19 So 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. 20 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. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. 22 For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 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. 24 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.” – John 5:19-24 ESV
John made it quite clear that the Jewish leaders took a strong exception to Jesus healing on the Sabbath. And when Jesus had deemed His actions as acceptable because He was doing the work of God, His Father, they had become infuriated.
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. – John 5:18 ESV
Now, John records Jesus’ bold response to these powerful and potentially dangerous adversaries. Jesus was fully aware of their desire to put Him to death, but He was undeterred in proclaiming His claim of divinity which gave Him full authority to do the things He did. Even when faced with the threat of death, Jesus refuses to back down. In fact, in the short span of 11 verses, Jesus mentions God as His Father eight times, and He refers to Himself as the Son of God 10 times. He ups the ante and heightens the tension by repeatedly declaring His unique relationship with God.
Throughout John’s gospel, he records Jesus explaining His co-equal, yet subordinate relationship with His Heavenly Father. At one point, Jesus declared, “The Father and I are one” (John 10:39 NLT). But, at the same time, He clarified that their unity was marked by a willing submission on His part to the Father’s will.
“My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” – John 4:34 ESV
“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.” – John 5:30 ESV
So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.” – John 8:28-29 ESV
“For 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. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.” – John 12:49-50 ESV
“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.” – John 15:10 ESV
Jesus had a role to play. He had been given a divine assignment from the Father and He was in complete agreement with it, willingly accepting His part in God’s redemptive plan for mankind. Jesus declared Himself to be one with God, acting and speaking in perfect union with His Father’s wishes. He was not being forced to do what He did. He was a son and not a slave.
Jesus boldly proclaimed that His miracles were nothing more than earthly expressions of His Heavenly Father’s will. He was simply manifesting on earth the very same things God did from His throne in heaven. God had been performing signs and wonders for centuries. He had been healing the lame and even raising the dead long before His Son took on human flesh. And, according to the apostle Paul, Jesus, in His pre-incarnate state, had been integral in the divine
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. – Colossians 1:15-16 ESV
And Paul went on to explain that Jesus not only took part in the creation of the world, but He became the fullness of God in human flesh so that He might reconcile and restore the sin-damaged world.
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven… – Colossians 1:19-20 ESV
And because Jesus is doing only what He sees His Father doing, He cannot be in violation of God’s law. Every miracle Jesus performed was in keeping with the wishes of His Heavenly Father. And Jesus let the Jewish leaders know that there were far greater miracles to come.
“And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel.” – John 5:20 ESV
In essence, Jesus was telling them that they hadn’t seen anything yet. A paralyzed man walking would be nothing when compared to the future signs and wonders God had in store. This is likely a reference to the resurrection. Remember, in verse 18, John made reference to the intentions of the religious leaders to kill Jesus. And eventually, they would succeed in accomplishing their goal, convincing the Romans to put Jesus to death for claiming to be the Son of God. But the death of Jesus would be followed by the greatest and most important miracle of all: The resurrection of the Son by the Father.
And this seems to be the point Jesus is trying to make in verse 21.
“For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.” – John 5:21 ESV
It will be the death and resurrection of Jesus that makes possible the gift of eternal life. That is the point Jesus made to Nicodemus when He said, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14 ESV).
Jesus had been sent by the Father to restore to life the spiritually dead. But in order to do so, Jesus would have to die in their place. And the Father, who “raises the dead and gives them life,” would give His Son new life, declaring that His the sacrifice of His life was fully acceptable and a worthy offering for the sins of men.
It is likely that none of this made any sense to the Pharisees and Sadducees in Jesus’ audience. Even His disciples would have found these words difficult to comprehend. And the next statement from the lips of Jesus would have further confused the disciples and infuriated the religious leaders.
“For 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.” – John 5:22-23 ESV
Jesus was claiming to be the judge of all mankind, and this would not have sat well with His opponents. According to their Scriptures, God alone was the judge of the whole earth (Genesis 18:25). What they heard Jesus saying was that He was their judge. They would one day answer to Him. And they were right in their assessment of His claim. Every Jew believed in a final judgment day when they would stand before God. They fully expected their works to be judged one day by the Almighty, but it was totally unthinkable and unacceptable to consider that this Jew from Nazareth would be the one to whom they owed their entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven.
But Jesus tries to explain that their judgment has already taken place. They stood before God as condemned because as the apostle Paul declared, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 ESV). And to make matters worse, Paul informed the Jews that “by works of the law no human being will be justified in his [God’s] sight” (Romans 3:20 ESV).
Those self-righteous, self-assured Pharisees and Sadducees could not believe their ears. They were convinced that they were deserving of entrance into the eternal kingdom because of their good deeds. They prided themselves in their rule-keeping and zealous adherence to all the commands, including those ordained by God and the ones they had made up themselves. Yet, Jesus is informing them that they have already been judged and stand justly condemned. But if they will listen to what He has to say and believe His claim to be the Son of God and their Savior from sin, they can pass from death to life. They can have the assurance of their future resurrection from the dead.
“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.” – John 5:24 ESV
But all of this was more than they could handle. When they looked at Jesus they saw nothing more than a threat to the status quo. He was a thorn in their sides, a deranged individual who had delusions of grandeur and was proving to be a dangerous and divisive distraction. In their minds, He was a lunatic who was in league with the devil and in need of immediate elimination. But the truth is, they were blind to the truth. They loved the darkness rather than the light. And, as a result, they would continue in their quest to put to death the very one who could give them eternal life.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.