5:17 But Jesus answered the Jews, “My Father is still working, and I also am working.”

18 For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God.

At this point in John’s narrative the man who had been ill for thirty-eight years and was suddenly healed, simply disappears from the story never to be heard from again.

The religious officials, the people John refers to as “the Jews” whose opposition to Jesus is growing increasingly violent, move to centre stage. These religious leaders are the focus for the remainder of John chapter 5. They are the people Jesus addresses in the difficult words that make up the rest of this chapter.

These dogmatic legalistic defensive leaders are the answer to the question what could be “worse” than spending thirty-eight years afflicted with illness. The “worse” is to become a person who seeks “to kill” the one who is the source of healing and life.

Whenever we read about Jesus’ interactions with the religious officials of his day we need to avoid the temptation to make these stories simply about other bad people. We need to ask ourselves whether there is anything in their attitude that an uneasy resonance in our own hearts.

Is there any action, thought, word, or attitude I see in myself that is anti-life?

Is there any way in which I might become an obstacle to another person finding the fullness of healing God desires for all people?

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were unable to see the “work” God was performing through Jesus.  They missed the evidence of compassion and love that was manifest in his actions and his teaching. Their hearts were blocked by their determination to hold to a narrow theology, a tight tradition and an exclusive community of faith. They lacked the expansiveness of spirit that would have enabled them to embrace this new thing that was happening in their midst.

It is a profound tragedy when that which was intended to create openness and light becomes a source of resistance and violence.

In what ways might I be tempted in my life to resist the light, beauty and truth wherever they are manifest in life?