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§ 144. The Pharisees accuse Christ of Sabbath-breaking and Blasphemy.—His Justification. (John, v., 10, 17-19.)

This occurrence gave the Pharisees the first occasion (so far as we know) to accuse Christ of breaking the Sabbath and of blaspheming against God. The first accusation was made in their contracted sense of the Sabbatical law, and of its violation; the latter arose from their legal Monotheism, and their narrow idea of the Messianic office.

In his justification, Christ struck at the root of the first error, viz., the carnal notion that the sanctity of the Sabbath was founded solely upon God’s resting after the work of creation, as if his creative labours were then commenced and ended; and points out, on the other hand, the ever-continuing activity of God as the ground of all being—my Father worketh hitherto, and I work.380380   John, v., 17. This is not out of place, nor borrowed from Philo, as some suppose, nor a mere metaphysical proposition, but one belonging immediately to the religious consciousness. It is said, moreover, that Christ’s transition (in verses 17, 19, seq.) from the Sabbath controversy to an exposition of his higher dignity is out of keeping with his character and mode of teaching, as exhibited in the first three Gospels. What would be said, then, if a transition like that recorded in Matthew, xii., 6, were recorded in John’s Gospel? (“As He never ceases to work, 219so do I work unceasingly for the salvation of men.”) He rejects the narrow limits which their contracted view of the law of the Sabbath would assign to his healing labours, which were to go on uninterruptedly. Nor did he lower his tone in regard to the relations which he sustained to his Heavenly Father because his opponents charged him with claiming, by his words, Divine dignity and authority. On the contrary, he strengthened his assertions, taking care only to guard against their being perverted into a depreciation of the Father’s dignity, by declaring that he laboured in unity with the Father, and in dependence upon him. “The Son,” said he, “can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do.” (He would have to deny himself as the Son of God, before he could act contrary to the will and example of the Father.)


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