This is a screenshot of the High Definition New Testament put together by Steve Runge at Logos Bible Software. We can learn a lot about the passage from Steve. The words that are in bold are emphasized in the text, so we can see that all the more, only, even, his own father, and equal are emphasized. So we can conclude that the Jewish leaders/opponents of Christ really wanted to kill him, because a. he was breaking the Sabbath, and b. (and more importantly) in the process he was making himself equal with God! Imagine that.
But why was he breaking the Sabbath? I’m glad you
didn‘t asked. Here is how the Jewish leaders saw things. The Jewish rabbis were not completely unreasonable about the Sabbath. They allowed for certain tasks to be done that could not be avoided. For instance, if it was the 8th day after the birth of a male child, they agreed that circumcision could take place. If healing was life-threatening, they agreed it could be performed, but only in that case. If it was not life-threatening, it could wait until Monday.
Put yourself in their shoes. Here was a guy who had been sick for 38 years! There was no way that he was in danger of dying. It was entirely possible for Jesus to wait until the next day to heal the man. Therefore, Jesus could have—and in their eyes should have—waited.
Jesus, on the other hand, had different priorities. First, he felt that healing the man took precedence over the rabbis’ interpretation of the Sabbath law, and so he healed him. Second, Jesus had a far more important point to make, which John explains for us in vs. 18. By healing on the Sabbath, Jesus was making himself equal with God, a fact, by the way, which Christ claimed, and the Jewish opponents fully understood.
So, the crucial question to answer is, “how did Christ’s healing on the Sabbath make himself equal with God?”
The rabbis themselves understood that God had not ceased his work on the Sabbath. Their interpretation [codified in Rome in 95 AD] was that the entire world was God’s private residence, so by continuing his work [giving life, taking it away, divine providence, etc.], he himself was not abrogating [yeah, I know, that is an un-Marine like word] the Sabbath law. It was perfectly acceptable to the Jews that God continued his work on the Sabbath.
So what does Jesus say in vs. 17? “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”
Christ is pointing out that they all agreed that God was continuing his work on the Sabbath, so far so good. The explosive comment is when Christ says: “and I am working.” Them there were fighting words. Only God could work on the Sabbath, and Christ is clearly pointing out, “look at me, I am working on the Sabbath.” Christ wanted them to understand and they certainly did understand that he was at that point doing something that everyone agreed only God could do on the Sabbath, thereby making himself equal with God.
The Jewish leaders got Christ’s point. They didn’t believe it; they thought it was blasphemy; they wanted to kill him for it, but they did understand what he certainly was saying.
He was saying that he was equal with God.
What do you think about that, dear reader? It certainly is directed, not only at the Jewish leaders, but you [and me] as well.