The healing of the blind man in John 9

OVERVIEW:

One Sabbath Christ healed a man that was blind from birth.  Jesus made clay, applied it to the man’s eyes and told him to go and wash in the pool of Siloam.  So he went away and washed, and came back seeing (John 9:6-7).

Most of John 9 describes the dialogue between the blind man, his neighbors, his parents and the Pharisees, without Christ being involved (9:8-33).  The realistic nature of these exchanges, for such an unusual situation, assures us that this miracle really happened.

The Pharisees concluded, “This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath“.  Jesus not only healed the man, He also made clay to put on the man’s eyes and He told the man to wash his face in a pool.  All three these actions were perhaps classified, by the extremely strict traditions, as work that was not allowed on the Sabbath.

In this incident Jesus did not justify His Sabbath works, except to say it is the Father’s work.  When Jesus healed, it was the Father at work.  God’s purpose and perpetual work in this world is to redeem and restore man, healing sinners both spiritually and physically.

After the miracle Jesus spoke to the Pharisees and told them that He is one with the Father, that He was sent by the Father, that the Father is in Him, and He in the Father, that He is the Son of God, that He is the door to God’s people, that He is the good shepherd and that He has the authority from the Father to give up His life and to take it up again.  Christ appealed to the miracles to support these astonishing claims:

It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him” (9:3)

the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me” (10:25)

If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.” (10:37-38; compare 9:3)

To support Christ’s astonishing claims was therefore one purpose of His miracles.

Since Christ so often on the Sabbath healed these non-emergency cases, without being asked, in deliberate contravention of the traditions, it should be concluded that He was thereby conveying an important message with respect to the Sabbath:

One purpose was simply to create the opportunity for Him to teach the religious rulers.

A second purpose was to condemn the religious rulers.  This was one of Christ’s major messages in these chapters, namely to condemn the Pharisees as religious thieves and robbers, coming to steal and destroy.  He said to them, “you do not believe because you are not of My sheep” (10:26).  This was also one of the purposes of the Sabbath healing miracles.  By healing on the Sabbath, in direct contravention of the traditions (9:15, 16), He condemned the Pharisees’ rule and the foundation of their authority, which was their traditions.  It was not necessary for Christ to make clay to heal the man.  Perhaps He made clay on the Sabbath to deliberately contravene of the extremely strict the Jewish traditions.

The third purpose was to say that doing the Father’s work is allowed on the Sabbath.  “It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath” (Mat 12:12), and healing is a good example of the “many good works from the Father” (John 10:32).

By healing so often on the Sabbath Christ also implied that the purpose of the Sabbath is to restore man.  For this purpose the seventh day has been set aside.  Since Christians are people that abide by the “Law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2), which is His teachings, Christians should cease other work on the seventh day to focus on this work.

The Sabbath miracle healings are therefore simply part of His message, supporting His claim to be sent by the Father, but also condemning the Pharisees, specifically informing them that their interpretation of the Sabbath is wrong, and showing them what the Sabbath is supposed to be; a day for the “good works from the Father”.

Dialogue

Most of the chapter (9:8-33) describes the dialogue between the blind man, his neighbors, his parents and the Pharisees, without Christ being involved.

The people who knew him were amazed (9:8-11).  They took him to the Pharisees (9:13), who did not believe that the man was born blind (9:18) until they interrogated his parents (9:18-21).  Because it was a Sabbath on which Jesus made the clay and told the man to wash his face, some of the Pharisees concluded that Jesus worked on the Sabbath and therefore that He was a sinner (9:14-16).  But others were not sure (9:16), causing division in the ranks of the Pharisees (9:16).  Interestingly, they then asked the blind man for his opinion about Christ (9:17).

But eventually the consensus amongst the Pharisees was that “we know that this man (Jesus) is a sinner” (9:24).

The brave and wise words from the blind man, when they interrogated him for a second time (9:25; 27; 30-33), indicate the working of the Holy Spirit.  He witnessed to the Pharisees that Jesus was “from God” and questioned Pharisees’ legitimacy, seeing that they did not know where Jesus is from.

Therefore the Pharisees excommunicated the blind man (9:34, compare 9:22).  Later Jesus went to look for the man, and introduced Himself to the man as Daniel’s “the Son of Man” (9:35).

Causes and reasons of suffering and illness

When His disciples first saw the blind man, they asked:

Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” (9:2)

This question reflects the general Jewish view of the time, namely that every illness was God’s penalty of some wrongdoing; either of the sufferer himself or of his parents.  This view is also reflected in the statement later made by the Pharisees to the blind man:

You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us?” (9:34)

Correcting His disciples, Jesus said:

“It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him. (9:3)

Different people have different views with respect to what causes suffering, for instance:

  • Many people think that God causes suffering and disease.
  • Others think that it is caused by Satan.  They may use the history of Job in support of their view.
  • Still others view it as the natural result of sin.

