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John

Who Am I?

John 5:16-47

We now see, early in Christ’s ministry, his proclamation of who He really is: the Son of God. We might expect this to be a difficult concept to the Jews, as they had drilled into them the idea that God is One. Indeed, God is One. But, as we know, God is love. How can love exist, if there is only one person? The imponderables pile up, the philosophical difficulties grow.

Interestingly, Christ never attempts to explain matters by philosophy. He simply marshals the evidence, and asks those who love God to come to the obvious conclusions.

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

19Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, 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. 20For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. 21For 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. 22Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.

24“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. 25I tell you the truth, 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. 26For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. 27And 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 29and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. 30By 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.

31“If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid. 32There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is valid.

33“You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. 34Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. 35John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.

36“I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me. 37And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, 38nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. 39You diligently study£ the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, 40yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

41“I do not accept praise from men, 42but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. 43I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. 44How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God£?

45“But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. 46If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. 47But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”

His Equality With God

This is the part that is hard to understand; so Jesus gives it to us in several forms. Thus, if we cannot understand one way, perhaps we can grasp another.

The Son can do nothing of himself

Please note the verb. He did not say, “could, but won’t.” There is no possibility that Christ can do anything “of himself.” This shows us the unity of Father and Son; they are one. This “one-ness” with the Father is (as Chrysostom put it) “invariable and exact equality.”

Consider this in a simpler light. Can God contradict himself? Can he (as the little children ask) make a rock so big he can’t lift it? The answer is, “the question does not make sense.” God cannot contradict himself, for He is One. And for exactly the same reason, the Son cannot contradict the Father – for they are One.

The Son only does what He sees the Father doing

Again, we see another aspect of the unity. If the Son has the power to do something, but the Father restrains Himself, so does the Son. It is a complete unity of will, or purpose. How can this be done? Even the closest of human beings cannot have the such unity of will. Why is this impossible for human beings? Because, being mortal, each of us has a different spirit. But God the Father and God the Son have the same Spirit. (Consider the implications of having the Holy Spirit within you).

Whatever the Father does, the Son does

Not only, “only does” but “whatever” – the equality is that exact. We know that Christ is the author and sustainer of the universe, created by God. So as Christ walked with us on earth, he also sustained the universe “at the same time” (if such a phrase can be applied to God). Hence we see the calming of the sea, the walking on water – all these things show Jesus as Lord of Creation; just like the Father.

Why?

The reason for this unity comes from, I think, two things:

  1. God is one. It is impossible for him to be divided, and that “impossible” is one of those “impossible impossibles.”
  2. God is love. Love requires more than one person; hence the three persons of the Trinity. Perfect love requires perfect unity, and God is indeed perfect love.
The tests

Some will tell you that Jesus never claimed to be God. For those, I will offer these practical tests:

  1. Did the Jews persecute him? If so, why? Is it not the case that the Jewish religious leaders, those who should have known God when he arrived, persecuted this man Jesus because he claimed to be God?
  2. Did he violate the Sabbath? Did he do so rather casually? Can any created being set aside God’s law? Only God is superior to the Law. This man, by his actions, says that his own personal presence is sufficient to ignore the Sabbath, commanded by God. Why is this God? God works on the Sabbath every week (does the sun still rise on Saturday?)
  3. Did he call God his Father? To the Jews of that time, this could only have had one meaning.

The Evidence

Jesus, knowing their hearts but also mindful of other hearers to come, now lays before them the evidence.

John the Baptist

Jesus needs no testimony from any of us as to his Godhead. But he’s perfectly willing to use such testimony if it will bring people to know him as Lord and Savior. In this instance, the testimony is that of John the Baptist. The Pharisees quite rightly respected John, and the people held him to be a prophet. If God supplies you a prophet, should you not listen to him?

Note one other thing here: there is a principle of judgment involved. If you go out in the desert to hear John the Baptist, and you praise and acknowledge him as prophet, then whatever he teaches you can be used to judge you. You “know better.” In this instance, they honored John – and he testified to Jesus being the Christ.

The works of Christ

You sometimes hear the criticism that Jesus didn’t do enough miraculous work. After all, he barely made a dent in the number of sick people of the time. Speaking of which, why doesn’t he empower some righteous people today to do such healing?

