Meditating on Great Themes in John: 10. The Father’s Son
John 5:16-18 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
We have moved on through the various pointers to Jesus being the one who comes to transform circumstances and lives, concluding at the end of the previous chapter with the spectacular healing from a distance of a royal official’s son, which John heralded as a miraculous sign. Now as we move on into chapter 5 we find yet another healing but John doesn’t bother to herald this as a miraculous healing; he has another purpose for including it.
What happened? Jesus returned to Jerusalem (Jn 5:1) for another of the feasts (we aren’t told which one, it is obviously not significant). He goes to a pool that apparently had healing powers where a number of sick people gathered and to cut a longer story short, he healed a man who was a long term invalid (Jn 5:2-9) Again this is a spectacular healing in that the man in question had been an invalid for thirty eight years, an indicator that society could do nothing for him.
But then we find that this healing was carried out on the Sabbath (v.9b) and after he was healed the man was left to carry his bed to whatever home he had. As he did this religious Jews (and this was Jerusalem!) challenged him for they saw it as doing work and that was forbidden on the Sabbath (v.10). The man simply replied that the man who had healed him told him to take his bed with him (v.11). When they question him who that was he doesn’t know (v.12,13). Later Jesus sees him and the man was able to tell those who had challenged him who it was who had healed him on the Sabbath. (v.14,15)
There are question marks over this man for Jesus told him to stop sinning lest something worse happened to him (v.14) and the man is quick to get Jesus in trouble afterwards. Jesus must have known what he was like but went ahead and healed him nevertheless. Perhaps Jesus wanted the following discussion to occur by way of testimony.
So the Jews come after Jesus (v.16) and he takes this opportunity to speak about the relationship he has with God, his Father: “Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” (Jn 5:17) Now John seizes on this comment to point out that the reason for opposing Jesus was greater than merely working on the Sabbath: “For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” (v.18) There is no question here; they see Jesus calling God his Father in a unique way, a way that suggests that he too is divine. In their eyes this is blasphemy, and of course it is –unless it is true!
Now in case there is any question about this Jesus piles the teaching in: “Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 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.” (Jn 5:19-23) See his claims:
- The Father and Son work in complete harmony.
- The Father shows him everything He is doing and the Son joins in His work.
- This work will involve even greater things than they have so far seen.
- This will involve raising the dead.
- This also involves judgment and the Son judges in the same way as God (the Father).
- This also means that the Son will be honoured in the same was as God (the Father)
- If you don’t honour the Son it means you aren’t honouring God (the Father)
When we see it like this there is no question about Jesus’ claiming divinity – he is!!! Jesus continues to expand this (read v.24 to 31), reiterating these claims. But then, because he knows the Jews will start questioning the validity of his testimony, he goes on to speak about John the Baptist’s testimony of him (v.31-35) but goes on to say that his very work testifies to having been sent by the Father (v.36) In the closing verses of this chapter he pushes the point even more.
The point of this miracle in Jerusalem is not to much to reveal a miraculous sign as to open a way for Jesus to proclaim there his relationship with the Father and thus reveal his divinity. This entire chapter is all about the Son of God, the divine Son of God.