27. Authority

Short Meditations in John 5:  27. Authority

Jn 5:27  And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man

Authority is a strange thing. It is a word we often come across but rarely bother to define. We sometimes speak of power and authority in the same sentence and in one sense they are two sides of the same coin.

When the United Nations sees an unjust war, they consider first what legal right they have to intervene. When various countries agree to send in a peace force, the important thing, first of all, is that they have the authority granted by the UN under international law. They will have the right to act. But now if they are to be effective they assess the problem to be confronted to see how much opposition there is likely to be, and will gather sufficient troops to overwhelm that opposition. They are assessing, do they have the power or might to achieve the end of peace. Authority is about legal rights while power is about having the ability or might to bring change. However, wherever there is real authority, there will be power given with it to make it effective

Now Jesus has both authority and power. The classic instance for seeing this is the incident of the paralytic being let down through the roof and we read, “When Jesus saw their faith he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.” (Mk 2:5) The Jews watching starting questioning in their minds, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mk 2:7) and so Jesus responds, “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….” (v.10) and then turns to the paralytic and heals him, thus showing that he had the power that goes with real authority.

Now in what we have been seeing Jesus saying in this chapter about giving life to raise the dead, he has thus far being speaking about power – the ability to achieve this. He has that power and we see him exercising it every time he healed someone. Now we have just said that power and authority have to go together to make them effective and so Jesus now puts the emphasis on his authority, his right to do these things, his right to impart spiritual and physical life.

By claiming this authority, he is again subtly implying that he is God but, so that he doesn’t make it too blatant, he attributes the reason for the authority to the fact that he is the Son of Man. Now of course that term came from the prophecies of Daniel and Ezekiel and was taken to mean one who would come from God, the expected Messiah, and all the Jews would know that. Every time Jesus used this term he was quietly declaring who he was. Here he links that with this ability to operate with this authority that grants or withholds ‘life’ and again links himself to God.

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26. Life

Short Meditations in John 5:  26. Life

Jn 5:26  For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself

Sometimes in scripture the most simple of verses have the most profound of meanings. “As the Father has life in himself.”  We live every day without much thought about the wonder of it. We even take it casually when we hear that Mr. John Smith has died at the age of 52. It is more shocking, and it pulls us up when a child dies or someone dies in an accident but mostly we take it for granted that one day will follow another. I am at an age that, fifty years ago would have been considered old, but I anticipate not dying tomorrow. On today’s standards I could live for another twenty-five years. The truth is that we take ‘life’ for granted but people do die and life comes to an end. For us it is fragile. If I stay out unprotected in freezing conditions, I will die. If I fall into the sea and can no longer swim, I will die.  I could have a heart attack and suddenly life is not here.

The thing about ‘life’ is that we have little control over it. We know that if we don’t do the normal things expected of a human being – eat, drink, take exercise, we will die, for we are not immortal and so something could happen that means we no longer have life. But this is not true of God. There are a number of things that make Him substantially different from us, but this is perhaps the main one. He IS immortal, He needs nothing to sustain Him.

I wonder if this particular characteristic (apart from Him being so big) is what makes Him scary and makes people fall down before Him. In His real presence does a person suddenly realise that here is someone utterly different from ‘me’? This someone has life but not as we know it for His is not reliant upon anything else – oxygen, food, drink – this being just exists.

But even more, this being has the ability to impart ‘life’, the ability to make something live and become someone, a living sentient being. Why do we struggle with the thoughts of Adam and Eve when we realise these things? But now Jesus has been taking us into the spiritual realm and has been speaking about spiritual life, life that means interacting with The Divine Being and, similarly, this Being is the One who has the capability of imparting that.

But wait a minute, that is what Jesus is now claiming, that he too has life in himself that is reliant upon no one and nothing and, even more we have already seen, he can impart that life – physical and spiritual – to whoever comes to him for it. Now this puts him on a par with the Father – he is God! We have said previously that he makes subtle inferences in respect of his divinity, but this is not so subtle!

25. The Dead Raised

Short Meditations in John 5:  25. The Dead Raised

Jn 5:25  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

Jesus is subtly making the same point again and again, that his business is to bring the dead to life. The world does not like it when you say they are spiritually dead but that it the truth – before we receive God’s salvation through Jesus Christ we are spiritually dead. Now we have to be careful here for people in the world use the occult and the occult operates in a spiritual dimension but that is not ‘life’ as the New Testament speaks of it. ‘Life’ only comes when the giver of all life – God – puts His own Holy Spirit within a person – He alone is life, life that goes on and on and on. He is eternal life and any other form of life ceases at the end of its human existence here on earth.

Yes, New Age people and spiritists dabble on the edges of the spiritual world but that is very different from encountering the living God; they may inadvertently have dealings with demonic beings bringing deception and an appearance of another reality, but it is not the reality of heaven and of God, and it is certainly not eternal life.

