Once again Jesus had riled up the Jewish leaders simply by giving a man the ability to pick up his mat and walk as they started questioning His authority. Across the Gospels, we see Jesus regularly getting into heated discussions with the pharisees about the purpose of the Sabbath and whether supernatural acts of healing or basic necessities of picking up the fallen grains to feed oneself fall under the prohibitions of the holy day.
Sabbath for Man
Part of the ten commandments that were given to Moses on the mountain, the first mention of the Sabbath in the old testament (Exodus 16) was right after the Israelites escaped from Egypt and were desperate for food. The lord was providing them with manna and quail each day and they were to gather twice as much on the sixth day in order to have enough for the next day, the Sabbath, which was their rest day. The old testament laws concerning the Sabbath were straight forward and called for the death penalty for the offenders.
For six days work is to be done, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day is to be put to death.Exodus 31:15
In fact , in the book of Numbers, we read about a man who was stoned to death because he was gathering sticks on the Sabbath (Numbers 15:32-36) and perhaps that is the reason for the anger of the pharisees when Jesus asked the man to carry his mat on Sabbath.
“My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.”John 5:17
God never rests and never stops working. If he stops working our lives would be very different as we would be scrambling to survive. The Israelites could afford to rest on the first Sabbath because God had provided for them in the form of manna and quail for heaven. He constantly provided for them when they were in the wilderness. The ones who would stock up on food or gather sticks even after God’s provision did not trust Him and faced the consequences. While man was in the Garden, he was in perpetual rest as he did not need to work and was able to spend his evenings communing with God every day. But when we were kicked out of the Garden because of our sins, we had to work to survive. Among the hustle and bustle of our work-lives, a day of rest was provided by God as man was not able to commune with him every day. Sabbath was made for man as a concession. However, now that Jesus is residing in our hearts we do not need a concessionary day to commune with Him as He is with us always. The pharisees wanted to restrain God to the temple altar and did not allow Him to enter their hearts. Like the pharisees many of us are also content with our modern-day sabbaths and restrict God to the altar of our churches. Just like Sabbath was made for Man and not the other way round, the church was made for God and not the opposite.
The Authority of the Son
There are no secrets between the Father and the Son and Jesus has extended that connection to us (John 15:15). The raising of the dead and the healing of souls were possible for Jesus because He has the ultimate authority given to Him by the Father.
the Father judges no one but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father.John 5:22-23
All judgment depends on whether we chose to accept Jesus as the Son sent by the Father to die for our sins. If our faith is in on Christ then we will not be judged as He and the Father are one. But whoever does not honour Jesus does not honour God. The pharisees thought they were faithful to God even while they were actively plotting to kill His Son.
Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.John 5:24
Testimonies about the Son
For those who challenged Jesus’ authority, Jesus presented the testimonies of three different people. Starting with John’s testimony whom the Jewish leaders rejected, Jesus confirmed his testimony as true. John the Baptist was probably beheaded at this point as Jesus refers to him in the past tense.
John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.John 5:35
Jesus gave them a testimony much weightier than John’s, the word of God. He kept reminding the pharisees about the scriptures that pointed to the coming of the Messiah. But the pharisees were blinded by the prince of the world and did not want to see the truth that was standing in front of them. They had studied the scriptures diligently all their lives but had not experienced God or His works.
You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent.John 5:37-38
The Jews depended on the laws for their salvation and not on God. By their own admission they had made Moses the prosecutor of all who did not obey the law to the letter. Just like the women at the well who idolized Jacob, this was another form of hero worship as the pharisees had idolized Moses even to the extent that they followed his laws more than what God gave them. The pharisees paid more attention to the glory and praises they received from their peers and not from God. They valued the testimony of Moses more than that of God itself. They idolized the heroes of Israel like David and Solomon who built their temple but did not want to believe in the God who empowered these men. The Pharisees wanted signs from Jesus and when He did perform miracles they wanted to trap him with ancient laws made for the benefit of man and not to bound anyone from doing Gods work. In our lives, are we following the letter of the law and not the spirit?
- V16: Is Jesus rolling back the Sabbath Laws?
- V22: We have been told that God will Judge as all, but how has Jesus been given this authority?
- V45: How is Moses the accuser of Israel?
- V46: Jesus said that He does not accept any man’s testimony then why did He bring up Moses’ testimony about the Messiah?
- Summary – In our lives, how are we following the letter of the law and not the spirit?