Lesson 22: John 5:9-18 – The Sabbath Police

by Pastor Ricky Kurth

You're listening to Lesson 22 from the sermon series "The Gospel of John" by Pastor Ricky Kurth. When you're done, explore more sermons from this series.



Carrying your bed on the Sabbath (John 5:10) seems to be an infraction of the 4th commandment, but Jeremiah 17:22 says you couldn’t leave home carrying a burden, and Verse 21 says you couldn’t carry a burden to the gates of the city. Burdens were carried to the gates for business and commerce (Neh.13:15-19). So the man carrying his bed wasn’t guilty of breaking the Sabbath, and the Lord wasn’t guilty of telling a man to break the Law of Moses.

Of course, there was nothing wrong with being a member of the Sabbath Police, for Nehemiah himself was a member (Neh.13:20,21). As long as you were enforcing the Sab-bath and not man-made rules about the Sabbath!

The impotent man didn’t explain who he was, so the Sabbath Police must have known that he’d been healed after 38 years as an invalid. Thus they should have asked who healed him, instead of giving him grief for carrying his bed. But Sabbath Police then as now are only interested in religion, their distorted perception of the Sabbath.

Before the impotent man could get His name, the Lord disappeared in a crowd (John 5:13), and the first place the man went after being healed was to church (5:14)! The Lord told him that he’d been “made whole,” but we know this doesn’t mean he was saved, because the daughter in Matthew 15:28 was also “made whole” because of the faith of her mother. You can get healed by the faith of another, but you can’t get saved! When Acts 16:31 ends with “and thy house,” it means if they believe too!

Last week we saw that this man’s 38 years of impotence was a type of Israel’s 38 year test in the wilderness (Deut.2:14). And since a 41 year old is healed in Acts 4:22, the three years between these miracles was a type of the testing Israel was enduring during the Lord’s 3 year ministry. So when the Lord told the man to “sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee” (John 5:14), this was a picture of Israel. If they failed the test of the Lord’s 3 year ministry, a worse thing would come on them.

Once the impotent man told the Sabbath Police that the Lord had healed him (John 5:15), they had a new target (v.16). But was it a sin to heal on the Sabbath?

In Matthew 12:1-4, the Lord was accused of breaking the Sabbath, but pointed out from the example of David that it is not breaking the Sabbath if you are breaking it to show mercy to yourself and eat. Of course, if David had been on the throne where he belonged, he wouldn’t be eating shew-bread, and if the Lord were on the throne where He be-longed, he wouldn’t be eating field corn! The Lord then pointed out that priests work on the Sabbath (v.5,6), and argued from the prophet Hosea (v.7) that not only are peo-ple more important than the sabbath, they are more impor-tant than sacrifices. He closes his case by arguing He hadn’t broken the Sabbath, but could have if he wanted (v.8), and then pointed out that they themselves believed animals were more important than the Sabbath (v.9-14).

It is interesting that He advances these arguments from a king, a priest and a prophet, for Matthew presents Christ as a king who was all three. Since Mark presents Christ as a servant, he adds the detail that the Sabbath was meant to serve man, not the other way around (2:27). Luke adds the detail that even the Sabbath Police water their animals on the Sabbath (13:14-17) because Luke presents Christ as a man, and when men were given dominion over animals, an obligation to care for them came with this dominion.

But John presents Christ as God, and so in John 5:17, the Lord answers “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” Since God the Father never takes a day off from saving souls when they believe, the Lord says He too could work on the Sabbath if He cared to.

When did the Lord claim to be “equal with God” (5:18)? When He called God “My” Father instead of “our” Father. Many today say that He never claimed to be God, that His disciples simply misunderstood Him. But even His enemies understood exactly what He was saying, and wanted to kill Him for it (5:17).

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