. 16 And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day.” John 5:1-16

Jesus came into the world “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10), and here we see Him reach out in compassion both to heal a man who had received no compassion and ultimately to save a lost soul. The religious leaders of the Jews, on the other hand, showed no compassion and even began to persecute Jesus for showing compassion on the sabbath day.

John 5 tells us of Jesus’ compassion on a man with a debilitating infirmity who was lying by the Pool of Bethesda (which means House of Mercy) in the hope of being able to pull himself into the pool when the water was stirred by an angel so he could be healed. However, as Jesus knew and recognized, he had been in this state for 38 years. And, as the man stated to Jesus, he had no one who cared enough for him to help him into the pool when the water was stirred, and someone else always made it into the pool before him.

In love and mercy toward this man, Jesus, the Son of God, said to him, “Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.” The man was healed, stood up, picked up his bed, and walked.

There was, however, a problem for those who should have rejoiced at this miracle of God and the mercy shown to this helpless man. It was the Sabbath! Instead of praising God for healing this poor man, the Jewish leaders confronted the man, saying, “It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed.”

They showed no mercy and no compassion toward this man but were so wrapped up in their legalistic interpretations of the commandment regarding the Sabbath (cf. Ex. 20:8-11; Isa. 58:13-14) that they failed to recognize that showing mercy and doing good on the Sabbath was at the heart of the commandment (cf. Hosea 6:6; Matt. 12:7-8). They were so concerned over strict obedience to the letter of the law that they missed entirely the spirit of the law — love for God and neighbor!

Why did they do this? Because they sought to be righteous and acceptable to God through their obedience to the letter of the law — amplified by traditions of the elders that added human interpretations and applications, often contradicting the very spirit of God’s law.

Does this still happen today? Most certainly! Whenever people condemn others for failing to follow their own man-made traditions and applications of God’s commandments. It happens when people condemn the worship of others because it differs from their own worship styles and traditions, when ministers are condemned for showing compassion on those who are ill or who have strayed by ministering to them with God’s Word and Christ’s Supper before they are officially received and approved as church members, or when “Christians” condemn others for playing cards, dancing or consuming an alcoholic beverage. Indeed, the list could go on, but the point is that it is so easy for us to fall into the same trap as the religious leaders of the Jews — to be so wrapped up in our own self-righteous attempts to please God with our man-made traditions and applications of God’s Word that we miss the point of God’s Word and condemn the innocent.

Sad to say, man-made religious views and traditions often keep people from trusting in Jesus Christ for mercy and forgiveness. The religious leaders of the Jews so hated Jesus for doing good works on the Sabbath that they began to persecute Him and wanted to kill Him. Jesus’ teaching and works were counted as an affront to their efforts to be righteous before God by their strict obedience to their traditions. Rather than acknowledging their own sinfulness and looking to Jesus as their Messiah and Savior from sin, they sought to discredit Jesus and destroy Him.

Could it happen yet today? Most certainly! It is easy for us to think God is pleased with us because we hold to our religious traditions, worship with the same liturgies and hymns and in the same styles as our forefathers, strictly observe the Sabbath and Old Testament dietary laws, or set aside Sundays as a new Sabbath, refrain from alcohol, avoid dances or card playing, etc., etc., etc. It is so easy for us to go beyond the clear words of Scripture and condemn those who fail to live in accordance with our religious views and traditions.

When we do so, not only do we fail to see the spirit and intent of God’s law, but we fail to see the truth that we are utterly sinful and cannot please God with our works. As Isaiah writes, even our best works are “unclean” and “filthy rags” in God’s eyes (Isa. 64:6). And, when we fail to see our utter sinfulness and the wrath and judgment of God upon us which is due, we fail to look to Jesus and His innocent sufferings and death in our stead for pardon and forgiveness.

Out of concern for this man’s soul, Jesus also cautioned the man whom He had made whole: “Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee” (John 5:14). Jesus warned this man that the eternal consequences of sin are far greater than the earthly consequences of sin. To suffer forever the condemnation of God in the fires of hell is far worse than the 38 years he had spent as an invalid. Jesus was urging this man to repent of His sinful ways and look to Him for pardon and forgiveness lest a far worse thing happen to him than what he had already experienced.