When Jesus says, I tell you the truth,” he is declaring, “This is really true,” so when he goes on, “a time is coming and has now come,” he is saying that this possibility of a new life has already come – with him. There is no doubt about his claim: “when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live,” for he describes himself (somewhat rarely) as the Son of God. It is an outright challenge, but then who else but God could make such a claim to impart life to the dead. Maybe it is something they expected the Messiah to be able to do, but Jesus lifts himself beyond a mere messiah figure when he clearly calls himself the Son of God. No wonder the legalistic Jews got upset, but he has a lot more to say before we get to that.

But perhaps we need to return to the subject of the spiritually dead before we finish for this is the state of all those who may be family, friends or workmates or fellow students. It doesn’t matter how nice they are; this is a not a question of sociability or even morality, this is a question of the ability to have a genuine spiritual relationship with God. Doing good or being nice are laudable in themselves but they are no replacement or substitute for a living relationship with God. If our own relationship is not particularly sparkling we may take it for granted and fail to distinguish clearly between them and you or be afraid to make that distinction because you feel it is presumptuous, but it is not – it is a distinction between eternal life and eternal death. Hold that!

24. Jesus, bringer of eternal life

Short Meditations in John 5:  24. Jesus, bringer of eternal life

Jn 5:24  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

The end of the story is eternal life but of course by definition that means it is a never ending story!  It is difficult to comprehend life that goes on and on and when we do start thinking about it we start finding people saying things like, “But what will we DO all that time?” but of course it will be timeless (I think). As far as trying to tell the Gospel story, eternity with God is as far as we can go and all the Bible suggests is that it will be a wonderful existence.

Now perhaps we should backtrack because Jesus has just been talking about judging people and imparting life – this eternal life – and so the thought of being condemned hangs in the air, so to speak, and so Jesus clarifies it by saying that those who believe in him will not be condemned and they will be the ones who will receive eternal life. Yes, there it is clearly stated – it is belief in Jesus that is the key to being forgiven, not being condemned and receiving eternal life. But believing what about Jesus?

That a) he is the Son of God, that b) he has come and died to take our punishment so that c) we may receive forgiveness of sins, and d) be adopted as God’s children, and e) receive the Holy Spirit, all because f) he died and rose again and ascended into heaven where g) he rules at the Father’s right hand. Belief has to have content and those things are, I suggest, the basics of that content. Having said that I am sure that most new believers don’t have that full content, more a general sense that Jesus loves them, died for them and wants to come into their lives as Lord and Saviour. The truth is that God knows when we ‘believe’ and how real that is; He knows that His Holy Spirit has done sufficient work in the would-be believer to bring genuine conviction and belief. None of us can say what is the exact extent of belief required but the Father knows what is real and what is not.

Did you see what it said? Who heard his word. At some point this content has to be conveyed and received. Someone passed on these truths or we read them directly from the Bible, and the Spirit convicted us.

And then there was, “and passed from death to life.”  That is the wonder of what happens. We didn’t realise it before, but we were spiritually dead and the end of our human lives on earth were destined for death; that was going to be the outcome of our lives. But then we heard, we believed and suddenly all that changed. We were brought to life – spiritual life – by the Holy Spirit and through Him received eternal life where there was no place for death. Hallelujah!

23. Bringing Honour

Short Meditations in John 5:  23. Bringing Honour

Jn 5:23  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

Observe that this is a follow-on to the previous two verses. Honour comes because the Son judges and his judgment involves giving life to whoever he pleases – to whoever will receive it. When they receive his life, they will honour him and through him honour the Father.

How does this work? I suggest in two ways. The first way is that “through the church the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.” (Eph 3:10) i.e. when another person is saved and added to the church, all the angels and powers and principalities will look and realise the wonder of God’s wisdom in making a form of salvation that transforms sinful men and women into children of God. He will be honoured and the Son will be honoured for the work he has done to accomplish this. In John’s Revelation we see this praise and honour: “To him who sits on the throne and to the lamb be praise and honour and glory and power for ever and ever,” (Rev 5:13) and that after previous praise for God (Rev 4:11) for His creative work, and to the Lamb for his work of Salvation (Rev 5:9,10,12). Both Father and Son receive honour in heaven for their works of salvation.

The second way it works is in us individually. As we receive our salvation, we find it is natural to give thanks to God for what He has done in us and the more we realise just what has happened, the more we praise and honour both the Father and the Son. In fact, one might go as far as to say that if a person never gives thanks and never honours the Father and the Son, their salvation is in doubt, for the Holy Spirit within the true believer will naturally stir the believer to give thanks and give honour to them, for He seeks to bring glory to both Father and Son in line with all that is going on in heaven.

