Jesus: Son of the Father (5:17-29)

Bible Passage: John 5:17-29

In John’s gospel there is a balance struck between the action scenes where Jesus performs his miracles, and the extended  theological reflections on the significance of what he has done. This passage is one of those explanations and for the most part it is a monologue by Jesus that follows the healing on the Sabbath. His basic premise is that because of his identity as the Son, the Sabbath rules do not apply to him. What follows is the most thorough explanation of the relationship between the Son and the Father that we have in all of Scripture. This passage is crucial in understanding the Trinity, in seeing Jesus as truly divine and in responding to him correctly.

The Son Is Equal with the Father: One of the questions that people sometimes ask is whether Jesus himself taught that he was God. In this passage we have an example of him doing just that. His response to the accusation of Sabbath breaking was not to appeal on a technicality but to double down and say that because the Father is always working, so is he. In this statement, he was expressing equality between himself and God the Father. The significance of this is seen in the way the hearers responded to it, as they considered it as blasphemy and wanted to kill him. Jesus goes on to show other attributes that are only true of God are also true of him, such as raising the dead, giving life, executing judgement and receiving worship. Jesus did not come as simply an inspiring teacher or a moral example, but he made claims of divinity and we must respond to these claims in one way or another.

The Son Follows the Father’s Lead: Equality between the Father and the Son does not mean that their relationship is a symmetrical one. There is a particular shape to how they relate, with the Son doing what he sees the Father doing. In some ways the relationship is akin to an old family business, named ‘craftsman and son’ where the Father shows the Son his work and invited the Son to participate with him. This means that when we see God’s activity, that activity tends to be initiated by the Father and accomplished by the Son and this pattern tracks through creation, revelation, salvation and so on. It would be wrong to try to pry the Father and Son apart as though. they have somehow different temperaments or agendas. They work together and the Son listens to the Father and acts accordingly. If even Jesus related to the Father in this way, then how much more do we need to do so?

Potential Applications:

  • This is one of the strongest passages in the New Testament in asserting the divinity of Jesus. He is worthy of awe. Call people to consider where they see Jesus in a casual way and to start thinking of him in much bigger terms.
  • Part of your response should be to express you worship of him through a time of singing Christ-centred praise songs.
  • It is clear here that Jesus is the one who executes judgement and who gives life. You could call people to put their trust in him for salvation for the first time.