Month: April 2014

John 05:30-46, “Jesus’ Witnesses”

 

English: Jesus Christ - detail from Deesis mos...

English: Jesus Christ – detail from Deesis mosaic, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In John 5, Jesus claimed to be equal with God. Anyone could claim to be equal with God. But where’s the proof? We need evidence for such a claim. Jesus serves as his own defense attorney, calling witness after witness to the stand. You must make a verdict. Stay tuned…

A few years ago someone came into our home and stole some important items. Thankfully, we were insured and were able to make a claim to our insurance company. Now insurance companies are not in the business to give away money. They are in the insurance business to make money, so when you make a claim and ask them to give you money to compensate for your loss, they require that you present proof of your claim. They want proof of the value of the items that were stolen in the form of receipts. And they want proof that the items were really stolen in the form of a police report. So when you make a claim against an insurance company, they in effect ask you, “What’s your proof?”

Some time ago, Josh McDowell wrote the book Evidence that Demands a Verdict and later he wrote a followup book: More Evidence that Demands a Verdict. The book is packed with evidence that proves that the Bible is reliable.

In John 5, Jesus makes an astounding claim. It was not an insurance claim, but a claim about himself. He claimed that God was his own Father. Jesus understood the implications of his claim for his next remarks show that he knew exactly what he was saying. The Jews understood the implications of his claim that God was his own Father for that was the reason why the Jews wanted to kill Jesus. And John, the author of this Gospel, understood what Jesus meant, because John is the one that tells us the importance of what Jesus was saying.

As you may remember, it all began with Jesus healing a lame man. The Jewish authorities were persecuting Jesus because he had healed the lame man on the Sabbath. In effect, they were asking him, “Who do you think you are, healing people on the Sabbath?”

Jesus simply responded, “My Father is working until now, and I am working” (John 5:17). In other words, ‘”Whatever God does, I do.”

It is now that John gives us one of his many explanations in this Gospel. Literary specialists have counted over one hundred such parenthetical comments or “asides” as they call them. In each of them, John is leading “his readers to his desired conclusion.”[1] John tells us here in the next verse, John 5:18, exactly what we are to conclude:

This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God (John 5:18 ESV).

John, the writer of this Gospel, wants us to understand what the Jewish authorities understood and what Jesus understood and what John himself understood: Jesus was making himself equal with God.

Jesus “justified his work of healing on the Sabbath by reminding the Jewish authorities that they admitted God worked on the Sabbath. This explains the violence of the reaction. The Sabbath privilege was peculiar to God, and no one was equal to God. In claiming the right to work even as his Father worked, Jesus was claiming a divine prerogative. He was literally making himself equal to God, as John 5:18 goes on to state explicitly for the benefit of the reader who might not have made the connection.”[2]

This is what John tells us from the first verse of this Gospel,

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (1:1).

Again in the 18th verse of chapter one, John tells us,

“No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” (John 1:18 ESV).

In several other places in this Gospel, John makes the same point: Jesus is God. “Who do you think you are, healing people on the Sabbath?” “My Father is always working, and so am I.” John tells us that Jesus was making himself equal with God.

What right do you have?

Later we considered the verses that follow John’s explanation. Jesus tells us that though he is equal with God, as Son of the Father, he is always submission to His Father’s will. Nonetheless, he has all the rights and privileges of God.

  • He does the works of God: “Whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise” (5:19).
  • He raises the dead and gives them life: Just “as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will” (5:21).
  • Like the Father, Jesus has life in himself: “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself” (5:26).
  • Jesus will execute judgment: “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son” (5:22).

The Son is to be honored just like the Father: “That all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him” (5:23). So the Son receives equal honor with the Father.

Today, we want to look at the evidence.

What proof do you have?

What is your evidence? Talk is cheap. Anyone can make claims. Anyone can claim to be God. Just visit the psychiatric ward of a major hospital and you will probably find people who believe that they are God.

