John 5: 16 – 30 The authority of the Son


We’ve come to some doctrine.

I struggle with doctrine.

Lord Jesus, please help me to understand what I need to understand; to feel what I need to feel; to hear what you want me to do and to be obedient. Amen.

It seems very likely that St John’s gospel was actually written by John, the beloved disciple, an eye-witness to the ministry of Jesus. The earliest physical evidence we have of the gospel is a fragment that dates from about 130 AD. On the basis of other evidence, historians date the writing of the gospel to about 90 AD, either when John was in exile on Patmos, or when he was in Ephesus after being released from Patmos.

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So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him.

It’s quite early in Jesus’ ministry, but already the Jewish leaders are after him. They must have felt justified in their persecution because Jesus is breaking the Sabbath, and encouraging others to copy. He’s breaking the law and in their eyes that makes him a sinner.

In his defence Jesus said to them, ‘My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.’

Here, Jesus appears to me to say that the work of creation continues. He says that his Father, God, is actively maintaining his creation, just as he has done since the beginning.

For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

To the Jews, for Jesus to claim God as his Father was blasphemy; it was claiming equality with God. For that, the Jewish leaders wanted to kill him.

Jesus gave them this answer: ‘Very truly I tell you, 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.

Jesus claims to know what God wants to be done. He claims that he and the creator God are so close that their relationship is that of Father and Son. He claims that everything he is doing is copying what he sees his Father doing.

Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. 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.

Jesus prophesies. Just as the Father raises the dead, so too will he, Jesus, raise the dead. And he does. John chapter 11 tells us how Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.

The prophecy is also figuratively true. Jesus raises the spiritually dead to life, then and now.

Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 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.

How does this relate to the affirmation of John 3: 17 “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through him”? I don’t know. I will have to trust in God that he will make it clear to me when I need to know,

‘Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.

We have heard this claim before. Jesus makes it to Nicodemus in John 3:18 and to John the Baptist in John 3:36. Now he makes it to the Jewish leaders who are accusing him of blasphemy.

One thing that St John is telling us with this repetition is that this was no hole-in-the-corner affair. Jesus’ identity as the Son of God had been a central part of his ministry from the beginning. He had told supporters like John the Baptist, waverers like Nicodemus, and opponents like the Jewish leaders, with no attempt to conceal or dilute the message.

Very truly I tell you, 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. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.

‘Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out – those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.

It would be possible to read these paragraphs as metaphorical, meaning the raising to life of the spiritually dead, and I think there is an element of this. We have already seen Jesus instilling belief in doubters like Nicodemus and people outside the strict Jewish faith like the Samaritans.

But why should we restrict the interpretation to being a figurative one? The resurrection of Jesus is the absolute centre of our faith. According to the gospels, Jesus raised Lazarus and others from the dead.

Our faith is about life.

I thought when I started to study this passage that the story was primarily a device by St John to insert a passage of doctrine held by the early church. My mind has been changed. The passage teaches that Jesus is the Son of God and that he only does what he sees his Father doing. St John probably witnessed this repeatedly during the ministry of Jesus.

What were Jesus’ actions?

Healing, and proclaiming life to those who believed in him. Actions based in love, in other words.


Heavenly Father

Thank you for opening my heart to your message for me through these words. Thank you for the love you show in Jesus, in whose name I pray.


Published by pennygadd51

I write. I've written many pieces of flash fiction, dozens of short stories and two novels, with a third in progress.

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