The Seventeenth in a Series of Sermons on the Gospel of John
You knew it was bound to happen–sooner or later in our series on the Gospel of John we would come to eschatology. As we will see in our text (John 5:19-29), eschatology is a very important theme in John’s Gospel. Through his signs and wonders, Jesus has identified and proven himself to be the redeemer promised throughout the Old Testament. The redemption to be brought about by our Lord extends beyond the salvation of our souls to include the redemption of our bodies. Jesus has clearly identified himself as Israel’s Messiah who has come to do the will of his Father so as to fulfill all righteousness. This is why Jesus works on the Sabbath, because his Father works on the Sabbath. And what the Father does, Jesus does. Now we learn that the Father has given Jesus the power to give new life and raise the dead. And the resurrection of the dead, of course, is at the very heart of Christian eschatology.
As we saw in the first 18 verses of John 5 (our text last time), at some point Jesus left the Galilee region and returned to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. While in Jerusalem and passing by the pools of Bethesda, Jesus instantaneously and miraculously healed a man who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. Sadly, the former invalid showed no gratitude whatsoever at what Jesus had done for him. When the man stood up and carried his bedroll as Jesus commanded him to do, the man was accused of being a law-breaker by the Jewish authorities because he dared to carry his bedroll on the Sabbath. While such an act was not a violation of the biblical commandment to keep the Sabbath as a day of rest unto the Lord, it was a violation of Jewish tradition which identified thirty-nine specific types of work which were supposedly a violation of the Sabbath commandment. Apparently, moving a bedroll on the Sabbath was one of them.
When confronted about his supposed violation of the Sabbath commandment, the former invalid, in turn, directed the Jewish leaders to Jesus. According to John 5:15 and following, “the man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath.” John does not give us any specifics, but based upon the fact that the Jews, apparently, had been persecuting Jesus for some time because he “worked” on the Sabbath, at the very least this implies that the incident reported in the first 18 verses of John 5 was only the latest in a string of heated encounters between Jesus and the Jews over proper Sabbath observance.
We don’t know what the Jews said to Jesus, only what Jesus said to them. We read in verse 17, “but Jesus answered them, `My Father is working until now, and I am working.’” According to the creation account God created for six days and rested on the seventh. The Jews of Jesus’ day understood full well that God worked on the Sabbath because as creator of all things, God also sustained all things. God did not take Saturday off. The work of providence continues 24/7. The Jews understood this point, and this was not even an issue. But in the minds of the Jewish leaders, Jesus was a Sabbath-breaker because he “worked” on the Sabbath in a way which was forbidden according to their tradition. Despite the fact that a man who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years was healed and his life restored to him, the Jews angrily declared of this healing, “it is not lawful.” We read not of a word of praise unto the Lord.
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