Being a Son Like the Son (John 5:19-30)
Topic: One Lord: No One Like You Passage: John 5:19–5:30
I. Jesus & Daddy Issues
Maybe you've heard this 'armchair' diagnosis from a friend or co-worker: “Man, that girl has real 'daddy issues'.” Or, “Dude, you've got to get over your 'daddy issues'. Just what are 'daddy issues'? One online article defines the term this way...
"Daddy issues" is an informal term generally referring to the trouble some people have with forming secure relationships in adulthood, based on an early, unhealthy connection or lack thereof with their father.
Whatever you think of that modern label, it wouldn't be surprising if his ancient opponents applied a similar label to Jesus. But the 'daddy issues' that infuriated many of the Jewish leaders had nothing to do with his upbringing or issues with healthy attachment. Their concern was blasphemy; blasphemy stemming from the way Jesus talked about God as his “Father”. Were their concerns justified? What did Jesus believe about his relationship with God? Let's dig into those questions by returning to John 5.
II. The Passage: “Whatever the Father Does” (5:19-30)
We'll start this morning in verse 19 of chapter 5. But before we do let me remind you about the circumstances that led up to this passage. In verses 1-15 of this chapter we read about Jesus healing a man who had been lame for 38 years. But this miracle took place on the Sabbath, and as we see in verse 16, some of the Jewish leaders took issue with this.
But before we read our main passage this morning, it's important to point out that the teaching that Jesus declares beginning in verse 19 is in response to what we heard in v. 18 (look again): 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. So listen to how Jesus addresses their charges and their hostility in verse 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.  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.  For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.  For the Father judges no one, but 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.  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.  “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.  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 execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.  Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice  and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.  “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.
So first of all, did you notice that three times in this passage Jesus used the expression, “Truly, truly...” What exactly does that mean? Well, I think it means something like, “Pay attention to my words; you can be sure of this...”. This is not the first time Jesus has used this formulation in John's Gospel, but it's important to recognize the authority with which Jesus speaks. So what is saying here? I'd like to suggest that Jesus is talking to these Jewish leaders about three things: 1) the Son as Son, 2) the Son as Judge, and 3) the Son as Life-giver. Let's take a closer look at these verses.
1. The Son as Son (vs. 19-20, 30)
You may have noticed that verse 19 and verse 30 both begin with the same idea: (v. 19) “the Son can do nothing of his own accord”, (v. 30) “I can do nothing on my own”. Both of these statements precede an explanation by Jesus in terms of his relationship with the Father.
Now it's important to remember that Jesus is speaking here, not about the God “the Word” (1:1) or God the Son's relationship to the Father before the Incarnation. No, He's talking about his present relationship to God the Father as one who is both divine AND human, as both (v. 25) “the Son of God” and (v. 27) “the Son of Man”. Do you see that? So what we find in verses 19 and 30 are not statements about God the Son's inferiority. Not at all. Rather, the focus here is on interdependence.
Jesus wants to clarify for these men what his special relationship with the Father does and does not mean. He's telling them here: “I am not God's rival. I am God's Son.” Like any healthy father/son relationship, the Son looks to the Father, in order to follow the Father's lead. He does this because (v. 20) the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. Remember the context: the Son's controversial ministry of mercy on the Sabbath is in fact an expression of the Father's work. Jesus is not trying to overturn the divine order. No. There is cooperation and unity between the Father and the Son.
But notice how the final statement in verse 20 is a transition from the healing of the lame man to something way, way bigger. Verse 20... And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. What are the “greater works” that the Father will reveal to the Son?
2. The Son as Judge (vs. 22, 23, 27, 30)
They are the closely related (or we might say interconnected) ideas of judgment and life-giving. Now, even though verse 21 does focus on life-giving, let me start with that idea of judgment. We find that emphasis in verses 22, 23, 27 and 30. Not only will God the Father have the Son carry out his mission of mercy, he will also have him carry out his mission of judgment. In fact, (v. 22) the Father “has given all judgment to the Son”. The Apostle Paul confirms this “greater work” in Acts 17:30-31...
“[God] now... commands all people everywhere to repent,  because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
Notice Paul's wording: God has appointed “a man”. This is Jesus, the “Son of Man” of John 5:27; the “Son of Man” first mentioned in Daniel 7. Hours before his crucifixion, Jesus would quote Daniel 7 to the Jewish leadership, many of whom are probably present here in John 5. When pressed if he was the Messiah, Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” (Mark 14:62)
Think about the irony here in John 5. These leaders of God's people are passing judgment on and condemning the One who has been appointed by God himself to judge; the One who will one day judge all people, including them. Something is terribly wrong here.
