We are in the midst of John 5 where have seen Jesus heal a disabled man on a Sabbath. This man had been in this condition for 38 years, equal to the time of the helplessness and hopelessness of the Israelites as they were punished for their sins in the wilderness during the days of Moses. This is the reason that Jesus selects this man over all the other people who are in this covered porch area. However, verse 9 tells us some somber words that is was the Sabbath and problems are going to arise for Jesus from the Jewish leadership. They question the healed man about who it was that healed him, but he did not know who it was. Later, Jesus finds this healed man at the temple and tells him to sin no more so that no worse thing will happen to him.
Verses 15-16 tell us that the healed man, after Jesus comes back to him, goes to the Jewish leaders and tells them that it was Jesus who had healed him on the Sabbath. This ignites a persecution against Jesus because he was healing on the Sabbath. Jesus responds to this persecution by teaching that he is equal to God because he is God. What we are about to read is Jesus’ own defense of his deity.
Jesus Is Equal With God In His Person (5:17-18)
Jesus’ answer is fascinating. The Jewish persecution is because they are charging Jesus with doing work on the Sabbath. Rather than teaching them how healing is not work and not a violation of the Sabbath, Jesus goes the other direction and argues how he is working on the Sabbath and why that is acceptable. This is not at all what we would expect to read and I would imagine took the Jewish leaders by surprise. Listen to the statement Jesus makes in verse 17.
“My Father is working until now, and I am working.” (John 5:17 ESV)
This is the claim that gets Jesus in deep trouble. But we must also see that this claim becomes the fountain from which his sermon flows. Jesus makes the claim that he is equal with God. Notice how he does this. Jesus makes the point that the Father is also working on the Sabbath. This was an interesting dilemma that the Jewish rabbis had. According Genesis 2:2-3, God rested on the seventh day. However, if God rested on the Sabbath, who sustained the universe? So the Jewish rabbis determined that God does work constantly, but that does not amount to breaking the Sabbath because the entire universe is his domain. This is the thrust of the argument Jesus is making. My Father is still working continually, and so am I.
Jesus assumes a unique relationship with the singular, “my Father,” He does not say, “Our Father is still working.” Rather, Jesus says, “My Father is still working.” Therefore, Jesus claims something amazing. There is only one person who can work on the Sabbath: God. Humans are to rest on the Sabbath. But Jesus is not a mere human. Jesus is God and therefore he must be working, otherwise the world would no longer sustain itself. God must be working. Jesus therefore claims a relationship to the Father that humans cannot claim. Jesus is God. Verse 18 shows that this is exactly how the Jewish leaders understood what Jesus was claiming. Jesus was making himself equal with God with that statement. Please consider that this is Jesus’ intention. Jesus is claiming to be God. If he was not, then this would be the time to clarify the misunderstanding. Jesus could stop any persecution right now if he would simply tell them that this was all a misunderstanding and that he is not God. Not only does Jesus claim to be God and allow the people to understand that is what he was claiming, he then gives four more pieces of evidence to prove he is God.
Jesus Is Equal To God In His Works (5:19-20)
Verse 19 is a staggering response to these Jewish leaders and to the world. Listen to the two parts of this amazing answer that Jesus gives. First, the Son does not do things on his own initiative, but only what he sees the Father doing. Please underline the word “see.” Who can see what the Father is doing? Please tell me what you see the Father doing right now at this moment. No one can see the Father. Go back to John 1:18 and recall that point that John the apostle makes in this very gospel. “No one has ever seen God.” Jesus does not say that he knows what the Father is doing and so he does that too. He says he can only do what he sees the Father doing. Humans cannot see God. Therefore, Jesus is not human. He is God.
Second, not only does the Son see what the Father is doing, he does what the Father does. That is not true of humans. Are you doing all that the Father does? Humans cannot do what the Father does in terms of purity and holiness. We are sinners and fall short of the glory of God. Humans cannot do what the Father does in power. The Father creates and humans can only reshape what has already been created. But Jesus does what the Father does. Can you imagine saying that you can do anything that God the Father can do? Anything and everything that he does I do also! No human can say those words and not be lying. Therefore, Jesus response to the Jews who are trying to kill him because they saying he is making himself equal with God is that he is not making himself equal to God; he is God! He sees what the Father is doing and he does what the Father is doing. Jesus is God. The only one who could ever do whatever the Father does must be as great as the Father, as divine as the Father.
Listen to how verse 20 adds to the evidence. “The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing.” Has the Father shown you all that he is doing? No, humans cannot even see the Father. But the Father has revealed all that he is doing to the Son. Jesus intimately knows the Father like none other and therefore reveals the Father like none other. This is what makes Jesus, “The Word” of John 1:1. Jesus is able to do whatever the Father does because the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he does. Therefore, the Son by his obedience to the Father is acting in such a way to reveal the Father, doing the Father’s works and performing the Father’s will. Everything that Jesus did shows us the Father because he sees what the Father is doing, the Father reveals his works to his Son, and he did all that the Father did. No one else can even come close to making such a claim.
