Jesus had just healed the man who had an infirmity 38 years (John 5:5-9). The Pharisees challenged the authenticity of the miracle because it was done on the sabbath day, which meant to them that God could not have been behind the miracle, for it was His day off (i.e. His day of rest) as described in Genesis 2:2-3.
“And on the seventh day God ended his work … And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: …”
Their problem was they were taking this healing action out of context. It is true God rested from creation after six days; but now He is not working on the creation of man, but on the reconciliation of man from the fall. That is a 24/7 effort.
The Father’s Work on Our Redemption
The key to understanding our text in John 5:17 is found in the word hitherto, which means up to this point or up to now. The question is: When and where did the Father start working on our redemption? Titus 1:2, “In the hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;” This verse tells us the plan for our salvation was laid out in eternity past, before the world began. In Genesis 3:9-21, we learn that God started to work on those plans the first day of man’s fall in Eden; when He sought out the sinners in the thickets, shed the blood of the innocent lamb, and clothed them in animal skins.
Jesus says from that point hitherto, or up to now, His Father has been working on redemption. That can be seen not only in Eden, but also in His instructing Noah to build an ark to save mankind from total extinction; in Moses being sent to lead His people in an exodus out of Egypt; in bringing them through the divided Red Sea; in feeding them manna for 40 years in the wilderness; in His instruction to Joshua dividing the Jordan and taking them into Canaan; in calling David to be king and Solomon to build the temple; and in Himself coming into the world by the virgin Mary.
Jesus Joins the Father’s Work
This text now shifts from the Father to the Son who says “… and I work.” Jesus is saying that He came also to work on man’s redemption. He did not come to replace the Father in working on our redemption, but to join Him in it. “… The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.” (John 5:19).
Jesus, in His earthly ministry and in fellowship with the Father, came “… to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10). He was virgin born and did 32 miracles in an effort to establish that He is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and Emmanuel, God with us. His greatest work for our redemption was His death, burial, and resurrection. The Father, who has been working since before Adam up to this time on your redemption, is now joined by Jesus in that glorious effort.
The Holy Spirit’s Work
So we have two members of the Trinity working on our redemption: God the Father and God the Son. But there is another to come, the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that when He got back to Heaven, He would send the promise of the Father to us, “And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: …” (Luke 24:49). This promise refers to God the Spirit. He came on the day of Pentecost and joined the Father and the Son in redemptive effort providing the power, sealing the believer, gifting church members, administrating church activity, and revealing the Son to us, as the Son reveals the Father to us.
What a wonderful thought … that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit are all actively involved to bring us into a new creation in Christ Jesus. Just as they were all three involved in the original creation of Adam, so it is in our new creation.
The question that remains is: If you are a son of God, at what point are you intending to become part of this redemption team, working together with the Father God, the Son of God, and the Spirit of God in restoring fallen man back to favor with his Creator? 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 says that He “… hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; … and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.”