Having focused previously on the significance of Jesus’ healing of the man at the Pool of Bethesda, we now turn our attention to its aftermath. Following the healing of the lame man, the religious leaders and temple authorities are scandalized that Jesus would command someone to break Sabbath law by directing him to carry his mat. In fact, neither Jesus’ healing nor the man carrying his mat were violations of the Sabbath but only those regulations later added by religious tradition. Jesus was a pious man who had the highest regard for God’s law, including the law to hallow the Lord’s Day.
This passage includes the first usage of the word Sabbath in John’s gospel and introduces what will become a major point of conflict between Jesus and the Jewish religious authorities. From this point on, Jesus will be accused of being a Sabbath-breaker. Of course, Jesus never once violated the Sabbath. Indeed, no one ever kept the Sabbath holy to the degree that Jesus did. Rather, it was the religious authorities who violated the Sabbath with their unbiblical demands. Their religious traditions turned what was given to mankind as a blessing into a crushing burden.
On that day at the Pool of Bethesda Jesus demonstrated that he is the Lord of the Sabbath. He governs over the entire created order including the passage of days. He showed us what it meant to exercise mercy on the Sabbath as a way of honoring the Lord. He worked along with his Father in the moment-by-moment upholding of all things. And as the religious authorities rightly concluded, Jesus made himself “equal with God,” for he was no less than God in the flesh.