So also, Jesus urges and calls us to repent of our sinful ways and look to Him and His cross for pardon and forgiveness. If we depend on our own religious works and traditions, if we fail to acknowledge our utter sinfulness before God, “we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9). How can God forgive and cleanse us? It is because “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1,2).

Dear Lord Jesus, Son of God and Son of Man, grant that I not twist Your Word and seek to be acceptable in Your sight by my own works and traditions, but humble myself, acknowledge my sins, and look to You for pardon and forgiveness. In Your mercy, cleanse my heart and soul in the precious blood You shed for me on the cross that I may be made whole and acceptable in Your sight. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.” John 8:44-45 (Read John 8:37-45)

Can you imagine telling church officials today that they are children of Satan and that they are doing the devil’s work? That is pretty much what Jesus said to the religious leaders of His day.

Why would Jesus say such a thing? Because it was true, and His hearers needed to face that truth!

The devil was a liar and a murderer from the beginning. God created Adam and Eve in His own image and gave them life — not only physical but also spiritual and eternal (Gen. 1-2). The devil lied to Eve and deceived her and brought about the death of mankind — physical because they would now have to die and return to the dust of the ground, spiritual because their perfect communion and fellowship with God was destroyed and they were afraid of God and hid from his presence, and eternal because apart from redemption by a perfect sacrifice for sin they now stood condemned of God to eternal torment because of their sin and disobedience (Gen. 3).

And the Jewish leaders were following in the steps of the devil. Instead of acknowledging their sins and looking to God for mercy in the promised One who would crush the head of the evil serpent, they bought into the lies of Satan and thought they could be pleasing to God and acceptable — be children of Abraham and children of God — by their own works and deeds. Instead of repenting of their sinful ways and looking to Jesus the Messiah and His atoning sacrifice on the cross for pardon and forgiveness, they rejected and sought to kill Jesus, God’s Son and the only Savior of fallen mankind.

Because they bought into the lies of Satan, they rejected the truth revealed in God’s Word and counted Jesus a false prophet and false Messiah, deserving of death.

But many do the same things today! They refuse to believe that they are dead in trespasses and sins and are unable to enter heaven by their own works and lives. They do not repent of their evil and sinful ways and look to Jesus, the very Son of God in human flesh, for pardon and forgiveness. Instead, they believe the lies of the devil and reject the truth God reveals in the Bible. Therefore, they are not children of God — they reject Him and His Word when they reject Jesus as the Son of God and their only Savior. They are of their father, the devil, because they believe his lies and oppose the truth just as the religious leaders did in Jesus’ day.

Are you a child of God or a child of the devil? We would all love to think we are children of God, but we, too, need to consider Jesus’ words and see if they apply to us. The Bible — God’s Word to us — tells us that the only way to be a child of God is to place our faith solely in Jesus and His perfect sacrifice on the cross for sin and to be baptized in His name.

God’s Word says, “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:26-27); and, “This is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:11-12).

If we do not repent of our sinful ways and trust in Jesus and His atoning sacrifice on the cross, we are rejecting Jesus and His Word. We have bought into the lies of the devil and, as such, are his children and will share in his condemnation (cf. Matt. 25:41).

What’s my point? Why would you want to be a child of the devil? He has been a liar and murderer from the beginning and seeks your eternal ruin! Instead, listen to God’s Word, repent of your sinfulness, and look to the crucified and risen Christ for mercy and forgiveness. Through faith in Jesus Christ, you have forgiveness for all your sins, are accepted as a child of God, and have life, both spiritual and eternal!

O gracious and merciful God, open my eyes to the truthfulness of Your Word that I might recognize the lies of the evil one, acknowledge my own sinfulness and shortcomings, and look to Jesus and His cross for full pardon, forgiveness, and life everlasting. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“46 So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum. 47 When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death. 48 Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe. 49 The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die. 50 Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way. 51 And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth. 52 Then enquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. 53 So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house.” John 4:46-53

The Scriptures tell us that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). What does this mean? It means faith takes hold of things promised to us in God’s Word even though we can’t see them yet with our eyes. And, indeed, we as Christians “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7; cf. Hab. 2:4).