People that believe that God causes suffering and disease also have different views with respect to His purpose.  Some view it as God’s punishment for sin. Others view it as discipline.  Discipline is, like punishment, the consequence of wrong things done in the past, but the purpose of discipline is to correct behavior to harvest good things in the future, while punishment has no future purpose.

In 9:3 Jesus seems to oppose the idea that suffering is God’s penalty for the sins of the past, “but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him”.  This raises a number of questions.  Does this mean that all illness is intended to display “the works of God”, or was this man a special case?  Did God cause his blindness from birth to display “the works of God”?

There is another way of interpreting Christ’s words here.  Note that the words “it was” in 9:3 are added by the translators.  By deleting these words and by replacing the full stop with a comma (there are no punctuation marks in the original text), it reads:

but so that the works of God might be displayed in him, we must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day”. (9:3-4).

Read in this way Christ is not saying that God caused the man’s illness, but rather that He (Christ) will use the man’s disability to display the works of God.  It is therefore proposed that 9:3 by itself is insufficient to come to general conclusions with respect to the causes and reasons of suffering and illness.

The Father’s Works

Jesus said:

We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.” (9:4-5)

This is Christ’s only justification in this chapter for the Sabbath healing that is described in the next two verses (9:6-7).  He justifies it as “the works of Him who sent Me” (9:4) which are “good works from the Father” (10:32).  This is the same justification as for the Sabbath healing in John 5, where He said, “My father is working still, and I am working” (5:17).  Both statements refer to the Father’s work and both say Christ is doing the Father’s work.

We sometimes put the Father in the background, but Jesus was the Father’s agent.  He has been sent by the Father (9:4).  When He heals, it is the Father at work.  God’s purpose and perpetual work in this world is to redeem and restore man, healing sinners both spiritually and physically:

the Lord Jesus Christ … gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (Gal 1:3-4)

Night and Day

Consider again Christ’s words:

We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.” (9:4-5)

The word “day” links to the word “Light”.  In other words, “day” here refers to the time when Jesus was in the world.  “Night” probably refers to death.

Light is something that makes it possible for us to see.  Christ is the “Light of the world” because He made it possible for the world to see spiritual truths.

Similar to John 5

This incident is in many respects similar to the healing at Bethesda:

Both healed men have been ill for a long time.  Neither was an emergency.  One was an invalid for 38 years (5:5) and the other was blind from birth (9:2).  In both instances the healing could have been delayed to the next day.

Neither of the chronically ill men asked for or expected to be healed.

Both miracles were performed in Jerusalem (5:1; 8:2), but not in the temple (8:59), nor in one of the synagogues.  Consequently in neither case Pharisees witnessed the healing, but both incidents were later reported to the Pharisees.

In both instances Jesus later went to speak to the man again (5:14; 9:35).

Pools are involved in both miracles.  The paralytic was lying on the edge of the pool in Bethesda while the blind man had to wash in the pool in Siloam.

In addition to healing, which the Pharisees viewed as work that is disallowed on the Sabbath, both miracles also included other activities which the extremely strict traditions perhaps classified as work.  In the first Christ instructed the paralytic to carry his pallet, and in the second Christ “made the clay” and instructed the man to go and wash his face in a pool (9:14-16).

After both miracles the Pharisees accused Christ of breaking the Sabbath: “This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath” (9:16).

Support His astounding claims

The healings in both John 5 and John 9 are followed by Christ’s teaching.  Christ’s teachings cover 30 verses in John 5 (5:17-47) and 20 verses in John 9-10 (9:41-10:18).

After the miracle healing in John 9 Jesus told the Pharisees that He is one with the Father (10:30), that he was sent by the Father, that the Father is in Him, and He in the Father (10:38), that He is the Son of God (10:36), that He is the door to God’s people, that He is the good shepherd and that He has the authority from the Father to give up His life and to take it up again.  Because of these claims some Pharisees concluded that He has a demon, but because of the miracles some were inclined to believe Him.  This was one purpose of the miracles, namely to support these astonishing claims:

If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.” (10:37-38)

Opportunity to speak

Another purpose of the miracles was simply to create controversy to create the opportunity for Him to teach the religious rulers.

Condemn the Jewish authorities

One of Christ’s major messages in these chapters was to condemn the Pharisees as religious thieves and robbers, coming to steal and destroy.  He said to them:

If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains”  (9:41).

“You do not believe because you are not of My sheep” (10:16).

