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 The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. 25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.
Many in the religious establishment of Jesus’ day claimed to love God but to hate Jesus. They did so because they felt that Jesus was twisting and perverting the truth of God into something diabolical.
Many people today hold the opposite position: they claim to love Jesus but don’t care much for God. They claim that the God represented in the Bible is ultimately unlikeable and unlovable, but that Jesus, on the other hand, is a character they can admire.
In his novel, The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, Umberto Eco has a character named Gragnola explain to a character named Yambo why he respects Jesus but doesn’t respect God:
“When we go to mass, I sit quietly in the back of the church, because Jesus Christ I respect even if I don’t God…To tell the truth, I’m not sure Jesus was God’s son, because it doesn’t make sense to me that a good guy like that could be born from such an evil father…if you read the Gospels closely, you’ll realize that in the end even Jesus realized that God was bad: he gets scared in the olive grove and asks, Let this cup pass from me, and nilch, God doesn’t listen; on the cross he shouts Father why has thou forsaken me, and zilch, God turns his back. But Jesus showed us what a man can do to offset God’s wickedness. If God is evil, then we at least have to try to be good, forgive each other, refrain from doing each other harm, heal the sick, and turn the other cheek. We’ve go to help each other, seeing as God doesn’t help us. Do you see how great Jesus’ idea was? Imagine how much it must have irritated God. Forget the devil, Jesus was the only true enemy of God, and he’s the only friend us poor wretches have.”
This, obviously, is an extreme example, and likely nobody in here today would be comfortable with such outlandish thoughts, but if you listen closely even to some who call themselves Christians, they seem to care more for the Son than for the Father, and oftentimes on the same grounds expressed by Gragnola in the statement above. Dallas Willard recently wrote, “We have people today in ‘Christian’ settings who believe in Jesus but not in God.”
The truth is, though, that claiming to love God but not Jesus (as many of the Jewish leaders did) or claiming to love Jesus but not God (as many today claim to do) are both impossibilities. Jesus made this truth abundantly clear in our text this morning. In John 5:19-29, Jesus begins one of the most profound and illuminating discourses on the Son’s relationship with the Father that you will find in all of scripture.
Before we look at our text, however, it will be important for us at this point, if we are to understand what is being said here, to grasp three important truths about the Lord Jesus:
1. For starters, the Bible speaks of Jesus as eternally pre-existent. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, but Jesus did not begin in Bethlehem. Jesus Himself spoke of His divine, eternal nature in John 8:58 where He said, “Truly, truly, I say unto you, before Abraham was, I am.” This is significant because Jesus reveals His uncreated, eternal nature. Furthermore, He applies the divine title, “I am,” to Himself.
The ancient Christian statement, The Nice Creed, speaks of Jesus as “the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.”
That’s well said, and is hard to improve upon. Jesus in His person is eternal, divine, uncreated, God the Son, “of one substance with the Father”
2. When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, however, he embraced a position of subordination or submission to the Father. Paul explained this in Philippians 2 when he wrote the following about Jesus and His incarnation:
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Jesus, then, when He became a man, “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,” or “hoarded,” we might say. Furthermore, Jesus “made himself nothing” and “humbled himself.”
What this means is that Jesus the Son is God, but He limits Himself in His enfleshment to a position of subordination to the Father. He does not abandon His deity, but, in taking on humanity, He enters into a subordinate relationship so that, in His incarnate state, He can speak of watching the Father and doing nothing outside of the will of the Father. As the second person of the Trinity, He likewise watches and works in harmony with the Father, but the language of subordination is attributed to His incarnation.
3. It is important to remember that Jesus used terminology, especially in regards to His relationship with the Father, that was intended to inform and benefit us. He described the deep and profound relationship between Himself and the Father – a relationship that would otherwise be beyond our own limited understanding – in words and images that we could grasp and see and understand.
This is not to say that the words of Jesus are not true and accurate, only that they are not exhaustive. The words of Jesus about His relationship with the Father give us an accurate picture, but let us not assume that we could ever even grasp a complete picture. The Son’s relationship with the Father is so utterly complete and perfect that the only thing minds like ours can do is be gracious for what God chooses to reveal.
With this in mind, let us learn from Jesus this morning about his relationship with the Father.
I. A Relationship of Perfect, Loving Reflection (vv.19-21)
To begin, Jesus spoke of his relationship with God the Father as being one of perfect, loving reflection. The Son observes the Father and perfectly reflects Him.
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.
The point here is not that the Son has been stripped of His deity. Rather, He has embraced what we call “divine self-limitation.” Jesus chose to be in a relationship of humble subordination to the Father. He did not begrudge His sonship. He continues:
For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.
The Son does only what he sees the Father doing. The Son observes and perfectly reflects the character and actions of the Father. The Son, then, is a perfect, unerring, flawless depiction and reflection of the Father.
This is why it is impossible to love the Father but not the Son and it is impossible to love the Son but not the Father. Perhaps you remember that in John 1:18, John says that nobody has seen God, but Jesus makes Him known.
