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The Apologists Bible Commentary
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|17||But He answered them, "My Father is working until now, and I myself am working."|
|Commentary||Contemporary Jewish thought accepted that God
"worked" on the Sabbath, preserving and upholding the Universe
with His Power. Four leading Rabbi's discussed this issue near the
end of the first Century (Gamaliel II, R. Joshua, R. Eleazar ben Azariah,
and R. Akiba) and concluded that although God works constantly, He cannot
rightly be accused of "breaking" the Sabbath, since the Universe
is His domain, and He elevates nothing - not even the Law - above Himself
(Exodus Rabbah 30:9; Genesis Rabbah 11:10).
Thus, God alone can rightly "work" on the Sabbath, as Jesus acknowledges in the first part of his answer. However, to claim that He too was "working" on the Sabbath was to claim a prerogative belonging to God alone. That He should equate his working with that of the Father would have been enough to shock the Jews, but Jesus goes even further, calling the Father "My Father." Both statements implied an equality with the Father, as the Jews readily recognized.
Importantly, Jesus did not defend Himself by saying that the Jewish interpretation of Sabbath law was incorrect (as well He might have - healing can hardly be considered the "work" normally done during the week, from which God decreed all should rest). Instead, He says that whatever allows the Father to "work" on the Sabbath also applies to Him - whether because the Universe is His domain, or because He is above the Law.
|Grammatical Analysis||The verb behind 'answered' (apekrinato) is in the aorist middle - in John, found only here and in v. 19 (the aorist deponent passive apekrithé, might be expected). Abbott argues that this verbal form has legal overtones: Jesus responds to their charge, he offers his defense. The fact that the middle voice of this verb is so regularly attested in legal documentation (Moulton and Milligan, pp. 64-56) may provide some support for this view (Carson, p. 247).|
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