Verily I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation but is passed from death unto life. ……And they shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
We shall continue in this examination of John the Evangelists Gospel account part way through chapter 5.
The first part of the chapter concerns the healing of a man at the pool of Bethesda. It repeats the lessons from the healing of the nobleman’s son in chapter 4, but for one detail.
In the healing of the man at Bethesda, Jesus warns the healed man not to sin again, lest something worse befall him. We don’t know his infirmity and we don’t know the sin which brought it upon him. But one thing we do know is that emotional and mental conditions can have serious effects on our health.
We need therefore to take care as to our emotional health, and the Bible has much to say on that matter. But today I want to focus on what comes next in chapter 5, as it concerns the fundamentals around that very issue of emotional and psychological health and well being.
So let’s return to the scriptures cited at the start. They are to be found in verses 24 and 29 and I have deliberately brought them together.
These words of Jesus recorded by the Evangelist John, go to the very heart of whether we go to heaven or hell, to the very heart of how we get to one and how we avoid the other.
Those who do good, go to heaven; those who do evil are damned.
So says Jesus Christ.
And it is for each of us to decide for ourselves whether we accept Jesus Christ as God and whether we accept his teaching, ie become his disciple – a Christian.
Now, we all have our own understanding of what constitutes good and evil. There is a great deal of common understanding and agreement that certain things are very evil and others very good. To rape a woman is evil; to help a person in their need is good.
But Jesus has said something critical in the first part of our citation.
There in verse 24 – the very first words recorded above – Jesus defines what is good, and what is evil.
And in doing so, Jesus flags up to us the inadequacy of our sense of good and evil. Our sense of right and wrong is inevitably corrupted because – in the Christian perspective and perception – we are all born with the taint of sin, that is the perversion of disobedience to God inherited from our first father, Adam.
In defining good and evil in this way, Jesus points to the fundamental problem and the fundamental solution to that problem.
Disobedience to God being the problem and obedience to God being the answer.
Good is therefore defined as doing what God says, and to do what God says, requires that we trust God [that is the fundamental meaning of the word believe in the New Testament – to trust, or rely upon totally].
Too often doing right brings problems – problems we neither need nor want. Problems like disapprobation from friends or colleagues at work because our stand upsets their expectations or their interests.
That is why we have to trust that God will not only give us the moral courage to see the matter through, but that God will finally vindicate a moral stand.
That moral stand is derived from the teaching of Jesus.
Basically, love God and love others.
Note the order: God first, then others.
ie what God wants first, not what others want despite God’s teaching.
To love others who persecute you is not easy, and it invariably requires God’s grace and presence to accomplish and see it through.
That is why the teaching and the trust go together here.
Teaching and Trust.
God’s teaching – not man’s – and God’s grace, not our own human effort or senses.
And yes the presence of God is there, it is real, to those who get real with God.
And that is vital, because to be real with God and to take his teaching seriously is to find not just heaven above, but the grace of God in the here below now, in this present material world we inhabit.
But to refuse God’s teaching, or to ignore it is dangerous both for our future welfare hereafter, but in our present life.
As John has recorded earlier in his Gospel account, to refuse to believe in God and in his teaching is to live out our lives here under God’s disapproval, indeed his anger.
I know which I would prefer !