John 5:19-36 - Jesus' Apologetic - Part II

Last week, we examined (2) reasons why the Jews “were seeking all the more to kill him” (John 5:18).
  • (1) Breaking the Sabbath
  • (2) Making Himself equal with God

The second of the two was Jesus’ response to the first.
  • And in His response Jesus used language with legal overtones denoting a defense against the Jews’ accusations.
    o “Answer” in verse 17 literally means “to vindicate oneself”.
  • Our lesson today covers John 5:19-37.
  • Jesus expands on his defense and spells out clearly His relationship with the Father.

D.A. Carson sums up beautifully what our text today does.
  • The ensuing verses [our text] set out some of the parameters by which we may rightly understand that Jesus is equal with God. Jesus is not equal with God as another God or as a competing God: the functional subordination of the Son to the Father, the utter dependence of the Son upon the Father, are about to be explicated.

Kostenberger says it like this.
  • Jesus’ words clearly convey that He is both, “equal to God, [yet] is functionally subordinate to him as a son is to his father…this relationship preserves distinctness of roles" – A. Kostenberger.

Today, we will merely do a high altitude flyover of verses 19-36.
  • This will give us a look at the big picture of Jesus’ defense.
  • Next week we will give a detailed treatment of verses 38-47 where Jesus makes a profound link to belief in Scripture and belief in Him.

Before we go further, we must deal with what appears to be a contradiction.
  • Jesus is accused of “making himself equal with God” (John 5:18).
  • As we saw last week, the accusation is true; by His words in John 5:17 (and in our text today) Jesus does make this claim.
  • However, in our text today, Jesus goes out of His way to also show He (the Son) is “subordinate” to the Father.

So here is the problem:
  • Logically speaking, for something to be subordinate to something else, it must be separate/distinct from it.
  • Yet Jesus is claiming that He is also equal to God; that He is what He is subordinate to.

How is it that Jesus can be both Equal and Subordinate to God the Father?
How can He be what He is “functionally subordinate” to?
  • The answer is to be found in Doctrine of the Trinity.
  • “God eternally exists as three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and each person is fully God, and there is one God” – Wayne Grudem.
  • And, as we see from our text, if there is no Trinity, then either:
    (1) Jesus is claiming that He is a 2nd God.
    (2) Jesus is merely a specially and uniquely appointed human that acts on God’s authority.

Now that we have seen how our text today requires the doctrine of the Trinity to be rightly understood, we can move on to the summary of Jesus’ defense of His divinity and relationship with the Father.


John 5:19-36 can be broken down into (3) basic categories.
  • (1) Father/Son Relationship
  • (2) Testimony about Father/Son relationship
  • (3) Implications for us given the truth of this Father/Son relationship

We will take them one at a time.

(1) Father/Son Relationship
  • As stated earlier, Jesus spells out 7 of these formulations.
  • They demonstrate that Jesus viewed His ministry as operating under the authority of the Father.
  • They demonstrate Jesus’ dependence on the Father not independence.
  • They demonstrate Jesus’ obedience to the Father.
  • And some of them demonstrate His divinity, that He is in fact “equal with God”.

Just from these summary statements, we can see why we are to take our cues from Jesus.
  • Do we live our lives fully under the authority of the Father?
  • Do we live our lives dependent on Him or do we rebel in independence?
  • Do we obey Him?

Here are Jesus’ 7 formulations of the Father/Son relationship (John 5:19-23, 26).

John 5:19 (ESV) — 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.
  • Father Does – Son Does
    o Son does not act autonomously
    o D.A. Carson states this verse makes clear that, “it is impossible for the Son to take independent, self-determined action that would set Him over against the Father as another God”.
  o Carson also describes Jesus doing as “The Son exegeting or narrating the Father” for our benefit.

POI – If even Jesus doesn’t act autonomously, why do so many believe that man must be able to?
  • John 5:30, Jesus discloses again that He, “can do nothing on his own” but that He does the will of the Father.

John 5:20 (ESV) — 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.
  • Father Loves Son – So Father Shows Son what to do
    o The “greater works than these [healing of cripple]” refers most likely to what event?
    o This is scandalous to the world – the cross motivated by love for the object of its scorn!
    o This is not a very palatable way to demonstrate love.

