John leaves his section dealing with Jesus superseding the symbols of Judaism and moves on to the next section which deals with the Jewish feasts. There are a number of these feasts and Jesus takes on 4 of them before the middle of John’s gospel. The first is Sabbath.
Every week, the Jews celebrated work and rest with Shabbat, or Sabbath. Based on the fact that during creation, God rested on the seventh day and commanded us to as well (oops), Sabbath was the most common and most celebrated feast of the Jewish calendar year. On it, you did no work but rested from your labors. Imagine having a whole day each week that by law was set aside from work to celebrate family, rest, and God.
But as with any command of God, humans began to try to find loopholes and ways around it. So the Pharisees invented a whole set of rules to determine what was work and what wasn’t, what could be done on the sabbath and what couldn’t. And so what began as a wonderful day of rest, peace, family, and worship soon became a day of duty, law, and judgement. One of these rules had to do with carrying your bed around.
Side Note: it is always fascinating to think about what was going on when a rule was originated. For example, when parking your elephant at a meter in Orlando Florida, be sure to deposit the same amount of change as you would for a regular motor vehicle. And if you stop for a beer in North Dakota, don’t expect to get any pretzels with your beverage. It’s against the law in that state to serve beer and pretzels at the same time. Now what circumstances had to happen for anyone to even think up rules like these?
Back to the text. Jesus heals a man from his lameness, and tells him to take his bed home since he didn’t need it at the “healing pool” anymore. He does and is confronted by the Jewish leaders who accuse him of breaking their Sabbath Law about carrying your bed around. And Jesus uses this opportunity to tell them that he is doing God’s work, and God is always working, even on the Sabbath. Jesus, doing God’s work, will follow God’s rules, not theirs. God’s work is more important than their sabbath laws.
Do you take a sabbath? If so, do you do it out of worship, rest, and peace, or out of duty and regulation? A good habit if done for the right reason.