This past Sunday my pastor preached on John 5 when Jesus heals a lame man at the pool of Bethesda. Not surprisingly, Jesus, in doing good, stirs up trouble for himself. First, he heals on the Sabbath, which upsets the Pharisees, who see this as breaking the Sabbath. Second, he asserts that he is God (cf. v 17-18), which also upsets the Pharisees. I want to focus on the first issue, because it is in fulfilling the Sabbath that Jesus demonstrates that he truly is who he claims to be.
When Jesus says in v 17 that he is doing God’s work, he is telling us that doing good on the Sabbath is not breaking the Sabbath but is actually the truest expression of the Sabbath. Rest as relief from the effects of the fall (e.g., sin and sickness) is what the Sabbath is all about. Hence Jesus says, “my Father has been working until now.” Jesus says deliverance from affliction and sin is the work God is doing as an expression of the Sabbath, and, therefore, he is doing the same. Our hope is that Christ will complete this work of redemption, and we will enter into that full and final rest in glory.