If you would like to know who God is and what He is like, you need only look at Jesus, for Jesus was a perfect reflection of the Father. But this reflection was not mechanical of impersonal. On the contrary, it is a relationship of perfect love:
20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing.
Do you see? The Father and the Son love one another. If somebody were to ask you, “What is the greatest bond of love in all of existence and reality?” what would you say? Would you say, “A parent’s love for a child?” Would you say, “A spouse’s love for a spouse?”
In truth, the greatest bond of love is the bond of love that exists between the Father and the Son. Indeed, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost abide in a relationship of mutual, perfect, love and harmony. Theirs is a love untainted by fickleness, pride, or conflict.
The Father loves the Son and the Son perfectly reflects the Father to us. The Son then tells the Jews that the Father will show Him even greater work:
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.
The relationship between the Father and the Son, then, is one of perfect, loving reflection as the Son reveals the Father. This reflection is so utterly perfect, that Jesus the Son likewise has the power to give life. “So also the Son gives life to whom he will.”
This final statement in verse 21 was an amazing statement of Christ’s divinity, as D.A. Carson points out:
“The Old Testament writers presupposed that the raising of the dead was a prerogative belonging to God alone: ‘Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life’ (2 Ki. 5:7). The same presupposition is amply attested in later Jewish tradition. Rabbi Johanan asserted that three keys remained in God’s hand and were not entrusted to representatives: the key of the rain…the key of the womb…and the key of the resurrection of the dead.”
This relationship of reflection, then, was more than mere imitation. It spoke of a deep and profound union in the Godhead. The Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Father, but both the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equally God.
II. A Relationship of Agreed-Upon Judgment (vv.22-23)
It is also a relationship of agree-upon judgment as the Son’s judgment becomes the determining factor in deciding who comes to the Father:
22 The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.
To reject the Son is to incur the judgment of the Son. To reject Jesus, then, is to reject God the Father. To have Jesus pronounce judgment upon you is to be cut off from God forever.
As the Son perfectly reflects the Father, so the Son is the determining factor in whether or not we come to God the Father. Nobody comes to the Father except through the Son (John 14:6).
In this sense, Jesus tells us that the Father judges no one, but the Son does. The Son’s judgment is the determining judgment.
In one of his last albums before his death, Johnny Cash released the amazing song, “The Man Comes Around”:
There’s a man goin’ ’round takin’ names.
An’ he decides who to free and who to blame.
Everybody won’t be treated all the same.
There’ll be a golden ladder reaching down.
When the man comes around.
The hairs on your arm will stand up.
At the terror in each sip and in each sup.
Will you partake of that last offered cup,
Or disappear into the potter’s ground.
When the man comes around.
The Son’s judgment is perfect and true. The Father gave judgment to the Son. This goes against our popular image. We think of the Father judging and the Son dispensing grace. Of course, in another sense, this is true. But the Father and Son, let us not forget, are one in purpose and intent. In another sense, as the Lord Jesus tells us here, the Son is Him who judges, for the favor or disfavor of the Son, received either through accepting or rejecting Him, determines whether or not we come to the Father.
Do you realize that you must embrace the Son to come to the Father? Where do you stand, now, with Jesus?
Oh I plead with you, this morning, to come and embrace Jesus the Son!
III. A Relationship of Agreed-Upon Salvation (vv.24-29)
Just as the Son judges, He also saves. For if rejecting the Son brings death, accepting the Son brings life:
24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
Jesus speaks of “hearing” and “believing.” We hear the words of Christ and we believe that Christ has come from the Father for us. This is what it means to be saved. To be saved is to receive the favor, grace, mercy, and forgiveness of Jesus through hearing and believing.
It is possible that some of you have heard but have not believed. Some of you have heard all of your life. Some of you have grown up around the gospel and near the gospel. But it is one thing to be around and near the gospel and another to believe it.
Can you say that you have trusted in Christ? Have you accepted Jesus the Son?
I do pray it is so! Why? What is at stake? Jesus tells us:
25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.
Ah! Do you see? To receive the Son is to receive the hope and sure knowledge that death will not have victory over you, that you will rise again with Christ! How amazing! The Son has “life in himself.” He is life! To be in the Son is to be in that life over which death has not victory or authority.
To be in Christ is live! To reject Christ is to be separated from God for all of eternity in the eternal judgment of hell. Christ makes the choice explicitly clear:
27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.
There are two resurrections. Everybody is going to live forever, somewhere. There is a resurrection of life and a resurrection of judgment. To accept Christ is to receive the resurrection of life. To reject Christ is to receive the resurrection of judgment.
Do you understand how very important it is that you accept and receive the God-explaining, judgment-pronouncing, life-granting Jesus? Have you bowed before the King of Kings and given Him your life?
 Umberto Eco. The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana. (New York: Harcourt Inc., 2004), p.336; 351.
 Dallas Willard, The Great Omission. (New York, NY: HarperOne, 2006), 47.
 D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John. The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991), p.252-253.