He was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. (John 5:18)
Please open your Bible at John 5.
We looked last week at the marvelous story of how Jesus healed a man who had languished beside the pool of Bethesda. He was without strength and without hope. When Jesus asked him, “Do you want to be healed?” the best he could do was to explain why he had no hope.
Far from securing the man’s cooperation in the healing, Jesus question made it clear that this man had nothing to contribute. He had no strength, and he had no hope.
Then Jesus spoke the word of command: “Get up, take up your bed, and walk” (5:8). When Jesus spoke these words, a new power, a new ability, a new capacity came to the man that he did not have before. And we read that “At once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked” (5:9).
Today we come to the sequel to this marvelous story. One writer says that the words before us today are “probably the most important truth ever uttered upon earth.” 
Bishop Ryle says, “Nowhere else in the Gospels do we find our Lord making such a formal, systematic, orderly, regular statement of His own unity with the Father… as we find in this discourse.” 
Our series is called Meet Jesus. The verses before us today are the clearest statement of who Jesus is, in his own words anywhere in the Gospels. If you want to help someone understand who Jesus is in his deity, this is the place to start. Our focus today will be on who Jesus is and what Jesus gives.
Who Jesus Is
He was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. (John 5:18)
The background to this is that Jesus healed the man by the pool on the Sabbath. When the man took up his bed and walked, he was challenged by the religious leaders of the day for carrying a load on the Sabbath day.
When the man reported that it was Jesus who told him to take up his bed and walk, the religious authorities went after Jesus with the accusation that Jesus was breaking the Sabbath. “This was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath” (5:16).
The Sabbath day was instituted in the fourth commandment, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work…” (Ex. 20:8-10).
But the principle of the Sabbath went all the way back to creation, where God rested on the seventh day. In six days, God did his marvelous work of creation and on the seventh day God rested from his work of creation, because his work of creating was completed. It did not mean that God ceased from all activity.
It was clearly understood among God’s people that God must be exempt from his own Sabbath law. How else could the universe continue? The sun rises and the rain falls by God’s power and command. If God did not work on the Sabbath, there would not be a Sabbath! So it was understood that God while everyone else rested on the Sabbath, God alone was working. Only God works on the Sabbath!
Against that background, notice what Jesus says on the Sabbath day, “My Father is working until now, and I am working” (5:17). There was no doubt and no ambiguity about what Jesus was saying here: “Only God works on the Sabbath. I am working on the Sabbath. Go figure!” That’s what he is saying!
And that is exactly what they did. “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 5:18).
Notice the words “making himself equal with God.” It is not the case that Jesus was a remarkable person and that the church then imposed on him the idea that he was the Son of God. This was his own claim, clearly articulated and clearly understood, and it was for this reason that he was crucified! There is a myth that is often repeated, “How did Jesus become God?” The real question is, “How did God become Jesus?”
Notice too that our Lord does not say, “O, you misunderstood me. I didn’t mean that I am equal with God, I just meant that I am here to do his work like all of you.” He does the opposite, piling on statement after statement, laying out to an audience of people who want to kill him, what being equal with God actually means! What follows is the most marvelous statement of how God the Father and God the Son are wonderfully and perfectly one.
What does a more perfect union look like? The preamble to the constitution of the United States lays out the purpose of our constitution, and the first of these is the pursuit of a more perfect union. “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union… do ordain and establish this constitution for the United States of America.”
What does a perfect union look like? The answer is right here in John 5. If you want to know what it means to be one, you can’t do better than to look at the perfect union of God the Father and God the Son.
There is a marvelous application here to marriage. “‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh” (Mat. 19:5-6).
What does it mean to be one? What would it look like for a husband and wife to move toward a more perfect union? Brace yourself for a mini marriage seminar from the words of Jesus on what it means to be one in John 5!
7 Dimensions of the Union of the Father and the Son
- The Son is one with the Father in work
Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” (John 5:17)
What is he saying? The Father and Son share the same work. They have different roles in the work: The Son did not send himself into the world, the Father did. The Father did not die on the cross, the Son did. There are different roles, but what the Father does and what the Son does align together in one great work, which is to redeem the world.
Think about that in relation to marriage. Here is a great conversation for a date night! You are doing this work and I am doing that work, but what is the great work that we are doing together? What is the great work that we share to which each of our individual parts contributes? The oneness of the Father and the Son lies in sharing the same work.
- The Son is one with the Father in will
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)
Jesus does not act independently of the Father. The Son has not come into the world to “do his own thing.” The Son sees what the Father is doing. The Son pays attention to what the Father is doing and follows the lead.
There is something beautiful about two dancers who really know what they are doing moving together. The eye of the one is on the other, and the two move as one intuitively. That how it is with the Father and the Son.
3. The Son is one with the Father in love
“The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing.” (John 5:20)
Love gives and it does not hold back. Love means that there are no secrets between the Father and the Son. The Father shows the Son all that he is doing. So true oneness involves a continuing communication in which all that is going on in one life is opened up to the other.
A perfect union would mean that a husband would never say to his wife, “I had no idea that this was going on in your mind and in your heart, why did you not tell me?” A more perfect union would mean that a wife would never say to her husband, “I did not tell you because I did not think you would want to know or that you would understand.” A more perfect union involves this kind of loving communication, this opening up of life to one another.
- The Son is one with the Father in authority
“As the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.” (John 5:21)
Raising the dead involves the authoritative exercise of sovereign power. The Father and the Son are one in the exercise of this authority. What the Father does, the Son does.
A more perfect union is one in which a mother and a father are one in exercising authority. They do not issue conflicting commands, which always causes chaos and confusion. Their authority moves as one in the same direction.
