Summary: #16 in series. Jesus defends himself against charges of violating the Sabbath by making three extraordinary claims about who He is.
A Study of the Book of John
“That You May Believe”
Sermon # 16
“The Claims of Jesus”
In his book, “Loving God,” Charles Colson tells about a Russian Jewish doctor by the name of Boris Nicholayevich Kornfeld, a Russian Jewish doctor who was sentenced to a most inhuman Russian prison for a minor political crime in the 1950s. Because he was a physician he did receive some privileges in the prison in return for treating other prisoners. Still he suffered much abuse. His treatment would have in fact been unbearable except that he developed a friendship with another prisoner who through the quality of his witness brought Kornfeld a commitment to Christ.
Kornfeld felt a great inner freedom. He had a patient, a cancer patient, who was awaiting surgery. Kornfeld shared with him what Christ had done in his own life. Kornfeld was so enthusiastic about this change in his own life, that he caught the patient’s attention in spite of his brief lapses brought on by the medicine. Late into the night, the doctor stayed with his patient, sharing with him the unsearchable riches of Christ. Later that night someone slipped into the doctor’s quarters and brutally beat him to death. From a human standpoint that should be the end of the story, but, it is not.
The patient recovered from his surgery, but he was a changed man. Because of Kornfeld’s testimony, he became a Christian--and what a Christian he became. His name--Alexander Solzhenitszyn, who not only won the Nobel prize for Literature in 1970, but even more importantly became one of the world’s most influential voices for Christ.
Kornfeld and Solzhenitsyn both learned that the claims of Christ were never meant to merely become another piece of jewelry or become something to adorn our car bumpers. The claims of Christ were always meant to make radical changes in the lives of those around us; changes as radical as the claims themselves found in John chapter five.
Earlier in Chapter five Jesus has healed the lame man on the Sabbath (5:8-9) and the religious leaders are incensed because the Sabbath has been violated. As we observed in the previous sermon, the religious leaders are not concerned about the lame man – they do no even acknowledge that he has been healed – let alone rejoice over it. Their only concern is that the rules concerning the Sabbath have been broken. After determining that Jesus was the one who healed the man, the religious leaders confront Jesus about violating the Sabbath, He replied in verse seventeen, that He was only doing what the Father was doing. “But Jesus answered them, "My Father has been working until now, and I have been working." (18) Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.”
Jesus defends His actions by pointing out that He is mere imitating His father. Jesus states that God’s creative and sustaining work upon which the world depends has never ceased nor will it. He says, “My Father is working and I am working too!”
The Jews immediately grasp what he was saying. Jesus is stating He is equal with God. The religious leaders did not reject Christ because they did not understand who he claimed to be, they understood perfectly, and rejected him because of these claims. The religious leaders changed their charge against Jesus from “breaking the Sabbath” to “blasphemy” because Jesus claimed to be God. Liberal theologians who claim that Jesus never claimed to be God have to skip right over passages like this one.
Notice that John does not tell us that from this point on the Jewish authorities are trying to kill Jesus, it says for this reason “the Jews were trying even harder to kill Him.” The authorities have already determined that he must be put to death. This incident only provided them with added incentive for doing it as soon as possible.
In response to the challenge by the religious leaders Jesus makes three claims about who He is.
First, Jesus Claims Equality With The Father. - He Is The Son Of God. (5:19-20)
“Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. (20) For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel.”
The first statement that Jesus makes is an assertion that everything that the God the Father does, He does, and everything He does is also done by the Father. The only possible conclusion is not lost on the religious leaders and is that Jesus is claiming to be God.