In John’s Gospel, Jesus heals a man on the Sabbath, telling him to “take up your bed, and walk” (5:8, 11-12). When some in Jerusalem see the healed man carrying his sleeping mat, they tell him, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed” (5:10). When the man identifies Jesus as his healer, the Judeans are upset that Yeshua “was doing these things on the Sabbath” (5:16); from their perspective “he was breaking the Sabbath” (5:18). Jesus’ words may relax certain interpretations of Sabbath restrictions, but his actions are in accord with God’s unceasing work to heal humanity. Despite the assumptions of his disgruntled interlocutors, Jesus did not break the Sabbath.

When Jesus heals a man who had been unable to walk for thirty-eight years (John 5:5), most English translations state that some in Jerusalem thought Yeshua was “breaking the Sabbath” (5:18). Yet the phrase could be translated not as “breaking” but as “loosening” (ἔλυεν; eluen) the Sabbath. For instance, John the Baptist says he is not worthy to “loosen” (λύω) Jesus’ sandal (John 1:27), and Jesus tells those around the risen but cloth-wrapped Lazarus, “Loosen (λύω) him, and let him go” (11:44). Granted, John’s use of λύω can denote destruction (e.g., 2:19) or the potential transgression of Torah (e.g., 7:23), but Jesus also contends that the “Law” (νόμος; nómos) or “Scripture” (γραφή; graphé) cannot be “broken” (λύω; 10:34-35), so it would make little sense for John to say that Jesus had “broken” the Sabbath. Instead, another way to read John 5:18 is that some were upset because Jesus “loosened” a more scrupulous interpretation of Sabbath observance when he told the man to carry his mat.

Later rabbinic discussion about Sabbath observance supports Jesus’ decision to heal at the Bethesda pool. The rabbis developed a concept called פקוח נפשׁ (pikuach nephesh), or “preserving a life” on the Sabbath. According to the Babylonian Talmud (c. 600 CE), if one could perform certain tasks on the Sabbath, “how much more may one suspend the laws of the Sabbath to preserve a [human] life (לפקוח נפשׁ)!” (b. Yoma 85a). Jesus uses the same logic in John’s Gospel, saying, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it… [but] you circumcise a human being on the Sabbath. If on the Sabbath a human receives circumcision, so that the Law of Moses may not be broken (λύω), are you angry with me because I made a human completely whole on the Sabbath?” (7:21-23). While some of the people in Jerusalem were upset with Yeshua for healing a man on the Sabbath, Jesus’ action was perfectly in step with other interpretations of lawful behavior on the day of rest, and his restorative work furthered God’s unending desire for human healing—even on the Sabbath.

