Sermon: That all may honor the Son – John 5:19-24

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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 For 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. 

Our heavenly Father,

We praise you that you invite us into a relationship and that you have made yourself known. The heavens declare your glory, and you have revealed yourself through your son.

Lord, may we be growing in this time as your followers and disciples.

Lord, as we discuss matters today relating to your divine nature and the relationship with your Son who came into our world, I pray that you guard the words I say as being faithful to your scripture and honoring to you, O Lord.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart 

be acceptable in your sight, 

O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. 

Lord, on Mother’s Day, I want to pray for the mother’s in the church.

We pray for the young mothers who still have children at home and I pray for you to lead and guide them in the monumental task that they have of raising children.

Lord, we also pray for all of the women who have touched our lives who might not have been our mother, but who blessed us, taught us, loved us, encouraged us. For grandmothers, aunts, sisters, teachers, friends, and neighbors.

Lord, we pray also for those who might have bittersweet moments on Mother’s Day. For some, mothers are no longer with us. For some, perhaps a challenging relationship with a mother or a mother’s relationship with a child. For others, there may have been a desire to be a mother which was never fulfilled or that a person still awaits. Lord, may you be near to all of these people on this day.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.


Theology matters.

In the year 325 Emperor Constantine, called church leaders from throughout the Roman Empire met in the city of Nicaea, in modern day Turkey.

Among other things discussed at the two-month long council were theological issues regarding the relationship of the Father and the Son.

On one side, you had a priest named Arius who espoused a theology that Jesus, while exalted, was a lesser being than God. Arianism believed that Jesus was created and separate from the Father.

At the council, this position was condemned and ruled a heresy. Arius was excommunicated. The Arian heresy went against the Bible.

If Jesus were not divine, if he were less than God, then he would not have been able to pay the penalty for our sins. If he were in any way less than God, then it would be blasphemous to worship him.

Contrary to what books like the Da Vinci Code depict; these ideas were not new in 325 and were already prevalent within the church. The councils just helped formalize the theology that was agreed upon.

One of the great contributions of the Council of Nicaea was the Nicene Creed which gave the church a Biblically based creed which helped to distill the Biblical teachings on the relationship between the Father and the Son.

The Nicene Creed is recognized by Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox churches. And it has been recognized throughout the church for almost 1,700 years.

Today, all across the world, churches still recite the Nicene Creed as part of their liturgy.

To quote part of the creed:

We believe in one God,

         the Father almighty,

         maker of heaven and earth,

         of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ,

         the only Son of God,

         begotten from the Father before all ages,

          God from God,

          Light from Light,

          true God from true God,

         begotten, not made;

         of the same essence as the Father.

         Through him all things were made.

There’s more to the creed, but for our purposes today, that’s the relevant portion of the creed.

Despite the fact that Arius was excommunicated, and his theology was roundly condemned, his ideas lived on in the Roman world.

And it continues to this day in various streams of theology. Notable examples of churches who fall into Arianism today would include Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses who exalt Jesus but ultimately view him as a lesser being than God.

Series context
We’re resuming in the Gospel of John this week.

When we were in John a couple weeks ago, Jesus was giving a response to the pharisees, regarding his relationship to God, on the heels of a controversy regarding the observance of the Sabbath.

As this chapter continues, Jesus gives a profound theological speech regarding who he is and his relationship to God.

We see how Jesus relates to God, but we also see how Jesus himself is divine.

And what we’re going to do in this passage is look at four affirmations which point us to the divinity of Christ.

Jesus has the power of God
The first thing we will learn is that Jesus has the power of God.

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.

What a statement that Jesus makes.

A verse like this could be misinterpreted to justify Arianism when Jesus says: the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing.

Is Jesus saying that he’s less than God?

How is Jesus equal to God if he can do nothing of his own accord but only what he sees the Father doing?

That is not a minor question.

