Did you know Jesus was a law-breaker? In fact, he broke the law so much, it got him in big trouble.
In the previous post about John 5, verse 16, we read that the religious leaders are persecuting Jesus. When you read that word, “persecute,” don’t think of it as extreme. They’re not whipping him, throwing him in jail, or doing any kind of bodily harm, at last not yet. Yes, we know that day will come. For now, though, this word “persecute” refers to them hounding him. Following him. Confronting him. The religious leaders are trying to shame him and knock him down a few pegs in the eyes of the people.
You can read the numerous times in the other Gospel accounts where the religious leaders challenge Jesus, sometimes demanding he provide authentication of his authority. Sometimes they try to beat him at Bible trivia or in a theology duel. Over and over again, Jesus bests them at their game, often leaving them humiliated and fuming.
Guess what he says to them this time, here in John 5? Look at verse 17.
“Jesus said to them, ‘My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working’.”
With that, Jesus drops a nuclear bomb into the situation. He’s not trying to placate them at all. He’s not saying, “Guys, we can work can this out. Let’s sit down and talk and try to understand each other.” No. Nothing like that. Jesus just says exactly what is happening. Blunt, unfiltered, truth.
Keep in mind that the religious leaders’ major issue with Jesus is that, according to their laws, he was working on the Sabbath. To that accusation, Jesus says, “Well, my Father is always at work, to this very day, and I, too, am working.” He is not in the least concerned about their definition of work. He just straight up says it, “Yes, I am working, just like my father, who is also working.”
That was bold. Jesus was flaunting working on the Sabbath, and he was doing it in their face. That kind of disrespect of their laws and viewpoints made the religious leaders really upset. More than likely, it was not a private conversation. Jesus many times talked like this to the religious leaders in earshot of a crowd of people. People who were wide-eyed in their wonder at this man who was not only a miracle worker, but who also authoritatively, bravely, and courageously defied some of the most powerful people in the land. I bet the crowd loved seeing those haughty, arrogant, hypocritical leaders cut down to size.
I bet those religious leaders were seething. But Jesus in that one statement has gone farther than it first might seem. He has not only challenged the religious leaders about working on the Sabbath, saying, “Yeah, I am working on the Sabbath,” he also said that his Father is working on the sabbath. His father? Is he talking about his earthly adopted father, Joseph? No. Actually, Joseph never appears in the Gospels during Jesus’ adult years, likely meaning that Joseph had passed away by then. Even without that detail, the religious leaders know that Jesus is talking about God, as if God is his Father, and that was too much for them. Look at verse 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.”
Those religious leaders knew exactly what Jesus was saying. That he is equal with God. Jesus is saying that he himself is God. God in the flesh. At Christmas we sing “Emmanuel,” which means “God with us.” That’s what Jesus is. We believe that Jesus is God. We believe that God is a Trinity, three in one. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. All are equal. All God. Not three different gods. Only one God, with three equal persons that together are one. Tri-Unity. Three in one.
The religious leaders couldn’t stomach this. This man standing before them calling himself God? That’s blasphemy in their minds. Blasphemy is the sin of profaning God. Sacrilege.
Those religious leaders viewed Jesus just did that. The punishment for blasphemy? Death. Clearly, Jesus is in a very precarious position. Some of the most powerful leaders in the land want to kill him on what they believe are justifiable grounds. What will Jesus do? Get out of their fast?
We’ll find out in the next post.