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John 5:18 For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
" For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him"
Does that register with anyone. If this was where we started reading we would miss out on a tremendous amount of drama. Drama was not exactly Johns purpose in writing. John fully intended for you see Jesus as God. Jesus had just told them that God was his Father. If they were reacting badly to the bed roll, imagine their reactions now. If picking up firewood was worthy of stoning, certainly this arrogance demanded more.
This certainly implies something that John had not previously spelled out for us, and that was that they had already tried to kill him, and had not diminished in their vigor to do so.
"..not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father,.."
Jesus own disciples have not been with him for that long, and none of them really believed that he was the Son of God until after he was crucified.
Imagine yourself standing there listening to this exchange.
There is that possibility that Johns head screamed out "what did you just say?".
Many would have walked away at this statement. Why do you suppose they stayed? It did not matter that God said the Messiah would come. None of them expected that He would come in this manner.
In baseball we give a man three strikes and then call them out. Was this strike two or three? They had tried to kill him before by attempting to throw him off a cliff, but Jesus escaped.
.."making himself equal with God."
That is interesting because it seems like an external assessment, made by someone else, perhaps John. It might be that John is restating what he heard the Pharisees screaming out. There is no doubt that they were loud and vocal. They probably did their best to disrupt whatever he said from that point on, by going into argumentative rants.
Think about the time Jesus walked into the temple and the man with the demon speaks out against Jesus, saying "what have we to do with you".
No one said speak for yourself, and we all read that assuming that the crowd may have felt that this loud mouth was appropriate and spoke for the crowd.
Did Jesus say he was equal with God?
That seems to have been their assessment. He definitely declared God to be his Father. It must have been an entirely cultural understanding to say that the son was no less than the father. What does that say about the town drunk? He also told them directly that he and the Father were one, so I suppose we could say that.
John 10:33 (NIV) We are not stoning you for any of these, replied the Jews, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God."
For the Jews to go so ballistic over this it would have to lean toward a violation of blasphemy against God. We have some clear direction about taking Gods name in vain, although there is huge argument as to what vain is. Here is a case where leaders rose up against Moses, and by extension God.
Exodus 22:28 (NIV) Do not blaspheme God or curse the ruler of your people.
Numbers 26:9 (NIV) and the sons of Eliab were Nemuel, Dathan and Abiram. The same Dathan and Abiram were the community officials who rebelled against Moses and Aaron and were among Korahs followers when they rebelled against the LORD.
I give you this because scripturally there was a basis for the Pharisees anger. This sounds like there is no room for argument, and yet Jesus has a response to this. If you take the time to read Numbers 26 you will see a rebellion against authority by refusing to recognize those that God had placed there. They attempted to subvert Gods authority and were ultimately and quickly eliminated.