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John 5 (1) – A Healing, the Sabbath, the Equality of Christ with the Father

July 24, 2007

John 5 is a passage that has interested me the past few days because of the profound account of the relationship of Jesus the Son and God the Father.  The passage that specifically is of interest in John 5 is vv. 17-47.  Here, the passage is primarily a monologue of Jesus describing his actions, thoughts, judgments, and very being in relation to the Father.  This passage has huge implications for the doctrine of the Trinity, the doctrine of Christ, the sonship of Jesus, the deity of Jesus, the authority of Jesus, the resurrection, along with many others.

The passage opens up with the healing of the invalid at the pool called Bethsaida.  Jesus sees the man, who has been sitting by the pool waiting for the opportunity to use its superstitious powers to heal him, and walks up to him and asks him “Do you want to be healed?” (v. 6).  The question is an obvious one.  The man has been sitting by this pool for years in order to be healed.  But the question is not meant to show the obvious longing for healing, but to show the contrast of the superior power of Jesus.  Jesus heals the man and tells him to pick up his bed and walk, and he does.  The problem, however, is that Jesus has told the man to pick up his bed and walk on the Sabbath and the Jews (religious leaders) saw him doing what seemed to be work on the Sabbath and rebuked him.  And when the former invalid told the religious leaders who healed him, they were then angry at Jesus for healing on the Sabbath.

What is interesting about this passage is Jesus’ response.  He could have rebuked the religious leaders for their “fences” around the law of the Sabbath.  You see, the Jews were concerned with what was really “work” on the Sabbath.  What the original concern of the Sabbath was that man should rest from making a profitable gain and dedicate the day to the Lord in rest.  But the tradition of the Jews took it farther and created “fences” around the law in order to keep any one from coming close to breaking the Sabbath.  So traditions like ‘do not carry anything over your head” or “only a certain number of steps” on the Sabbath.  This was to keep anyone from coming close to breaking the Law.  So Jesus could have rebuked the religious leaders for their silly fences and had a debate over what the Sabbath really was and the whole event would not have been a big of scene as it turned out to be.  But Jesus’ response to the religious leaders made the whole event about something greater than the Sabbath.  Jesus responds in verse 17, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”  The Jews then rightly understood that this is no longer about the Sabbath, but about blasphemy.  Verse 18: “This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.”  So the rest of the passage 19-47, Jesus, who now that he has their attention, monologues the profound truth that his claim of equality with God is not blasphemy, but truth and hope for those who would believe in his name.

I would like to spend the next few posts looking at these passages in order to attempt to understand this more clearly.  The person of Christ is of utmost importance to Christians because we have so much at stake in this person.  The personhood of Christ (man and God) is the basis of our redemption.  My desire is that these posts will give joyous hope and greater expectation for those who believe in his name.

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