When we were living in French Polynesia, I had the opportunity to talk with a short little man with long hair who rode a blue bicycle. He claimed to be Jesus Christ. My Tahitian friends told me that the man had eaten the wrong kind of mushrooms. I did share the gospel with the man that day in hopes that the Holy Spirit would be able to penetrate the man’s deranged mind with the truth about Jesus Christ.

Through the centuries, many people have made strange claims. Many have had dreams and visions and revelations and as a result, some have started new religions or cults or religious groups. What makes Jesus any different from them? What proves that Jesus wasn’t simply another lunatic? Jesus had proof. Jesus had witnesses. In fact, Jesus operates in the passage as his own defense attorney, calling witness after witness to support his claims.

 The Need for Witnesses

In a court of law, a witness is commonly sworn in. In my country, the witness is asked, “Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?” The witness swears an oath before God that his testimony will be true.

In the Old Testament, when capital crimes were committed — those crimes calling for the death penalty — before the death penalty could be given, there had to be at least two witnesses to the crime and their testimony had to agree completely. The idea of giving a true and accurate testimony was so important in the nation of Israel that God made it one of the Ten Commandments. The ninth commandment states, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16). If a witness were to bear false witness against another, he would receive the sentence and punishment he had intended for the other (Deuteronomy 19:18-19). If a man were to bear false witness against another to get him executed, he might be found out and be executed instead.

In John 5:30-31, Jesus makes the following statement:

“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. 31 If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true (John 5:30-31 ESV).

Jesus says that his judgment is just, but then he says, “If I were to testify on my own behalf, my testimony would not be valid” (John 5:31 NLT). What does he mean by that? Jesus makes a lot of statements about himself. He is not saying that every time he says something about himself that it is not true. He is referring to the need for additional witnesses.

…The facts of the case must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses (Deuteronomy 19:15 NLT).

You may have had to go to a notary public to have your signature verified on an official document. Some documents require two signatures: there is a line your signature and another line for the signature of someone who witnesses you sign the document. Now suppose you were to sign on both lines. That would not work. You could not legally bear witness to your own action. You need someone else to confirm that you are the one who signed on the first line.

That is what Jesus mean when he said, “If I were to testify on my own behalf, my testimony would not be valid” (John 5:31 NLT).

But Jesus is not without supporting witnesses.[3] The Defense calls…

Witness Number One: John the Baptist

There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true (John 5:32).

Jesus first makes reference to God and will come back to God as his witness, but his hearers need another witness first, so Jesus calls John the Baptist as the first main witness:

33 You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34 Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35 He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light (John 5:32-35 ESV).

The importance of John the Baptist can hardly be overestimated. Other founders of cults and religions have had followers, but none have had a forerunner announcing their arrival before they came. John the Baptist did not come after Jesus to confirm him as the Messiah. John the Baptist came before Jesus. John’s ministry was outstanding. Multitudes were going to him to be baptized. People began wondering if he was the promised Messiah or the prophet that Moses had promised. “I am not,” the Baptist told them. “Then why are you baptizing?” they asked. “I am preparing the way for the one who comes after me,” he responded.

Though his ministry follows mine, I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandal” (John 1:27 NLT).

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 He is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’ 31 I did not recognize him as the Messiah, but I have been baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. 33 I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Chosen One of God” (John 1:29-34 NLT).

Christ was born after John the Baptist and would come after him, but

John testified about him when he shouted to the crowds, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.'” (John 1:15 NLT).

John the Baptist points to the pre-existence of Christ. Though Jesus was born at least six months after John the Baptist, John says, “He existed long before me.” Christ did not begin to exist when he was conceived in the womb of Mary. According to the first verse of this Gospel, he is the Word who was in the beginning with God, and who was God (John 1:1).

“Jesus, what proof do you have to back up your claims?” Jesus calls John the Baptist as his first witness. John testifies that Jesus is eternal. He is the Christ. He is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

John the Baptist was an excellent, competent, and reliable witness.

But Jesus has an even greater witness than John…

The next witness is called to the stand…

Witness Number Two: The Works that Jesus Does

Jesus says in John 5:36,

But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me (John 5:36 ESV).

