John 5:20-23 (NIV): 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. 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. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 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.
When the Jewish leaders heard Jesus’ call God His Father, and believed that in so doing He was claiming to be equal with God (verse 18), they were actually right. Although humbled at the moment through becoming a man, the leaders were in fact trying to face down the eternal Son of God.
Jesus pointed out three areas of overlap between Himself and God:
- The Father raises the dead and gives them life, and the Son gives life to whomever He wants. This life-giving is on two levels. Both God and Jesus raised the physically dead to life on several occasions – a miracle without equal. But they both also gave spiritual life to those who were dead in their sins, separated from God, the source of all life. This was illustrated to Ezekiel in his vision of the valley of dry bones (Ezekiel 37:1-14), and was fulfilled not in the return of the exiles from Babylon, but on the day of Pentecost, when God’s Spirit blew through the assembled believers, filling them and giving them real spiritual life, which quickly spread to an additional 3,000 Jewish people (cf. Acts 2). All of that fulfillment was enabled by the sacrificial death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. Together He and the Father bring dead things to life.
- The Father is the Judge, but He has given authority to judge to Jesus. Those leaders didn’t like feeling that Jesus was judging them, but they were in fact facing their eternal judge, and he was finding them sorely lacking. Jesus’ very presence was a judgment on people. When He showed up someplace and began to speak, the people responded to Him in ways that showed the real state of their hearts – either craving and receiving His words, or rebelling against what He said, rejecting Him, and thus showing their rejection of the God who had sent Him.
- Jesus and the Father are one, so the one who rejects Jesus and His words rejects the Father as well. Many in Jesus’ day rejected Him, believing that by doing so they were defending God, staying true to Him. But by rejecting Jesus, God’s final and most complete revelation of Himself, they actually rejected God and all that He had revealed of Himself previously. By rejecting the fulfillment of the covenant, they rejected its foundation. By rejecting the fruit as bad, they ended up rejecting the whole tree.
If Jesus had merely been a talker or a teacher, there might have been room for doubt about His claims to be the Son of God. But Jesus did far more than just talk. Even in this case, He had done and amazing miracle, healing instantly and completely a man who had been incapacitated for 38 years. But, despite the outward trappings of their religion, these “leaders” had no spiritual life at all. They were walking corpses, dressed in fine gowns to appear alive. The saddest thing is that the One who was standing right on front of them, the One whom they were persecuting, the One they were arguing with over the relevance of the rules that they had made up, was the One who could give them real life!
Father, even today so many people look at the man, Jesus, and miss the eternal Son of God right in front of them. They ignore the miracles (including the resurrection, which these Jewish leaders hadn’t even encountered at this stage), and they take issue with His teachings, deciding on the basis of their own thinking whether to accept or reject them. O blind generation! O walking dead-men! Do you not see that the One before You is the glorious, eternal Son of God, the One who came to earth, not to teach us pithy sayings, but to give us life through the laying down of His own life? The proper response is not intellectual wrestling, but worship. It is not weighing His words to determine if we think there might be validity to them, but whole-hearted acceptance of this man, and Who He is. Help us, Lord, all of us who go by the name of Jesus, to so present Him to the people around us by our words and our actions, that they can see His life in us, can experience His miracles in our testimony, and can then turn to You and be saved. Amen.