“Tattletale! . . . Tattletale!”
Can you remember hearing those words as a child? Were those words directed at you because of something you did? Have you ever spoken those words to others because of what they did to you? In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, a tattletale is a child who goes to an adult (parent, teacher, etc.) and tells the adult that you are doing something that you are not supposed to be doing. It’s called “tattling” and the person who does it is a “tattletale”. (Other similar words include a “blabber”, “rat”, “fink”, “stoolie”, “snitch”, and the list goes on).
In the previous passage of Scripture, John 5:1-13, Jesus healed a man at the pool of Bethesda, This man had been sick and weak for 38 years. He didn’t know who Jesus was, and couldn’t give an answer to the Jewish leaders when they asked. Jesus later, in verse 14, found him in the temple and admonished him not to sin anymore or something worse might happen to him. Now this man knows that the One who healed him is Jesus.
I. THE HEALER IS REVEALED (verse 15)
The narrative continues in verse 15. “The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.” The first words that came to my mind after I read that verse were, “Tattletale, tattletale”! After all that Jesus did for him by healing him, and now he’s going to “rat on Him”, getting Him into trouble with the Jews. What’s the matter with this guy? Is that any way to treat your Healer?
Actually, that was not the man’s intent at all. The leaders of his people had asked him a question that he couldn’t answer: the identity of his Healer. Once he found out, he told the leaders the answer to their question out of respect for them, thinking that they would want to rejoice and give praise to Jesus also. Jesus had not warned this man not to say anything to them because it was the time for the Lord Jesus to reveal Himself more fully to the Jews. The tension is going to be growing.
II. THIER ANGER IS REDIRECTED (verse 16)
In response to the healed man’s words, verse 16 says, “And for this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath.” Now they have the real culprit to deal with. I find it significant that the healed man tried to direct their focus away from their Sabbath laws and onto his miraculous healing and the one who healed him. However, they direct their attention away from the amazing miracle Jesus performed and back to the violation of their Sabbath laws. It’s as the saying goes, “Don’t confuse us with facts; our minds are made up!”. The healed man’s “reality check” was unsuccessful. We don’t find them objecting to the healing itself – just the day on which it was done. The Jewish leaders were living in a world of their own: a world darkened by their own laws. It says that they were “persecuting” Jesus. This persecution involved making false accusations and spreading vicious rumors in order to attack His character and ruin His popularity. I guess you could call that a form of tattling also: they were spreading gossip about Him. That’s just the beginning of their attacks. In their minds, no one was going to get in the way of their laws and their control over the social and spiritual traditions of their people. At this point the leaders of the Jews don’t appear to have a clear knowledge of Jesus’ claims, but after Jesus responds to them, their understanding becomes clearer and their hatred of Him increases.
III. JESUS’ REPLY (verse 17)
The Lord Jesus replies to them, in verse 17, with a simple statement that is packed with meaning. But He answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.” God only rested once, and that was from His work of creation only. You might say that He stepped back for a short time to enjoy it, while at the same time keeping everything else going, so to speak. God gave us the Sabbath as a day of rest for us, not for Him. God is always working. The Scriptures give us many examples of the work that God does on a continuing basis. In Deuteronomy 11:12, speaking about the promised land, Moses says, “a land for which the Lord your God cares; the eyes of the Lord your God are always on it, from the beginning even to the end of the year.” Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning. . . “. Add to those verses Zephaniah 3:5, Romans 8:34 and many others. God is always there. He always sees, always hears, always knows, and always cares. It’s a 24/7 responsibility. God never sleeps (Ps. 121:4)
The Jews would have to agree with the first half of Jesus’ statement: “God is always working”. Can you imagine what it would be like if God took a day off every week? Everyone and everything would fall apart or disappear. He would have to create all over again!