God promises to all of us who trust in Christ and His atoning sacrifice on the cross His pardon and forgiveness for all our sins. Can you see this forgiveness? Do the heavens open, and does God’s voice sound audibly from heaven saying, “I forgive you all your sins”? No, we have only the word of the gospel in our Bibles and preached by God’s ministers telling us it is so.

When we are sick and facing our mortality, do we see Jesus on His throne of glory and God’s angels descending from heaven to carry us home? No, we have only God’s promise that His angels will carry our souls into the bosom of Abraham because Jesus died for our sins and rose again (cf. Luke 16:22; 2 Cor. 5:1-8; Phil. 1:21-23).

Many do not believe in God’s promises because they can’t see them with their eyes or understand them with their minds. But Jesus would have us trust Him and His Word and live by faith in His promises.

Consider the nobleman who came to Jesus while at Cana in Galilee. He came to Jesus from Capernaum (in the valley along the Sea of Galilee) because his son was deathly ill, and he asked Jesus to come down to Capernaum and heal his son.

But what did Jesus say? “Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.”

The nobleman had heard of Jesus and thought Jesus could help in this hour of desperate need — if Jesus came down to Capernaum and to his house. But did Jesus, the eternal Son of God who created all things by His almighty word, need to go and be visibly present in this man’s home? Jesus desired this man to have faith in His words even if he could not yet see their fulfillment with his eyes. Jesus told him, “Go thy way; thy son liveth.”

A remarkable thing happened. This man who had begged Jesus to come down before his son died now believed and returned to his house. Jesus’ words not only expressed a miraculous truth; they had power — the power to create faith in this nobleman. The nobleman now believed and walked by faith all the way down to Capernaum (about 20 miles), where his eyes saw the truthfulness of what he had believed. As a result, both he and his household came to believe and trust in Jesus as the Son of God and their Savior!

The Word of God tells us Jesus is none other than God Himself in human flesh, who came into this world to redeem us from sin and eternal death. The Word of God tells us that He died as a perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world — in John the Baptist’s words, Jesus is “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

The Word of God tells us Jesus not only died for our sins but then rose from the dead on the third day and is now seated at the right hand of God the Father in heaven. The Word of God promises us pardon and forgiveness through faith in Jesus and His cross, and the Word of God promises all who trust in Jesus a place in God’s everlasting kingdom (John 3:14-16; 5:24; 14:1-6).

Can you see it? Does Jesus prove it before our eyes with modern-day signs and wonders? No, He tells us it is so in His Word. And that Word has power.

St. Paul writes in Romans 1:16-17: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” In Romans 10:17, the Bible says, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

As we live our lives in this world, Jesus would have us walk by faith and not by sight. He would have us take Him at His Word and not have to see signs and wonders before we will believe.

And, like the nobleman, when we get home, we will see with our eyes the truthfulness of His Word. When we are received into the glories of our eternal home through faith alone in the merits of Christ, we will see that indeed Christ did atone for all our sins, that God accepted His atonement as His resurrection proves, that when we have God-wrought faith in Christ all our sins are pardoned and forgiven and that, through faith in Christ, the eternal joys of heaven are indeed ours!

O God, graciously grant that we walk by faith in Your Word and not by sight, for only through faith in Christ will our eyes ever come to see the blessings that are offered and given to us in Him! Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” John 8:33-36

Many think all is well with their souls because of their religious heritage or their membership in a church or denomination. They are convinced that God certainly loves and accepts them as His children because of their church affiliation and their religious works and service.

Jesus said this was far from true. He said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever.” If one continues in sin, he is a servant of sin, and servants of sin, though they may be outwardly connected with a church or religious gathering, will not continue to be connected with God’s church and family.

Jesus explains this in his parables of the wheat and the tares and of the dragnet (Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43; 13:47-50). It is as Jesus said, “Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn. … As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 13:30,40-42); and, “So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth” Matt. 13:49-50).

It is not enough to be a good Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, etc. One needs to be set free by the Son of God, who abides forever in God’s kingdom. If He who establishes and rules over God’s kingdom sets you free, making you a child of God through faith in Christ Jesus and His cross rather than a servant of sin, you shall be free indeed and have an inheritance in God’s everlasting kingdom (cf. Gal. 3-4).

