Before Pentecost, I featured the account of Jesus’s healing the infirm man at the pools of Bethesda.  Today, let’s delve further into John 5, a powerful chapter wherein Jesus tells the Jews (and us) that He is equal to God the Father.

Many people, a number of whom are lapsed Christians, say they believe in God and not in Jesus.  Others, among them Muslims, say that nowhere in the New Testament did Jesus say He was the Son of God.  This chapter, and this passage in particular, is one which refutes both of these errors.  Yet another reason for us to know more about what the Bible says and less of what others purport it to say.

Unfortunately, John 5 is not part of the three-year Lectionary for public worship.  Pity.  It has many good lessons for us as well as a beautiful story of healing at the beginning.  John 5, therefore, is suitable for my ongoing series, Forbidden Bible Verses, which are equally essential to our understanding of Scripture.

Today’s reading is from the King James Version.  Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

John 5:18-23

18Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.

 19Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.

 20For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel.

 21For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.

 22For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son:

 23That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.

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Recall that in the previous passage, the Jews confronted the now-healed man and asked him who healed him.  He said it was Jesus.  The Jews became angry because Jesus was working on the Sabbath.  In verse 17 Jesus told the Jews that, just as His Father works, so He also works — Sabbath or no.

Verse 18 reiterates verse 16: the desire of the Jewish hierarchy to put Jesus to death, not only for working on the Sabbath but for blasphemy — putting Himself on the same level as God.

In verse 19, Jesus says that He can do nothing His Father has not given Him the power to do.  In other words, God the Father and God the Son work together.  Matthew Henry unpacks this statement for us (emphases mine):

The Lord Jesus, as Mediator, is First, Obedient to his Father’s will; so entirely obedient that he can do nothing of himself, in the same sense as it is said, God cannot lie, cannot deny himself, which expresses the perfection of his truth, not any imperfection in his strength; so here, Christ was so entirely devoted to his Father’s will that it was impossible for him in any thing to act separately. Secondly, He is observant of his Father’s counsel; he can, he will, do nothing but what he sees the Father do … What he did as Mediator, throughout his whole undertaking, was the exact transcript or counterpart of what the Father did; that is, what he designed, when he formed the plan of our redemption in his eternal counsels, and settled those measures in every thing which never could be broken, nor ever needed to be altered … Thirdly, Yet he is equal with the Father in working; for what things soever the Father does these also does the Son likewise; he did the same things, not such things, but tauta, the same things; and he did them in the same manner, homoioµs, likewise, with the same authority, and liberty, and wisdom, the same energy and efficacy. Does the Father enact, repeal, and alter, positive laws? Does he over-rule the course of nature, know men’s hearts? So does the Son. The power of the Mediator is a divine power.

Jesus delivers this message again in John 10 and John 17.  This is important to know, because, as John MacArthur says:

again and again and again Christ claims to be one with God…see. This is part of His person. And in the Bible, in the New Testament gospel account, when we see Christ in action we are seeing God in action. When we hear Christ talk, we are hearing the words of God. When we see Christ do something, it’s the deed of God. When we read the mind of Jesus, it’s the mind of God. Because Christ does not act independently of the Father. They act in conjunction together in everything and to accuse Christ of doing something wrong is blasphemy because it is accusing God. And so He declares their oneness. He and God are one indivisible, inseparable, eternaland yet in the vast mystery of that oneness, they are distinct. Don’t try to understand that, it wasn’t meant for you to understand, praise the Lord we don’t have to understand it, we just need to believe it.

This is a divine mystery.  It cannot be explained to rational secularists or those of other faiths.  God’s ways are not Man’s ways.

Jesus continues with His lesson in this mystery, which extends beyond today’s reading and which we will look at over the next few weeks.  I read that John MacArthur recommended reading New Testament chapters 30 times each in order to know them and to be able to cite from them.  This is certainly a chapter to read time and time again so that we understand it and can quote it when necessary.  Jesus was more than a prophet, a holy man and a teacher.  He was — and is — the Son of God.

In verse 20, Jesus uses the word ‘love’, although this was not the agape which Christians are instructed to practice, but the more filial love expressed by phileo.  Jesus says that God loves His Son and shows Him all the things to do.  Jesus adds that there are many greater works than healing the sick. Jesus would perform more incredible works during His lifetime;  at the time of His speech in John 5, He hadn’t yet carried them out. And what people often forget is that He will return again in glory to judge the living and the dead.  Yes, Christians know this but scoffers and unbelievers do not understand it.

‘To quicken’ (verse 21) means to make alive. Jesus says that just as God raises up the dead and brings them to new life, so He — the Son — will bring people to new life.  The immediate understanding of that would be the ailing man at Bethesda.  But Jesus also means a raising to eternal life after physical death.  People make fun of this today.  They made fun of it in the days of the early Church, too.  The great thinkers in Athens ridiculed St Paul for saying it (Acts 17:32).

Some may wonder whether Jesus and God have a conflict of will. No, they work together in everything. John MacArthur explains:

the will of God, the will of Christ, the sovereignty of God, the sovereignty of Christ are in total agreement, John 6:37. “All that the Father gives to Me shall come to Me.” In other words, all that the Father wills to come to Me will come. My side of it, “Him that cometh to Me”…what?…”I’ll in no wise cast out.” Why? Because it’s My will to keep him. The Father’s will gives them, My will keeps them. Are they the same? Perfect oneness. There’s no disagreement.

Verse 22 is interesting as Jesus states that God has left judgment to Him.  What does He mean exactly?  That His judgment will be in perfect alignment and agreement with God the Father’s.  This judgment will be based on the criterion in verse 23.

Verse 23 is another important verse to commit to memory because it further refutes the notion that Jesus was a special man who said and did nice things.  No! We are to honour Him — God the Son — as we honour God the Father.  It’s worth studying the second half of this verse again:

He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.

If we do not honour Jesus as the Son of God, then we do not honour God the Father.  And if we are guilty of either of those — honouring one without the other — surely we risk condemnation unless we repent.  Of course, as we shall see, the Jews were outraged by this statement.  We’ll look at that more in depth later.

What is essential for us to take in today is that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. John MacArthur says:

If you’re going to take the side that Jesus Christ was the world’s greatest liar and blasphemer, then your inheritance is death and judgment. If you receive Christ as Savior, it’s life and eternal life. The choice is yours.

Next week: John 5:24-30