The Jewish authorities frequently asked for signs, miracles to prove that Jesus had the authority to do the things he was doing. For example, when Jesus cleansed the temple, the Jewish authorities understood that he was making a claim. He was claiming the right as Messiah to cleanse the temple. So they asked for a sign to show that he was indeed the Messiah. Instead, he challenged them to destroy the temple and he would raise it up in three days.

The author, the apostle John, tells us that Jesus was actually speaking of the temple of his body. Jesus was predicting his own death and resurrection. The Jewish authorities would destroy him, but Jesus had the authority to raise himself up again. On the third day, he would rise from the dead.

But there were plenty of signs for those who had eyes to see. The signs were miracles pointing beyond themselves. The signs signified something about Jesus. They pointed to his identity, who he was, and what he came to do. Jesus simply calls them his works. He says that his works prove that the Father had sent him.

In John 2, Jesus changed about 600 liters of water into wine. His disciples saw his glory and believed on him.

After cleansing the temple, we read in John 2:23 that Jesus did other signs and “many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing.”

In John 4, Jesus simply spoke the word and the nobleman’s son was healed at a distance of some 30 kilometers.

And in John 5, Jesus healed the man who had been lame for 38 years. It was that healing — that work on the Sabbath — that had stirred up the controversy with the Jewish authorities. It was their complaint against that work that had led him to explain, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.”

“Think about it!” “…the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me.”

How is it that Jesus is able change the water into wine, heal a dying boy with a word, and give a man legs who has been lame for 38 years? The “works that Jesus was doing showed that God was authenticating His identity.”[4]

Again in chapter 10 Jesus will say, “The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me,” (John 10:25 ESV).

If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father” (John 10:37-38 ESV).

Witness Number Three: The Father Himself

Jesus calls a third witness on his behalf, and that is the Father Himself. The works that Jesus did were an indirect witness of the Father to Jesus’ identity. But now Jesus says that there is a direct and personal witness that the Father gives. Perhaps Jesus is referring to the voice that many heard at his baptism: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17 ESV). Or perhaps he is referring to the Father’s audible testimony when Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James, and John.

In any case, Jesus said that the Jewish authorities were totally ignorant of the Father; they did not know Him.

  1. First, “his voice you have never heard,” Jesus said (John 5:37). Moses had heard God’s voice (Exodus 33:11). And Jesus speaks the words of God (John 3:34; 17:8), but the Jewish authorities did not hear God’s voice in Jesus.
  2. Second, “his form you have never seen” (John 5:37). Jacob had seen his form. “I have seen God face to face,” Jacob said. Jesus was himself the manifestation of God (John 1:18; 14:9), but the Jewish authorities failed to see God in Jesus.
  3. Third, Jesus told them, “you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent” (John 5:38). Joshua meditated on the Word of God day and night (Joshua 1:8). The psalmist stored up God’s word in his heart (Psalm 119:11; 1:2). Jesus was himself the Word who was in the beginning with God and who was God, but the Jewish authorities did not delight in God’s word. They failed to recognize the Word when he was standing before them.

Jesus calls a fourth witness, a witness that the Jewish authorities should have known:

Witness Number Four: The Scriptures

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life (John 5:39-40 ESV).

This is a most stunning indictment. The Jewish authorities searched the Scriptures but failed to understand that the Scripture themselves bear witness to Jesus Christ. Jesus is speaking, of course, of the Jewish Scriptures, what we call today the Old Testament.

We read in Luke 24:44 that before his crucifixion, Jesus had told the disciples that everything written about him in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalm had to be fulfilled. It was all written about him. Then after his resurrection, talking with two disciples on the road to Emmaus,

…beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself (Luke 24:27 ESV).

The Old Testament Scriptures pointed to Christ. The Christ would be more than just a man. He would be fully human, but he would be fully God: the God-man. So later in his ministry, Jesus asked the Pharisees how David in Psalm 110 could call the Christ “Lord” if the Christ were simply a descendent of David (Matthew 22:41-46). You don’t call your many times great-grandson “Lord,” unless he is… ah.. the Lord. The Christ would be much more than a human descendent of David. He would be that, but he would also be the Word made flesh, God in the flesh.