- The Son is one with the Father in trust
“The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son.” (John 5:22)
Maybe you know what it is to be given a task and then the one who delegated it to you ended up doing it himself or herself. When that happens there is an issue of trust.
There could hardly be a task of greater significance than bringing justice to the entire world. All throughout the Old Testament we are told that God is the judge. And here we are told that the Father has given all judgment to the Son. That means people of every religion (and no religion) will one day stand before and give account to Jesus Christ who died for sins.
Applied to marriage, a more perfect union means that you have full confidence in the one with whom you have been made one, that you communicate that confidence both by trusting things of great importance to that person, and that you do not take back what has been trusted by doing it yourself.
- The Son is one with the Father in honor
“The Father… has given all judgment to the Son, 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.” (John 5:23)
The perfect union of the Father and the Son is seen in the resolve of the Father that the Son may be held in the highest honor. When you honor Jesus Christ you honor the Father. Whenever we worship the Son, the Father is honored. If that were not so, our worship would be blasphemy. “Every knee will bow… and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10).
Here is another dimension of what a more perfect union looks like: You speak, think and act in such a way that the one you love will know that he or she is held in honor.
- The Son is one with the Father in life
“For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.” (John 5:26)
The perfect union of the Father and the Son is seen in a shared life. The Father has life in himself, and the Son has life in himself.
Your life began through the union of your father and your mother. You were conceived. Before that you were not, and without that you would not have been! Life comes to us, but it is not like that for God. God has life in himself, and this is true of the Son as it is true of the Father.
Now the words “He has granted the Son to have life in himself,” are very important and here is what they tell us: The Father has granted that the Son is the one who holds the gift of life in his hand! He has this gift. He has it in himself, and it is for this reason that “the Son gives life to whom he will” (5:21).
So try to take in this glimpse of the glory of Jesus Christ. He is one with the Father in work, in will, and in love. He is one with the Father in authority, in trust, and in honor. He is one with the Father in sharing the same self-sustaining life, and the Father has granted to him that, having the life of God in himself, he is the one who is able to give it to others.
We have the most glorious Savior! That’s who Jesus is – God with us, God for us, God laying claim to our love, our trust, our obedience, and our worship.
By the way, to those of you who are not yet married, but hope to one day be – isn’t this a great vision of a more perfect union? Wouldn’t you like to have someone bow before you, look at the vision of John 5 and say, “Let’s go after that!”?
What Jesus Gives
“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.” (John 5:24)
These are amazing words. Here is the Son of God, who has life in himself (5:26). He is able to give life to whom he will (5:21). The life that he has is eternal, and here he speaks about how this eternal life can be ours!
When Jesus speaks about death and life, he is speaking about something in which all of us are involved. Nobody can say, “This isn’t relevant to me.” Life and death are the experience of every person, in every generation, in every culture. The experience of life and of death may be very different but these are the two great realities that every person on the planet will experience and that no person on the planet can avoid.
Now what is death? When you know what death is, then you will know what life is. We normally think about death as something that is pronounced by a doctor when the vital signs of life have ceased. When the heart no longer beats, the lungs no longer breathe, and the brain no longer sends its animating signals throughout the body, then a person is pronounced to be dead.
But the Bible speaks about death in another way. The first time death is mentioned in the Bible is in Genesis 2:17 where God says, “In the day that you eat of it [the tree of the knowledge of good and evil] you shall surely die.”
You remember the story of how Adam and Eve sinned when they disobeyed this single command of God. At the end of that day when Adam sinned, his heart was still beating, his lungs were still breathing, and his brain was still sending animating signals throughout his body. So, he didn’t die? Or did he? O, yes he did!
Here’s where you need to come to a biblical definition of what death is. What happened on the day that Adam and Eve sinned? They came under the judgment and the condemnation of God. And that is what death is in the Bible. It is to come under the judgment and condemnation of God.
You can see that here right in this verse: “Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment [that’s what death is!], but has passed from death to life” (5:24). Why does Jesus bring in death here? Because, biblically, that is what death is – to come under the judgment of God.
Jesus is describing something very wonderful. By nature, all of us live with death ahead of us. We live until we die. “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27). What kind of life is that? To pass from life to death to judgment would be a grim future. But here Jesus speaks about a person who has passed from death to life!
What we know is a life where death is ahead of us, but Jesus speaks of a life where death is behind us, a life where the judgment and condemnation of God lies not in the future but in the past! How would that be possible?
When the Son of God went to the cross, the sins of all who would believe were laid on him. All the judgment and condemnation that was due to us was poured out on him. If your judgment was spent, exhausted, emptied out, and absorbed in Christ back there on the cross, then if you are in him, you will not come into judgment. And if there is no condemnation from God ahead of you, you can truly be said to have passed from death to life!
Brother, sister in Christ – there is no condemnation for you in the future because it has already been dealt with by Jesus in the past! “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). We have passed from death to life! Life, as we know it, is life with death and judgment before you. But Jesus speak here about eternal life, which is life with death and judgment behind you!
So what happens to a believer when your heart stops beating, and your lungs stop breathing, and your brain stops sending signals to the rest of your body? To be away from the body is to be at home with the Lord. Which is better by far! (2 Cor. 5:8).
In a world where, every day, thousands of people are passing from life to death, Jesus has come so that, through faith in him, we may pass from death to life! When you hear this good news don’t you feel motivated to tell others? “I’ve got to tell people what life is! I went into church today thinking that death and judgment were ahead of me, and I went out knowing that eternal life is ahead of me because of Jesus Christ.”
Jesus says, “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!” (John 5:24).
 Marcus Dods, The Gospel of St John, Expositor’s Bible, p. 193, Willard Tract Depository, 1891.
 Cited in Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, p. 311, Wm. B. Eerdman’s, 1971.
© Colin S. Smith
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