Thursday

25 April 2019

John 5:19-29

'Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.' (v. 19)

Psalm: Psalm 8

Background

The Gospel of John both reveals and conceals its message as the story of Jesus unfolds. In almost every chapter, truths are discovered and meanings revealed, yet at the same time many things continue to be hidden and concealed. People are distinguished by what they know. They become insiders and outsiders to the story of God revealed in Christ.

In this passage, Jesus is yet again in the midst of a controversy as a result of healing on the Sabbath (John 5:1-19). Some of the criticism is directed less at Jesus’ act of healing and more towards the carrying of a mat on the Sabbath by the healed man (v. 10). There is something deeply human about the reaction of the healed man who quickly denies responsibility and informs his accusers, "The man who made me well said to me, take up your mat and walk" (v. 11). It transpires on further questioning that this man doesn’t actually know, at this point, who healed him; an example of the concealing and hiddenness often found in John’s gospel. Curiously, it seems the man does not display faith in Jesus nor does his healing appear to lead to faith in Jesus.

In verse 16, Jesus is accused of breaking the law. His response is fascinating: "But Jesus answered them, 'My father is still working, and I am also’" (v. 17). It is these words that provoke a stark response, with threats to kill Jesus, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, he was also claiming to be the Son of God. Jesus defence is that he has not ‘made’ himself anything, only God has made him who he is. It is God who has given Jesus the power to raise the dead and execute judgement and God who enables him to work (5:17), continuing and participating in the creative work of God. Jesus thus claims and demonstrates by his actions (5:1-9) that he can draw on God’s power, something Thomas also vividly proclaims in John 20:28, "My Lord and my God."

Indeed, chapter 5 includes several key statements that are explained and illustrated further throughout John’s Gospel. Jesus makes his message clear: he has come to offer a vision of new life for all. His message is radically inclusive, he crosses multiple boundaries and challenges many of the ‘rules’ of his culture. Despite Jesus' message, of course, people of faith have persisted in creating rules and boundaries. What rules and boundaries might God be inviting us to challenge this Easter?

 

To Ponder:

  • What rules and boundaries might need challenging in your own life?
  • What do you make of the claims for Jesus in chapter 5?
  • How do you understand the relationship between Jesus and God?
  • How do you explain the healing of someone who did not appear to even know who Jesus was?

Bible notes author

Deacon Eunice Attwood

Eunice is a Methodist deacon. She is a tutor in Pastoral Theology at the Queen's Foundation in Birmingham, and a member of the Centre for Ministerial Formation since 2012.

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