I am the door of the sheep” (10:7), “he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way (implying the Pharisees), he is a thief and a robber” (10:1).

I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.  He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd (by implication the Pharisees), … sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees … because he … is not concerned about the sheep.” (10:11-13)

The Sabbath healing miracles had the same purpose.  By healing on the Sabbath, in direct contravention of the traditions (9:15, 16), He condemned the Pharisees’ rule and the foundation of their authority, which was their traditions.

Doing good is allowed on the Sabbath.

By healing on the Sabbath and by explaining this as the Father’s work (9:3-4; 10:25, 32, 37-38), Christ implied that all work necessary on the Sabbath to accomplish the Father’s purpose to redeem and restore man is in harmony with the Sabbath.  In the healing of the man’s withered hand Christ’s defense was that He is doing good, and that “it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath” (Mat 12:12).  To “do good” is to assist people or animals that are in distress.  Healing is a good example of doing good.

The purpose the seventh day is to restore man.

By healing these non-emergency cases so often on the Sabbath, without being asked to do so, Christ furthermore implied that the purpose of the Sabbath is to restore man.  For this purpose the seventh day has been set aside (Gen. 2:3).  Since Christians are people that abide by the “Law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2), which is His teachings, Christians must cease other work on the seventh day to focus on this work.

Conclusion

The miracle healings are therefore simply part of His message, supporting His claim to be sent by the Father, but condemning the Pharisees and their traditions, specifically telling them that their interpretation of the Sabbath is wrong, and showing them what the Sabbath is supposed to be; a day for the “good works from the Father” (10:32; compare 9:4; 10:37).

Sabbath: Table of Contents

Next: Introduction to Christ’s Sabbath

Bethesda – John 5

SUMMARY:

John 5 records Christ’s miracle healing of a paralytic man on the Sabbath.  This man had been ill for 38 years.  He was lying with a multitude of the sick, blind, lame, and withered next to the pool known as Bethesda, hoping for a supernatural cure.

The man did not ask to be healed.  He did not even know who Jesus was.  Jesus also did not require this suffering man to exercise faith.  Jesus simply told the man to get up, pick up the mat on which he was lying, and walk.  The man immediately became well, picked up his pallet and began to walk.

But it was the Sabbath and the Jewish religious police was quick to spot him.  They said to him “It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet” (v10).  As if to say that a man, that is able to heal so completely, should know what is allowed on the Sabbath, the man responded, “He who made me well was the one who said to me, Pick up your pallet and walk”.

The Jews asked him who the Healer was, but he did not know.  Jesus had slipped away into the crowd.  But later the same day Jesus found him in the temple and spoke to him.  Jesus might have remained anonymous, but He was seeking confrontation with the religious rulers.

The man then told the Pharisees who the Man was who cured him, probably expecting the religious leaders to be overjoyed, just like he himself was, to meet this miracle Worker.  But this news made the religious leaders more committed than ever to persecute Jesus.  Not only did Christ heal the sick; He also told the man to carry his mat.

While the Law of Moses is silent on healing on the Sabbath, simply prohibiting work on the Sabbath, the “traditions of the elders”, which was their interpretation of the Law of Moses, had an extremely strict and detailed definition of work, even prohibiting healing on the Sabbath.  According to these “traditions” Christ clearly contravened the Sabbath commandment.

The traditions were extremely important in Jewish society, but by adding this multitude of very strict rules to the Law of Moses, the Jews allowed very little space for compassion, and consequently perverted the Sabbath.  What was supposed to be a day a rest from the toil of human existence became an intolerable burden to which the people were slaves, falsely representing God as a tyrant.

Healing was an integral part of His ministry, but to heal on the Sabbath was so important to Jesus that He was willing to risk His life and mission for it.

One reason for His Sabbath healings was to condemn the Jewish traditions and the entire Jewish system that rested upon those traditions.  But the more important reason for Christ’s deliberate contraventions of the traditions was to give a new meaning to the Sabbath.  Similar to the way in which He replaced the commandment against adultery with a commandment against looking at a woman with lust in the heart, and similar to the way in which He replaced the commandment against murder with a commandment against anger, He gave a much higher / deeper meaning to the Sabbath.

The fourth commandment forbids work and demands rest.  Jesus accepted the principle that the seventh day is set aside for special use (sanctified – Gen 2:3), but He not only declared that it is allowed to do good to people and animals in need on the Sabbath; He also declared that the Sabbath is the preferred day for doing good to others, which includes to restore people to health.  In this way He have a new meaning to the Sabbath.  He shifted the focus:

From the fourth commandment to the original purpose of the seventh day, namely to be a blessing to mankind (Gen 2:3).

