The Authority of the Son

John 5: 16-30

DIG: What was the result for Jesus healing the invalid in John 5:1-15? How did the way He answered the Jewish leaders only heighten their opposition? Why would Yeshua do that? In what ways is Messiah equal with the Father? What terms are used to demonstrate the relationship between the Two? How does that relate to John 1:1 and 18? What claims does Yeshua make about Himself in verse 24? What is the promise? When does someone start to possess this promise? What happens to those who do hear and believe? To those who do not? Why should the Son of Man be the judge? What exactly is the offer God is making to humanity?

REFLECT: If you had to explain to someone what verse 24 means in your own words, how would you put? In your own walk with Jesus, when did you come to understand this truth? How did it influence your self-image? Did it change your lifestyle at all? A little? A lot? How much? Did it affect your life goals?

After Messiah healed the invalid on Shabbat (see Cs – Jesus Heals a Man at the Pool of Bethesda), the result was inevitable, the Jewish leaders began to persecute Him (John 5:16). Their dispute was no mere squabble among theologians; the issue was one of authority. That healing begged the question, “Who owns the Sabbath?” Pharisaic Judaism claimed ownership of Shabbat by objecting to Jesus doing these things (implying more acts of grace than that specific healing) that the Oral Law (see Ei – The Oral Law) forbid on the seventh day.

There were two specific accusations against Yeshua. First, healing the invalid at the pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath. He began His defense by pointing out that YHVH had never stopped working. The Lord said to them: My Father is always at His work to this very day (John 5:17a). Pharisaic Judaism believed that “work” included any kind of activity. According to Exodus 20:11, ADONAI commanded that the Israelites not do any work on the seventh day because He rested after the sixth day of creation. This was intended to honor Elohim’s creation of the world and to remember His provision. The LORD ceased work because His creation was complete, and Shabbat is based on the Hebrew verb to cease. He never, however, stopped providing or protecting! In that sense, God never rests from them. The sun rises and sets, the tides ebb and flow, the rain falls, the wind blows, the grass grows on the weekly Rest Day as well as on any other. Without His continuing acts of grace, all of creation would immediately pass away.

But the renegade Rabbi went far beyond that and asserted His absolute equality with the Father when He said: And I AM also working (John 5:17b). This was an outright claim of ownership of Shabbat. Because the Torah came from ADONAI, the Torah cannot condemn God. The Son of God was simply continuing to do what He, as the Creator, had been doing since the seventh day. He had done what Abraham, Moses, David, or Daniel had never dreamed of doing. The point was not lost on the Jewish leaders.

Secondly, making Himself equal with God. 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 (Yochanan 5:18). All the verbs in this verse are imperfect tense, describing continuous action. This is a good verse to use with cults that deny the deity of Christ. The cults use the logic that any son is less than a father, so if Jesus were merely the son, He would be less than God. That may be true gentile reasoning, but in Judaism (context, context, context), the firstborn was equal to the father! We need to understand the original sitz im laben of the first century. Another way the cults deny the deity of Christ is to say that Jesus never said He was God. Or never claimed to be God. But the Jews in this passage were not so confused about what He was saying. Having an equal relationship with the Father, what One does, the other does. If it is the work of the Son, it is also the work of the Father. They resented His challenge to their illicit authority and they rejected His claim of equality with ADONAI. So they tried all the more to kill Him.

The real point of contention was this: Who owned the Sabbath? The Lord answered that question with six specific claims. First, the KING of kings said, “I AM equal with God.” Yeshua presented the truth of His deity in terms no one in His day could mistake. Jesus began with a double amen, meaning it is true. Truly, truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by Himself. This does not imply any defect or limitation, it means the Son cannot act independently of the Father.Then He claimed equality with God, calling Himself the Son of God and referring to God as His Father. He can do only what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does (John 5:19). While the Father and the Son are distinct persons, Father and Son are the same God. As such, the Father and the Son are One; therefore, these two persons of the Trinity (John discusses the Holy Spirit later in 16:1-15) cannot act in opposition to one another. 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 (John 5:20). The Son is the perfect reflection of the Father here on earth in human form. Everything He does reflects the intentions and actions of the Father.452

Second, the Bread of Life said, “I AM the giver of life.” 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 (Yochanan 5:21). In order to be able to give life, you must be the source of life. No one in the TaNaKh claimed to give life other than God Himself. This would be a scandalous claim for any ordinary human. Physicians can prescribe medicine or give treatment in order to postpone death, but they cannot give life to the dead. ADONAI had used the prophets of the TaNaKh to raise the dead, but none dared claim credit for it. Only God can create something out of nothing: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Gen 1:1). We never feel so helpless when a loved one dies. We can bring medicine, offer rest, and provide encouragement and consolation. Maybe even some financial support. But when that person dies all we can do is mourn our loss. Only God has the power to restore life.

Third, the Son of God said, “I AM the final Judge.” In the TaNaKh the final judgment was reserved for God the Father. If now the Son is doing the judging, the Son has to be God. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son (see my commentary on Revelation Fo – The Great White Throne Judgment), and the reason for this is 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 (John 5:22-23). Only Yeshua can discern the intentions of the heart, because He is omniscient. Only Christ can weigh the value of a person without pretense, because He is perfectly righteous. Only the Master Builder can decide our fate, because He made us and is sovereign over us. God the Father has delegated all judgment to God the Son, because the Son is equal with the Father. Thus, Christ claimed to deserve the same honor due the Father.

