Jesus’ defense of His Sabbath practice does not satisfy the Jews. It merely provokes a second charge, that Jesus has made Himself equal with God.
When Jesus defends His life-giving healing on the Sabbath, He is saying that He keeps Sabbath in the same way that God does. The Jews conclude that Jesus considers Himself equal with God (v. 18).
The charges have been made, and in verse 19 the trial begins. Again, Jesus refuses to hedge or back down, and His defence offends as deeply as the original offense of Sabbath-breaking.
Jesus defends Himself by calling witnesses. He operates by the law, which requires that everything be established by two or three witnesses, and calls on five: the Father (v. 32), John the Baptist (vv. 33-35), His own works (v. 36), Scripture (vv. 39-40), and finally Moses Himself (vv. 46-47).
By the end of the trial, however, Jesus completely turns the tables on His opponents and places them on trial. Religious though they are, insistent as they are on conforming to their ideas of Torah, they are spiritually dead. They do not have His word abiding in them (v. 38).
The Scripture are witnesses for Jesus, yet the Jews search the Scriptures and refuse to come to Me, that you might have life (v. 40). They do not have the love of God in them (v. 42). They form a community of mutual admiration, receiving glory from one another rather than glory from the Father (v. 44). Jesus could turn prosecutor and accuse them before the Father, but they are already condemned by Moses (v. 45).
Behind all these manoeuvres, and the point I wish to focus on, is the fact that Jesus does all this in imitation of the Father. Jesus describes His relationship to the Father as a kind of apprenticeship: Just as a father teaches his son a trade, and the son learns by imitating the fathers life, so Jesus has learned to do all He does by watching what the Father does.
He does nothing of Himself but only what He sees the Father doing (v. 19). In particular, the Father gives the Son authority to pass judgement and the power to give life to those who hear and believe His word. Jesus actions in this chapter, in short, are grounded in the work of the Father.
Leave a Reply