Jesus—His Life and Message: The Father and the Son (Part 1)
October 1, 2019
by Peter Amsterdam
Jesus—His Life and Message: The Father and the Son (Part 1)
In the fifth chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus healed a man who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.1 It was the Sabbath, the day when no work was supposed to be done. Jesus said to the man, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.2 When the Pharisees saw him carrying his bed on the Sabbath day, they confronted him, stating that it was unlawful for him to do so. He explained that while he didn’t know the name of the person who had healed him, this person had told him to carry his bed. Some time later, Jesus encountered the man in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.”3 After this encounter, he went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him.4
We’re told that this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath.5 The Jews felt that Jesus was breaking the Mosaic law, which stated,
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work.6
The Jews considered miraculous healings to be work, and thus forbidden on the Sabbath. The phrasing because he was doing these things on the Sabbath indicates that this wasn’t the only time Jesus healed on the Sabbath, but that He did so often.7
Jesus defended healing the sick on the Sabbath by explaining His intimate relationship to His Father.
Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”8
It wasn’t normal practice for Jews to refer to God as “my Father,” as they generally spoke of “our Father,” or if they did use “my Father” in prayer, they would qualify it with “in heaven” or some other expression, in order to remove the suggestion of familiarity. However, Jesus didn’t refer to God that way; rather, throughout the Gospels He continually portrayed Himself as being in the closest relationship with God, His Father.
Jesus referred to a familiar discussion in Judaism about the Sabbath. The idea that God “rested” after creating the world9 was not meant to be interpreted as meaning that He is now inactive in the world. Rather, God is constantly working. He gives and sustains life,10 rewards the righteous,11 and punishes the wicked.12 As such, God lawfully breaks the Sabbath. Jesus pointed out that as the Father was working, so too was He working. The implication was that because God, His Father, “works” on the Sabbath, it was legitimate for Jesus to do so as well.
The Jews listening to Him understood the implication of what He was stating by calling God His Father.
This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.13
Later in this Gospel, Jesus made this same point again, saying I and the Father are one, and those listening reacted in a similar manner—The Jews picked up stones again to stone him.14
Jesus began to give a formal, systematic statement about His unity with the Father, His divine commission and authority, and proof of His Messiahship.15 The language He used reflects rabbinic thought and language.
Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel.”16
Jesus began by making the point that all of His actions were done in alignment with His Father, as He could only do the things He saw the Father doing. He did not act independently from the Father. Throughout this Gospel, Jesus made the point that He did nothing on His own.
I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.17
This reflects an uninterrupted communion between the Father and the Son.
The concept of Jesus doing only what He saw His Father do is seen as parable-like language. Sons often learned their father’s trade, and in the process of learning, they saw what their fathers did, and then did what their father was doing. Since the Father loves the Son, He shows Jesus what He is doing. The Greek wording used here expresses a continuous relationship, that the Father continually shows the Son what He is doing. The Father showing Jesus all that he himself is doing means that the Father has revealed everything to the Son.
John states that the Father loves the Son. The tense of the verb expresses a continuing habitual love, which makes the point that the Father never ceases to love the Son. As such, the Father shows the Son what He is doing. Elsewhere in this Gospel, Jesus stated that He “has seen” things which He then reveals to the world.
Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony.18
I speak of what I have seen with my Father.19
He also stated that He has seen the Father.
Not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.20
Jesus referred to greater works which the Father would show the Son, so that others would marvel at what God was doing.
As the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.21
Most of those listening to Jesus would not have objected to the statement that the Father raises the dead and gives them life, as the Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the dead. However, stating that the Son also gives life would be just as objectionable to the religious leaders as when Jesus said earlier, My Father is working even until now, and I am working. According to Jewish beliefs, only God could give life. However, Jesus, the Son, stated that His work, like that of His Father, was to give life. Earlier in this Gospel, Jesus stated that His purpose was to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.22
The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.23
Those listening to Jesus would have been surprised to hear that the Father does not judge people, as the general understanding in Judaism was that God was the Judge, and therefore they expected to stand before Him at the last day. However, Jesus stated that the Father had given Him the task of judgment, to ensure that people would honor Him as they honor the Father.
In Roman times, powerful men sometimes sent others on their behalf to represent them, and when they did, that representative was to be treated as if he was the powerful man himself. If the representative was dishonored, it was understood that the sender was dishonored, which was a great offense. Jesus drew a parallel to this tradition of the time, stressing the point that in dishonoring the Son, they were dishonoring the one who sent Him, the very God they claimed to honor.
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.24
Having used the truly, truly phrase for emphasis five verses earlier, Jesus used it again here to highlight the importance of what He was saying. He stated that the person who would receive the blessing of eternal life is the one who hears Him and believes the Father, which affirms the unity between the Father and the Son. It also makes the point that it’s not possible to truly believe what the Father says and to turn away from the Son.
Whoever believes in the Father and the Son has eternal life. The believer’s eternal life is a present possession, and therefore such a one does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. As one author explains,
The point is not that those who believe are already judged and acquitted, and thereby granted eternal life. Rather, those who “have life” escape judgment altogether, while those who “come into judgment” do not have life. Moreover, those who “hear” and “believe” do not have to wait for some future “life after death,” but have already “passed from death into life.”25
Author Leon Morris makes the same point:
Anyone who gives heed to the Son and the Father in this way “has” eternal life. The life is that person’s present possession. … The implications of the present possession of eternal life are brought out in the assurance that its possessor “will not be condemned” or, more accurately, “does not come into judgment.” … Those who do not come into judgment will not come into judgment on the last great day either. The saying points to their permanent safety. To have eternal life now is to be secure throughout eternity.26
(Continued in Part Two)
Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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1 John 5:5.
2 John 5:8–9.
3 John 5:14.
4 John 5:15.
5 John 5:16.
6 Exodus 20:8–10.
7 John 5:16.
8 John 5:17.
9 Genesis 2:2–3.
10 Acts 17:2, 28; Job 33:4; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Deuteronomy 32:39.
11 2 Samuel 22:25; Proverbs 13:21; 1 Corinthians 3:12–15; Matthew 16:27; Revelation 22:12; Hebrews 11:6.
12 Revelation 20:15, 21:8; Matthew 13:49–50, 25:46.
13 John 5:18.
14 John 10:30–31.
15 Morris, The Gospel According to John, 276.
16 John 5:19–20.
17 John 12:49. See also John 7:17, 28; 8:28; 14:10.
18 John 3:11.
19 John 8:38.
20 John 6:46.
21 John 5:21.
22 John 4:34.
23 John 5:22–23.
24 John 5:24.
25 Michaels, The Gospel of John, 315.
26 Morris, The Gospel According to John, 280.