Isaiah said that he would be born of a virgin and would be called Immanuel, which means “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23). Again Isaiah said this virgin-born son would be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

“Mighty God, Everlasting Father!” Yes, Jesus made himself equal with God, but that is exactly what the Scriptures had said he would be. The Scriptures gave witness to Jesus.

Witness Number Five: Moses

We might consider Moses simply as part of the Old Testament Scriptures, but Jesus mentions him specifically:

For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (John 5:46-47 ESV).

Moses wrote of Jesus in a number of ways, but let me point to one very specific prophecy that Moses gave concerning Christ:

“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers– it is to him you shall listen– (Deuteronomy 18:15 ESV).

[God says] I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him (Deuteronomy 18:18-19 ESV).

But at the end of the Book of Deuteronomy, they were still looking for that prophet:

And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, 11 none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, 12 and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel (Deuteronomy 34:10-12 ESV).

The people were still waiting. So when John the Baptist came on the scene, they asked him, “Are you the prophet?” “No,” he replied.

When the people saw Jesus feed 5,000 men with five loaves of bread and two fish, they said, “This is surely the prophet who is to come into the world” (John 6:14).

In John 7, Jesus promises flowing rivers of living water, that is to say the Holy Spirit, to those who come to him. When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet” (John 7:40 ESV).

Yes, Moses was another witness of Christ. Christ was the Prophet that Moses had spoken of.

Witness Number Six: The Spirit of Truth

Jesus calls on four or five witnesses in chapter 5 to verify his claim to being equal with God. But there are two more witnesses in the Gospel of John.

In John 15:26, Jesus says that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, will bear witness about him.

“But I will send you the Advocate– the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me (John 15:26 NLT).

Jesus describes the ministry of the Holy Spirit in John 16,

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. 14 He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine; this is why I said, ‘The Spirit will tell you whatever he receives from me.’ (John 16:13-15 NLT).

So the Holy Spirit is a witness to Jesus.

Witness Number Seven: The Disciples

Finally, Jesus mentions the disciples. The disciples will be witnesses to Jesus Christ:

And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning (John 15:27 ESV).

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are his witnesses. Forty days after his resurrection and just before his ascension into heaven, Jesus said this,

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere– in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8 NLT).

We are Jesus’ witnesses. The message of the early Church was Jesus Christ. The disciples went everywhere preaching and teaching about Jesus (Acts 5:42). Peter preached Christ (Acts 10:36). Stephen was a witness to Jesus Christ (Acts 22:20). Philip went to Samaria and preached the good news about Jesus Christ (Acts 8:12). The disciples that were scattered because of the persecution went everywhere preaching the Lord Jesus (Acts 11:20). Paul preached Jesus and the resurrection (Acts 17:18).

Paul wrote to the Corinthians,

For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2 ESV).

For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake (2 Corinthians 4:5 ESV).

Yes, the focus of the church has always been on Jesus Christ, who he is – God in the flesh – and what he did for us on the cross.

We are Jesus’ witnesses. He claimed equality with God. He had the rights and privileges of God, and he called seven witnesses to authenticate his claims.

  1. John the Baptist bore witness to Christ that he was the Son of God.
  2. The works — miracles — that Jesus did showed that God authenticated his identity.
  3. The Father himself in a personal and direct manner bore witness to His Son at his baptism, at his transfiguration, and again in John 12 when his voice thundered from heaven.
  4. The Scriptures all pointed to Christ and identified him as the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, Immanuel: God with us.
  5. Moses bore witness to Christ as the Prophet whose words we must obey.
  6. The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus.
  7. True disciples will always preach Christ. He is the message we preach:

… Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ (Colossians 1:27-28 ESV).

So you have heard the evidence. What is your verdict? Is Jesus who he says he is? Is he equal with God? He does what God does. The witnesses say that he is equal with God. What do you say? As many as received him, to them he gave the power to become the children of God. He is the only way to the Father.

[1]Andreas Köstenberger, A Theology of John’s Gospel and Letters, 135.

