How often do we get upset because God doesn’t fit into our box or our expectations or our rules? Jesus worked a miracle. A man paralyzed for 38 years was suddenly, wonderfully, miraculously healed. But let’s give the initial street response a bit of a break. The Jewish folk that questioned why the man was carrying his mat probably didn’t know his long history. Only that he was breaking the Sabbath rules about carrying something. But after that, once the man explained what had happed, there should have been joy, wonder, maybe even worship. None of those are on display in John’s account. Jesus was instead persecuted, and His life threatened (John 5:16, 18) because He dared to challenge their God box.
In John 5:19-47, Jesus provides a defense for who He is and why we does what He does. For space sake, I won’t publish the verses, so please take the time to read them. In His defense, Jesus tells us “for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.” Does God heal on the Sabbath? Of course, He does. If we hold that all healing ultimately comes from God, it is obvious that God the Father heals on the Sabbath. People do get better no matter what day it is.
Another line of defense is that God has given power and authority to Jesus over judgment, death, and life. A fact that will ultimately be proven at the end of the age when the dead will rise to life again. While not bluntly said, all this adds up to Jesus being equal with God. Now, that totally blew up the Jewish God box and remains a stumbling block for them to this day.
As the third line of defense, Jesus provides a series of “character” witnesses. Verses 33-35 presents John the Baptist’s testimony. Jesus’ actions are offered as a witness in verse 36. The testimony of God the Father is mentioned in verses 37-38. And lastly, that of scripture itself in verses 39-40.
Near the end of the section, Jesus turns the tables and becomes the prosecutor. His first accusation involves glory and their echo chamber of mutually assured agreement. Jesus said, “I do not receive glory from men; but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves. “I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him. “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?” (John 5:41–44, NASB95) We tend to do the exact same thing. Seeking glory from one another instead of reflecting and reveling in God’s glory. That echo chamber of mutually assured agreement can really fool us into believing we’re okay – even though we’re not.
Jesus’ second accusation strikes at the root of those accusing Him, “Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” (John 5:45–47, NASB95) Keep in mind that common refrain of those persecuting Jesus was, “Moses says… or the Torah says…” Yet, in their zeal, they overemphasized some proscriptions while minimizing others. Matthew’s record of the Sermon on the Mount contains several times where Jesus redirected the common understanding of Jewish Law with “you have heard it said, but I say” statements. All of which sharpened the focus from outward action to inward reality.
Over my years of following Jesus, God has steadily but persistently blown up the boxes I created for Him. God is always surprising me. He has, over time, widened my view of grace, removed barriers in the way of His love, dialed back the “have to’s,” and increased the number of “want to’s.” It all comes down to knowing Jesus and desiring to do what I see Him doing – Just like Jesus only did what He saw the Father do. How about you? Are you still trying to keep God in your boxes?