Since the man is carrying his mat on the Sabbath, some Jewish officials point out that he is breaking the Sabbath. This healing takes place during a feast of the Jews, on a Sabbath day. That Jesus would heal on the Sabbath is well known from synoptic. On the few occasions when Jesus takes the initiative in a healing, it is generally on the Sabbath (see also Mark 3: 1-6; Luke 13: 10-17; 14: 1-6).
Jesus could have easily have waited to heal the man after the Sabbath was over – the fact that He does not suggests strongly that Jesus is making some sort of a declaration by healing on the Sabbath. One of the reasons John tells us the man was an invalid for 38 years is that Jesus could have waited a few hours until sundown and then healed the man.
We have no way of knowing where the man went, but since the Pool is in the on the north end of the Temple Mount he likely came into the city where some of the Jews told him he was violating the Sabbath by carrying the mat.
The man does not know who Jesus was, but “blames” him for his breach of the Sabbath. The man may have assumed that Jesus was a religious authority since he healed him. There are other rabbis who were reputed to have been healers although nothing on the scale of Jesus. The man does not believe in Jesus as the official did in John 4. If he believed at all it was a very superficial and thin belief. He only knows that he has been healed and does not care how or why
The Jews, on the other hand, encounter a miraculous healing and are more interesting in the implications of what Jesus’ actions and words mean. Jesus is claiming to be far more than a healer in this action!
There were a number of things which were exempt from work on the Sabbath. In m.Sabb 18.3 and 19:2-3 there is a brief discussion of things various rabbis allowed as exceptions to the “no work” rule. In fact, most rabbis tried to make Sabbath rules which could be kept and permit the enjoyment of the day.
m.Sabb. 18:3 They do not deliver the young of cattle on the festival, but they help out. And they do deliver the young of a woman on the Sabbath. They call a midwife for her from a distant place, and they violate the Sabbath on her [the woman in childbirth’s] account. And they tie the umbilical cord. R. Yose says “Also: They cut it.” And all things required for circumcision do they perform on the Sabbath.
m.Sabb 19:2-3 They do prepare all that is needed for circumcision on the Sabbath: they (1) cut [the mark of circumcision], (2) tear, (3) suck [out of the wound]. And they put on it a poultice and cummin. If one did not pound it on the eve of the Sabbath, he chews it in his teeth and puts it on. If one did not mix wine and oil on the eve of the Sabbath, let this be put on by itself and that by itself. And they do not make a bandage in the first instance. But they wrap a rag around [the wound of the circumcision]. If one did not prepare [the necessary rag] on the eve of the Sabbath, he wraps [the rag] around his finger and brings it, and even from a different courtyard. 19:3 They wash off the infant, both before the circumcision and after the circumcision, and they sprinkle him, by hand but not with a utensil. R. Eleazar B. Azaraiah says, “They wash the infant on the third day after circumcision [even if it] coincides with the Sabbath, “since it says, And it came to pass on the third day when they were sore (Gen. 34:25).” [If the sexual traits of the infant are a matter of] doubt, of [if the infant] bears the sexual traits of both sexes, they do not violate the Sabbath on his account. And R. Judah permits in the care of an infant bearing the traits of both sexes.
It is possible the Jews who see the man carrying the mat think that Jesus has “made an exception” for him, in which case Jesus is setting himself up as an authority who can give rulings on how the Law ought to be kept.
Should we think of the healed man’s attitude is as strange? Rather than give credit to Jesus for healing him, he does not even know Jesus’ name and seems to shift the blame for breaking the Sabbath to Jesus. Is this man an example of “faith that is going nowhere” (Köstenberger, John, 182)? Or is the man afraid of what might happen to him if he opening breaks the Sabbath by carrying his mat? On the other hand, this is less about the faith of the healed man than Jesus’s relationship with the Pharisees and their traditions concerning the Sabbath.