But Jesus replied, “My Father never stops working, so why should I?” - John 5:17
The history of the church is littered with embarrassments such as the Great Inquisition and the Crusades. There have been many well-documented failures on the part of individual professing Christians as well. While we must not summarily brush aside failures and contradictions, it is important to remember that the validity of Christianity depends only on the validity of Jesus Christ. Men need to consider him—his claims, his life, his deeds, his death, his resurrection, and his impact on human history.
One day Jesus visited the pool of Bethesda, a place where crowds of sick people waited to be assisted into the waters. They believed the waters would heal them on certain occasions (see 5:3-4, footnote). Jesus approached one man and asked a penetrating question. “Would you like to get well?” (5:6). Why else would the man have been there? But it was an astute inquiry. Perhaps the man had gotten used to being carried around. Perhaps he had become so accustomed to begging that he would not have known how to earn a living. The man’s answer is no answer—he simply complained. But when Jesus authoritatively commanded him to rise, he did—and was healed!
But it was the Sabbath. The rules said no working on the Sabbath. In the minds of Jesus’ opponents, healing was work, so Jesus had profaned the Sabbath and must be held responsible (5:16). In an instant the situation took a dramatic turn. Jesus asserted, “My Father never stops working, so why should I?” (5:17). This thinly veiled assertion was not at all unclear to Jesus’ listeners. They recognized it as a claim to equality with the Father—a claim to deity. That deserved death!
Undeterred, Jesus insisted that he was only doing what he saw his Father doing (5:19). The Father had sent him (5:30), the Father had given him a ministry of raising people from the dead (5:21), the Father had promised or given eternal life to those who believed his message (5:24), and the Father had authorized him to be the ultimate judge of mankind (5:26-27). Superlative claims!
Some men to this day insist that Jesus never claimed to be God. If this discourse is not a claim to deity, what is it? The answer to such a question is critical. Christianity is nothing if Christ is not God incarnate; but if he is God, Christianity is everything. God came looking for us, showed himself to us, died for us, rose again, and one day will take us to himself!
For Further Study: John 5:1-30