Delve into John 5:16-17's profound insights on Jesus' actions on the Sabbath, the continuous work of God, and the balance between divine activity and human rest.
John 5:16-17 — Work and Rest — Aneel Aranha
Hello and welcome to the Bite-Sized Gospel with Aneel Aranha. Today we will reflect on John 5:16-17. Listen.
So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.”
At first glance, these two verses might be seen as a mere defense of Jesus' actions on the Sabbath when he healed a paralyzed man. However, diving deeper gives us some profound insights into the relationship between Jesus and his Father and between work and rest. In this reflection, we will look at work and rest and the relationship between Father and Son in the next.
Jesus said, "My Father is ALWAYS at his work to this very day." The traditional Jewish understanding of the Sabbath was a day of rest for God after the work of creation (Genesis 2:2-3). However, Jesus reveals that God's activity is continuous. Don Moen echoed the psalmist's words when he sang, "He never sleeps / He never slumbers / He never tires of hearing our prayers" (cf. Psalm 121:3-4).
Then Jesus continues, saying, "I too am working." He is not merely aligning himself with the Father's actions but revealing an intimate unity. John emphasizes this unity later in his gospel, where Jesus declares, "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30). Their actions are not independent but flow from a singular divine purpose. More about this later.
Let me preempt a question you may have. How do we reconcile God always being at work with his resting on the 7th day? And how should we treat the commandment to rest one day in the week?
The commandment to observe the Sabbath is rooted in the creation narrative, where God rested on the seventh day (Genesis 2:2-3). This rest wasn't because God got tired; it was a divine pause setting a pattern for us to follow. The Sabbath is a gift to humanity, a day we can rest, reflect, and reconnect with God.
Although God "rested" on the seventh day, it didn't mean he went to sleep! He wasn't inactive or disengaged. God's providence, sustenance, and care for creation are unceasing. Jesus' words that we are reflecting upon today emphasize this continuous engagement. "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working." We see this engagement in Jesus' ministry, where he often did things on the Sabbath.
Now, while God doesn't need rest, humans do. The Sabbath is an invitation to pause from our labors, to reflect on God's goodness, and to be rejuvenated. And it is a day to remember that while we rest, God continues to work, watch, and care for us.
God bless you.