From rest to the purpose of the rest, namely to restore man to health.

From the negative prohibition against any form of work to the work that is required on the seventh day, namely works to restore people to holistic physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual health.

Since this shifts the focus away from the rest required by the fourth commandment, we should accept Christ’s Sabbath deeds and statements as new truth for the Christian; as a founding statement for Christianity.  Thus the Sabbath also becomes a work day, but a different type of work.  The Sabbath becomes a day on which we focus our thoughts and energy on bringing joy to people by healing; not only by physical healing, but also by psychological and spiritual healing, while we rest from the work that is required on the other days of the week.

THE STORY:

John 5 records Christ’s miracle healing of a paralytic man (v7) on the Sabbath (v9).  The story is as follows (with comments in brackets):

Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews.

In Jerusalem there was a pool called Bethesda, with five porches.  In these porches lay a multitude of the sick, blind, lame, and withered, waiting for the moving of the waters.  (They had the superstitious belief that the person, who gets into the pool first, after it was “supernaturally” stirred, will be healed.)

One of the men there was ill for 38 years (v5).  When Jesus saw him, He knew that this man had been in that condition for a long time.  Jesus said to him:

Do you wish to get well?” (v6)

The man answered that he has nobody to put him into the pool when the water is stirred.  Jesus then said to him:

Get up, pick up your pallet and walk” (v8).

(The man did not ask to be healed.  He did not even know who Jesus was.  Jesus also did not require this suffering man to exercise faith in Him.  He simply told him to get up, pick up his pallet—his sleeping mat—and walk.)

The man became well immediately, picked up his pallet and began to walk.  (But it was the Sabbath and the Jewish religious police was quick to spot him carrying his mat.)  When the Jews saw this man carrying his pallet, they said to him:

It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet” (v10).

But he answered them,

“He who made me well was the one who said to me, Pick up your pallet and walk”.

(As if to say, a man that is able to heal me so completely, after lying on my mat for 38 year, should know what is allowed and what is not allowed on the Sabbath.  If he tells me to carry my mat, then I will do it.)

The Jews asked him who this man was, but he did not know.  Jesus had slipped away into the crowd (v13).  (After his healing the man probably was bewildered, not believing what his body is doing; too excited to pay attention even to his Healer.)

Later the same day Jesus found him in the temple and said to him,

Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you.” (v14)

The man then told the Pharisees who the Man was who cured him (v15). (The healed man was naturally overjoyed by his deliverance.  Probably ignorant of the enmity toward Jesus, he assumed that everybody, particularly the religious leaders, will want to meet this miracle Worker.)

For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath” (v16).

(Note the plural “doing these things” (v16).  The Jews could identify two contraventions of the Sabbath Law in this incident.  Firstly the man carried his sleeping mat (5:10) and secondly Jesus healed the sick (compare Luke 13:14).  Jesus was ‘guilty’ of both, because He told the man to carry his mat.)

(The Jews apparently then questioned Jesus, because, according to the next verse,) He answered them,

“My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working” (v17).

DISCUSSION:

Jesus did not contravene the Law of Moses; He contravened the Traditions.

But did Jesus contravene the fourth commandment?  The Law of Moses is silent on healing on the Sabbath, simply prohibiting work on the Sabbath.  But still the Jewish authorities had no doubt that healing is not allowed on the Sabbath (Luke 4:40; 13:14; Mark 3:2).  It is therefore concluded that it was the regulations, known as the “the traditions of the elders”, that prohibited healing on the Sabbath.

The Traditions were a fence around the law.

Because it was intended as a fence around the law, the “traditions of the elders” had an extremely strict definition of work.  For example, if the Law of Moses determines that the Sabbath starts at sunset, the traditions might require Jews to stop their work an hour before sunset.  And anything that even remotely looked like work was defined as work; a Jew was not even allowed to light a candle on the Sabbath.  In this way they hoped to protect themselves from breaking the law.  They knew that a contravention of the traditions is not necessarily a contravention of the Law of Moses, but the traditions were nevertheless applied as law.

The Traditions were extremely important in Jewish society.

We generally have very little appreciation of how detailed and complex the traditions of the elders” were, or how important it was in the Jewish society.  Paul, describing his previous life, wrote “I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions” (Gal. 1:14).

The Traditions perverted the Sabbath.

But by adding this multitude of very strict rules to the Law of Moses, the Jews allowed very little space for compassion, and consequently perverted the Sabbath.  What was supposed to be a day a rest from the toil of human existence became an intolerable burden to which the people were slaves.  This falsely represented God as a tyrant.  Because the traditions made people to serve the Sabbath, Jesus objected by saying, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).

