Even on the Sabbath!
Soon another Feast came around and Jesus was back in Jerusalem. Near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem there was a pool, in Hebrew called Bethesda, with five alcoves. Hundreds of sick people—blind, crippled, paralyzed—were in these alcoves. One man had been an invalid there for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him stretched out by the pool and knew how long he had been there, he said, "Do you want to get well?"
The sick man said, "Sir, when the water is stirred, I don't have anybody to put me in the pool. By the time I get there, somebody else is already in."
Jesus said, "Get up, take your bedroll, start walking." The man was healed on the spot. He picked up his bedroll and walked off.
That day happened to be the Sabbath. The Jews stopped the healed man and said, "It's the Sabbath. You can't carry your bedroll around. It's against the rules."
But he told them, "The man who made me well told me to. He said, 'Take your bedroll and start walking.'"
They asked, "Who gave you the order to take it up and start walking?" But the healed man didn't know, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd.
A little later Jesus found him in the Temple and said, "You look wonderful! You're well! Don't return to a sinning life or something worse might happen."
The man went back and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. That is why the Jews were out to get Jesus—because he did this kind of thing on the Sabbath.
But Jesus defended himself. "My Father is working straight through, even on the Sabbath. So am I."
That really set them off. The Jews were now not only out to expose him; they were out to kill him. Not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was calling God his own Father, putting himself on a level with God. // John 5:1-18, The Message
“My Father is working straight through, even on the Sabbath. So am I.”
Did you catch that?
It jumped off the page to me.
Maybe it’s because I just put the wraps on reading A Church Called Tov by Scot McKnight and Laura Barrington where I was challenged to think about what it means for the church to be “tov” or “good.”
I wonder if we think about this enough. For Jesus, doing good was not “work.” Jesus does “good” throughout his ministry on the Sabbath. If doing good was a breaking of the commandment then he would be sinning. This would of course sideline his whole mission, you know? But doing good on the Sabbath was not breaking the commandment it was merely breaking a social convention.
When we do good we are not working if the doing good is coming from a place of who we are.
Something that is talked often in the context of theology classes is the reality that on the seventh day God rested. That when God declared all things good, God stopped working. Yet, here Jesus is saying that God is working and still working right on through the Sabbath! How could this be? Unless of course doing good is not work.
Perhaps when we are living out of our identity it is something different. I think when we are working out of our identity we are simply being. Jesus in healing the man by the pool was not doing work, he was simply being who he is.
Jesus is good.
Therefore, doing good is not work.
Which of course drives me to a place of introspection. Am I good? Is good a part of my identity? Is goodness something that is true of me? I desperately want it to be, but I’m not entirely sure that it is. Except that by placing my trust in Christ I have been united with Christ in life. This means that who I am is hidden with Christ. Whether or I not I perceive my goodness it is there.
I think inherently we know this. I don’t know anyone that after doing good or living out their goodness thinks, “Man, that was terrible, I hate doing good.”
We might be physically tired or even emotionally tired after doing good but there is a sense of joy, accomplishment, or
satisfaction from doing good. Goodness is part of who we are. Not only from union with Christ but also because we are image bearers of the Divine. I think this is why we see goodness cut across the human experience.
Let us lean into our goodness and in so doing we will do good, even when it challenges cultural norms. Let us do good out of our goodness even when it upsets the pious. Let us do good out of our goodness because it is the very thing that we desire to do.