In chapter 5, John recounts Jesus’ healing of severely disabled man. Passing by the pool of Bethesda, Jesus spoke to the man, asking him if he wished to be healed. Upon hearing this strange question, the man replied that he had no one to put him into the water. (The people in Jesus’ day believed that whoever got into the water first, after an angel stirred it, would be healed). Ignoring the man’s objection, Jesus commanded him to get up, pick up his mat, and walk. The man did just that, and He could walk! Jesus had healed him!
While this is an amazing miracle, the trouble in John’s Gospel is only beginning. The religious leaders berated the man for carrying his mat on the Sabbath. (This act broke their interpretation of “working on the Sabbath day”). After finding out that Jesus had told him to carry his mat, the religious leaders confronted Jesus. They cared more about his “breaking the Sabbath” than they cared that Jesus had liberated a man from his debilitating condition. (From this point on in John’s gospel, the tension between Jesus and the religious leaders will grow. This leads ultimately to Jesus’ crucifixion).
Answering their objection, Jesus told them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working” (John 5:17). Then, John explained this statement for his readers. “For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God” (John 5:18). This verse shows that the religious leaders understood what Jesus was saying – Jesus is God.