Jesus was seeking confrontation with the religious rulers.

We see this in the following:

Jesus could have healed the sick man on any other day of the week, but He healed him deliberately on the Sabbath.

After He cured him Jesus might have warned the man not to carry his bed, but Jesus deliberately told him to carry away his bed.

The man did not know who healed him, because “Jesus had slipped away” (5:13).  Jesus might have remained anonymous, but instead Jesus afterwards “found him in the temple” (5:14) and spoke with him, apparently with the purpose that the man may inform the Pharisees “that it was Jesus who had made him well” (5:15).

Jesus did not explain in John 5 why healing is allowed on the Sabbath, except to say it is the Father’s will.

Healing was an integral part of His ministry, but why was it so important to heal on the Sabbath that He was willing to risk His life and mission for it?  He did not do it simply out of compassion, for there were many other sick people at Bethesda whom He did not heal.  The people whom He healed also were not medical emergencies; they were all sick for many years.  Why did He not delay healing to another day?

In healing the man’s withered hand, He said “it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath” (Mat. 12:12).  In healing the crippled woman, He said “this woman … whom Satan has bound for eighteen long years, should she not have been released from this bond on the Sabbath day?” (Luke 13:16)  But we find no such explanation in John 5.

John 5, after the healing, does include a long debate between Christ and the Pharisees (5:17-47), but does not explain why He healed.  It seems as if one reason for performing this miracle, deliberately acting contrary to the traditions of the elders, was to create the opportunity to explain to them some higher order principles, such as resurrection from death, judgment, eternal life and honoring the Son “even as they honor the Father” (5:21-30).  He later says, “I say these things so that you may be saved” (5:34).

His justification of the healing is limited to saying:

My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working” (5:17)

the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.” (5:19)

Notice that the words “working”, “do”, “doing” and “does” link these statements to the work of healing which He performed on the Sabbath.  These statements seem to simply say that these Sabbath healings are the right and proper things to do, according to the Father’s will, without explaining why.

He later added:

If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath so that the Law of Moses will not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made an entire man well on the Sabbath?” (2:23).

This seems to say that circumcision is a form of healing, and that healing is allowed on the Sabbath, but still does not explain why healing is allowed on the Sabbath.

By healing on the Sabbath, and by His Sabbath declarations, Jesus gave a new meaning to the Sabbath.

Healing was an integral part of His ministry, but to heal on the Sabbath was so important to Jesus that He was willing to risk His life and mission for it.  One reason for His Sabbath healings was to condemn the Jewish traditions and the entire Jewish system that rested upon those traditions.  But perhaps the most important reason for His Sabbath healing miracles was to give a new meaning to the Sabbath:

The Sabbath commandment simply forbids work and requires rest.  The religious leaders applied this literally, and we probably would have done the same, because that is the emphasis in the commandment.  It would be difficult to justify non-emergency work on the basis of the Law of Moses alone.  Even Christian Sabbath-keepers today would find in difficult to justify work related to non-emergency healing on the Sabbath.

But Jesus came and taught that “it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath” (Mat. 12:12).  He went further and said the Sabbath is the most appropriate day for releasing people from the bonds of Satan—which includes physical illnesses (Luke 13:16).  He declared this as the Father’s will (John 5:17, 19).

In the view of the Jewish leaders Christ’s statements contradicted of the Law of Moses, but that was due to their extremely narrow and strict interpretation of the Law.  Christians need to assume that these statements are consistent with the Sabbath Commandment because Jesus never acted contrary to the Law of Moses.

By arguing with the Pharisees what is allowed on the Sabbath, implying that certain things are not allowed on the Sabbath, He confirmed the principle that the seventh day is set aside for special use (sanctified – Gen 2:3).

To be able to adopt the meaning which Christ attached to the Sabbath, we have to interpret the Sabbath not only in terms of the fourth commandment, but also in terms of its original purpose, namely that it was created to be a blessing to mankind (Gen 2:3).  As Jesus confirmed, “the Sabbath was made for man” (Mark 2:27).

Then the requirement for rest in the fourth commandment is not an end in itself, but a means to an end.  Then we interpret the “rest” in the Sabbath Commandment as to cease the work of everyday life, to focus the mind and energy on bringing joy to people by restoring ourselves and other people to holistic physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual health.

Understood in this way “it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath” and anything that we can do to restore ourselves and other people to health, holistically defined, is not only allowed, but completely consistent with the purpose of the Sabbath.  In fact, to neglect to do on the Sabbath anything that we can do to restore people to health would be inconsistent with the Sabbath principle.

