As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.(John 9:4)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Breaking the Sabbath???

John 5:16-23 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. 17 Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working." 18 For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. 19 Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.

To understand what things Jesus were doing on the Sabbath, we need to read the passage before it, verses 1-16. Jesus’ response to the Jews opposition was after he healed a man who was paralyzed for 38 years- which could be just one instance of recorded "things" that Jesus did. After the man was healed and began to walk while carrying his mat, the Jewish leaders objected him since he was ‘working’ on the Sabbath. But then they discovered something else- Jesus was the culprit who healed this man, so they forgot completely about the man and moved on to attacking Jesus, found here in verse 16.

Why do they attack Jesus and completely forgotten the incredible miracle He performed?

According to Gen 2:2-3, on the seventh day of creation week God rested from his creative work. Now think for a moment. Does God, then, keep the Sabbath law? He rested right? Summore, he gave the command for others to treat Sabbath as a holy day. If your answer is no, God does not rest, does not God himself become a law-breaker? But if you answer yes, he observes Sabbath, who keeps the universe in running order while he rests? There are many differing opinions offered all throughout the centuries. Philo denies that God has ever ceased his work of creation. The Rabbis also concurred that God works on Sabbath, if not, the world would have gone haywire and went on to say that God did not break the Sabbath law although he works non-stop because the entire universe was his domain (Isa 6:3) and the law is below Him.

Whether he breaks the Sabbath or not, God works continuously: all were agreed on that point. I believe God merely cease from his 'creator' job, but not his providence responsibilities. He still governs the universe we live in, and he works privately in the souls of men and women (and even nations!) to direct the course of their lives. It's similar to saying although God was silent for 400 years in between the OT and NT books (as if he's out of the sphere of the world), he is not silent as in He's there all the time, caring for a sick child, answering the prayer of a crippled etc... this silence must be understood as the famine of words from the Lord to His people as a nation.

Assuming it, Jesus applies it to himself in verse 17 "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working." Make no mistake; the Jews who heard of this would know the implication that goes with this statement… for to have this self-defense to be valid, the same factors that apply to God must apply to Jesus. Jesus in essence is saying either he is above the law given to mere mortals, or, if he operates within the law, it is because the entire universe is his.

Notice that Jesus here did not argue, as he might have that the Jews’ interpretation of the Sabbath was incorrect. You see when God prohibits Sabbath to be a working day for His people, he was referring to ‘work’ that is normally done the other 6 days of the week and therefore, does not apply to ‘work’ done by Jesus in healing a man, and the man who carried his mat home after a miraculous cure! Why doesn’t it apply? Because the man din carry his mat everyday as his normal work! So the Jews were wrong in their diagnosis of what consists of ‘work’ and ‘Sabbath’. (as Carson)

Whatever factors justify God’s continuous work from creation on also justify his actions- simply because Jesus is God. So the Jews form being offended with Jesus breaking Sabbath, they move on being indignant that Jesus made himself at par with God (verse 18). Just as the fact that the son of man is the Lord of the Sabbath (Mar 2:23-28) can be used to defend the actions of Jesus’ disciples, so the fact that He is the Son of the Father can defend his actions to heal as well. This is a verse that speaks of deity of Christ, one of the main themes of John’s gospel. Jesus explained he healed on the Sabbath because of His unique relationship with his Father.


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