John 5:16 – 30

16 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. 17 In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” 18 For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

19 Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted 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 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. 25 Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come 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 judge because he is the Son of Man.

28 “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.30 By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.

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In this passage, we see the open hostility of the Jewish leaders that broke out against Jesus.  It was bad enough in their opinion that Jesus had performed a miracle on the Sabbath, the holy day of rest for the Jewish people.  (See my last article on “Christian Compassion vs. Religious Criticism“.)  But now they hear Jesus utter words that show that He equated Himself with God the Father.

As I reflected on the blindness of the Jewish leaders, I realized that they did not have the benefit of living in the period of “post-resurrection”, nor the hundreds of years that the Church has had to understand the implications of Jesus Incarnation, His death, and His resurrection.  The Jewish people were all waiting for the Promised Messiah, the One whom God would anoint and bring salvation to His people.

I do wonder though, what exactly they expected to see when they would meet the Messiah.  Would He just suddenly appear, without having any background of a birthplace or a family such as Jesus had?  Was the Messiah going to just appear as some super human and lead the nation to victory against their enemies in this world?  We know that is partly what they thought.  What caught them off guard was that Jesus was rather ordinary, being born in Bethlehem and raised as a carpenter’s son in Nazareth.

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And then Jesus elevated Himself high above all other humans by making claims of being equal with God Himself.  In this passage we see a number of ways in which Jesus is equally compared to God the Father.  We see these similar things:

  • God is always at work in the world, and so is the Son (implying supernatural activities)
  • what the Father does, He shows to His Son, and the Son also does the same things
  • the Father and the Son can both raise the dead and give them new life
  • God gives the authority to judge all men into the hands of the Son
  • people will honour the Son just as much as they honour the Father
  • the Son is the source of Life just as the Father is also the source of Life for all people

That is quite a list of qualities that Jesus attributes to Himself.  No wonder that the Jewish leaders wanted to kill Him.  They were actually right to challenge Jesus, for no ordinary man could claim these things.  But Jesus was no ordinary man.  Twice Jesus refers to God as “the One who sent Me”.  As people who now live after the Resurrection, we know that Jesus’ claim to be God the Son was validated by Him rising from the dead.

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And it was the will of the Father that caused Jesus to leave Heaven and come down to earth.  He in fact was the awaited Messiah.  And the promise here is that for anyone who will accept Him as the One who is equal with God and who was sent by God the Father, that person is able to come to God by means of Jesus (like walking across a bridge) and will no longer be under the penalty and curse of death, but will receive the gift of eternal life with God forever.

It really is too bad that the Jewish leaders did not have all the information and insight that you and I have today.  So it is easy to criticise them as being so blind that they could not see Jesus for who He really is.  But I wonder if we would have done much better ourselves?  The key thing right now is for us to not miss the point, namely that Jesus really is the One who is equal to God the Father, the Author of Life, and the One who saves us from death and brings us into eternal life.

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