Summary: A sermon "performed" as a monologue from the first person perspective (Joseph of Arimathea) about Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah in John 5.
[Come in, fully dressed in Jewish costume]
Shalom! Good morning,
My name is Joseph, (but according to your culture, you can call me Joe). I am from Arimathea, a region in the Northwest of Jerusalem . I am a nobleman among the seventy members of the Sanhedrin of Jerusalem, (or Ruling Council in your term). I am here to debrief you about the incident of Yeshua, (or Jesus in your term), who was from Nazareth.
First, what were the problems? Many of you have already been aware that He commanded a peasant to carry his mattress on the Sabbath. This is a serious offense. Our Ten Commandment stated clearly: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” [Ex.20:8-11]
Carry a mattress is breaking the Sabbath; consider how we were supposed to deal with Sabbath-breaker according to the Sacred Law of God in Numbers 15:32-34: “While the Israelites were in the desert, a man was found gathering wood on the Sabbath day. Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and the whole assembly, and they kept him in custody, because it was not clear what should be done to him. Then the Lord said to Moses, ’The man must die. The whole assembly must stone him outside the camp.’ So the assembly took him outside the camp and stoned him to death, as the Lord commanded Moses.”
Now, with the progress of time, we may not be as vicious as back then, for we believe that this specific death penalty was pronounced directly by God in order establish a precedent for us all to follow. Therefore the only thing we can do today, is to confront our Jewish brothers and remind them when we see them breaking God’s Commandments. Often, people were just ignorant of the Law and they didn’t mean to break God’s Commandments; so when we confronted Jesus, we were expecting His quick compliance.
But no; this is how He responded to us, as recorded in the transcript you have, verse 17: “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.”
This is a deadly claim! Immediately after this pronouncement, the Temple Guards went and escalated the matter up and down the authority chain. Any members of the Ruling Council available nearby were heading down to face off with this fellow right away. By the time I got there, there were more than a dozen of us from the Ruling Council surrounded him. On a balcony near by, I saw Caiaphas (the Council President in your term) observing the situation.
Let me explain a bit more about the severity of that statement. It’s not just because the defiance of “Screw you and your rules!” in this fellow’s statement, but something more deadly than that.
Which Father who “is always at his work to this very day”? Our Rabbis taught that God Himself, the Father of Israel, had continued to work since creation, sustaining the world even on the Sabbath. Therefore, when this fellow said, “and I, too, am working”, He claimed to have the authority equaled with our God in order to ignore His commandment!
I could not believe what was going on, so I turned to one of my Council friends I saw there, Mr. Nicodemus (you can call him Nick) and asked, “Were you there when this man mentioned God as, ‘My Father’, are you sure He didn’t say ‘Our Father’”? (We Jewish people regard God as our Father of the whole nation and in a communal sense, but not in a personal sense. Calling God as ‘My Father’ could be interpreted in a wrong way in our culture )
My friend Nick nodded, “Yup, that’s what He said. By the way, this is the same fellow who disrupted the Temple merchants last year Passover. At that time, He also used that same phrase, claiming the God’s Temple as ‘My Father’s House’. What He was saying is that ‘I am equaled to God!’”
I and other Council Members all shook our head. This man was asking for a death sentence. Leviticus 24:16 stated clearly, “anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord must be put to death. The entire assembly must stone him. Whether an alien or native-born, when he blasphemes the Name, he must be put to death.” In that same chapter the ancient Israelites stoned a man to death for cursing God; later on under King Ahab’s reign, Naboth was sentenced to death for charge of blasphemy [1 Kings 21]; and today our Ruling Council could hand out death sentence to people who blaspheme again our God (by special agreement with the Romans)!