Further, Jesus says that greater works than these are doing to be shown to the Son so that you will be amazed. Greater signs than healing this disabled man are going to come from the Father through the Son. Of course his greatest sign will be when he is lifted up on the cross to his death only to raise from the dead three days later.
Jesus Is Equal To God In Power (5:21)
Jesus’ claim to be able to raise the dead and give life to whomever he wills is startling. Raising the dead and giving life are the sole works and choices of God. Now, we can look back into the Old Testament and see the dead raised and life being given, like in the days of Elijah. Elijah raises the widow’s son from the dead. But notice that Jesus is not claiming to be God’s instrument through which resurrection and life come. Jesus’ claim is much bolder. Jesus claims to give life “to whom he wills.” No one has that power. The apostles could not give life to whoever they wanted. The prophets could not give life to whoever they wanted. They all relied upon the power of God and invoked the power of God to perform those miracles. But Jesus is not an instrument through which God was healing. Jesus is the healer. Go back to John 1:4, “In him was life!” This is an important truth to the lesson Jesus is teaching and to the direction of where Jesus wants to lead his audience. Jesus gives life to whoever he wants. Jesus makes the choice. It is the prerogative of Jesus in making that determination.
Jesus Is Equal To God In Judgment (5:22)
“The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son.” Just like the power to raise from the dead and give life, so also is the assertion of judgment. Who alone can judge? Only God can judge. All judgment is given to the Son. Therefore Jesus is God because he has the power to judge. This is another important truth to the lesson Jesus is teaching. Jesus is the determiner of life and Jesus is the judge. Jesus deals with the two realities confessed in the Jewish faith. Only God gives life at the beginning and only God gives judgment at the end. Jesus has just laid claim to both of those prerogatives, claiming them for his own.
Jesus Is Equal To God In Honor (5:23)
Why has all life-giving and judgment-related authority been given to the Son? Jesus explains in verse 23: “So that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father.” The reason is so that all people will honor Jesus as God just as they honor the Father. To not give Jesus equal honor is to not honor the Father. The only way to honor the Father is to honor the Son. Anyone who fails to acknowledge the authority of the Son is rejecting the Sender, the Father. Therefore, in contrast with the Jewish leaders’ charge of blasphemy, Jesus is honoring the Father because he is doing the Father’s will. His acts honor the Father. However, by them dishonoring Jesus they are dishonoring the Father. In a great turn of events, it is they, not him, who is dishonoring the Father.
Concluding Call (5:24)
Jesus ties all of these points together about who he his and what this means to these people and to the world. Jesus determines the destiny of every soul. Jesus determines the judgment of every person. Jesus decides to whom he will give life. Jesus calls for the ears of everyone to carefully hear as he says, “Truly, truly” to begin this glorious teaching. Listen carefully to the words of our Lord for they are true. Whoever hears the words of Jesus and believes him who sent him as eternal life. The call is to bow the knee and worship Jesus as God, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. He is divine and his come to this world with the power of life and the power of judgment. Listen to the words of Jesus, which does not mean to merely hear what he says but to do what he says. When you say that your child does not listen to you, what do you mean? You mean that he or she does not do what you say. It does not mean that they are deaf. It means they are disobedient. We are to listen to the words of Jesus and believe. We saw in chapter 3, and we will continue to remind ourselves of this as we go through this gospel, that saving faith is not acknowledgment but to be born again. Hearing and believing is to obey the words of Jesus and experience radical life transformation from his word. Those are the people who have eternal life.
In fact, listen to the wonderful words at the end of verse 24: “He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” Life is defined as a person having crossed over from death to life. Passing from death to life is like being born from above. It implies a line of demarcation between those who have returned to God’s side and those who remain against him. Please notice that this is not in the future tense. Notice how John describes this as our current condition. Jesus is the judge because the Father has given all judgment into his hand. But we do not come into judgment when we hear the words of Jesus and believe. In fact, we have passed from death to life already. To use the words of the apostle Paul, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness (death) and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son (life) in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14 ESV). You have life now when you come to Jesus. You will pass from death to life when you listen to Jesus and give your life to him in submission.
Jesus gives life to whom he wills (5:21). Jesus gives life to those who hear him and believe him (5:24). All judgment has been given to Jesus (5:22). Whoever dishonors Jesus also dishonors the Father (5:23). How do you honor the king? The only way to honor the king is to bow the need and submit to his authority. We honor the king by worshiping the king. We honor the king by praising the king. We honor the king by doing what the king commands. Jesus is God, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Submit to your king and your God.