Remember this: the works of Christ (and his Church) are to bring glory to God. They do this by testifying to the coming of the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth. We can see this in three particular ways:

  1. First, there are the miracles recorded for us. These people knew the miraculous when they saw it – and they saw it. The argument then is simple: where did such power come from, if not the creator of the universe?
  2. Next, there are the words of Christ himself. Read all that he said, and you will find two characteristics: first, his words are filled with wisdom and often shrewdness. He is eminently sane and trustworthy. He at the same time, over and over, tells you that he is indeed God in the flesh. Only one hypothesis can reconcile those two characteristics.
  3. Finally, there is the Resurrection itself. Who else has power to die and then rise again?
The Scriptures (Old Testament)

Finally, Christ points them to that with which they should be very familiar: the Old Testament. To even survey all the prophecies therein would take far too much time for this lesson, but we can take a surveyor’s view:

Christ first cites Moses. In the first five books of the Old Testament (the works of Moses) we see various prophecies.

  • In Genesis, we see the mysterious prophecy that a “man born of woman” will defeat Satan. This is not clear until the Cross.
  • Throughout Genesis, we see the promise given to Abraham, then to Isaac and then to Jacob (Israel) that through these the whole world would be blessed.
  • Finally, the promised one would come from the tribe of Judah.

This is just the beginning of prophecy.

  • There are many poetic references to Christ in the Psalms – see most especially Psalm 22.
  • There are entire sections of the major prophets which deal with Christ – for example, Isaiah 53.
  • Sprinkled throughout the minor prophets are various other prophecies of Christ – right down to the name of the village in which he would be born.

The Judgment

All this is nice, perhaps, but what’s it got to do with us today? Very simply this: we will all face the Judgment some day. When that happens, it will be too late to prepare.

“Life in Himself”

The essence of God is existence; he is “I Am.” Jesus claims the same name. What does this mean? It means that God does not owe his existence to anyone else or anything else (as all things in our universe do). He exists; He is eternal; and if we exist (being contingent) then he must exist.

That the philosophers know. What is revealed here is that God is willing to pass on that existence – eternal life – to those whom he chooses. More than that, Jesus is the one with the power to give that life to all he chooses.

How do we get that eternal life? Believe on the One who sent Jesus, trusting Him.

Authority to Judge

If there is a Judgment, there must be a Judge. Is there a judgment to come?

  • Do you believe that God is powerful? That He is righteous?
  • Surely you see that there is evil yet to be judged.

The only way to reconcile both these statements is this: God has not yet closed his books on the evil. Over and again in the Old Testament (and New) he tells us that he wants all to repent. But the day will come when justice will be delivered; the books will be closed.

So there will be a Judgment. There must be a Judge, and Jesus tells us here that he will be that Judge. Why?

  • He is God – therefore he is perfectly righteous. His judgments will be true and correct.
  • He is Man – therefore he understands and has lived through our weaknesses. Whatever mitigating factors we may be able to produce, he will understand, personally.

The Son of God is also Son of Man, and therefore the Judge.

All will rise

Very well; but aren’t most of those evil people dead? How’s he going to get to Adolf Hitler, for example? The answer is radical and simple: God will raise them from the dead. He who has power over life and death will bring them out from their graves to face the judgment.

Now, there is a goodly amount of debate over who will rise when. Hal Lindsey tells us, for example, that there are six resurrections (including that of Christ). But whoever’s version you think best, there are two things all versions agree upon:

  • All will rise – no exceptions.
  • All will be judged. Those who have done good, to be rewarded. Those who have done evil, to be punished.
Accused by the authority you know

Often we hear the argument about the pygmy in Africa – the one who has never heard of Jesus Christ – and asked, “on what basis will he be judged?” The answer is given here, in a fashion. Christ will be the judge – but who will prosecute? The answer for these Jews is Moses.

Why? Because Moses is the authority they knew. The Scripture makes the basis for judgment quite clear:

  • If you knew and recognized an authority – like Moses – then you will be held to the standards you accepted from Moses.
  • If you condemned someone else for something, that then becomes a standard by which you will be judged.

In short, you will be judged by what you know – and what you used to judge others.

OK, I know the prosecutor; I know the judge – who’s the defense attorney? For the Christian, it is Jesus himself.

Lunatic, Liar or Lord

There it is. The shrewd, wise words of Jesus come from the same mouth that proclaims himself to be God. Either he is a lunatic (and if so, how such wisdom), a liar (if so, for what purpose? To be crucified?) or he is Lord. There are no other options. As Sherlock Holmes said, whenever you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains – no matter how improbable – must be the truth.

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