Read John 5:9-47
9At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, "It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat."
11But he replied, "The man who made me well said to me, 'Pick up your mat and walk.'"
12So they asked him, "Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?"
13The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.
14Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, "See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you." 15The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.
16So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. 17Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working." 18For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
19Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. 21For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.
24"I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. 25I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. 26For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. 27And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
28"Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29and come out — those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. 30By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.
31"If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid. 32There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is valid.
33"You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. 34Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. 35John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.
36"I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me. 37And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, 38nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. 39You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, 40yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
41"I do not accept praise from men, 42but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. 43I have come in my Father's name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. 44How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?
45"But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. 46If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. 47But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?" (NIV)
We continue with the story of the man healed. In this part of the story, we see the problem with religion sometimes. Instead of celebrating that a man who had an incurable disease is cured, we are upset that some “religious” rule has been broken. Now, I believe that when the man found out who cured him, he was more trying to get the Jews off his back than get Jesus in trouble. After all, the punishment for breaking the Sabbath by carrying a load could incur stoning.
The Jews had taken the Sabbath rest to extremes and created many rules and even many loop holes. Even today, they go to great links to both find a loop hole and honor the small Sabbath rules. You can buy an oven today that has a Sabbath setting. In Sabbath Mode, the oven will disable its automatic shut-off function to stay on longer than 12 hours. This means that the oven will stay in a Bake mode until shut off, which will allow you to use the oven for cooking or warming food. It was considered work to turn an oven on. But if the person turned the oven on the night before, they could place a dish in the oven to cook and not violate the Sabbath command for not cooking on the Sabbath. It was rules like this that upset Jesus.
Jesus’ response is that God does not stop working on the Sabbath, so neither does he. This is the essence of verse 19. God continues to show compassion and mercy on the Sabbath, so Jesus sees this and does likewise.
We now move to one of the long discourses of Jesus in John’s Gospel. Now, these words are not necessarily verbatim from Jesus. After all, John is writing some 70 years after Jesus’ death. He remembers what Jesus said and meant and that is what he tries to portray in his Gospel. So, we see that in Jesus’ rebuttal about curing the man, he uses this speech to say emphatically that he is the Son of God, the messiah. He uses language which clearly the Jews would hear as that. He goes back to Isaiah’s image; the blind will see and the lame will walk. He talks about how the dead will rise and hear his voice. Raising the dead was believed to be only something God could do even though we see in the New Testament of Paul praying to bring back some from the dead. But even there, Paul would say it was God who did the act, he was just an instrument.
John’s intent in his Gospel is to show the reader that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah who was prophesized over and over about in the Old Testament.
This passage leaves some questions for us. How do we honor the Sabbath? Is there room for compassion and mercy on the Sabbath? And then ultimately, do we believe that Jesus is the Son of God? Do we hear his voice? Do we see a relationship with Jesus rather than a set of rules? What does that relationship look like?
Blessings and Peace