A hotly contested contemporary theological debate is WHEN the subordination began. Some believe that Jesus is eternally subordinate to God. I don’t affirm that view and I don’t think that’s the historical view of the church. I believe that as fully God and man, Jesus became subordinate at his incarnation, in connection with his nature of being fully God but also fully man. Because he was fully man, he necessarily needed to be submissive to the Father.

But this does not diminish his divinity or imply that he’s created. His divinity is how the Gospel of John begins.

John 1:1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Back in our passage, where Jesus says that he can do nothing on his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing, that also has significant implications for the unity with the Godhead. We have one God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We do not have competing wills.

It matters that the Father and the Son are unified in will and purpose. They do not have competing egos. They both operate from perfect knowledge, wisdom, and righteousness.

We see the unity, but we also see distinction. Jesus is not the Father. The Father is not Jesus.

The Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. 

But listen to what comes next.

For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.

The ultimate point of this verse is not what Jesus can’t do. The point is what Jesus can do.

The first implication of that statement is that Jesus can do everything, because God can do everything and Jesus can do whatever the Father does.

A second important implication of this verse is that the authority with which Jesus teaches and acts is the very authority of God.

Furthermore, in telling us that whatever the father does, the Son likewise does, we are again pointed to the unity between the Father and the Son. Nothing in this verse indicates any competition or disagreement between the two. Everything in this verse points us to the harmony between the two.

Verse 20, Jesus gives us another “for” statement.

For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing.

What a wonderful reality. The Father loves the Son.

They operate in perfect unity and love, and they always have. God has always existed in fellowship within his own nature. He didn’t make us because he needed someone to love. He already has a perfect relationship. He didn’t make us because he was lonely. He’s relational within his own nature. We do not have a needy God.

There’s another significant implication from our text. This idea comes from D.A. Carson’s commentary on John.

If the Father shows the Son all he is doing and if the Son is obedient to the will of the Father, that means that the Son is therefore revealing the Father to us through his life, ministry, and deeds.

Jesus will later communicate this idea in John 14:31 where he says: I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.

We too often act as if there’s a disconnect between Jesus and God. There isn’t. Perfect unity.

Like two musicians playing the same piece of music in perfect time with each other.

Jesus reveals God to us. He says as much in 14:9 when Jesus says: Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. 

Second part of verse 20: And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel.

At the beginning of this chapter, Jesus healed a man who had been unable to walk for 38 years.

That’s what the pharisees have just witnessed and he’s saying that he will do greater works than that.

And he adds so that you may marvel. 

Jesus is progressively displaying the glory of God through his signs and wonders.

What are the greater works?

He’ll elaborate on that in the following verse.

Jesus has power over life
And that brings us to our second point which shows us the divinity of Jesus. He has power over life and death.

Verse 21: For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. 

Jesus has the power over life and death. That’s an ability that only God has. Therefore, Jesus is God.

A lot of people have claimed to be the Messiah, throughout history. And they’re all lying in graveyards.

Jesus died and rose and lives today.

He’s not a secondary divine figure. Jesus himself is God.

In the Old Testament, we do see the prophet Elijah raising someone from the dead, but he does this as a prophet and on behalf of God and in the power of God.

Jesus himself has power over life.

Something to keep in mind…

Jesus is making massive claims when he’s talking to the pharisees.

I am often pretty critical of the Pharisees. But let’s try to look at this whole conversation from their perspective for just a moment.

Earlier in this section, the pharisees confront Jesus over a Sabbath controversy and Jesus told them “My Father is working until now, and I am working’ (John 5:17).

The implication of that is that Jesus can do the things which God does.

It’s not crazy that the pharisees would be taken aback by this.

And this has obviously carried over into our passage this morning when Jesus says: whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. 

Again, throughout history, people have claimed to be the Messiah, people have claimed to be prophets.

It’s easy to talk the talk. It’s easy to make a claim.

What’s not easy is having the power over life and death. And it is through this that we will see Jesus’ validated for who he is.

