I have two sons… and sometimes they have short attention spans. When they ask me a question, they usually want the “short answer”, but a father’s wisdom can’t always be expressed in just a few short words.
There are times when I recognize the elusive “parental teaching” opportunity. In these situations, a question that could have received a relatively short answer… often turns into a hour-long discussion. By the end of the discussion, we’ve talked so long that no one even remembers the original question.
I don’t think my boys always appreciate it when I do that.
In the gospels, Jesus sometimes gives the “long answer”… and I’m not always sure we, as readers, fully appreciate it. Sometimes we get to the end of a red-word response… and we’ve forgotten to whom Jesus is talking.
There’s a great example of this in John 5.
Shortly after healing a man on the Sabbath (John 5:1-17), there was a group of people seeking to kill Jesus.
John 5:18 (NASB95)
18 For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.
Jesus’ then responds to those who were trying to kill him. It’s a very long response that Jesus gives. In fact, it’s a 29-verse response! So long that by the end… you might not remember why Jesus started talking in the first place.
In this case, it’s important to follow what Jesus is saying and remember that the entire 29-verse response is addressed to those who want to kill him.
It also becomes obvious that Jesus has the benefit of seeing past the human exterior. Past all the religious uniforms and badges that people wear to convince others of their spirituality. He is able to see into a person’s soul and know who they are.
In this long response, Jesus makes several statements that give us some insight into the spiritual condition of those to who want to kill him. It’s an important glimpse into the transitional nature of believers at that point in history.
John 5:22–24 (NASB95)
22 “For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son,
23 so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.
24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.
Since this group wants to kill “the Son”, we can conclude that they also don’t honor the Father who sent Him. Even though they are Jews… they were Jews who didn’t ever come to a true faith in God. They had all the advantages of knowing about God, but they never attached that information with faith in God.
Since they didn’t believe in God, when God Incarnate showed up, they didn’t believe in Him either.
John 5:37–42 (NASB95)
37 “And the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form.
38 “You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent.
39 “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me;
40 and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.
41 “I do not receive glory from men;
42 but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves.
It becomes obvious that this group of Jews does not come to Jesus in faith… mostly because they did not believe in the Father earlier. They had read the scriptures that Moses wrote… but never really believed what Moses said.
John 5:45–47 (NASB95)
45 “Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope.
46 “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me.
47 “But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”
As readers of the gospel, it’s up to us to recognize the clues in the text that show the spiritual condition of the people who come in contact with Jesus. We quickly find out that having faith in God, prior to meeting Jesus, dramatically influences the response people had when they met Jesus.
The monologue in John 5 is a long answer that gives hints and clues into the spiritual condition of His audience. It’s interesting to see how different people responded to Jesus’ transitional gospel.