After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.
Now that day was a sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, “It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” But he answered them, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take it up and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had disappeared in the crowd that was there. Later Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus, because he was doing such things on the sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father is still working, and I also am working.” For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God.
This version of this parable is especially ridiculous because not only do they get mad at Jesus for healing on the sabbath, but they get mad at the invalid for carrying his mat. Imagine someone getting upset because you carried a small box full of personal items (photos, flowers, cards) to you car when you left the hospital for the first time in 38 years on a Sunday. The Jews took resting on the sabbath very seriously.
But Jesus says “My Father is still working.” The Jews traditionally rested on the sabbath because God rested on the seventh day after laboring for six days to create the world. That’s why as Christians we typically attend church on the seventh day of the week. But at no point does scripture say God continued to rest every seventh day. As far as we know, He never took a break again! Perhaps the “moral” we should glean from that story isn’t “rest every seventh day”, but “take the time when your labors are finished to enjoy their fruits.”
So rather than obsessing over whether we or others celebrate Sunday the “right” way, as I have seen many Christians do, we should take the time to make sure we are stopping to enjoy life. Whether it’s by taking a well deserved vacation, spending a Sunday free from chores or work, or simply stopping to spend time with family when you get home from work, honor God by enjoying the many blessings he’s given you.