To give you an inkling of how terrifying this would be, imagine that all medical personnel and all medical facilities and pharmacies took the Sabbath day off every week. No ambulances, no emergency rooms, no urgent care, nothing. Wouldn’t that be frightening? I wouldn’t want to leave my house on that day! Now imagine if everyone everywhere took the Sabbath day off and did no work. There would be no stores open, no public transportation, no gas, no electricity, no food, nothing. Thank God their laws weren’t carried out to the fullest extent then or now!
I don’t think the Jewish leaders could put up an argument about the fact that God is always working. but when the Lord Jesus says, “And I Myself am working”, they became enraged. The Tehillim should have come to their minds when Jesus said those words. The Tehillim is the Book of Praises (The Psalms). When Jesus said those words, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working”, I think there was a pause in the middle. “My Father is working until now . . . and I Myself am working.” If His accusers would have given thought to the first half of Jesus reply, the Book of Journeys should have come to their minds (Psalm 121). It speaks of the journey of the nation of Israel to the Promised Land, and the journey of each individual through life. It is a psalm of David and is called “A Song of Ascents”. Here are the first four verses to that Psalm
I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From whence shall my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Psalm goes on to say that God is their Keeper, their Shade, their Protector and their Guard. God the Father was always there with them, 24/7, working constantly for their good; and Jesus was there right along with Him! In their pride and legalism, the Jews completely overlooked the love and concern that prompted Jesus’ answer to them. They’ve been reciting and singing that psalm for a thousand years, yet sadly, they refused to honor the One who fits the description. The author of that Psalm, King David, would probably have fallen with his face to the ground after hearing those words from the mouth of the Lord Jesus.
IV. FROM PERSECUTION TO EXECUTION (verse 18)
In verse 18 we see that the Jews are turning up the heat on the Lord Jesus. “For this cause therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He was not only breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.” Now the intent of the Jews is not just a “smear campaign”; it has also become a “death warrant”. Not only has the Lord Jesus broken their Sabbath laws, but He has dared to claim that He is their Messiah! In their minds, that is a death sentence.
Let’s look at this situation from a logical point of view. At the pool of Bethesda, Jesus had performed a miracle that only God could accomplish. A man who was helpless and without strength for 38 years had his condition reversed instantly by the command of Jesus. When the leaders of the Jews met this man at the temple, they didn’t even question the miracle because they couldn’t refute it. Doesn’t it seem logical to you that they should have given Jesus the benefit of the doubt concerning HIs claim until they could find proof that would undeniably refute it? Just a few minutes earlier they were looking at proof that undeniably affirmed it!
In the late 1800’s a man by the name of Lew Wallace wrote a book that became a best seller, and many years later it was made into a movie which is considered to be one of the best movies of all time. The book’s name is “Ben Hur”. Maybe you’ve read the book or seen the movie. It weaves the true story of Jesus Christ with that of a fictional young Jewish nobleman named Judah Ben-Hur. As Wallace did his research, studying the Bible and the history and customs of the Jewish people at that time, he came to believe in Jesus Christ. Wallace said, “I have seen the Nazarene , . . I saw him perform works which no mere man could perform.” (Our Daily Bread, 4/9/17)
What is your estimate of Jesus Christ? Have you studied His life and His claims, and have you reviewed the evidence that supports those claims? Please don’t let personal pride or indifference get in the way of the only relationship that lasts forever, and the only joy that is beyond comparison.
This passage of Scripture demonstrates what legalism can do to people. Three important principles we can all learn from this incident in the life of Jesus have to do with a proper understanding of legalism and what is needed on our parts in order to avoid legalism in our own lives. First, my standards, if they go beyond the teachings of the Scriptures, should not go any further than myself. Secondly, legalism consists, not of having standards which exceed the bounds of Scripture, but of considering those personal standards as being equal to Scripture, and trying to impose them on others. Thirdly, we’ll avoid legalism if we stay in God’s Word and make it our only guide for living. You and others around you will be glad you did!
CONSTRUCTION SITE COMPLETED
The apostle Paul says in I Corinthians 3:10-11, “According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation and another is building upon it. But let each man be careful how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than the which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” May your work and your life continue to stand firm on His foundation