[2]New English Translation (NET) note on John 5:18.

[3]R. C. Sproul. John (St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary) (Kindle Location 1262). Kindle Edition.

[4]R. C. Sproul. John (St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary) (Kindle Location 1292). Kindle Edition.

See also “Gospel of John”:

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John 05:19-29, “Jesus, What right do you have?”

Introduction

In the first part of John 5, we see Jesus answering the question, “Just who do you think you are?” As the chapter begins, we find a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed—lying around the Pool of Bethesda, hoping that the spring water or artesian well will bring them back to health.

But one man seems to have lost all hope. He has been an invalid for thirty-eight years. And he had no hope, until Jesus passed his way. “Do you want to be healed?” Jesus asked him. The man can only complain that he has no one to help him into the water. “Get up, take up your bed, and walk,” Jesus commands him. And he does it. Just like that!

Strength comes into his legs. He stands, picks up his mat, and begins to walk, carrying his mat. One problem, though. That day was the Sabbath. The Jews had added all kinds of rules to the Law of God. According to these rabbis, you were not allowed to carry things on the Sabbath. Never mind that you were healed and for the first time in 38 years were able to walk. What? You were healed? On the Sabbath? Who did that?

The man did not know. Jesus had withdrawn from the crowd, but later he found that man and warned him not to sin any more, because the consequences of sin are far worse than 38 years of lying on a mat.

Now this man was not the most agreeable creature on the planet. Rather than moving on in his new life, having seen Jesus, he goes back to the Jewish authorities and rats on him. Not that Jesus avoided conflict at all costs. I have the feeling that Jesus chose to heal this particular man and that particular day—the Sabbath—because he had something he wanted to say to the Jewish authorities.

John, the writer of this Gospel, tells us in John 5:16, “And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath.”

Jesus’ response was short but full of impact and meaning: “My Father is always working, and so am I” (Joh 5:17 NLT).

We could have missed the importance of that response had it not been for John. John tells us exactly what Jesus mean by that and how and why it angered the Jewish authorities. John explains, “So the Jewish leaders tried all the harder to find a way to kill him. For he not only broke the Sabbath (NLT), he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God” (Joh 5:18 ESV).

So in response to the question, “Just who do you think you are, healing people on the Sabbath?” Jesus responds, “I am God. My Father continues to work, and so do I.”

John’s Purpose

We must always remember that John is writing with purpose. He is out to accomplish something with this Gospel. He has not simply collected stories about Jesus and his miracles in order to write a bestseller. John’s purpose is much more profound, and we do not have to guess at his purpose for he very clearly tells us near the end of his Gospel:

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20:30-31 ESV).

In this statement of purpose, we note that John does not even use the word miracle; he uses the word “signs” because the works of Jesus are signs pointing to who he is. If you have not guessed it by now, this book is all about Jesus. That does not mean that this book tells us everything there is to know about Jesus. John tells us at the very end of his book, that if everything that Jesus did were written, the world could not contain all the books. But when I say that this book is all about Jesus, I mean that Jesus is the one subject that John is writing about.

John tells us that Jesus did many other signs that are not written in the book. That means that this is a selective Gospel. John included certain signs and left out others. He did so because of his purpose.

He also tells us that Jesus did the signs in the presence of the disciples. That means that this is not only a selective Gospel, it is also an attested Gospel. Jesus did not simply convince people with flowery speech and persuasive words that he could perform miracles. He did the signs in the presence of his disciples. Changing the water into wine, healing the nobleman’s son, healing the lame man, feeding more than five thousand men with five loaves and two fish, healing the blind man, and raising Lazarus from the dead, all these signs were performed in the presence of many eyewitnesses. This is an attested Gospel.

It is also an evangelistic gospel. John writes these things so that you might believe. He writes to convince us of something. He is addressing our minds as well as our hearts. He wants us to think clearly and to understand the meaning of the signs that Jesus performed. And he wants us to believe.

But what is it that he wants us to believe? A lot of people talk about the importance of belief, but do not think that it matters much what you believe, as long as you believe. John is clear about this. He writes these signs so that we may believe something specific: he wants to convince us that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

This is vitally important, for John tells us that this is the way to eternal life.

