17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.”
Verse 17 is a rejoinder by Jesus to His critics. Jesus’ assertion of His deity came out of the conflict over the Sabbath healing of the paralyzed man. This is His justification for breaking the Sabbath. This verse is also the catalyst for the remainder of the chapter.
17 But Jesus answered them,
Jesus answered the false teachers of His day by asserting who He truly was. His answer went to the fundamental reason why He had the right to heal on the Sabbath.
“My Father has been working until now,
Note Jesus said “My Father,” not “our father.” That distinguishes the Father as uniquely His. This statement was a claim to deity. The Father was His Father in a special sense. The Son of God had the same nature as the Father. Religious leaders did not miss this point, as we will see in their response to this statement.
“Until now” means from creation until the moment Jesus spoke these words. God was continuously at work, even on the Sabbath. He sustains the universe without cessation. If this is true with the Father, it would also be true for the Son. This phrase refers to God’s providential work over all creation. Without God’s sustaining grace, the entire created universe would cease. God does not pause in His providential working. He works on Monday as well as Saturday.
and I have been working.”
The Father’s work is also Jesus’ work. The Father works on the Sabbath and Jesus works on the Sabbath. Jesus put Himself at the same level as the Father. “The Father works on the Sabbath or Saturday and I work on Saturday.” Jesus asserted in this that He was the Lord of the divinely established Sabbath.
The restriction of working on the Sabbath did not apply to God. God rested on the Sabbath, not because He was tired but because He had completed or finished His work of creation (Ge 2:1-3). Jesus’ assertion to work in this sense was a claim to deity. The idea is that it is right to work on the Sabbath if you are God Himself.
This reply by Jesus became the subject of verses 19-47 because He put His work on the same level as the Father. Instead of correcting the prevailing view by the Jews on the Sabbath, Jesus made a statement of His equality with the Father. The same factors that applied to God were also His. Jesus’ work of healing was the work of God. The Father works every moment on behalf of creation, and so does His Son.
Jesus’ refusal to stop performing miracles on the Sabbath rested on His deity. He declared that He would “keep on working” these miracles. Both His work and the Father’s work are the same work. It takes work to heal, but the Sabbath was for rest.
Jesus claimed to be God Himself.
Jesus’ work was consistent with the Sabbath rest of the Father (Ge 2:2-3; He 4:1, 3-5). Jesus’ healing on the Sabbath was in tune with the Father. He followed the Father’s example. He compared Himself to the Father, to God. He laid down the truth that He was Lord over the Sabbath.
Theological liberalism attempts to deny that Jesus was God Almighty, wanting to depict Him as a finite human being with all the fallibility that that implies. This is obstinate unbelief in the extant statement of Scripture.