What is Jesus’ point? Don’t trust in your religious heritage, your church membership, or your charitable deeds. As such, you remain enslaved in sin and will find yourself cast out of God’s kingdom. Instead, turn from your sinful ways and look to God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, for mercy, forgiveness, and a place in God’s eternal church and kingdom. Through faith in Jesus and His cross, you will be set free from the guilt and bondage of your sins, be accepted as God’s child, and be an heir with Abraham and all others who place their faith and hope in Jesus and His cross.

“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:26-29).

“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”

Dear Son of God and my Savior, forgive my sins in Your blood, shed on the cross for the sins of the world, and make me a child of God and an heir of the everlasting joys of Your kingdom. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.” John 20:1 (Cf. John 20:1ff.; Matt. 28:1ff.; Mark 16:1ff.; Luke 24:1ff.; 1 Cor. 15)

The stone was rolled away, the tomb was empty, and the burial clothes of Jesus were lying there, but Jesus was not there — He had risen from the dead!

He appeared to Mary Magdalene outside the tomb, to the other women as they ran back into Jerusalem, to Peter, to two disciples on the road to Emmaus, to all the disciples on numerous occasions, and even to more than 500 brethren at once. Angels proclaimed His resurrection, and Jesus’ own followers finally came to understand and believe that Jesus really was alive — He had risen, as He said!

But what about you? Do you believe that Jesus rose bodily from the dead on the third day — that He really is alive? Like Jesus’ first disciples, we too may be “slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken” (Luke 24:25).

As the Scriptures say, “Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46-47).

The Scriptures foretold how Christ Jesus would suffer and die and bear the iniquity of us all, and how He would rise again in triumph and establish His everlasting kingdom (cf. Isa. 53; Ps. 22). Jesus truly did die for the sins of the whole world, and He truly did rise again from the dead on the third day!

So, why is it that we often live our lives as though He were not raised from the dead — as though He were still in the tomb?

Why do we go about our lives as though God were unwilling to forgive us? The Bible assures us that “Jesus our Lord … was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Rom. 4:24,25). Jesus paid in full for our sins — “it is finished” (John 19:30). He was raised so that we might look to Him in faith and be forgiven and counted righteous. God reaches out to us with open arms! He calls us to repent and offers us forgiveness and life through faith in the crucified and risen Christ Jesus!

Why do we live in fear of death? Jesus conquered death for us and rose again. The Scripture says, “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming” (1 Cor. 15:20-23). We, as Christians, need not fear death since Christ has removed our sin and the condemnation of God’s law from us (cf. 1 Cor. 15:55-57; Heb. 2:14-17). And, indeed, when death comes to a believer, we have no need to “sorrow… as others which have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:13-18).

Why do we live our lives here in this world as though this is our home? “Our Lord Jesus Christ … gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world” (Gal. 1:3,4). He now prepares a place for those who trust in Him in the mansions of His Father’s house, and He will soon come again and take all who believe to be with Him in heaven and dwell forever with Him there (cf. John 14:2-3). All that is here in this world will soon be burned up — only what is done as a fruit of faith in Christ will last (cf. 1 Cor. 3:13-15; 2 Pet. 3:10-13).

Why do we live our lives as though we have nothing to do for Christ Jesus here in this world? He commanded His disciples: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. …” (Mark 16:15). He commanded us to “teach” or disciple the nations (Matt. 28:18-20). Jesus rose from the dead! He won forgiveness of sins and eternal life for all, and He is coming again soon to judge this evil world! Shouldn’t we be about the work of our Lord and calling lost sinners to repentance and faith in Christ Jesus? Apart from Him, there is no salvation (cf. Acts 4:12)!

Finally, why do we live our lives as though Jesus is not with us? He has risen from the dead, ascended to the right hand of God the Father, and rules over and fills all things (cf. Eph. 1:15-23). The risen Jesus is with us always, “even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:20).

Dear Lord Jesus Christ, our risen Savior, open up our minds to understand the Scriptures so that we might not only believe that you truly have risen from the dead but that we would live our lives by faith in Your glorious resurrection and all that this means for us now and forever. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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