Fourth, the Savior of Sinners said, “I will determine the eternal destiny of humanity.” Yeshua has the power to provide eternal life. In the TaNaKh the One who had the power to provide eternal life was reserved for God alone. So if Jesus has this power, He also must be God. The Lord once again punctuated His statement with a double amen. Normally, the Holy One called for a belief in Himself (John 3:16); however, in this case He called for a belief in the Father to reinforce the theme of complete unity of the Father and the Son. To believe in one is to believe in the other. Truly, truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life (see Ms – The Eternal Security of the Believer) and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life (John 5:24). We will never die, we will merely change our address to the presence of God. Eternal life can only be a present condition on a just basis. To be justified means to be declared righteous. We are eternally righteous because we have [already] been justified at the moment we were saved (see Bw – What God Does for Us at the Moment of Faith).

Many believers fear the prospect of facing an angry God; knowing He is holy and we are sinful. They haven’t grasped the fact that we have [already] been justified. The Greek language makes the concept of our justification very clear. Because of the precision of the verbs, the language is explicit in describing when something has already been done (past tense), is being done (present tense), will be done (future tense), and is a continuous action (imperfect tense). In Romans 5:1, it clearly says we have [already] been justified before our Holy Father because Jesus has [already] paid the penalty for our sins, establishing our peace with God. The Greek text of Romans 5:1 starts out with dikaiothentes, meaning having been justified. The verb is a culminative aorist, passive participle, which emphasizes the completion of an action, especially the results that flow from it.453 Thus, since we have been justified through faith, we [already] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1).

When something has [already] been done, there is nothing left for you to do. Many believers try desperately to become something they already are. The Bible declares that you cannot do for yourself what has already been done for you by Christ. Another way of saying it is that you cannot undo what Messiah has already done. The Adversary’s lie is that you must atone for your sin by works of some kind and thus prove your love for God.454

The Roman Catholic Church has developed a doctrine in which all who are not perfect must undergo penal and purifying suffering in an intermediate realm known as purgatory. This doctrine rests on the assumption that while God forgives sin, His justice nevertheless demands that the sinner must suffer the full punishment that is due before being allowed into heaven. According to the Holy Fathers of the Catholic Church, the fire of purgatory does not differ from the fire of hell, except for duration. It has been said that Catholicism is a religion of fear – fear of the priest, fear of the confessional, fear of the consequences of missing mass, fear of the discipline of penance, fear of death, fear of purgatory, and the fear of the righteous judgment of an angry God.455

All this fear, however, is unnecessary because Christ has [already] imputed His righteousness to us at faith (Romans 5:2-19). Like a spiritual bank account, Messiah has imputed, or transferred all of His righteousness to us. And as a result, we have [already] been justified by our faith. Consequently, when ADONAI looks at us after salvation. He doesn’t see our sin . . . He see’s His Son.

Fifth, the Miracle-Working Rabbi said, “I will raise the dead.” Jesus is the One who will bring about the resurrection of the dead. In the TaNaKh, only God Himself brought about the resurrection of the dead. So if Yeshua can bring about the resurrection of the dead, He must be God. 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 (emphasizing His deity) and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son also to have life in Himself. And He has given Him authority to judge because He is the Son of Man (emphasizing His humanity) (John 5:25-27). The Lord validated His qualification to judge all humanity because He is both the Son of God, who can give life, and the Son of Man, who experienced life as a human, yet without sin.456

A time is coming when everyone will hear Jesus’ voice. A day when all other voices will be silenced; His voice – and His voice alone – will be heard. Some will hear His voice for the first time. It’s not that He never spoke, it’s just that they never listened. For these, God’s voice will be the voice of a stranger. They will hear it once – and never hear it again. They will spend eternity fending off “the voice” they followed on earth. But others will be called from their graves by a familiar voice. For they are sheep who know their Shepherd. They are servants who opened the door when the Holy Spirit knocked. Someday that door will be opened again. Only this time, it won’t be Jesus who walks into our house; it will be we, who walk into His.457 In John 5:28-29 the Lord told the Jewish leaders: Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear His voice, and come out - those who have done what is good (James 2:14-26) will rise to live (see my commentary on Revelation Ff – The First Resurrection), and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned (see my commentary on Revelation Fn – The Second Resurrection).

Sixth, Yeshua ben David said, “I AM always doing the will of Elohim.” In Messiah’s final claim He linked His actions on earth to the will of His Father in heaven. Now there is a sudden shift in perspective. Throughout His confrontation with the Jewish religious leaders, the Galilean Rabbi referred to Himself in the third person, using titles like the Son of God and the Son of Man. But as He transitioned to the next phase of the confrontation between Himself and the Jewish leaders (see Cu – If You Believed Moses, You Would Believe Me), He restates His original claim from verse 19, only speaking in the first person: 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 (Yochanan 5:30). His point was crystal clear, He wasn’t referring to somebody else; He was making claims about Himself. This left His opponents with no room for compromise, no middle ground on which to stand. And the same goes for us today. We must accept or reject His declaration.

Dear heavenly Father, I thank You for sending Your One and only Son to pay the price in order that I may be justified. I now accept by faith that I have peace with You through my Lord Jesus Christ. I renounce the lie that we are enemies and claim the truth that we are friends, reconciled by the death of Your Son. I rejoice in the life that I now have in Messiah and I look forward to the day when I shall see You face-to-face. In Yeshua’s precious name I pray. Amen, He is faithful.458


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