So John is writing about Jesus with an eye on us, his readers. He wants to lead us to a living faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

John’s Explanations and Comments

John frequently explains things to us his readers to make sure that we get the point. Theologians have found well over one hundred such comments in the Gospel of John. He interprets Hebrew or Aramaic terms, telling us that Rabbi means teacher, that Messiah means Christ, or that Cephas means Peter.

When Jesus challenges the Jewish authorities to destroy the temple and in three days he will raise it up, John tells us that Jesus was not speaking about the building in Jerusalem, but about his own body.

When the Samaritan woman asks Jesus how it is that he, a Jew, asks for a drink from her, a woman of Samaria, John explains that the Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.

Now in chapter five, John explains why the Jewish authorities were persecuting Jesus: he was doing these works on the Sabbath when they thought that no one should work.

But it was Jesus’ response that threw more fuel on the fire. Did the Jewish authorities have a problem with him healing a lame man on the Sabbath? Jesus responds, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working” (Joh 5:17 NIVO).

John had told us in verse 16 that the Jewish authorities were persecuting Jesus because he was doing these things on the Sabbath, but now they are ready to kill him! In verse 18, John writes these words, “For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him…” Why? “…He was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.”

This is not simply what the Jewish authorities thought. This is not some misunderstanding. John is once again showing us what we are to understand and believe about Jesus: he is equal with God.

More than Matthew, Mark, and Luke, which are called the Synoptic Gospels, because they share more or less the same perspective on Jesus — more than them, John tells us why the Jewish authorities wanted to kill Jesus: they wanted to kill him because he claimed to be equal with God.

The Jews were expecting a Messiah, but they thought that he would be merely human. They failed to understand what John says at the beginning of his Gospel, that the Word was God, and that the Word became flesh, that is to say that God became man.

Now that is quite the opposite of the false notion that men can become gods. That is not taught anywhere in the Bible. God became man, and forever, Jesus Christ the man, will be both God and man. We read 1 Timothy 2:5 that “There is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”

This man Christ Jesus is God in the flesh. And the Jewish authorities were not only persecuting him for doing works on the Sabbath, but they were now planning to kill him because “he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” When John writes that we must believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God in order to have eternal life, he means that we must believe that Jesus is equal with God. Every time Jesus uses the phrase “My Father,” he is claiming equality with God. Every time he calls himself the Son, he claims to be equal with God.

So in answer to the question, “Jesus, who do you think you are to be healing people on the Sabbath?” Jesus answers, “I am equal with God. My Father is always working, and so am I.”

What Right Do you Have?

The next question is, “Jesus, what right do you have?”

In verses 19-29, Jesus tells us his rights. And what he claims here is astonishingly more than just the right to heal someone on the Sabbath.

 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. 22 The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. 25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment (John 5:19-29 ESV).

The Son has the right to do whatever the Father does (5:19-20).

That’s what Jesus says in 5:17, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” As the Son of the Father, Jesus does only what he sees his Father doing, but he does everything his Father does, because his Father shows him everything that he is doing.

Here we come face to face with the mystery of the Trinity. We see both equality between the Father and Son, for John just explained, that in calling God his own Father, Jesus was making himself equal with God.

Yet, there is distinction in the persons of the Deity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus precedes his explanation with the formula, “Truly, truly.” In the original Greek, it is simply, “Amen, amen.” This underlines the importance of what he says: “the Son can do nothing by himself.” Constantly the Scriptures make a distinction between the persons of the Godhead. Everywhere we look there are interactions and transactions between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Father sent the Son. The Son returns to the Father. The Son prays to the Father. The Father speaks to the Son. The Son asks the Father to send another Helper, the Holy Spirit. The Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit. Jesus ascends to the Father and receives the gift of the promised Holy Spirit and pours out the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus. We are to make disciples of all peoples everywhere in the name (singular) of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19-20). The apostolic blessing at the end of 2 Corinthians is “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.”

