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John 5(2a)

February 11th, 2018
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Last week we saw Jesus has healed a man who had been an invalid for 38 years. But he did it on the Sabbath day!

John 5;15-17

15 The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.
16 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him.

They were the guardians of the Sabbath. They had the authority over holy matters. They determined what is appropriate or not.

The Temple authorities they control what is holy or not suitable in coming before God. This can lead to being very right in the prescriptions of the faith and has the danger of making people secondary to the religious authority.

We can strain at gnats and swallow camels.

They were forgetting a man had been healed after 38 years of hopeless suffering. Oh but he could have waited until the next day! Jesus had told a man to pick up his mat and walk on the Sabbath. Don’t rejoice over the healing – look for the technicality he has broken.

Religion can distort our knowledge of God. The God of freely given grace becomes contractual. If you do this I do that. And so we live in fear of breaking some rule rather than seeing who God really is towards us.

You could think worship was about us. How well we do it. But it is about the God revealed in Jesus Christ. He is worthy of our praise and trust because of who he is.

The Sabbath was not primarily about how well people observe it. It was about God and what they are remembering about him. What did Jesus want people of his day to learn about God from the Sabbath?

Listen to his defence.

17 In his defence Jesus said to them, ‘My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.’

Lets reflect on the context of the discussion.

It is the Sabbath. As originally given it was to celebrate the end of God’s work of creation. That’s how it is stated in the 10 commandments in Exodus 20.

The Israelites rested like God after the 6 days of creation. What a blessing not to be a slave people working 24/7.
After the punishment of exile into Babylon the Jewish teachers constructed very elaborate rules about this rest. This was to make sure they didn’t become guilty again of breaking their covenant with God. They had a religious zeal for God, but without the knowledge what the whole thing was about. Their response to Jesus who was the very fulfillment of the law – its very purpose, showed this.

But there is another wording of the Sabbath command which we can overlooked in this story. It is how the Sabbath is restated before Israel entered the promised land

In Deuteronomy 5:15

15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.

There are two major things here to think about.

The Sabbath here pictured God rescuing people from bondage. Thus Jesus argues from this idea of salvation work.

We have Jesus just seen rescuing an invalid of 38 years. This pictures salvation. He is rescued from what held him prisoner. He was powerless to save himself from his infirmity. But notice how Jesus warns him about sinning. This points to a greater healing. A greater deliverance. A greater rescue.

But Jesus is also making a very important point about his Father and himself and the work they are doing.

Genesis 2:1-2

1 Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.
2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.

So what is this other point Jesus is making?

My Father and I created a very good world, a paradise, and then we rested. Not that we were tired, but we stepped back as it were and enjoy the perfect display of our own glory revealed in our creative handiwork. That’s what Sabbath is for—the restful, focused, enjoyment of God and the beauty of his creation.

But then sin entered the world, and through sin came sickness and tragedy and death. And from that moment, my Father and I have been working again. We have been working—in many ways that you don’t understand—to restore a Sabbath paradise to the universe. We have been working to overcome sin and sickness and death.

Even your own law, which contains the Sabbath command, was part of our working to conquer sin and hold back the miseries of unrighteousness. It pointed you forward to a Messiah, a Saviour, who would come and perform the decisive acts of healing and change toward the new heavens and the new earth. The Sabbath was pointing to the rest we would have in this Messiah.

Jesus is saying “When I heal a man, and intentionally do it on the Sabbath, I am showing you something about myself. What was happening at the pool of Bethesda was that my Father and I were revealing the world that is coming. It is a world in which there will be no sickness and a world in which there will be no sin. My Father is working until now, and I am working.”

Isn’t that a wonderful thought. God’s work today is our salvation. The physical world is sustained but its is effectively completed with all the wisdom and freedom God gave it to function.

So when you look at the wonders that science keeps discovering, all of this was completed. The recent Australian of the year is working in quantum physics and seeking to apply this knowledge of how things work at this level to computers. But it is already there working. We don’t create this knowledge – we discover it and learn to work with it.

But Jesus is saying God didn’t retire. He didn’t just walk away from his creation to be no longer involved. His greatest and most difficult work was still to be done.

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