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Yohanes 5:17-20

5:17 So he 1  told 2  them, “My Father is working until now, and I too am working.” 3  5:18 For this reason the Jewish leaders 4  were trying even harder to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was also calling God his own Father, thus making himself equal with God.

5:19 So Jesus answered them, 5  “I tell you the solemn truth, 6  the Son can do nothing on his own initiative, 7  but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father 8  does, the Son does likewise. 9  5:20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he does, and will show him greater deeds than these, so that you will be amazed.

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[5:17]  1 tc ‡ Most witnesses (Ì66 A D L Θ Ψ Ë1,13 33 Ï latt co) have ᾿Ιησοῦς (Ihsou", “Jesus”) here, while generally better witnesses (Ì75 א B W {0141} 892 1241 pbo) lack the name. Although it is possible that Alexandrian scribes deleted the name due to proclivities to prune, this is not as likely as other witnesses adding it for clarification, especially since multiple strands of the Alexandrian text are represented in the shorter reading. NA27 places the word in brackets, indicating some doubts as to authenticity.

[5:17]  2 tn Grk “answered.”

[5:17]  3 snMy Father is working until now, and I too am working.” What is the significance of Jesus’ claim? A preliminary understanding can be obtained from John 5:18, noting the Jewish authorities’ response and the author’s comment. They sought to kill Jesus, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was also calling God his own Father, thus making himself equal with God. This must be seen in the context of the relation of God to the Sabbath rest. In the commandment (Exod 20:11) it is explained that “In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth…and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” Philo, based on the LXX translation of Exod 20:11, denied outright that God had ever ceased his creative activity. And when Rabban Gamaliel II, R. Joshua, R. Eleazar ben Azariah, and R. Akiba were in Rome, ca. a.d. 95, they gave as a rebuttal to sectarian arguments evidence that God might do as he willed in the world without breaking the Sabbath because the entire world was his private residence. So even the rabbis realized that God did not really cease to work on the Sabbath: Divine providence remained active on the Sabbath, otherwise, all nature and life would cease to exist. As regards men, divine activity was visible in two ways: Men were born and men died on the Sabbath. Since only God could give life and only God could deal with the fate of the dead in judgment, this meant God was active on the Sabbath. This seems to be the background for Jesus’ words in 5:17. He justified his work of healing on the Sabbath by reminding the Jewish authorities that they admitted God worked on the Sabbath. This explains the violence of the reaction. The Sabbath privilege was peculiar to God, and no one was equal to God. In claiming the right to work even as his Father worked, Jesus was claiming a divine prerogative. He was literally making himself equal to God, as 5:18 goes on to state explicitly for the benefit of the reader who might not have made the connection.

[5:18]  4 tn Or “the Jewish authorities”; Grk “the Jews.” See the note on the phrase “Jewish leaders” in v. 10.

[5:19]  5 tn Grk “answered and said to them.”

[5:19]  6 tn Grk “Truly, truly, I say to you.”

[5:19]  7 tn Grk “nothing from himself.”

[5:19]  8 tn Grk “that one”; the referent (the Father) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

[5:19]  9 sn What works does the Son do likewise? The same that the Father does – and the same that the rabbis recognized as legitimate works of God on the Sabbath (see note on working in v. 17). (1) Jesus grants life (just as the Father grants life) on the Sabbath. But as the Father gives physical life on the Sabbath, so the Son grants spiritual life (John 5:21; note the “greater things” mentioned in v. 20). (2) Jesus judges (determines the destiny of people) on the Sabbath, just as the Father judges those who die on the Sabbath, because the Father has granted authority to the Son to judge (John 5:22-23). But this is not all. Not only has this power been granted to Jesus in the present; it will be his in the future as well. In v. 28 there is a reference not to spiritually dead (only) but also physically dead. At their resurrection they respond to the Son as well.

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