Jesus Claims to Be the Son of God
16 So the Jewish leaders began harassing Jesus for breaking the Sabbath rules. 17 But Jesus replied, “My Father is always working, and so am I.” 18 So the Jewish leaders tried all the harder to find a way to kill him. For he not only broke the Sabbath, he called God his Father, thereby making himself equal with God.
19 So Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he is doing. In fact, the Father will show him how to do even greater works than healing this man. Then you will truly be astonished. 21 For just as the Father gives life to those he raises from the dead, so the Son gives life to anyone he wants. 22 In addition, the Father judges no one. Instead, he has given the Son absolute authority to judge, 23 so that everyone will honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son is certainly not honoring the Father who sent him.
24 “I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.
25 “And I assure you that the time is coming, indeed it’s here now, when the dead will hear my voice—the voice of the Son of God. And those who listen will live. 26 The Father has life in himself, and he has granted that same life-giving power to his Son. 27 And he has given him authority to judge everyone because he is the Son of Man. 28 Don’t be so surprised! Indeed, the time is coming when all the dead in their graves will hear the voice of God’s Son, 29 and they will rise again. Those who have done good will rise to experience eternal life, and those who have continued in evil will rise to experience judgment. 30 I can do nothing on my own. I judge as God tells me. Therefore, my judgment is just, because I carry out the will of the one who sent me, not my own will. – John 5:16-30 NLT
This section refers to last weeks message about the man healed at the pools of Betheseda. Where Jesus told the man to “rise, take up your bed, and walk”, and it was on the Sabbath.
We saw that the Jewish leaders, blind to the wonder of the miracle Jesus had performed, were incensed that Jesus had violated their man-made plan against the specific form of labor on the Sabbath. Jesus then replies to this first wave of many to come attacks. Of course, his response does not ease the tension.
Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” – John 5:17 ESV
What does this sentence mean to you? How would you explain it to a friend?
To many of us, this response does not seem too strange, and almost is ambiguous, but there are many recorded interchanges of Jesus and the authorities in the bible, but once again John provides us with some unique insight with this response. The original language used in John’s writing was not a simple “response” or “answer” that Jesus gave. The words used are ones only used in context of trials and courtrooms, when a formal defense is given against charges made. John is telling us that Jesus is not simply answering a question, but giving a legal defense before the authorities who were accusing him of things they felt were worthy of death. Jesus knew the accusations were serious, so his response was serious. Jesus response seems simple but it is a bold reminder to the educated church officials.
Jesus was reminding the Jewish authorities that Sabbath rest was built into creation because God created all things in six days, then rested on the seventh day. That set the pattern for man to work six days and then rest every seventh day. But Jesus showed these theologians, who should have known already, that when the Bible says that God rested on the seventh day, it doesn’t mean that God ceased being active.
Many believe God got the party started and then stepped away, to let it fend for itself. But that view is not biblical. God created all things but he does not just step away, he continues to sustain them. He did not just bring the world into existence, but also continues to preserve it and maintain it today. There are many people that believe that God is not involved in the world today. Like he is off somewhere taking a nap, uninvolved with human events.
The truth is, in verse 17, Jesus was saying that God is the omnipotent Lord, who governs everything that He makes from moment to moment. God’s creation was done, but that does not mean He is done. He is still involved with His creation, in fact, Jesus said, it continues even until now.
We know that the Sabbath was established for all men. Do we think that it applies to God? Does God have a free pass to violate the 39 rabbical laws that were put in place to keep the Sabbath holy?
The rabbis’ belief was based on the separation of God and humanity. They knew that God was infinite, and people are not. They taught that God was exempt from their laws. People being finite, were not allowed to move anything from one domain to another on the Sabbath, but since God is infiite and His domain is infinite, He rises above the restriction. The rabbis taught that whatever God does on the sabbath day always takes place within the confines of His domain.
What really made this teaching so controversial at the time, that we might not understand immediately, is what we might interpret as “My Father works even on the Sabbath day. So do I. Since it is permissible for Him to do it, and since God is My Father, therefore I’m allowed to do it too. If you argue with what I’m doing on the Sabbath day, you’re arguing with God”. Essentially, Jesus was claiming to be God. That is what sparked the vicious fire in the church.
We should not be surprised by the reaction:
So the Jewish leaders tried all the harder to find a way to kill him. For he not only broke the Sabbath, he called God his Father, thereby making himself equal with God. – John 5:18 NLT
Son and Father
The heart of the chapter can be found in the following verses, but they are not the most popular and are not very simple.
19 So Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he is doing. In fact, the Father will show him how to do even greater works than healing this man. Then you will truly be astonished. 21 For just as the Father gives life to those he raises from the dead, so the Son gives life to anyone he wants. – John 5:19-21 NLT
This section hits the facts about the ontology and economic Trinity, 3 in 1. We have one God (ontological), but He has multiple roles (economic). It is the Father who sends the Son into the world for our redemption. It is the Son who acquires our redemption for us. It is the Spirit who applies that redemption to us. We do not have three gods. We have one God in three persons, and the three persons are distinguished in terms of what They do.
That is what Jesus said here. He declared: “I don’t do anything on My own I do what the Father tells Me to do. I do what the Father sent Me to do. I watch the Father, and I do what the Father does. The Father is preeminent. The Father is the One to whom I am obedient and subordinate.” Jesus even confirmed that He could not do anything of Himself, only what He saw the Father do. Out of His love for the Son, the Father showed Him all the things that He Himself did. Then Jesus stated that the Father would show Him even greater things, so they should expect His words to become greater.
Also, this is the first declaration in John’s Gospel where it is mentioned that Jesus will raise the dead.
Who is the judge?
When we went through the book of Acts we discussed the matter of who is the final judge. We touched on this fact and misconception and Jesus makes it evident right here in the book of John. This section of scripture clearly outlines the reason why Jesus is the vital point in our lives.
22 In addition, the Father judges no one. Instead, he has given the Son absolute authority to judge, 23 so that everyone will honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son is certainly not honoring the Father who sent him. – John 5:22-23 NLT
When reading verse 22, please do not read this verse and conclude that there is no judgement. Jesus did not say that. He goes on to explain that the Father has committed all judgement to the Son. The Father does not judge because He has delegated the task of judging the world to His son, Jesus. The next words from Jesus are very sobering. Jesus actually explains why in verse 23.
Our western culture tells us to believe in anything you want to believe in, that we all worship the same God, that we can come to God by any means we choose, and that we can reject or not get all hung up on Jesus, since he has already done his part with the resurrection.
But clearly in scripture it states that we cannot honor the Father without honoring the Son. The Father has appointed a day when He will judge the world by the One whom He has appointed to be the Judge, who is Christ.
he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead. – Acts 17:31 ESV
So those who do not honor Christ fail to honor the Judge whom God has appointed. Do you find it funny, when grasping this reality, how difficult it must have been for Jesus to be persecuted and put on trial by the Jewish leaders?
This defense does not end here. This is merely the beginning. The defense goes on for a few more chapters, and it only gets heavier. It will take us into deep theological waters, but those waters are at the very heart of the faith of the Christian church. It is because of these exact things that we come together to worship and have fellowship with Him; to honor Him.
This discourse focuses on the person and authority of Jesus. This passage is the clearest summary of Jesus’ relationship with the Father, His position as judge of all things, and the witnesses to His mission as Messiah found in all the New Testament.
- R. C. Sproul. John (St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary). Kindle Edition.
- Barry, J. D., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
- Tyndale House Publishers. (2013). Holy Bible: New Living Translation. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
- The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.