Wednesday of Week 4 of Lent – Gospel

Commentary on John 5:17-30

Today’s Gospel follows immediately on yesterday’s story of the healing of the man who was unable to walk by the pool at the Sheep Gate. That passage had ended with the words:

Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus, because he was doing such things on the Sabbath. (John 5:16)

We might point out, as with some other sabbath healings, that there was absolutely no urgency to do the healing on a sabbath for someone who had waited 38 years. It is just another indication of the divine authority with which Jesus works.

Jesus’ reply is direct and unapologetic:

My Father is still working, and I also am working.

Because Genesis speaks of God resting on the seventh day (the origin of the Jewish sabbath), it was disputed whether God was in any way active on the sabbath. Some believed that the creating and conserving work of his creation went on, and others believe that he continued to pass judgement on that day. In any case, Jesus is claiming here the same authority to work on the sabbath as his Father and has the same powers over life and death.

The Jewish leaders are enraged that Jesus speaks of God as his own Father, and they want to kill him. They understand by his words that Jesus is making himself God’s equal. Jesus, far from denying the accusation, only confirms it.

Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own but only what he sees the Father doing, for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.

This saying is taken from the model of an apprentice in a trade. The apprentice son does exactly what his father does. Jesus’ relation to his Father is similar:

The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing, and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished. Indeed, just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomever he wishes.

And, we might add, whenever he wishes. Such giving of life is something that belongs only to God – as does the right to judge, which Jesus says has been delegated to him.

Jesus is the perfect mirror of the Father. The Father is acting in him and through him. He is the Word of God – God speaks and acts directly through him. God’s Word is a creative Word. Jesus, like the Father, is life-giving, a source of life.

The right to judge has been delegated by the Father to the Son. And to refuse to honour the Son is to refuse the same honour to the Father. In everything, Jesus acts only according to the will of his Father and does what his Father wants.

Jesus, then, is the Way – the Way through whom we go to God. For us, there is no other Way. He is God’s Word to us and for us.

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