John 5:21 (ESV) — 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.
  • Father Raises and Gives Life – Son Raises and Gives Live
    o Judaism is clear that raising life and giving life “are the sole prerogatives of God” – Kostenberger.
    o 2 Kings 5:7 (ESV) — 7 “…Am I God, to kill and to make alive”
    o So if Jesus can raise and give life to “whom he will”, Jesus is who (unlike Elijah – as is honor below)?

John 5:22 (ESV) — 22 The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son,
  • Father Does not Judge – Son Given Judgement
    o Again, according to the OT, judgment is “the exclusive prerogative of God” – Kostenberger.
    o So if Jesus can judge in this way, Jesus is who?

John 5:23 (ESV) — 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.
  • Honor the Father – Honor Son
  • Don’t Honor Father – If Don’t Honor Son
    o So “The purpose of the Father’s delegation of life-giving and judgment-related authority to the Son [in verses 21 and 22] is that people might honor the Son just as they honor the Father” – Kostenberger.
    o In other words, the Son is “at one with the Father not only in activity but in honor” – D.A. Carson.
    o If Jesus were just a representative of God, he would never be due the same honor as Father.
    o This is another claim of divinity!

John 5:26 (ESV) — 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.
  • Father Has Life in Him – Son Has Life in Him
    o Jesus is self-existent and has life-in-himself.
    o As John stated in John 1, Jesus is eternal and not created.
    o “This verse explains how it is that the Son can exercise divine judgment and generate resurrection life by his powerful word” – D.A. Carson.

So we have learned about the Father/Son relationship.
  • Now we will let Jesus’ words tell us about those who testify to the truth of this relationship.

(2) Testimony about Father/Son Relationship
  • Jesus puts to us 3 witnesses that testify about Him.
    o John the Baptist
    o The Father
    o Scripture

As Kostenberger points out, “the need for multiple witnesses” is taught “in Hebrew Scriptures” and “Jewish tradition”.
  • John 8:17 (ESV) — 17 In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true.
  • So it is no surprise here that we have more language with legal overtones as Jesus defends His claims.
  • However, Carson suggests that the real point here is that Jesus is saying that if He Himself is the only one who can testify of Himself, then the revelation from the Father through the Son can’t be true.
  • At a minimum, given Jesus’ words thus far in our text, the Father must be one of the witnesses or Jesus is deluded.
  • So the obvious question is how does the Father testify about Jesus?
    o We will come to that in just a second.

John the Baptist:
John 5:31–35 (ESV) — 31 If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not deemed true. 32 There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he [God the Father] bears about me is true. 33 You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34 Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35 He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.
  • John the Baptist testified to Jesus as we have already seen in John 1.
  • Jesus points this out here so that “you may be saved”.
    o This of course was the reason for John the Baptist’s ministry.

The Father:
Earlier we asked how the Father testifies about Jesus.
  • Jesus provides the answer for us here.

John 5:32 and 36–38 (ESV) — 36 But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent.
  • Jesus then cites the testimony of the Father.
  • The works Jesus has performed, works which require the authority and power of God to perform, demonstrate that the Father bears witness to Jesus claims.
  • Many believe that Jesus is also referring to the baptism event where the Father bore witness to Jesus.
    o Mark 1:11 (ESV) — 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
  • And finally, here we have an indictment by Jesus against the Jews for by not accepting Jesus’ testimony they unwittingly reject the OT they claim to believe.

John 5:38–47 details the testimony of Scripture about Jesus.
  • We will cover this next week.

So, thus far we have seen Jesus defense unfold via the Father/Son relationship and the Testimony about that relationship.
  • We now come to the 3rd aspect of Jesus’ defense which, as we have said, is the Implications for us if the Father/Son relationship is true.

(3) Implications

John 5:24 (ESV) — 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.
John 5:25 (ESV) — 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.
John 5:27–29 (ESV) — 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.
John 5:30 (ESV) — 30 “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.
  • If you Hear Jesus and Believe Father sent him then you pass from death to life
  • Those who hear (“believe”) Jesus will live
  • Father/Son relationship gives Jesus authority to judge believers and unbelievers
  • Judgment is Just because it is under Father’s authority and will

These implications echo those spelled out by Jesus when he spoke to Nicodemus in John 3.
  • It always strikes me as odd when I hear people argue that God is hidden or that He has not provided enough revelation to make Himself adequately known.
  • Therefore, they argue, they can’t be held accountable for their agnosticism because it is God’s fault.
  • As a result, they feel they should be exempt from the consequences that Jesus is speaking of here.

How would you respond to such a person?
Do you believe God’s revelation to mankind has been sufficient?