woman in orange jacket sitting beside man in black suit

John 5:16 – 18

[New to our exegesis of John’s Gospel? Try starting at The Beginning — see top menu for John 1:1-2].

16 Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus, because he was doing such things on the Sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is still working, and I also am working.” 18 For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the Sabbath but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God.

16 καὶ διὰ τοῦτο ἐδίωκον οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι τὸν Ἰησοῦν ὅτι ταῦτα ἐποίει ἐν σαββάτῳ. 17 ὁ δὲ ἀπεκρίνατο αὐτοῖς· Ὁ πατήρ μου ἕως ἄρτι ἐργάζεται κἀγὼ ἐργάζομαι. 18 διὰ τοῦτο οὖν μᾶλλον ἐζήτουν αὐτὸν οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι ἀποκτεῖναι ὅτι οὐ μόνον ἔλυε τὸ σάββατον, ἀλλὰ καὶ πατέρα ἴδιον ἔλεγε τὸν θεόν, ἴσον ἑαυτὸν ποιῶν τῷ θεῷ.

No Time to Rest!

Even though this is the first reported healing on the Sabbath recorded in John, it would not be the last, and there were likely similar sorts of prior episodes as indicated in verse 16. “The Jews” (angry, stern, mean Religious Authorities common to most religions and religion-like institutions) react with hostility — the first mention of serious resistance to him and, in verse 18, the intent to do life threatening harm to him.

But why the really hostile reaction? We know these ancient folks regard Sabbath rules way more than we do — we shop, mow lawns, barbecue, go hiking, play lawn darts — but kill him?

Jesus made reference to his Father who is still working on the Sabbath and, therefore, he also must be. The authorities knew exactly what he was saying.

Genesis says God rested on the seventh day of creation. But the rabbinic/theological tradition of Israel made exceptions to stay theologically logical. While perhaps God wasn’t out and about on Sabbaths creating new universes, Someone had to keep things going in this one. If God truly rested from everything all of life would cease to exist, reasoned the theologians. A baby could not be born, a deceased person could not be received by God, even rain could not happen without the work of God, and these things clearly happened seven days a week.

Therefore, God didn’t rest on the Sabbath. And now Jesus makes crystal clear, the most obvious statement yet from the mouth of Jesus in John, that he is divine, because he also works on the Sabbath.

The reaction is swift! This claim didn’t get lost on the robed-up, puffed-up authorities. They viewed Jesus’ words as equal to the sin of Adam who tried to be “like God” (Gen. 3:5-6).

A sin that deserves death.

The plot begins to thicken. The more good Jesus does, the greater the resistance.

Why should it be different for us?