John 5:1-47 (AD 28)
Note the difference between how Jesus presented himself to different groups. On the one hand, gentle and kind with the physically and spiritually needy who admitted they were needy. On the other hand, sometimes highly confrontational with the religious hypocrites. This incident was very early in his ministry but he was already out there lobbing grenades at the tanker of toxic waste that was the religious leadership in first century Israel.
When he healed the paralysed men, he didn’t just say, “walk”, he said, “Pick up your mat and walk”. Why? Because by doing that he exposed the religious leaders’ anti-God, anti-people, power-hungry hypocrisy. He knew that carrying a mat broke one of their dumb rules and they’d get upset about it. (Note verse ten their reference to “the law” wasn’t God’s law, it was theirs.) The religious leaders had no interest in the man being healed, no interest in the power and authority of the man doing the healing. They thought ‘sin’ of carrying a mat on the Sabbath risked God abandoning them forever to the Roman invaders. And they were quickly convinced that that they needed to kill Jesus for going against their rules..
And so Jesus was persecuted for over two years for the authority he claimed, and people were plotting his death that entire time. It’s literally a miracle he survived as long as he did.
For those who contend that Jesus never claimed to be God, see verse eighteen. This was a Trinity statement: “making himself equal with God” refers to God the Father, and the only way to be equal with him is to be God. You don’t think if Jesus WASN’T claiming to God that he wouldn’t have cleared up that misunderstanding? Claiming to be God was the most obvious thing about him for three years. If anything his enemies understood that fact better than his friends.
But let’s go back to the throwing of grenades at tankers of toxic waste. The problem, when that is the best way to destroy the tankers, as well as to expose them for what they are, is that you’re going to get toxic waste all over yourself. Jesus didn’t search for martyrdom as some have claimed, but he knew that to fully expose the lies of the religious leaders and be the salvation for his people, death – and a grim one – was coming. But he didn’t back down, not for a second.
Imagine, for a moment then, the stress for Jesus of living for two years with intense persecution, knowing that persecution would ultimately climax in his murder. Knowing that he had to keep exposing the hypocrisy, and that doing so would only make things worse for him.
That’s your Saviour. He did that. For you.