John 5:14-18. Betrayal in the Temple

John 5:14    Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.

John 5:16    So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him.  17 In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” 18 For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

In the first part of John 5, Jesus heals the paralysed man and sends him off carrying his bed like a walking billboard, thereby declaring loudly that he was breaking the sabbath code. The difficulty for the man was that Jesus had slipped away into the crowd: now he has no one to point the finger at. The one responsible for his law-breaking was also the one responsible for his healing.

But now in verse 14 Jesus seeks the healed man out in the temple. Jesus’ warning to him  comes to us as a surprise— he implies that, in some way, the man’s paralysis was caused by sin. As a result of the fall, there is an association between sin and sickness throughout the bible. Sickness heralds the results of sin: death. And yet Jesus himself says that not all disease or disability is directly linked to a particular sin. See Jn 9:1-3. Instead, there is a more general causality: sin brings death, disease is a precursor to death; therefore sin may lead to disease before it leads to death.

We are not usually in a position to know if a certain sin has led to a particular disease. So for us, if some sickness gets our attention, there is wisdom in examining our own hearts before God and confessing any sins he reveals.

Meanwhile back at the Temple, Jesus does identify that the man’s paralysis was somehow connected to a particular sin (perhaps the sin of unbelief?) and so he’d better stop sinning before something else happens to him. But instead of thanking Jesus, the man then decides to dob him in to the Jewish leaders. “Jesus is the one who made me break the sabbath laws! (It’s not my fault!)”

What is Jesus’ response to the claim that he has been defying God by working on the sabbath? In verse 17, he begins with the commonly agreed premise that God’s ongoing work of sustaining and renewing creation continues on the sabbath– God is always at work to this very day, even on the sabbath. So, says Jesus, in concert with his Father, his ‘work’ of healing is part of God’s sabbath activity of renewal. Jesus’ works are God’s own works; the Father at work through him.

The implications of Jesus’ claim are not lost on the Jewish leaders (v18). Jesus’ claim to have God as his Father was now more than merely an extrapolation of the Old Testament idea of being made in the image of God. The Jews understand Jesus’ claim to include that of Divinity itself. In sharing in the work of God, he himself is equal with God; a partner with him. So Jesus is not an accidental Messiah: instead his claims to Divinity and Messiahship were clear throughout his public ministry.

Lord Jesus Christ, you are one with the Father, equal in glory, sharing in his works that sustain and renew all creation. Please daily sustain and renew me by your Spirit, that I might outwardly display your great character to all the world. Amen.