But the principle in the previous paragraph apply to all days of the week.  We should go beyond this and accept the Sabbath as the preferred day for healing.  Thus the Sabbath also becomes a work day, but a different type of work.  The Sabbath becomes a day on which we work for the mentally, physically and spiritually sick, blind, lame, and withered, to heal them.  Then our lives will become divided into two parts; for six days we work for ourselves, but on the seventh day we work for the physical, psychological and spiritual health of others.

Understood in this way we accept Christ’s statement, that healing on the Sabbath is the Father’s will, as new truth for the Christian; as a founding statement for Christianity.  Jesus gave a new meaning to the Sabbath which cannot be derived simply from the Law of Moses.

What Jesus did to the Sabbath is the same as what He did to the entire Law of Moses; He replaced it with the Law of Christ.  The Law of Moses was God’s eternal laws for mankind, but adapted to the condition, abilities and situation of the enslaved and corrupt little nation of Israel.  It therefore, for example, prohibited adultery.  But Christ again revealed the eternal principles on which the Law of Moses was based, replacing the law against adultery with the law that “everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery” (Mat 5:28).  All moral principles of the Law of Moses are retained in the Law of Christ, but the Law of Christ raised the standards to the Father’s perfection.  We should therefore not be surprised to find that Christ replaced the fourth commandment with a much higher law, without lowering the standards.

Sabbath: Table of Contents

Next: The healing of the blind man in John 9

Sabbath – Table of Contents

The Seventh Day – blessed at creation, counted by Noah, made a Sabbath by Moses, corrupted by the Traditions, liberated by Christ and ignored by Paul.

This page lists the articles that are available on the Sabbath:

THE OLD TESTAMENT SABBATH

What does the Old Testament teach about the Sabbath?

Blessed And Sanctified At Creation – The specialness of the seventh day is part of what God created and permanently engrained into human existence.

Evolution –The view that God created man over millions of years by guiding evolution makes the Bible’s core message null and void.

From Creation To Moses – Evidence exists for a seven day cycle before Moses, but not that the seventh day was a day of physical rest.

The Sabbath in The Law of Moses The Sabbath was a Symbol of Liberation, a Day of Rest, a help to Israel remember the Lord and a Test of Obedience.  It was not a day for church meetings or a day to seek the Lord.

JEWISH SABBATH TRADITIONS

The Jewish Traditions are extremely detailed laws that the Jews added to the Old Testament. It was intended to help them keep God’s Law, but by representing God as a tyrant, it eventually separated them from God.

THE LAW OF CHRIST

The Law of Christ (1Cor.  9:21; Gal. 6:2)Christ replaced the Law of Moses with a higher law – the Law of Christ.  This is the law that existed “from the beginning” and reveals the Father’s heart.

CHRIST SABBATH INCIDENTS

First Two Sabbath Healing Miracles (Luke 4; Mark 1)Early in His ministry Christ publicly contravened the traditions by healing a man on the Sabbath.  This prepared the ground for the later confrontations.

The Man With The Withered Hand (Matthew 12:9-14 and Mark 3:1-6)Jesus healed the man, saying, “it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath”.  The Pharisees went out and immediately began to conspire as to how they might destroy Him.

The Crippled Woman (Luke 13:10-17) – The Pharisees became angry because Jesus healed the woman.  Jesus then asked, “should she not have been released from this bond on the Sabbath day?

When His Disciples Picked Grain (Matthew 12:1-8, Mark 2:23-28 and Luke 6:1-5)His disciples were accused of breaking the Sabbath.  He defended them by saying “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath”, and claimed to be “Lord of the Sabbath”.

The Invalid At Bethesda (John 5) – He justified the healing by saying: “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working … the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing” (5:19).

The Man That Was Born Blind (John 9) – The miracle healings supported His astounding claims, condemned the Pharisees and explained the Sabbath as a day for the “good works from the Father”.

CHRIST AND THE SABBATH

A number of articles have been written and are published on this website that each deals with a specific Sabbath incident from the gospels. The current series of articles is a topical overview of the main principles.

Why Christ Deliberately Contravened The Sabbath – The Jews defined healing as work that is disallowed on the Sabbath.  Still Jesus deliberately healed on the Sabbath.  The message therefore is important.

The Real Reason They Killed Jesus – He contravened the Jewish traditions, and therefore was a threat to the authority of the religious rulers.

Opportunity To Teach – The miracles gave credence to His astounding claims, such as that the Father is in Him, and He in the Father, and created the opportunity to teach.

What Did Jesus Teach About The Sabbath? – What did Jesus teach may and must be done on the Sabbath?

Jesus Taught A Different Sabbath. – Moses made rest the goal.  Christ shifted the focus to the purpose, namely to free people from Satan’s bonds.  Rest is for this purpose, and remains.