In one sense, we can almost understand why the pharisees have reservations here. These are serious claims which need to be investigated and considered.

But in John 11, we see Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead.

This authenticates who Jesus is.

When Jesus referred to the greater works that he would show, which would point to his glory, he was talking about raising a man from the dead.

But when he does that, do the religious leaders bow down and worship him? Are their lives transformed? Do they become followers of Christ?

John 11:47-48:

47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 

They see what Jesus is doing and instead of recognizing him for who he is, they are weary that too many people will start to follow him.

Verse 53: So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.

But that still worked to the divine plan. Because it set the stage for the ultimate authentication of who Jesus is.

They killed Jesus in an effort to stop him but his victory over death caused a paradigm shift in the world and in human history and in the lives of billions of people ever since.

In his ministry, we see that Jesus had the power over physical life and death.

But because of his resurrection, we see that Jesus has the power over Spiritual life and as a result grants eternal life.

That people who are dead in sin, separated from God are forgiven through Christ.

Do you believe that?

We cannot be good enough on our own, because even at our best, we’re still sinful. Even at our best, we’re still imperfect.

But Jesus never sinned.

He was perfect.

He is God who came into the world to save the world.

You can be forgiven. You can have life. But it is only through Jesus that it’s available.

He is the one who has the power of physical life and Spiritual life.

And he died so that you could be forgiven. He died so that you could have life.

Jesus is Lord.

Jesus has the power to judge
A third thing we learn in this passage which points us to the divinity of Christ.

He has the authority to judge.

Beginning in verse 22: For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 

Another very loaded statement.

Once again, only God can judge.

That was the understanding of the pharisees. That was the teaching of the Old Testament. That God is the true, righteous, perfect, divine judge.

And Jesus says that all judgment has been given to him.,

This does not mean that Jesus judges irrespective of the Father.

He’ll say the opposite in verse 30:  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.

There is perfect unity of will and judgement between the Father and the Son. They judge in accordance with the same divine wisdom and righteousness.

But Jesus does say in this passage that judgment belongs to him, in accordance with the will of the Father.

Again, these are very nuanced theological verses. Now a skeptical person might ask. “I thought Jesus came to bring forgiveness and love?”

He did.

“I thought Jesus is a God of love”

He is.

“I thought Jesus says “judge not.”

He did.

The judgement is in response to rejecting Jesus.

Jesus did come into the world to bring love and grace. But it is through faith in him. Without faith, there is no grace.

All are deserving of judgment and condemnation. And the basis for our judgment lies on our faith in Christ.

Let’s continue in our passage.

And this brings up our fourth point.

Jesus is worthy of the honor of God 
Jesus has said that judgment is given to him 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.

That is why judgment is given to Christ. Judgment is given to him so that we can honor the Son properly, and the proper way to honor the Son is the same level of homage and worship, and adoration that the Father is worthy to receive.

So many people who want to act like all religions are equally valid, all teach the same things, all are pointing us up to the same God.

This passage says that is wrong.

What Jesus is saying is that if we don’t understand him and who he is, if we get Jesus wrong, we get God wrong.

It is not possible to honor God without Christ.

It is not possible to approach a Holy God except through Jesus.

It is not possible to be forgiven by God the Father without the grace of his Son to whom judgment has been entrusted. .

Verse 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. 

There is one way to eternal life, and it is the way of the cross and the crucified Lord.

It is believing in Jesus.

There’s a famous quote from C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity.

Jesus is the Lord, a lunatic, or a liar.

So many of the absolute claims made in this section make me think back to Lewis’ words. Jesus confronts you with every statement he makes as he continues to make absolute claims about himself, his divinity, his power, his judgement, and the eternal life that he gives to all who believe in him.

C.S. Lewis says:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. 

Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

What do you believe about Jesus?

Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear what you think, and don’t forget to subscribe! 

Josh Benner is the pastor of Christian Bible Church in Cissna Park, Illinois. He has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He has an awesome wife named Kari.