|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
5:17-23 The Divine power of the miracle proved Jesus to be the Son of God, and he declared that he worked with, and like unto his Father, as he saw good. These ancient enemies of Christ understood him, and became more violent, charging him not only with sabbath-breaking, but blasphemy, in calling God his own Father, and making himself equal with God. But all things now, and at the final judgment, are committed to the Son, purposely that all men might honour the Son, as they honour the Father; and every one who does not thus honour the Son, whatever he may think or pretend, does not honour the Father who sent him.
Verses 17, 18. -
(a) The claim of special relation with the Father. Verse 17. - But Jesus answered them (ἀπεκρίνατο; here and ver. 19 are the only places where the author uses this aorist, My Father worketh hitherto; i.e. until now; has not, has never, ceased from working. Some critics, eager for disparaging comment, have said "this is point blank denial of the sabbath rest of the Creator as exhibited in Genesis 1, 2, and Exodus 20. But, on the contrary, it is the true exposition of those grand utterances. God through his Logos, the Father through his Son, did bring his strictly creative works to an end with the six days; but then he entered on the seventh day, the rest of his preserving, protective, reproductive energy; then he began to pursue his redeeming and quickening operations in all regions of his dominion. My Father worketh, energizes, until now. His "rest" is an infinite activity of wisdom and power, of righteousness and mercy. The true sabbath is this rest of God. Man has to enter into this rest, and cooperate with and utterly abandon himself to the will of God. Sabbath keeping is the great symbol of such entire satisfaction with God. The activities from which man has to cease on the holy day are man's own, man's self-centred labours; but he, too, may combine the highest activity with profound repose. "My Father worketh until now, and I work - I, who am his Instrument, his Word, his Manifestation, his Messenger, abstaining from all mere self-originated, self-poised, self-centering toil, I work with him for him. I work obviously and visibly that you may see for yourselves what he has ever been doing silently and unobserved." Philo had said ('Leg. All.,' 1:3) "that God never ceases to create, nor takes a holiday from his works;" and the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews
(4) had grasped, as an echo of Christ's own teaching, the perpetuity of Divine rest through all the ages of work; but the naked thought here soars far above them both. The dawning of every clay, the opening of the flowers, the flowing of the rivers, the sustenance of vegetable, animal, and human life, reveal through every moment of the agelong sabbath rest, and on every sabbath day, his intense and constant activity.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
But Jesus answered them,.... Being convened before them, and charged by them with the violation of the sabbath, he vindicated himself in the following manner, saying;
my Father worketh hitherto: he who is my Father, not by creation, or adoption, but by nature, though he ended all his work on the seventh day, and rested from what he had done; yet he did not cease from working at all, but has continued to work ever since, on sabbath days, as well as on other days; in upholding and governing the world, in continuing the species of beings, and all creatures in their being; in providing for them, and in dispensing the bounties of his providence to them; in causing his sun to shine, and showers of rain to descend on the earth; and in taking care of, and protecting even the meanest of his creatures: and much more men; and still more his own people:
and I work; or "also I work"; as the Syriac and Arabic version reads; i.e. in conjunction with him, as a co-efficient cause in the works of providence, in the government of the world, in upholding all things in it, in bearing up the pillars of the earth, in holding things together, and sustaining all creatures: or I also work in imitation of him, in doing good both to the bodies and souls of men on the sabbath day, being the Lord of it: I do but what my Father does, and therefore, as he is not to be blamed for his works on that day, as none will say he is, no more am I. So Philo the Jew says (b),
"God never ceases to work; but as it is the property of fire to burn, and of snow to cool, so of God to work.''
And what most men call fortune, he calls the divine Logos, or word, to whom he ascribes all the affairs of providence (c).
(b) Leg. Ailegor. l. 1. p. 41. (c) Quod Deus sit Immutab. p. 318.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
17, 18. My Father worketh hitherto and I work—The "I" is emphatic; "The creative and conservative activity of My Father has known no sabbath-cessation from the beginning until now, and that is the law of My working."
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