Is the Sabbath commandment repeated in the New Testament?  What are the implications?

The intention is to populate this page more fully over the next months.

The Crippled Woman

Summary

The Pharisees became angry because Jesus healed the woman.  Jesus then asked, “should she not have been released from this bond on the Sabbath day?

Luke 13 reports an incident where Jesus healed a crippled woman while teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath.  She has already been ill for eighteen years.  She did not ask to be healed.  Jesus simply called her over and immediately healed her.

She was overjoyed and began glorifying God, but the synagogue official became angry, and tried to chase the sick people out of the synagogue, telling them that healing is not allowed on the Sabbath.

The religious leaders had no doubt that healing was work, but it was the traditions, disallowing anything that even remotely looked like work, that prohibited healing on the Sabbath; not the Law of Moses.

In general the religious rulers were not God’s children, but used to Sabbath traditions as a tool to maintain control over the common people.  Christ’s condemnation of the traditions through His Sabbath healing miracles therefore threatened their authority, resulting in the agitation of the religious rulers.

The Lord responded sharply, calling the religious leaders hypocrites, and saying that this woman was bound by Satan for eighteen long years and asking, “should she not have been released from this bond on the Sabbath day?

Jesus did not contest the binding nature of the Sabbath.  Rather, by debating with the Pharisees what is allowed on the Sabbath, He indicated that He accepted the Sabbath commandment as binding.

By asking should she not have been released (luein) from this bond on the Sabbath day?” (v16) Jesus said that the Sabbath is the most appropriate day to free somebody.  This woman was freed from illness.  This means that the Sabbath is the most appropriate day for healing.

This gives a new meaning to the Sabbath.  While the Law of Moses simply prohibited all work on the Sabbath, Christ indicated that the purpose of the Sabbath is to free people from the bonds of Satan.  The seventh day remains a Sabbath, in the sense of man stop doing what he has been doing on the other six days, but Jesus presented the Sabbath as a day of activity; a day to free people from the physical, psychological and spiritual bonds of Satan.  This gives a meaning to the Sabbath that is not found in the Ten Commandments or in the Law of Moses more generally.

Luke 13:10-17:

He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath.

There was a woman who for eighteen years had had a sickness caused by a spirit; and she was bent double, and could not straighten up at all.

When Jesus saw her, He called her over and said to her: “Woman, you are freed from your sickness.He laid His hands on her; and immediately she was made erect again and began glorifying God.

But the synagogue official, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, began saying to the crowd in response: “There are six days in which work should be done; so come during them and get healed, and not on the Sabbath day.

But the Lord answered him and said: “You hypocrites, does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the stall and lead him away to water him?  And this woman … whom Satan has bound for eighteen long years, should she not have been released from this bond on the Sabbath day?”

In many respects this incident is similar to the healing of the man with the withered hand:

Both miracle healings occurred in synagogues

Synagogues were not like our churches today, where only one person speaks, but allowed various people to speak.  In the book of Acts we also read about the apostles teaching in synagogues.

It was the traditions that prohibited healing on the Sabbath; not the Law of Moses. 

The Law of Moses is silent on healing on the Sabbath, but both incidents show that the religious leaders had no doubt that healing was regarded as work.  This law against of healing on the Sabbath must therefore have been in their traditions.  These traditions disallowed anything that even remotely looked like work; including healing.

The religious rulers responded with anger to the Sabbath healing miracles because their authority was threatened.

In all instances the healings were clearly visible, for example the healing of the withered hand and the crippled woman.  If the religious rulers were God’s children, they would have responded by falling to their knees, but these healing miracles only made them angry (Luke 6:11; 13:14).

To understand this one must understand that Israel had no king at the time, but was ruled by the religious leaders.  They ruled on the basis of the Law of Moses, as interpreted by their traditions.  The extremely complex and detailed traditions gave them power over the common people.  However, but as Christ said to them in John 5:42, “you do not have the love of God in yourselves”.

Into this context Jesus came by the authority of God, bearing His image, fulfilling His word, and seeking His glory.  He gained an influence with the common people because they could understand His words, and because their hearts were warmed and comforted.  He spoke of God, not as an avenging judge, but as a tender father.  He revealed the image of God as mirrored in Himself.

Yet He was not accepted by the leaders in Israel because His teaching demanded the sacrifice of self.  As Jesus said to them in John 5:44, they “receive glory from one another and … (do) not seek the glory that is from the one and only God”.  They would have accepted Christ if He appealed to their desire for self-exaltation and flattered their pride by approving their cherished opinions and traditions.