In addition to what we have just said, Jesus himself has just said that if you do not honour him you will not honour God. If you do not honour Jesus, you do not realize the wonder of what he has done in making our salvation possible. Indeed, I would suggest that as you spend time in his word and in these meditations, if praise and worship is not the outcome we miss the point and it does not touch us and suggests an absence of spiritual life and an absence of the Holy Spirit. At the end of every one of these meditations that I have written over the years, I find myself praising and giving thanks. The wonder of what we have been thinking about naturally stirs praise, worship and thanksgiving within me – it should do in you too. When we realise the wonder of it all, that should be the natural response – honour of Father and Son.

22. The Son who Judges

Short Meditations in John 5:  22. The Son who Judges

Jn 5:22  Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the So

What we have here is a remarkable statement – very well, most of Jesus’ statements are remarkable! – but this one is perhaps more remarkable than most in that in the Bible, God is seen as THE Judge (e.g. Jas 5:9) Who else has all the abilities required of a perfect judge than the Lord? Who knows everything about every person, every thought, every motive and every deed but God?

But, cries the cynical atheist, why should we need a judge, why does everyone have to come under scrutiny? And there we stumble over a strange feature of the human race and therefore, presumably, even bigger than the human race, and that is the whole idea of justice. The modern world with its relativism shies away from the concept until it becomes personal and then with the rest of us cries, “It isn’t fair! That is unjust!”  Justice is possibly one of the strangest concepts known to the human race, the desire, no, the insistence, that wrongs be righted, that offenders be made to face up to their misdeeds. But what are misdeeds? Anything that goes contrary to God’s design for us! We shy away from it when the spotlight shines on us, but when another offends us we cry for the Law to step in and remedy my injustice, hypocrites that we are!

And so there is justice and there is A Judge but, says Jesus, He gives all judgment to the Son. Why should that be?  It is because clearly from the outset, when the Godhead were planning the coming of the Son, they agreed for the Son to oversee God’s kingdom on earth. (Does God have other worlds that He rules over directly and is the earth the only one that the Son rules over?) There is a reference by Paul to the end of all things when the Son hands back the kingdom to the Father (1 Cor 16:24). The rule of the kingdom includes judgment.

But what is the basis of his judgment, who is declared guilty and who is declared innocent? For that answer we have to go to Paul’s writings in Romans 4 and 5 where he speaks about justification. Justification is all about being put right in God’s sight and that only comes about through belief in Jesus. Jesus is the ultimate basis for assessment, how we respond to him.  The records are simple and straight forward and even a child can read the Gospels easily. No one can claim they are difficult to read. We may not understand everything but the person of Jesus shines through brightly – his life, his death, his resurrection and his ascension. It is all there and obvious. The seeking heart finds what it has been looking for and gladly receives him and immediately the Judge declares, “Not guilty!” and a new life begins.

21. Life Givers

Short Meditations in John 5:  21. Life Giver

Jn 5:21  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

It might be a scary thought that new birth only comes when God gives it, if it wasn’t for His love and the knowledge that in reality He wants ”everyone to come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:9) and it is only our own stubborn and foolish hearts that keep us from receiving all of His goodness through salvation. His desire is to bless us and bring us to salvation, to raise us from the (spiritual) dead.

This looks a funny verse at first sight. “The Father raises the dead”. It is God the Father’s sovereign actions that prevail. Although there is a unity in the Trinity, the Son always submits to the Father in whom is all authority. So the Father seeks to bring us back to Himself and in so doing He rescues us from spiritual death (separation from Him) and imparts life to us, the life of His own Holy Spirit, eternal life. But it starts with the Father. As we have said before, He always initiates the activity.

But then we find, running parallel to this, the Son also gives life to whoever he will. We have seen previously that the Father shows the Son all that He is doing, all that is on His heart, and the Son joins in that activity, so here, when the Father desires to raise a person from their spiritual death, the Son does likewise; it is a joint Father and Son activity and, of course, it is the Holy Spirit who is imparted to bring that new life. Whenever new birth occurs, the entire Trinity is involved.

Note the final expression, “to whom he is pleased to give it.” Even as we said the Father’s desire is for repentance to come and salvation to follow, by implication it also pleases the Son when he is able to bring another person into his Father’s kingdom. There is indeed rejoicing in heaven when every new birth takes place.

Perhaps we cannot emphasise this enough that it is the desire of the Godhead to bring salvation to mankind. Three times in the book of Ezekiel we find God’s desire declared in this manner, for example: “I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!” (Ezek 18:32).

Some people seek to portray God as a vindictive, nasty being who just delights in bringing destructive judgment on mankind. Nothing could be further from the truth!  The whole point of Jesus coming to the earth and dying on the Cross was to open the way for us to be saved. God wants to bless us and that can only come through His salvation through Jesus, because while we live our self-centred ‘old lives’ we won’t be open to receiving His direction and thus His blessing that He wants to bring to us.