This equality between the three persons of the one true God is called the ontological Trinity. Ontology has to do with being. It has to do with what God is in and of Himself. In and of themselves, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are equal and they are each fully God. The Father is fully God. The Son is fully God. The Holy Spirit is fully God. Yet, the Bible everywhere insists that there is only one God. There are no other gods. When the Word became flesh, God became man, but no man will ever become a god.

In calling God his own Father, Jesus was making himself equal with God. That is part of the ontological Trinity.

But there is also the “economic or functional Trinity.” It has to do with function and divine order and how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit work together as one. In saying that, I do not wish to imply that it could be any other way. They are one in essence and one in knowledge, power, and will. While the Son of God is equal with God, as Son of the Father, he is completely obedient to the Father. So Jesus explains that “he can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing.” He never acts independently. The Apostle Paul explains it this way, “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to” (Philippians 2:6). He became obedient unto death, even the death on the cross.

So the Son is equal to the Father, but obedient to the Father. “Whatever the Father does, the Son also does” (John 5:19 NLT). How is it that the Son does everything that the Father does? In verse 20, Jesus explains “For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel” (Joh 5:20 NAU).

This is what a Father-Son relationship should look like. The Father loves the Son and shows him everything that he is doing so that the Son may do it as well.

Jesus, what right do you have? I have the right to do whatever my Father is doing because He loves me and shows me everything that He is doing

The Son has the right to give life to whom he will.

What right do you have, Jesus? Jesus replies, “The Son have the right to give life to whom I will.”

Jesus had healed the lame man at the Pool of Bethesda and in a sense, had raised him up. But he claims that he will do even greater things. Things like what? Things like raising the dead. “Just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes.”

In chapter 11, Jesus will do exactly that. Lazarus has been dead and in the tomb for four days, but Jesus has come to manifest the glory of God. Standing before the tomb, he cries out, “Lazarus, come out!” The next words in 11:44 are riveting: “The man who had died came out, his hands and feet found with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’” Jesus gave life to Lazarus.

Namaan

Who has the right to give life? God. The Jewish authorities understood this. In the Old Testament, Namaan the Syrian was an officer in the Syrian army, but he had leprosy. He also had a house girl from Israel. She told him about Elisha, a prophet of God, who could heal his leprosy. So the king of Syria wrote a letter to the king of Israel, but the letter was not very clear. It read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy” (2 Kings 5:6). The King of Israel thought that the king of Syria was seeking a quarrel with him. So “when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy?…” (2 Kings 5:7 ESV).

Note the words, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive…?” The Jewish authorities knew that it was God’s right to give life. Jesus was claiming that divine right.

Lazarus

The Son gives life to whom he will. But the life that he is talking about is much more than physical life. After Lazarus was raised from the dead, the Jewish authorities began plotting how they would kill him! Lazarus died and was raised, but he would die again! Jesus came to give us so much more than physical life; he came to raise us to eternal life.

Eternal life? What is that? It is more than just living and never dying. It is a personal knowledge of the One who is the source of life. Jesus defines it in John 17:3,

“And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3 ESV).

This is what Jesus is talking about in verse 25:

 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live (John 5:25 ESV).

He says that the hour is now here. Have you heard his voice calling you to life? Or are you still dead? The Bible says that we were dead in our trespasses and sins, but God made us alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2:1, 5). Has that happened to you yet? Have you heard his voice?

Have you received eternal life from Christ? This is personal knowledge of God and fellowship with Him. It is a love relationship that cannot be interrupted by even death itself. “I am sure,” says the Apostle Paul, “that neither life nor death… will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

If you have received the life that Christ came to give, death itself will not be able to interrupt your communion and fellowship with God. You pass from this life into the literal presence of God.

Jesus has the right to give life to whom he will.

Jesus, what right do you have?

The Son has the right to judge all men (5:22).

This is a remarkable statement: “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son” (5:22). We often thing of God as the Judge, and He is. Abraham calls him “the Judge of all the earth” (Genesis 18:25). But it turns out that the judge of all the earth is the Son. The Father has given all judgment to the Son.

Verse 27 explains, “And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man” (John 5:27 ESV).

