The Controversy With The Jewish Leaders

Responding to Jewish Leaders

jewish leaders

Jewish Leaders


So the Jewish leaders began harassing Jesus for breaking the Sabbath rules.

John 5:16 (NLT)


The Jewish leaders did not prosecute the man who was healed, even though he had broken the law; but they did begin to persecute the Lord Jesus. As the guardians of the faith, the members of the Jewish Sanhedrin (the religious ruling council) had the responsibility of investigating new preachers and teachers who appeared in the land, lest some false prophet come along and lead the people astray. They had looked into the ministry of John the Baptist and more recently had been scrutinizing the ministry of Jesus.


The Jewish leaders didn’t care about people. All they could think of was their rules that had been broken. One of the litmus tests for whether or not we are religious is whether we love people or our rules.


Jesus (to His attackers): My Father is at work. So I, too, am working.

John 5:17 (VOICE)


Jesus made Himself equal with God because He is God. This is the theme of John’s Gospel. The Jewish leaders could not disprove His claims, so they tried to destroy Him and get Him out of the way. Both in His crucifixion and His resurrection, Jesus openly affirmed His deity and turned His enemies’ weapons against them.


British writer George MacDonald pointed out that John 5:17 gives us a profound insight into our Lord’s miracles. Jesus did instantly what the Father is always doing slowly. For example,


  • In nature, the Father is slowly turning water into wine; but Jesus did it instantly.
  • Through the powers in nature, the Father is healing broken bodies; but Jesus healed them immediately.
  • Nature is repeatedly multiplying bread, from sowing to harvest; but Jesus multiplied it instantly in His own hands.


This issue keeps arising from the Jewish leaders. They do not appreciate the good things Jesus does on the Sabbath. Most Jews cower at the rebuke from these men, but Jesus does not. He is very clear about this. He cares for the poor, the sick, and the marginalized more than He cares for how some people may interpret and apply God’s law.


It is easy to follow a set of rules; it is much harder to care for the things of the heart.


He also makes it clear that those who follow His path are put on earth to serve. His followers’ service comes out of love for Him. All who follow Him are to love and to serve, especially on the Sabbath.


He was justifying the importance of His work on the Sabbath, claiming God as His Father in ways that suggested He was equal to God. These pious religious leaders sought an opportunity to kill Jesus, and these words fueled their hatred.

John 5:18 (VOICE)


The Jews in Jesus’ time didn’t have this concept of God as being their Father. This is a distinctly New Testament attitude. They equated saying that God was one’s Father as claiming deity for oneself. But all N.T. believers are instructed to call God their Father (Matthew 6:9). This privilege, purchased for us by our union with Jesus, is one that most of us have not fully appreciated.


Jesus: The truth is that the Son does nothing on His own; all these actions are led by the Father. The Son watches the Father closely and then mimics the work of the Father.

John 5:19 (VOICE)


John 5:19 teaches us that Jesus was always obedient to the Father and showed it by refraining from doing anything He did not first see the Father do. None of us are at the level yet, but it should certainly be our goal.


I believe the world will take notice if we as the church of Jesus Christ, His body here on earth, will wage war against selfishness, walk in love and do what we see the Father doing.


The Father loves the Son, so He does not hide His actions. Instead, He shows Him everything, and the things not yet revealed by the Father will dumbfound you.

John 5:20 (VOICE)


Because the Father loves the Son, the Father shows Him His works. The blind religious leaders could not see what Jesus was doing, because they did not know the Father or the Son. In fact, even greater works were in the Father’s plan, works that would cause them to marvel.


The Father can give life to those who are dead; in the same way, the Son can give the gift of life to those He chooses.

John 5:21 (VOICE)


For Jesus to claim to have power to raise the dead was a blasphemous thing in the eyes of the Jewish leaders; they gave that power to God alone. They said that Jehovah held the three great keys:


  1. The key to open the heavens and give rain (Deut. 28:12);
  2. The key to open the womb and give conception (Gen. 30:22); and
  3. The key to open the grave and raise the dead (Ezek. 37:13).


As far as the Gospel records are concerned, Jesus had not yet raised anyone from the dead; so to make this claim was to invite even more opposition.
John 5:21 certainly can mean much more than the physical raising of people from the dead, for certainly Jesus was referring to His gift of spiritual life to the spiritually dead. He amplified this truth further as recorded in John 5:24-29.


The Father does not exert His power to judge anyone. Instead, He has given the authority as Judge to the Son.  So all of creation will honor and worship the Son as they do the Father. If you do not honor the Son, then you dishonor the Father who sent Him.

John 5:22-23 (VOICE)


Our Lord claimed equality in another area, namely, equal honor with the Father. The fact that He is the appointed Judge should cause men to honor Him. What a tremendous claim: if you do not honor the Son, you are not honoring the Father! The “religious” people, who say that they worship God, but who deny the deity of Christ, have neither the Father nor the Son! Apart from Jesus Christ, we cannot know the Father, worship the Father, or serve the Father.


This is one of the strongest arguments for the deity of our Lord in all of Scripture. We can’t just honor Jesus; we have to honor Him “even as” (in like manner or the same way) we honor the Father. This is what separates true Christianity from the religions of the world. Most religions honor Jesus as a great man (examples: Islam, Unification Church, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc.), but they are violently opposed to making Jesus equal with Almighty God.


Judgment is a second sphere in which the divine authority is manifest. This function has been given over to the Son. Note that resurrection and judgment are closely related eschatological functions, of which there were fore-gleams during Christ’s ministry, such as the resurrection of Lazarus and the judgment upon Satan. Behind this sharing of authority is the design that the Son shall receive honor equally with the Father. To refuse it is to dishonor the Father. The two themes of;


  1. Life out of death and
  2. Judgment are now brought together;


But the resurrection here is spiritual, not physical, namely, participation in everlasting life. One must believe on the One who sent the Son, not in the sense of bypassing the Son, but as perceiving that faith in the Father and in the Son are indivisible.



Obeying Jesus is evidence that we love Him and are His disciples. Our obedience is vital to holy living. The Holy Spirit teaches us and gives us understanding of the Scriptures, enabling us to obey the Lord.
Follow Jesus’ example in Scripture, knowing that He did only what He saw the Father doing.




My heavenly Father has never ceased to do His work. Even today He is performing mighty miracles in this world and He has honored me with the privilege of working together with Him.
I can do no divine work in and of myself. Without God, I am nothing. Yet, with Him, nothing is impossible for me. He has left me His Word and His example, and has instructed me to do all things in the exact same way that He does. With Him as my Guide and master instructor, I am destined to do great things.
My heavenly Father dearly loves me and regularly shows me what I must do in this earth. He shall continue to do things in and through me that fill the heart with wonder and astonishment.
I pray this declaration of faith in Jesus’ name, Amen!



Andrew Wommack’s Living Commentary
Bible Exposition Commentary – Be Alive
The Everyday Life Bible: The Power of God’s Word for Everyday Living
The Wycliffe Bible Commentary


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