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Life of Christ (2007-2009)

Equality with the Father

John 5

Lesson audio

One 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.

The Paralytic

To 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

Some 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[1] 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.[2] (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.

A picture of baptism

Those 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:

  • This incident portrays the renewal that comes through baptism. Those whose sins bind them – and this man is a sinner – find release of bonds at baptism.
  • Interestingly, the paralytic wants this baptism; he sees it as almost magic. But Christ exceeds that.
  • The 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.

There is a difference between the result wanted (healing) and the method proposed. This man sees the method; Christ controls the result.

Character of the paralytic

We may learn something from this man:

  • First, he’s been at this for 38 years! Perseverance indeed! Wait upon the Lord, my friends.
  • He has endured most of this in solitude; he has no friends who are willing to wait around for the water to be stirred.[1]
  • He is an obedient man; he does what he is told.
  • He is a thankful man – Christ finds him in the Temple, not the market.
What Jesus didn’t do

Sometimes we can learn from what Jesus didn’t do as well as from what He did.

  • Jesus 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.
  • Jesus 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.

Equal to the Father

Jesus 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.

How the Jews understood this

Passages 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.

  • “My 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.[2]
  • He claims also to be Lord over the Sabbath – immune to the guilt of doing work on the Sabbath.

Interesting; you can always rely on the testimony of your enemies to make your point. How, then, does Jesus justify this?

Equality of works

Jesus 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:

  • There is a divine style to works. Rage in clearing the Temple; gentleness in forgiving sin. Water becomes wine, stones do not become bread.
  • There 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.
  • The Father loves the Son – and it shows, especially in the type of working miracle He favors.
Resurrection and Judgment

As 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.

But 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 we die.[3] 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.)

So 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?

Reasons to Believe

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[3] 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 God[4]? (45) "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?"

The logical question – unasked, but implied – is simply, “How are you going to prove it?” Christ gives us three general answers:

Human witness

Christ 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.

But 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 service.

The works of Christ

Jesus does not necessarily talk his way into our hearts. But we should look at the evidence given:

  • First, 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?
  • Add to that the Crucifixion. Why did this man voluntarily submit to crucifixion? Only the love of God could endure that. Only the love of God did.
  • Finally, there is the Resurrection. Of all things in history, this is the one event that changes everything.
The Scriptures

We 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?

Simply 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.

[1] Verse four, which describes the method of healing presumed at the pool, does not exist in the oldest of manuscripts. It is therefore considered a late addition not part of the original Scripture.

[2] The concept of being a child of God seems be a New Testament development. Until the firstborn of God frees us, we are servants at best.

[3] Ecclesiastes 12:7

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