“Because he is the Son of Man!” What does this mean? It means that he is the Word become flesh. He is the God-man. He became man that he might taste death for us (Hebrew 2:9). He was made like us in every respect, and was tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sin (Hebrew 4:15). Having become man, he knows man and is in the perfect position to judge man. Therefore, the Father has given him authority to judge everyone because he is the Son of Man.

When will this happen? Soon enough! The hour is coming!

 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment (John 5:28-29 ESV).

Notice how Jesus contrasts the call to life now with future judgment. In verse 25 he says that “an hour is coming and is now here.” But in verse 28, he simply says that “an hour is coming.” It is not now here; it is still future

Again in verse 25 he says that it is now that the dead will hear his voice and live. He is talking about his right to give spiritual life to whom he will. But in verse 28, he uses a different phrase to speak of the dead: “all who are in the tombs.” He is speaking of those who are literally, physically dead. An hour is coming, he says, when they will hear his voice and come out. This is the literal future resurrection of all the dead. “All who are in their tombs,” he says, “will hear his voice and come out.” But they will not all receive the same judgment. There are two types of resurrection: the resurrection of life and the resurrection of judgment. “All who are in the tombs will ear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.”

Have you heard his voice? If you hear his voice now, your resurrection will be a resurrection of life, but if you do not hear his voice now, you will hear it later, and your resurrection will be one of judgment.

The Son has the right to judge all men because he is the Son of Man.

Jesus, what right do you have?

The Son is to be honored as the Father is honored (5:23).

The Father “has given all judgment to the Son that all may honor the Son…” We honor judges. If you are in a court of law in the United States of America, you will address the judge as “Your Honor.” If you live in a Commonwealth nation or a nation formerly belonging to the Commonwealth, you may address the judge as “Your Worship.”

You honor the judge because you know that he can decide your fate. The Father has given all judgment to the Son not only because he is the Son of Man, but also so that all will honor his Son just as they honor the Father.

Jesus says that we must honor the Son just as we honor the Father. That means that the Son is to receive the same honor as the Father. Since the Son is equal with God, we must worship the Son just as we worship the Father.

  • When the Father brought his firstborn into the world, he said, “Let all God’s angels worship him” (Hebrews 1:6).
  • The wise men fell down and worshiped him (Matthew 2:11).
  • When Jesus came walking on the water, “those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God” (Matthew 14:33).
  • The blind man who was healed in John 9 said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him (John 9:38).
  • Seeing the resurrected Christ, his disciples worshiped him (Matthew 28:17).

“[R]eligions such as Judaism and Islam that consider Jesus merely a great prophet do not represent the truth about God, because they fail to worship and honor Jesus” (ESVSB on John 5:23).

Jesus goes on to say, “Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.”

Some are confused about the identity of Christ. They believe that he claimed identity with God as one person. He did not. He made a distinction between himself and his Father. In this passage, Jesus said that the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. We see elsewhere that he distinguished his knowledge from the Father’s knowledge when he said “concerning” the day and hour of his return, “no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matthew 24:36 ESV).

Christ distinguished his will from the Father’s will when he prayed, “Not my will, but yours be done.”

He even distinguished his presence from his Father’s presence when he prayed, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” Jesus is equal with God, but he is not the same person.

Others put all the emphasis on the Father. They say that Jehovah God is the Almighty God, but that we must not honor the Son as we do the Father. They say that we must not worship the Son as we do the Father. But Jesus says that unless we honor the Son as we do the Father, we have dishonored the Father who sent the Son. Jesus is not inferior to God. He is equal with God.

Have you heard his voice, calling you from death to life? Are you ready to meet the judge, the Lord Jesus Christ? Do you worship and honor Jesus? Do you, as Thomas later did, worship Jesus as your Lord and your God?

Since Jesus is equal with God, he has all the rights of God.

  1. The Son has the right to do whatever the Father does.
  2. The Son has the right the give life to whom he will.
  3. The Son has the right to judge all men.
  4. The Son has the right to be honored as the Father is honored.

See also “Gospel of John”: