“For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.’ ”
It was on the Sabbath day that Jesus had healed the paralytic at the Pool of Bethesda. When it became known that Jesus had healed the man and commanded him to carry his bed on the Sabbath the Jewish people became angry, and persecuted, and sought to kill him for his act of sacrilege.
It seems crazy to me that a miracle performed by the power of God would have been considered a violation of the Sabbath by anyone. One would think that they would realize that God would never have given his blessing and power to perform such an action if it was in violation of his law or in any other way contrary to his will.
Perhaps this is, at least in part, part of the point Jesus was trying to make when he answered them with the words, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.”
The Sabbath is God’s day of rest. Following creation week God demonstrated the purpose of the Sabbath by resting on the day with Adam and Eve. In this action he includes himself as a participant in receiving the blessing of the Sabbath. At the same time God is always active providing life, sustaining the order of creation, convicting us by the actions of the Spirit, forgiving our sins, and changing the hearts and minds of all who submit to him.
Some actions that are in our power to perform add to the blessing of rest others are able to receive on the Sabbath. Acts of healing and other ministry to the sick, along with the preaching and teaching ministry of gospel workers, fall into this category.
Jesus in his answer is telling the Jewish people that he’s only doing what he’s seen his Father doing.
Jesus actions and answer don’t give license or permission for us to do whatever we want on the Sabbath. Labor for earthly security or worldly gain is set aside during the Sabbath hours so that the heart can be focused solely on our Heavenly Father and our service given only to his worship and the glory of his name. Easing the suffering of God’s children is part of this rest.
But it’s easy for us to be blind to this reality. The sinful heart finds it easy to be selfish even in its service to God. The pursuit of a Godlike heart and mind must be accompanied by Godly actions, and if it isn’t then even our best attempts at worship fall flat. What’s presented as an offering to God is, like Cain’s offering upon the altar, an act of self worship rather than God worship. If we’re unwilling to be taught our self righteousness becomes injustice as we turn our unrighteousness indignation upon the truly faithful.
O God open our eyes and ears so that we can see you and hear you. Make us willing to follow you and enter with you into your rest.