of the most frequent of heresies over the last two thousand years has been to
declare that Jesus can not be equal to the Father. Those faithful to the Apostles’
doctrine know better. This is a passage in which that truth is declared.
understand the statements Jesus will make to the Pharisees, we need the
background of Christ’s most recent miracle:
Joh 5:1-15 NIV The
Healing at the Pool
time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. (2) Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a
pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda
and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. (3)
Here a great number of disabled people used to lie--the blind, the lame, the
paralyzed. (4) (5) One who
was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. (6)
When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition
for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to get well?" (7) "Sir," the invalid replied, "I
have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am
trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me." (8) Then Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up
your mat and walk." (9) At once the man
was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, (10)
and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, "It is the Sabbath;
the law forbids you to carry your mat." (11)
But he replied, "The man who made me well said to me, 'Pick up your mat
and walk.' " (12) So they asked him,
"Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?" (13) The man who was healed had no idea who it was,
for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. (14) Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to
him, "See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen
to you." (15) The man went away and told
the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.
picture of baptism
of us who have read the end of the book see clearly that this episode is a
picture of the baptism to come. Let’s take a look:
incident portrays the renewal that comes through baptism. Those whose
sins bind them – and this man is a sinner – find release of bonds at
the paralytic wants this baptism; he sees it as almost magic. But Christ
fact that Jesus doesn’t throw him in the water, but raises him up tells us
that the ceremony itself has no power – but the indwelling Spirit does.
is a difference between the result wanted (healing) and the method proposed.
This man sees the method; Christ controls the result.
of the paralytic
may learn something from this man:
he’s been at this for 38 years! Perseverance indeed! Wait upon the Lord,
has endured most of this in solitude; he has no friends who are willing
to wait around for the water to be stirred.
is an obedient man; he does what he is told.
is a thankful man – Christ finds him in the Temple, not the market.
Jesus didn’t do
we can learn from what Jesus didn’t do as well as from what He did.
did not challenge the man’s faith. His healing seems to be pure gift.
This is encouraging to those with little faith; now matter how unfaithful
we might be, He is faithful and just.
did not reveal who he is. He melted into the crowds. Why? First, to
have the man’s testimony be taken as truth. He’s been there 38 years, people
know who he is. It’s also possible that Jesus did not want to give the
Pharisees any greater scope for envy – which we shall soon see.
to the Father
now makes some of the most amazing statements to come from human lips:
Joh 5:16-30 NIV
So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted
him. (17) Jesus said to them, "My Father
is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working." (18) For 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. (19)
Jesus 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. (20) For the
Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will
show him even greater things than these. (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. 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. (25) I 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. (26) For as the Father has life in
himself, so he has granted the Son 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 good will rise to live, and those who have done 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.
the Jews understood this
like this are sometimes dismissed as mysticism, which (as we all know) can
never be understood anyway. Jesus’ enemies show us that they we easily able to
understand what Jesus was saying.
Father” – if I claim to have human parents, I’m claiming to be human. The
claim is clear; Jesus is saying that he is divine.
claims also to be Lord over the Sabbath – immune to the guilt of doing
work on the Sabbath.
you can always rely on the testimony of your enemies to make your point. How,
then, does Jesus justify this?
immediate defense of this claim is relatively simple. God is at work; I’m
doing the same things; by their fruits you will know them. Indeed, Jesus does
nothing new, nothing out of style – only what the Father has given. It may be
easier to see if we break it down a bit:
is a divine style to works. Rage in clearing the Temple; gentleness in
forgiving sin. Water becomes wine, stones do not become bread.
is a divine purpose in those works. The Son of Man came to seek and save
the lost – even the Pharisees. So He gives one and all a season to
repent. Later, we shall see the great work of Christ – the Crucifixion.
Father loves the Son – and it shows, especially in the type of working
miracle He favors.
if to make the point that this is serious indeed, Jesus tells them that all
judgment has been given to him. To attack the honor of the Christ is to attack
the honor of God Almighty, for they are one in the same. Judgment is given to
the Son of Man because He is one of us – He knows our needs and weaknesses.
there is more. The Son has “life in himself” just as the Father does. We, in
short, borrow existence from God. That borrowed existence returns to God when
But that life is available to us now – if we will hear and heed His voice.
(Note that this is post-Resurrection; we have been shown who has the power of
life and death.)
it is that the church has always taught the resurrection of the dead. Some to
the praise of their deeds, others to the hell they have chosen. Did you really
think that God is finished with Adolf Hitler?
Joh 5:31-47 NIV
"If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid. (32) There 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. (34) Not that I accept human testimony; but I
mention it that you may be saved. (35) John
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. (37) And the Father who sent me has himself
testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, (38) nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not
believe the one he sent. (39) You diligently
study the Scriptures because you
think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that
testify about me, (40) yet you refuse to come
to me to have life. (41) "I do not
accept praise from men, (42) but I know you.
I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. (43) I 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. (44) How can you believe if you accept praise from
one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only
"But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is
Moses, on whom your hopes are set. (46) If
you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. (47) But since you do not believe what he wrote, how
are you going to believe what I say?"
logical question – unasked, but implied – is simply, “How are you going to
prove it?” Christ gives us three general answers:
makes it clear that no ordinary human can be a completely valid witness for him
– but such witness does have its place. It is not completely perfect because
the humans in question are not completely perfect. Indeed, in our day the
miracle-working charlatan is an all too common site.
we cannot totally discount human witness. We are taught that we are to be the
light of the world. We may not be proof of Christ’s divine nature – but we can
testify to what we know and have experienced. Even the Pharisees listened to
John; they “enjoyed his light” by choice. We, then, may perform a similar
works of Christ
does not necessarily talk his way into our hearts. But we should look at the
there are the miracles performed. It is fashionable today to argue that
these must all be myths; Christ’s contemporaries had no such argument.
Look at what he has done, and ask – who but God could do that?
to that the Crucifixion. Why did this man voluntarily submit to
crucifixion? Only the love of God could endure that. Only the love of
there is the Resurrection. Of all things in history, this is the one
event that changes everything.
also have a written record to deal with. The Old Testament, in hundreds of passages,
points to the Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. So
why is it that the Pharisees, the experts in this, missed it?
enough, the Scriptures must be read with the love of God in your heart.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” If you read them this
way, He will do great things in your life. But beware: if you’ve read them,
you will be judged using them as a standard. Thus it is that we seek the mercy
of the Cross instead of judgment.