BEGIN YOUR JOURNEY OF DISCOVERY

87 COMMENTS

  1. I appreciate your point of you when you say:" Jesus' action was perfectly in step with other interpretations of lawful behaviour on the day of rest".
  2. JESUS CHRIST did not brake the sabbath the scripture says GOD RESTED ON ON ON THE 7TH DAY it dose not say he ever rested every other sabbath but commands people to rest on each sabbath because of his great success GOD did not rest on every sabbath because obviously he rested on the 1st sabbath but began his work elsewhere because the book of revelation clearly says there will be a new heaven new earth created therefore if this place was created by GOD in 6 days you think here is great life? well what about new heaven new earth when his been working on it for 6021 years now or about JESUS SAYS my father always works so i must work also obviously because JESUS CHRIST HOLY worked with GOD as 1 with him for he i 3 in 1 he worked TO CREATE THIS WORLD AND NOW BEGAN TO WORK WITH GOD FOR NEW HEAVEN NEW EARTH CREATION AS HE PROMISES ETERNAL LIFE TO ALL HIS CHILDREN a he says he will give us new life there can be lots more reasons also like what is said above in this subject also i believe
  3. for to work with GOD TO SAVE BLESS HEAL PERFECT PEOPLE or on this case heal people is much better to do then to be cruel and not do a thing to help those who need a healing just because we are on the sabbath keeping the sabbath is great you do well if you do so but working with GOD FOR GODLY WORK ONLY is better and you do much more better but this is for GODLY WORK it is not intent for other jobs
  4. also if it was important to rest on the 7th day for GOD and we every sabbath then how much more important it is to rest at the end of the age to enter new heaven new earth when this eternal life eternal healing so on is worth much more for a rest period therefore JESUS CHRIST did not brake the sabbath but for field it as he works with GOD TO CREATE NEW HEAVEN NEW EARETH THUS preparing people to be healed saved so on to prepare all of us to rest (to death) at the end of the age in order to be strengthened and perfected us by the quickening of the dead to a none corrupt body to the resurrection of life ascending to enter new heaven new earth thus the next eternal life in new heaven new earth is far more important then this little life we have here as he says he came to give us life and life to all it's fulness
  5. thus the rest period of when we pass on is far more important then the rest on this worlds sabbath because it heals saves blesses perfects those in the lord to be able to live for ever in the LORD SO HE CONFORTS US FOR GOOD OR BAD TIMES and comforts us when we pass on making us to rest so to prepares all of us to live forever as said above ok
  6. So when GOD says to not work on the sabbath he means earth work it dose not intent to mean GODLY WORK JESUS SAYS MY FATHER ALWAYS WORKS THEREFORE I MUIST ALSO WORK his job was only a carpenter until he became a savior healer bless or perfector so on of people free no pay therefore it is counted as charity GOD WORK not human work as earth work see gospel and understand JESUS WORK CAME FROM GOD and not people
  7. Excellent article Dr. Nicholas. I have a doubt and I’d like you help me. The nations of the world need to guard the Shabat.
    • Thanks for your question, Carlos. There's very little biblical evidence to suggest that the nations "need" to keep the Sabbath. (1) God never commands all people to observe Sabbath, but only Israel (see Exod 20:8; Deut 5:12); (2) Sabbath was a particular "sign" between God and Israel (Exod 31:13); other "signs" include circumcision (Gen 17:11), which Paul prohibits for Gentiles, so it seems that Torah "signs" are not for the nations to follow; (3) The New Testament almost never mentions the Sabbath and never commands Gentile Sabbath observance. Still, Scripture envisions that all people will follow Sabbath in the world to come (cf. Isa 66:22-23; Col 2:16-17; Heb 4:9).

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  8. This man has been working for decades trying to get into the pool to no avail. He was probably a familiar yet ignored face. Standing upright and being able to carry his mat was a relief, a rest after years of laboring to get in the waters first.
  9. If Yeshua, the apostles and Paul never taught or instructed the believers to replaced the sabbath, who taught it? Thanks in advance!
    • Thanks for your question, Rafael. The shift from Saturday to Sunday rest in Christianity was gradual, but one of the first Christian commentators to command the keeping of the Sunday Lord's Day, but only keeping a "spiritual" Sabbath, was Ignatius of Antioch (see his Letter to the Magnesians 9).

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  10. Thank you for the enlightening teaching, Dr. Schaser. But couldn't Jesus have healed those persons on another day as some complained? Was he by that challenging the restrictions they observed?
    • Thank you for reading, Jim. Some of Jesus' onlookers feel that he was "challenging the restrictions" that some interpretations of Sabbath rest entailed. However, John never explicates that Jesus is actively "challenging" specific views. Instead, Jesus heals on the Sabbath (which is perfectly legitimate) and then "defends" his position, rather than seeking to "challenge" the position(s) of others.

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    • In my view I don't think Yeshua meant challenging the Jewish laws, rather he depicted the manifestation of Gods abundant presence around us .Even to this day, people spend time finding faults rather than believing and embracing the practical truth and the power of God that divided the Red sea.
    • It would appear that this might have been just a "usual' Sabbath" experience for Jesus. He normally attended Synagogue on the Sabbath, so perhaps He did the healing as He went to or came from the synagogue.
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