Today’s passage is John 5:10-18. For context we’ll start by looking at verse 9. Let’s go!
John 5:9-10 (NIV) 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10 and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”
On verses 9-10: In the Ten Commandments, God commanded His people to honour the Sabbath day by resting and not doing work on that day (Exodus 20:8-9). The religious elite among the Jews would interpret this command in an extreme and overly strict way, such that they considered carrying one’s mat from one place to another on a Sabbath day to be a violation of the command to honour the Sabbath day. By focusing on these technicalities, the religious elite missed the purpose and heart of God’s commands. All of a sudden, a command that was meant to bring joy, refreshing and rest became a burden.
What can we learn from this? When thinking about the details, don’t lose sight of the big picture. When thinking about how to apply God’s commands, don’t lose sight of why God gave us those commands in the first place.
John 5:11-13 (NIV) 11 But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.'” 12 So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?” 13 The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.
On verses 11-13: Both the healed man and the religious elite had no idea who Jesus was, but their views of him were already very different. For the healed man, Jesus was “the man who made me well” (v11). For the religious elite, Jesus was a fellow who told a disabled man to pick up his mat and walk (v12) and in so doing violated their interpretation of Sabbath day laws. In thinking this way, the religious elite among the Jews ignored the tremendous miracle that took place and focused only on what they considered to be a technical violation of the law. Here is a classic example of the religious elite focusing so much on technicalities that they missed the heart of God.
John 5:14a (NIV) 14 Later Jesus found him at the temple…
On verse 14a: The fact that Jesus found the once disabled, now healed man at the temple is significant. That is because there was a law that stated anyone who was lame or crippled was not allowed to enter the temple and offer sacrifices to God (see Leviticus 21:16-20). Thus upon receiving his healing from Jesus, one of the first places this formerly crippled man goes is to the temple.
What can we learn from this? Like the crippled man, all of us at one time were disqualified from entering God’s presence. The disability that disqualified us was our sin, our inability to do everything that God commands us to do. But just as Jesus healed the disabled man and made him whole, so Jesus would heal us, restore us and make us whole through his death on the cross and his resurrection from the grave. By trusting in Jesus’ perfect sacrifice for our sins, we are forgiven, declared righteous in God’s sight, spiritually restored and made whole, and can enter the temple of God’s presence once again. As Isaiah 53:5 says, “by his wounds, we are healed”.
John 5:14b (NIV) …and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”
On verse 14b: The reason God gives us His commands and warns us against sin is not to short circuit our happiness. God gives us His commands not to serve as prison bars that limit our freedom but more like guardrails on a highway that protect us and keep us from falling into a ditch. God knows that in the end sin destroys us and makes us miserable. Thus it is out of love that Jesus says to the man – not as a threat but as a gentle warning – “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”
John 5:15-18 (NIV) 15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. 16 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.
On verses 15-18: Upon finding out that the man who said “Pick up your mat and walk” was Jesus, the religious elite among the Jews begin to persecute Jesus as a Sabbath violator (v15-16). Yet in verses 17-18, the religious elite find another reason that makes them want to persecute and kill Jesus. By referring to God as his Father (not in a general sense but claiming a special relationship with God), Jesus was – in the minds of the religious elite – also committing blasphemy, that is, making false statements about God. As Professor Edwin Blum from the Bible Knowledge Commentary explains:
“To them [the religious elite], God has no equals. Jesus’ claim, in their thinking, was a monstrous blasphemy. To be equal with God suggested, they thought, two gods and therefore polytheism. To make oneself ‘equal with God’ was a claim of arrogant independence.” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty.)
Of course, Jesus was not claiming to be an alternative to God or another god. He was claiming to be both God Himself and the Son of God. In this way Jesus was – at the same time – both equal to and subordinate to the Father. Jesus will explain his relationship to the Father further in the verses that follow.
Lord Jesus, thank You that by Your wounds we are healed. Before we were disqualified from entering the temple of God’s presence, but through Your precious blood shed on the cross, our sins are forgiven, our condition which disqualified us is removed, and we can enter Your presence freely because of You. Today may I not get so caught up in the details and minutiae of my situation that I miss the big picture and miss Your heart. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!