Easter has come and gone, but I hope you all will remember throughout the year that Christ is risen. If we have new readers that are staying with us after this weekend through hearing about us at Slipstream, welcome aboard. Right now, we’ve been going through the Bible for clues to understanding the doctrine of the Trinity. Right now, we’re in the New Testament and in the gospel of John.
In John 5, a miracle takes place in that Christ heals a man who had been paralyzed for thirty-eight years and was waiting by a pool for a healing. Jesus tells him to take up his mat and walk. This gets him into some trouble with the religious leaders of the day as the day the man was healed was a Sabbath. It was forbidden to carry a mat on the Sabbath as that would count as carrying a weight. Before too long, the authorities find out Jesus had told him to do such so now they come to challenge him. Let’s see the first part of what is said in John 5:16-18.
16So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. 17Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” 18For 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.
Jesus did not deny that he was “working” on the Sabbath. However, in response to the Jews, he claimed that his Father was always working on the Sabbath and that he was working too. To the Jewish mind at the time, this was tantamount to claiming to be deity.
It’s important when we realize this to also realize that while in a modern American culture, the way to claim to be God would be to step out and say “I’m God.” That wasn’t the way that Jesus would say it in an honor-shame culture. We often have this mindest that if Jesus did not come out and explicitly claim deity by our understanding, then he never did. Jesus did explicitly claim deity, but it was most often done by Jewish understanding and not ours.
Where did they get this idea that he was claiming deity? Jesus said his Father was always working. Who would it be that was working on the Sabbath? It would be God, as he is at work in providence sustaining the creation. Just as God is at work, Jesus claims that he is also at work. In essence, Jesus is claiming to be a co-laborer right alongside God.
Note that it was in stating his relationship to God that he was making himself out to be God. He never corrects the Jews on this in this whole exchange either. He never states something along the lines of “You are misunderstanding me.” Instead, he keeps going.
This dialogue has a lot in it and so we will spend quite a bit of time on it. Tonight, we will leave it at the point that Jesus sees himself as working alongside God and is justified in working as God is always working. Also, Jesus sees himself in a unique relationship to the Father that points to his unique status.