John 5 – Jesus the Son (2)
In Part 1, we looked at the first 18 verses of John 5 to see the setting in which Jesus explains his relationship with the Father. The Jews questioned why Jesus healed on the Sabbath, and Jesus replied, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” It wasn’t just that Jesus called God his Father – making him equal with God (v. 18), but he also expresses the truth that whatever the Father is doing the Son, therefore, does as well. Jesus says in verse 19, “The Son can do nothing on his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing.” Here, Jesus begins to explain the “functional” relationship the Father and Son has. What I mean by “functional” is how their relationship works when accomplishing the eternal purposes of God. The end of verse 19 through 23 show the beginning of four statements beginning with “for” (or gar in the Greek) to explain the relationship between the Father and Son and why Jesus can only do what he sees the Father does.
(1) The relationship is defined by equality and expression (v. 19)
The end of verse 19 explains why the beginning of the verse is so, “For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” This is not just a statement to say the same thing only in a different way, but to explain that Jesus is the self-expression of the Father. What the Father accomplishes – the Son accomplishes. Jesus’ work explains the work of the Father (see John 1:18). Here we begin to see that the function of the Son towards the Father as subordinate. But we should also see is that every work accomplished by God should be seen as accomplished by the both the Father and Son (also John will reveal that the Spirit should also be included in this). Creation, wrath, redemption, judgment, and resurrection are all accomplished by both.
(2) The relationship is defined by love (v. 20)
Verse 20, “For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing.” This further explains why the Son only does what the Father does – because he loves him and shows him what he is doing. This display of what the Father is doing to the Son is not a favor to the Son, but an expression of their perfect love with one-another. I tend to think that this verse shows not why God shows the Son what he is doing, but how. There is an eternal reciprocal love between the Father and Son that is beyond our imagination. A powerful and wonderful truth is that Jesus prays in John 17:26, that we will know the love that the Father has loved the Son with. The ultimate purpose in which the Father loves the Son and shows him his will is eventually displayed in verse 23, “that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father.”
(3) The relationship is defined by power and redemption (v. 21)
Verse 21 begins to explain the work that the Son accomplishes. Verse 20 even wets our appetites saying, “And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel.” “These works” are obviously works like the one he did with the invalid at the beginning of the chapter. Jesus did not come just to heal men from diseases, but this is just a foretaste, a signpost of what his ultimate work is. Verse 21 explains it further, “For the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.” Only God can kill and bring back life (2Kings 5:7). Here Jesus is gloriously explained as not just a divine means of resurrection, but the sovereign God who chooses “whom he will” raise up and give life. The work of God in the Father and Son is shown to be in power and redemptive.
(4) The relationship is defined by the purpose of worship (vv. 22-23)
The claim that Jesus raises the dead and gives life is supported by verse 22, “For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son.” The Son has power to raise the dead in order to judge world. But the Father gives the role as Judge to the Son “that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father” (v. 23). Here we see the relationship in true light: to glorify one another and generate worship and honor for the other person. This theme is seen throughout the Gospel of John. The Son has come into the world in perfect obedience to glorify the Father and the Father glorifies the Son to the world. John 17:3 shows clearly the climax of the work of redemption – the cross – is seen as the Father glorifying the Son and the Son glorifying the Father: “Father, the hour has come, glorify your Son, that the Son may glorify you.”
Jesus reveals himself to the Jews as one who is “functionally” subordinate to the Father, but at the same time Sovereign God who raises the dead and gives life to whom he chooses and judges the world with all authority. But the relationship between the two is one that is ultimately for the purpose of glory and honor for the other person.