And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath. The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed. He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk. Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk? And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place. Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee. The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole. And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day. But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God. (John 5:5-18)
In the John 5:17 verse, Jesus intent is to demonstrate to the Jews that He is not guilty of breaking the Sabbath and He does so using a series of arguments that we will explore. In verse 17, Jesus’ argument is as follows:
a) God is my Father
b) My Father works on the Sabbath
c) I also therefore work on the Sabbath
Statement A above is the first claim to Deity that Jesus makes; namely, that He is the Son of God. Regarding this claim, Dr. Thomas L. Constable of Dallas Theological Seminary says:
To the contemporary western mind the idea of “son” connotes a different person, but the ancient eastern mind thought of a “son” as the extension of his father. The word connoted identification with rather than difference from. The ancients considered a good son as one who followed in his father’s footsteps exactly.
Regarding the idea that God’s Son would be equal with God, Dr. John Gill adds the following:
Making himself to be equal with God; to be of the same nature, and have the same perfections, and do the same works; for by saying that God was his Father, and so that he was the Son of God, a phrase, which, with them, signified a divine person, as they might learn from Psalms 2:7 [through verse 12], and by ascribing the same operations to himself, as to his Father, they rightly understood him, that he asserted his equality with him; for had he intended no more, and had they imagined that he intended no more by calling God his Father, than that he was so by creation, as he is to all men, or by adoption, as he was to the Jews, they would not have been so angry with him; for the phrase, in this sense, they used themselves: but they understood him otherwise, as asserting his proper deity, and perfect equality with the Father; and therefore to the charge of Sabbath breaking, add that of blasphemy, and on account of both, sought to put him to death; for according to their canons, both the Sabbath breaker, and the blasphemer, were to be stoned.
Jewish scholar Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum, regarding the title “Son of God” states:
Whereas in English usage, the term by itself does not imply deity, it did to the ancient Jewish mind. The name Son of God was very much a Messianic title, and as a Messianic title, it emphasized His deity.
Why would the “ancient” Jews be so certain that the Son of God is also God? Well, in Psalm 2, the Son of God is referred to as God’s Messiah (v.2) and God’s King (v.3). The significance of the title Messiah being applied to the Son of God is huge since later on in Isaiah 9 of the Hebrew scriptures we are not only told that this Messiah is “a Son” Who “is given” to us but also that He is “the mighty God.” Going back to this King of Psalms 2 whom God calls His Son, we are told in verse 8 that God is turning over the dominion and the authority of the whole world to Him. Moreover, God warns that all must submit to Him and that those who refuse will be punished (v.11-12). The chapter ends by instructing the earth to put their trust in this King (v.12).Now as if all this were not enough, in Psalm 24:7-10, of this same King it is asked: Who is this King of glory? In the answer that is given we are emphatically told that this King is YHWH (the Almighty God). Furthermore, in Psalm 45, this same King is called God (v.6), is worshiped (v.11) and is praised for evermore (v.16). That this King is also God was also corroborated by Jeremiah in the 48th chapter and the 15th verse of his book.
So we see that whether one appealed to the ANE’s (Ancient Near East) conception of the Father-Son relationship or whether one appealed directly to what the Tanach (Jewish scriptures) taught about the Son of God, the Jews had rightfully concluded that when Jesus called Himself the Son of God, He was claiming to be equal with God.