But by gaining an influence with the people and at the same time by condemning them by condemning the basis of their authority, namely the traditions, He was a threat to their authority.  In order to maintain their own power, they determined to break down His influence; to destroy Christ.

Neither of the healings were emergencies.
These Sabbath healings were an important part of Christ’s message.

Many sick people were continually streaming to Him, and He healed them all (Luke 4:40; 6:18-19).  These healings confirmed His divine nature, the supernatural source of His mission and that God can and wants to restore man.  Healing therefore was an integral part of His mission.  In Jesus God has come to live amongst us.

But why did Jesus heal on the Sabbath also?  He knew that they wanted to kill Him and that they were seeking justification to do so.  And none of the sick people whom He cured on the Sabbath asked to be healed.  But still He deliberately and publicly contravened the Sabbath laws, as practiced by the Pharisees.  Jesus did not do things to endanger His life or mission without good cause.  These Sabbath healings therefore had an important message, such as to condemn the religious leaders and their traditions, and to explain the true Sabbath.

Christ accepted the Sabbath commandment as a binding obligation.

In all incidents, when accused of breaking the Sabbath, Jesus did not contest the binding nature of the Sabbath.  Rather, by debating with the Pharisees what is allowed on the Sabbath, He indicated that He accepted the Sabbath commandment as binding.  There is no indication in His teaching that the seventh day is no longer special or that it will ever become common, like the other six days.

Two differences between the two incidents may be identified.

To free is an example of doing good. 

The first is the justification of the Sabbath healing.  Jesus justified the healing of the man’s withered hand by saying that “it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath” (Mat. 12:12).  In the incident of the crippled woman He used the word luein, which means to free.  He used this word three times, but these words are translated differently in each case.  He first said to the woman, “Woman, you are freed (luein) from your sickness” (v12).  After the synagogue official responded with anger (v14), Jesus used the example of an ox or donkey that is untied (luein) on the Sabbath (v15).  Lastly He justified her healing by saying should she not have been released (luein) from this bond on the Sabbath day?” (v16)  To free somebody or some animal is an example of doing good.  The general principle therefore remains that it is “it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath”.  So this is not really a difference.

The Sabbath is the most appropriate day to free somebody. 

By saying should she not have been released (luein) from this bond on the Sabbath day?” (v16) Jesus said something that we do not find in the report of the man with the withered hand, namely that the Sabbath is the most appropriate day to free somebody.  Jesus said that this woman was bound by Satan for eighteen long years (v16).  Like the ox or donkey is tied with a rope, this woman has been tied by physical illness.  Since the bond of Satan that held this woman was her physical condition, physical or psychological illnesses may be classified as the bonds of Satan.  To free people from the bonds of Satan therefore includes to heal people.  So while the incident of the withered hand informed us only that doing good, including healing, is allowed on the Sabbath, the incident of the crippled woman informs us that the Sabbath is the most appropriate day to free somebody from the bonds of Satan, which also includes healing.

This gives a new meaning to the Sabbath. 

By saying that the Sabbath is the most appropriate day to free somebody from the bonds of Satan, Christ defined the purpose of the Sabbath.  This brings us back to the conclusion that Christ did more than interpreting the Sabbath commandment; He gave a new meaning to it.  While the Law of Moses simply prohibited all work on the Sabbath, Christ indicated that the purpose of the Sabbath is to free people from the bonds of Satan.  This gives a meaning to the Sabbath that is not found in the Ten Commandments or in the Law of Moses more generally.

This meaning of the Sabbath Christ received from the Father. 

This emphasis of the Sabbath as intended to heal people from their physical or psychological illnesses seems to go beyond the Law of Moses to the creation account, which states that the Sabbath was blessed (Gen 2:3), which implies it is intended to be a blessing to mankind.  By blessing the Sabbath at creation (Gen 2:3), God made the Sabbath “for man” (Mark 2:27); in other words, for the benefit of man.  In this view the Sabbath becomes the day on which man should expect supernatural healing.  In John 5, after He was challenged with respect to another healing miracle, He claimed that the Father is the Source of the things He did, and therefore of His view of the Sabbath:

Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner”. (John 5:19)

Christ’s Sabbath is not a day of idleness, but of work to free people.

The origin of the Hebrew word sabbat is uncertain, but it seems to have derived from the verb sabat, meaning to stop or to cease.  If Jesus applied this meaning to the Sabbath, then the seventh day remains a Sabbath, in the sense of man stop doing what he has been doing on the other six days, but not in a sense of doing nothing.  Jesus presented the Sabbath as a day of activity; a day to free people from the physical, psychological and spiritual bonds of Satan.

Sabbath: Table of Contents

Next: When His disciples picked grain