[John 5:15-23] Knowing him in whom we have believed

 15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. 16 And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”18 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.

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 judgement to the Son, 23 that all may honour the Son, just as they honour the Father. Whoever does not honour the Son does not honour the Father who sent him.

John 5:15-23

A. [John 5:19-23] The Father and the Son

The big thing in John 5:15-23 is a list and a list is there as an aid to memorisation or at least to familiarisation. If we are going to get to grips with a list, it helps for us to have it in visible form in front of us. (Which is why Reformation Christians have always listened to sermons with their Bibles open in front of them.)

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you,


1. the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing.

2. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.

3. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing.

4. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel.


5. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.

6.For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgement to the Son,that all may honour the Son, just as they honour the Father.

7. Whoever does not honour the Son does not honour the Father who sent him.

John 5:19-23

As is often the case with Bible lists, starting from the centre helps up to get things anchored in our mind and the list is conveniently split into what comes before and what follows after.

a. [John 5:20] Showing the Son greater works

    John 5:20 tells us that God — Father and Son — has a programme that he is carrying out:-

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.

John 5:20

    The miracles in John’s Gospel have a pattern to them and there is no disputing that the latter miracles are more marvellous than the former. It seems too that the sign-seeking of the Pharisees, etc. had some structure to it and that their top category was: “Works only the Messiah could accomplish. Luke tells of one such in very brief order because it is his purpose to focus on what happened afterwards:-

Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled. 15 But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons,” …

Luke 11:14f.

John’s own examples are given at great length — [John 9:1-41 & 11:1-53] — with full attention paid to the miracles themselves and to the furore that surrounded them. Moreover, both the healing of the man born blind and the raising of Lazarus (four days dead) are works that were shown to the Son so John 5:20 is where it is so we can look for this working together of the Father and the Son.

John omits the casting out of the demon that was mute because he tends to recount things in threes and the quintessential greater-than-these work shown to the Son is of course the Death, Burial and Resurrection of Jesus:-

 Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward …

John 18:4a
b. [John 5:21-23] The Son gives life

    Continuing on through the list we pass from God’s programme to God’s purpose:-

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 judgement to the Son, 23 that all may honour the Son, just as they honour the Father. Whoever does not honour the Son does not honour the Father who sent him. 

John 5:21-23

In three words:-

Life:

 I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

John 10:10b.

Judgement:

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

John 20:21-23

Honour:

… because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Romans 10:9
c. [John 5:19] Whatever the Father does the Son does likewise

    So, having got our heads around the existence of God’s plan and purpose in Christ, it is a fairly easy thing to go back to the beginning of the list and spot the proceedure:-

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.

John 5:19

We have in this list been given a comprehensive statement of the Doctrine of the Father and the Son. We have found that we can work out from it but for now this is as close to the Mystery of the Being of God as we are able to go.

    To incorporate John 5:19-23 into having this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus [c.f. Phil. 2:5] it is good to prayerfully meditate on each item of the list along with the corresponding petition of the Lord’s Prayer since both have the same underlying theological structure.

B. [John 5:15f.] Persecuted for healing on the Sabbath Day

    Just as we can use the John 5:19-23 statement of the Doctrine of the Father and the Son to increase our understanding of God’s proceedure, programme and purpose as John unfolds it for us in the rest of his Gospel; so we can use it to review what is in the earlier chapters. Immediately we can see that not only was it in the plan and purpose of God that Jesus should heal this particular man who went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him but that Jesus knew what the consequences of healing that man would be.

    We — marooned as we are in this individualistic age — begin by thinking it to be a terrible constriction that the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. However, when we work through the list as Jesus taught it we can see that, since the Father has given all judgement to the Son, Jesus chose to perform this miracle because of the consequences.

• Jesus chose the time: a Sabbath Day during a feast of the Jews.

• Jesus chose the place: a pool situated right by a main thoroughfare.

• Jesus chose the person: a man given to making excuses.

The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. 16 And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath.

John 5:15f.

We find the reasoning of the Pharisees quite ridiculous but we should take warning. It is a feature of our age also that people in a privileged position nudge, nuance and interpret the rules in order to suit themselves; then persecute the less privileged for using their liberty to accomplish what the rule is actually there for. By healing on the Sabbath, Jesus justified God’s provision in the first place of the Sabbath for the good of man.

C. [John 5:17f.] Equality with God

    It is generally recognised that the Gospel of John has a very definite and deliberate structure but not enough attention is drawn to the importance of where things are placed in that structure. It does make a difference that these two verses are structurally the central verses in the first seven chapters of John.

17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”18 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 5:17f.

The first seven chapters are about Jesus coming to his own so him claiming equality with God is not a peripheral issue. John began his Gospel with the exact same claim:-

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God.

John 1:1f.

and the sequence is completed by Thomas:-

Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

John 20:26-28

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