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ATP Blog: Gospel of John 26

Working

John 5:16-18

I have always believed that every person should find a job that they enjoy; then they will work hard, making everyone satisfied. Yet, many people settle for whatever they can find, or get pushed into a job that they do not enjoy. Then, there is the matter of balance between work and home life. You have your work-a-holics, and those who work as little as possible so that they can enjoy home or leisure. Jesus gives us a good example to follow, even though He was not a married man with a family.

What is work? “For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him. (5:16)” If you remember last episode, Jesus healed a man at the pool of Bethesda. What I didn’t mention last time, was that Jesus healed him on the Sabbath. This means that Christ performed this miracle between sunset on Friday, and sunset on Saturday (5:00 pm in Israel). Most people accepted this miracle, and rejoiced with the man. The religious leaders were furious, because this act violated their interpretation of the commandment given to Israel by God through Moses stating, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:8-11) So, what did God mean by ‘work’ in this commandment? Later on in the story of the Exodus, a man is caught carrying wood for the family fire on the Sabbath, and is punished severely. Therefore, the religious leaders clarified that work must mean any task requiring effort (allowing a certain number of steps to get to church for worship … get out your step counters!). Jesus corrected them, stating that ‘work’ which was banished from Sabbath was that which provided an income, or that which could have been done during the week. Things like farming, carpentry, gathering wood, gathering manna, and going to the market, could be done during the week, and should be avoided on Sabbath to focus on worship to God. Things like pulling your animal out of a well, or helping an injured person, were things that could (and should) be done any day of the week, including Sabbath, as it honoured God, and helped others.

Why work? “Jesus answered them, ‘My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.’ (5:17) We often think of ‘work’ as just a source of income to provide for living how you want to. Christ offers a couple other reasons why we work. First, it is an act of obedience to God, who has provided skills and opportunity for us to do His will. Second, it is a source of fulfilment when we do what God has called us to do. When God works, Jesus works. Even in the act of creation (Genesis 1) we see this in action, especially when combined with the explanation of John 1. So, if you are indeed a child of God because of your decision to live for Him, thanks to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, then it should be the same for you: when God works, you work. Then, the line between ‘life’ and ‘work’ becomes more blurred, since work becomes more enjoyable, and involves not just provision for your family, but also protection and enjoyment of your family.

Why persecution? The religious leaders did not like what Jesus was saying. John tells us that “The Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God. (5:18)” Later, we are told that if Jesus received persecution for His choices and way of living, then so would His followers. When you live God’s way, the world will take notice and oppose it. John quotes Jesus later in his gospel (15:18), “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.”

So, let us get our definition of work right, and seek to work hard for the glory of God. When persecution comes (and it will if you are following God’s will), let God take care of it, and you focus on enjoying what God has given you to do. These are the good ‘works’ Paul told the Ephesians about (Ephesians 2:10).


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