3. The Son as Life-Giver (vs. 21, 24-26, 28-29)
Now closely connected to the role of judge is the Son's role as life-giver. Though these opponents condemn the Son, without him, ultimately, they will be condemned. Only the Son can give them life. Only the Son can give us life. These men understood what the Old Testament revealed: it was God who, through the prophet Elijah, raised to life the boy who had died in I Kings 17. It was God who could bring life to the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37. It was God who would effect the resurrection mentioned in Daniel 12. But if these men in John 5 are more concerned about Sabbath infractions than a miraculous healing, what will they do with the Son's greater work of resurrection, for like his Father, he (v. 21) “gives life to whom he will”.
Did you hear in this passage the two kinds of resurrection Jesus describes? The first is the kind of resurrection to which most of us default. Look again at verses 28 and 29. Jesus is clearly describing there a bodily resurrection at the end of the age. Resurrection and then life, or resurrection and then judgment; that is, judgment leading to condemnation.
But Jesus describes another kind of resurrection in verses 24 and 25. That 'end of the age' resurrection will, not surprisingly, take place at (v. 28) “an hour [that] is coming”. But this other resurrection will begin in a time that is (according to Jesus in v. 25) “now here”. You see, when the spiritually “dead... hear the voice of the Son of God”, they “will live”. For...
(and here's the key verse in all this... v. 24) ...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 is speaking the truth in love to these men, isn't he? He wants them to understand that “eternal life” is available to them today; eternal life from the only One who can give it; eternal life from God. But they must believe that the Son is also the Life-giver... and Judge; and that (v. 30) his “judgment is just”. Talk about shocking for these men. God is Judge and Life-giver, and they believe they are honoring him by opposing Jesus. Jesus understands this. He wants them to see how this miraculous work points to these “greater works”. And he's crystal clear about why the Son is also Judge and Life-giver: v. 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.
III. An Example for Sons and Daughters
Brothers and sisters, friends, all of us are called to honor Jesus Christ as Judge and Life-giver. What does that mean? It means accepting that the words of Jesus are true, words about our true, spiritual condition; words about what we truly deserve. But it also means embracing him as our only hope of new life now, and new life forever. And all of us are called to believe that by doing this we are, in fact, honoring God the Father. This is how we pass from death to life.
But how can someone know if they have “passed from death to life”. Aren't all of us, from the outset, opponents of Jesus? Enemies of God? In one of his letters, John gives us one indication of spiritual resurrection. I John 3:14... We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Friends, do you see God at work in your life in this way? If you do, it's evidence of resurrection life through the Son.
But I think our main passage also challenges us in terms of what eternal life looks like in the here and now. Remember that when Jesus talks about himself as the Son here, he's not talking about the preexistent Word who was with God the Father in the beginning. He's talking about himself as the very human “Son of Man”, who is at the same time, “the Son of God”. Why is that an important clarification? Because as such, Jesus embodies for us what it means to be perfectly human. He is fully us as we should fully be. Do you believe that?
Later in this same Gospel, Jesus would tell Mary Magdalene, “'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (John 20:17) The reality that the divine Son, the God-man, came to make us sons and daughters of God is confirmed all over the NT. In light of that precious truth, I think we can ask, “What does Jesus as the Son reveal in John 5 about being a son or daughter of God?” Let's finish this morning by allowing ourselves to be encouraged and instructed by three 'being a son' statements that Jesus expresses here in the 'bookends':
First, we find it in verse 19, but in the words of verse 30: “I can do nothing on my own.” A son or daughter of God makes this confession regularly. This is the humility that Jesus spoke about when he said, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:4) In one sense, this is true in every way. Even my ability to get out of bed in the morning is a result of the grace of God. But I think Jesus is speaking here about carrying out the eternal purposes of God. Is that what you believe? Is that your confession each day?
Second, from the second half of verse 19: [a son can do] “...only what he sees the Father doing.” When we recognize that we are but children, it should drive us toward Paul's charge in
Ephesians 5:1: Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. Each day we have a choice: be conformed to the world or be an imitator of God. Is is your desire to be like your heavenly Father? As Jesus indicates here, we can only do so when we are looking at what the Father is doing. Do you “see” what God is doing in the pages of Scripture? Do you see God at work around you, and around the world? If not, to what or to whom are we looking?
Third, back to verse 30: “I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.” When we are humble enough to say, “I can do nothing on my own... only what I see the Father doing”, that confession should be informed and fueled by this desire: to do, above all, what God wants. Why? Not only because He is your Father, but also because you understand that you (yes you!) have been sent to carry out the eternal purposes of God. Do you believe that? You should. Do you pray like Jesus prayed, “not my will, but your will be done”.
There were, of course, unique aspects of what Jesus confessed here in John 5 about his relationship with the Father, since he alone is THE God "the Son", "the Son of God", and the "Son of Man". But may each of us be encouraged in light of 'son-ly' example to pray for this heart, and to live from this heart; to be a daughter or son like the Son. Amen?