“Blue laws” prohibit certain activities on Sunday, usually things like shopping or the sale of liquor. Some of the strictest blue laws outlawed working, traveling, or engaging in recreation. Blue laws were originally instituted for religious purposes and have been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
As we saw in yesterday’s study, the Jews of Jesus’ day also had many blue laws focused on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. The religious leaders used these rules to find fault with Jesus when He performed a miracle of healing on the Sabbath.
The healing in today’s passage took place at a pool in Jerusalem located near the sheep gate. This pool had five porticoes or covered colonnades. It was believed to have healing properties and was probably associated with worship of Asclepius, the Roman god of healing. Jesus healed a man who had been ill for thirty-eight years; he was so weak that he could not step down into the water without assistance. The healed man was later charged with violating the Sabbath—for carrying the mat on which he had suffered for so many decades!
Once the religious leaders learned the details of his healing, they shifted their attention to Jesus. Jesus defended Himself by pointing to the example of His heavenly Father: “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working” (v. 17). Jesus was not violating the Sabbath by healing but merely doing what the Father does. Our God is both the One who created all things and who continues to care for all He has created. In the same way, Jesus is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being,” as well as the One who sustains all things by His powerful word (Heb. 1:3).