John 5:10 – 18
10So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, “It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” 11But he answered them, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’” 12They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take it up and walk’?” 13Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in the crowd that was there. 14Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you.” 15The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. 16Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus, because he was doing such things on the sabbath.
17But Jesus answered them, “My Father is still working, and I also am working.” 18For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God.
The story is not over when the man by the pool at Bethsaida is healed and takes up his mat to go home. This happened on the Sabbath and the Jewish religious leaders or Pharisees (we never quite know who those John calls “the Jews” are, but we know they were not all Jews; I will, for now, call them Pharisees) are annoyed because carrying anything was considered work and was against their interpretation of Sabbath law, which was defined by a long list of prohibitions. They accost the man for carrying his mat – can’t you imagine how he felt? After 38 years of being unable to go anywhere or do anything other than lie beside the pool, he is at last cured, and the first thing that happens to him is people are scolding him about carrying his mat! He would be incredulous! Do we, as Christians, do that to people today? Does the person who has been chained to addiction or alcoholism, or the person whose lifestyle we disapprove, find a welcome among us when they are at last freed of their chains, or take baby steps toward sobriety and life? Or do we scold them for carrying their mat?
This man tells them that the man who cured him told him to carry his mat, but no, he does not know who the man is. And so, we can suppose he takes his mat on home and goes to the temple to give thanks to God, because Jesus finds him there, and Jesus tells him that he has been made well and should not sin any more. Now that he knows who it was, he goes and tells the Pharisees that it was Jesus who cured him.
Jesus had begun the conflict with these leaders when he turned over tables in the temple in Chapter 2; now he is back in Jerusalem and the conflict grows. Those leaders are upset with him for healing on the Sabbath. They go and confront Jesus, who answers, “My Father is still working, and I also am working.” God did not just quit and go away after the first days of creation; God is still working in the world, still creating, still active in our lives, still calling people to him; that is as true today as it was in Jesus’ day. In saying this, Jesus is telling these religious leaders that he is God’s Son, and that God is working through him. To them, that is blasphemy, and they seek all the more to kill Jesus. The conflict builds.