17 March 2010

John 5:17-30

"Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgement, but has passed from death to life." (v.24)


These verses are apparently Jesus' own commentary on his part in the dramatic acts of healing carried out on the Sabbath day of rest. They make it apparent that the offence given by his actions, in the eyes of the religious leaders of the day, was less about the healing than it was about unacceptable actions on the Sabbath, and daring to call God his father. The words of Jesus, offered by John as commentary, make it clear that he sees these dramatic events as signs of God's activity, rather than an opportunity to bask in his own glory.

This passage was written with the benefit of hindsight with regard to the fuller picture of Jesus' life, death and resurrection, and the emerging communities of Christian believers. The theological and poetic statement of the shared life and experience of God the Father and God the Son point to the revelation of unique truths in the actions and person of Jesus. These verses in turn point us towards the later, more developed theological understanding of Trinity: God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

This theological reflection makes it clear that hearing, believing and acting are indivisible - both in the person of God and in the life of faith for Christian believers. Just as Jesus' own actions point to God's life working within him, the challenge is for our own words and actions similarly to be a testimony to God's loving nature working in and through us.

To Ponder

How do the words and actions of Jesus, as portrayed in the Gospel stories of about healing, illumine your understanding of 'God the Father'?

Many contemporary thinkers, from religious and from no faith backgrounds, recognise the value of a weekly rhythm of life that includes times of rest and recreation (eg Sabbath). How might we cherish that ideal for ourselves, yet guard against it becoming a day bound by prohibitions?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Liz Smith

Liz is currently chair of the Leeds Methodist District. She has conducted research into the Church as a learning community, with particular reference to the experience of women.