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.
(John 5:16-18 NIV)
The Apostle John continues his narrative in verses 16 through 18, giving us the background of the situation and setting the context to understand Jesus’ discourse that starts in verse 19 and continues through verse 47. We will tackle John’s narrative today.
John transitions the story from Jesus healing the lame man to the interaction between Jesus and the Jewish leaders. The Jewish leaders were concerned that Jesus was breaking the Sabbath by healing the man and by telling the man he should pick up his bed and walk. Obviously, Jesus would not violate His Sabbath laws outlined in the Old Testament. But the Jewish leaders had added their spin to God’s laws and soon gave their tradition more emphasis than God’s Word. Jesus obeyed God’s Word; the Jewish leaders tried to follow their tradition. And thus, the conflict was formed.
In verse 18, John tells us that the Jewish leaders sought to kill Jesus for disobeying their traditions, and for making Himself equal with God.
Notice Jesus’ natural defense in verse 17: “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” Jesus watched His Father working, and He did the same.
So what was Jesus’ work? To glorify His Father in heaven. Did Jesus cross the line by telling the lame man to pick up his bed and walk? Not at all. Jesus’ command was to be a testimony of God’s healing power, not a burden to bear. This miracle demonstrated the goodness and kindness of God. Healing on a Sabbath was to be a cause for giving praise to God, which was what God wanted the Sabbath day to be – a day of worship.
Growing up on a farm, I loved being outside with my dad. I loved tagging along with him everywhere he went and in everything he did. As a grade school kid, I obviously could not do all the things that he did as an adult – he was much bigger and stronger. But my size and youth did not stop me from participating in the work and feeling accomplishment.
My dad would find jobs that I could do to help out and be a part of the activity taking place. Farming in those days was quite labor intensive, and there were normally others around (either family, friends, other farmers, hired farmhands, etc.) to get the work done. Farming was a community effort. Like many other professions, farming was best taught and learned by one person modeling the work and others practicing the same. Growth came from life-on-life example and time together in community.
Growth occurred not only in occupation but also in character. Hard work, kindness, perseverance, faith, love, and patience were just a few of the character qualities that were passed down from the older to the younger.
Jesus set the example of life-on-life teaching and discipleship during His three years of ministry. He did life with His followers and taught them by word and example. And we are called to do the same – to do life with others around us – the good, the bad, the in-between – teaching others how to follow Christ. It does not mean that we have it all together, but that we model what we know to others younger in the faith, and learn from others older in the faith – not in isolation, but in community.
Who is your “Paul” – the one(s) you spend time with and learn from by spending time with them?
Who is your “Timothy” – the one(s) you pour your life into by spending time with them?
Life is meant to be lived in community, to be passed along by giving it away. May you experience the joy of both receiving and giving spiritual life in your community.