Sermon: The two resurrections – John 5:24-29

Audio:
https://joshbenner.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/20200515-202931.mp3

Text
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. 

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. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 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. 

Prayer

Our heavenly Father,

We again come to you in a Spirit of thanksgiving as we praise your holy name. May we marvel at your majesty over your creation. We praise you for the gift of everlasting life which is available to all through your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Forgive us our sins Lord, as we are fallen people in a fallen world. We struggle with our areas of selfishness, our failings, our instances of pride, the times when we choose sin over you.

Lord, may we come to you on our own in confession of our sins. Lord, may you strengthen us to repent and to more and more live for you. May we be daily sanctified through your word and by the power of your Spirit. May we be transformed from one degree of glory to another.

I pray for each of us that we trust in Jesus, that we know him personally, that we know the salvation that he promises, that we believe in the life that he invites us into, that we have placed our hope for eternity onto his work, and that we might look to him as the greater priest who offered the final sacrifice, as the greater Son who makes us worthy to be your children, and as the greater sacrifice who gave his life for us so we could be forgiven.

May we all trust in that Lord. For any of us who are hanging onto any vestiges of self-justification or trusting in our own goodness as what will make us right with you, may we turn away from that and trust in Jesus. It is entirely by his work of a perfect life and his abounding grace that sinful people are forgiven. We praise you as the everlasting and eternal God. Would you grant us ears to hear as we study your most Holy Word. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Introduction – we love justice 

Our society LOVES justice.

6 of the top 20 highest grossing movies of all time are Marvel super hero movies in a story line where good defeats evil. Other movies with themes of good and evil pervade the rest of the top 20: Star Wars, Avatar, the Lion King.

Many of our most popular television shows are in the legal sphere: Blue Bloods, Law and Order SVU, Chicago PD, FBI, SWAT, Seal Team, the new Hawaii 5-0, the new Magnum P.I, NCIS, NCIS: New Orleans, NCIS: Los Angeles, just to name a few. The most popular DVR’d television show in America last year? Live PD. When there’s a high profile criminal case, cable news networks will follow the smallest details around the clock. You have entire TV channels that are dedicated to crime. You have Court TV, Investigation Discovery which is basically the true crime channel. You have Headline News which is basically the Forensic Files channel.

Our love of justice carries over into other domains. In sports, if a consequential call is botched by a referee, there is outrage among fans. Even if it’s a team that people aren’t fans of. We like seeing the right thing happen. We like seeing the person wins who deserves it.

It’s what’s right. We love justice.

But justice so often doesn’t happen on the timetable that we want.

We’ve seen despotic dictators who led nations in misery and oppression live to ripe, old ages. We’ve seen scoundrels cheat to get ahead in business. We’ve seen crimes go unsolved and the culprits get away with it. It grates against our sensibilities and our sense of justice, of right and wrong.

But here today, we come to our passage as we continue in the Gospel of John. And we learn that judgment belongs to Christ.

Study
If you recall last week, we made a couple of important affirmations which will again be relevant today. Jesus has the power of God.

From verse 19, we learned: For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.

We learned that Jesus has the power over life. From verse 21: as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.

We also learned that Jesus is a judge. From verse 22: the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son

And our passage today carries over the idea of the judgment that comes from Jesus which is a direct result of our relationship with Jesus.

Beginning in 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. 

Beginning of this verse, Jesus says truly, truly. The Greek word for truly here is “amen,” from which we get our word amen. It’s the second time he’s used it in this chapter. Jesus does it to emphasize the importance of what follows.

Based on verse 24, what does Jesus say is the way to eternal life? Jesus says: whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.

The word which Jesus is speaking of here is the fullness of Jesus’ teaching and gospel which he has revealed. And the true hearing of this word isn’t merely about some sound waves entering your ear canal. It’s hearing his word and responding to it. Truly hearing it. Living by it.

Whoever hears this word and also believes in him who sent him.

In this overarching section of John 5, Jesus keeps making these statements that show us the profound unity between him and the Father, and also showing the distinction between them as two persons within the Trinity. And what Jesus is saying here is that to truly believe in God is to accept Jesus.

Jesus says that the person who believes has eternal life. And in the Greek, the form for “has” is in the present tense. It’s not that you will have eternal life. It’s that when you believe in Jesus’ word and in the God who sent him, you HAVE eternal life.

Jesus says:  He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. 

Just as we have eternal life when we believe, it is also a present reality that we withstand the final divine judgment on account of what Christ has done for us. The person who does not believe is already in judgment. We are born in sin. Our default human setting is condemnation and judgment unless someone has heard the Word of Christ and believes the one who sent him.

The one who does believe has passed from eternal death to eternal life.

Verse 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.

This verse once again begins “truly, truly.”

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.

A paradoxical statement.

There is a future time when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God. There is a future time when all will stand in judgment before the Lord. All will be resurrected, no matter how righteous or unrighteous, no matter how good or evil, everyone will stand before Christ.

Philippians 2:9-11 says:
9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 

That time is coming.

Justice is coming. There will be a day of reckoning.

Judges and hunger 

And the judgment will be perfect and righteous. We are often not good judges of character. Have you ever thought someone was really a stand up person, only to discover they were anything but? Have you ever disliked someone unfairly, only to discover that they were solid?

In our legal system, which strives to be just and fair, human judges are still just people and therefore still imperfect. In 2010, three researchers from the U.S. and Israel tracked parole rulings of eight judges over a ten month period. These were not new judges to the bench. On average, they had been judges for 22 years.

In reviewing 1,100 parole board hearings, the researchers found that people had a 65% higher chance of being given parole first thing in the morning. Then the likelihood dwindled lower and lower until the time of a mid-morning break or lunch where likelihood of being granted parole spiked again.

Jesus is the righteous, divine judge while being a little bit hungry and swaying a human judge.

Jesus judges perfectly and the judgment is based on our faith in him. Everyone will stand before Christ. But in our passage, Jesus says that hour is already here as well.

So we have this tension between what is here and what is coming.

How is it that the time is also already here when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God? 

What Jesus is saying is that by his presence in the world, those who are Spiritually dead, those who are dead and sin but who hear the word of Christ, the gospel of Christ are given eternal life.

We will all stand before Christ in the future, but Jesus also ushered in the time through his word for people responding to the truth of the gospel and who he is.

Where is your hope? Where is your justification? Is it in yourself and being a good person? Being good enough? Doing a little more nice than bad? Or is it in the Lord Jesus? The one who is the judge who promises everlasting life because he himself bore our punishment?

Jesus is not saying “believe what you want.” He’s saying “believe in me!”

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. 

Verse 26: For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.

Another loaded statement. This might be the most difficult verse we’ve seen so far in our study of John. I think a lot of pastors wouldn’t even respect the intelligence of their congregations enough to tackle this verse, but give me just a moment.

The first part is simple enough. God has life in himself. God is self-existent. That’s a clearly attested Biblical affirmation.

But the verse says that the father has granted the Son also to have life in himself. We have already seen the homage from the Son to the Father.

Quoting again from 5:19: the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing

There is a submission between the Son and the Father. I mentioned last week that Jesus is subordinate to the Father during his lifetime. And I said last week that I believe this subordination began at the incarnation as Jesus was fully God and man.

A point I did not make last week is that Jesus is also eternally the Son of God. And for that, think of sonship somewhat like a title. The Father is eternally the Father. Jesus is eternally the Son.

What that is not saying is that Jesus is created. Once again, to quote from the opening of John.

 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God (John 1:1). 

John 1:4, speaking of Jesus goes on to say: In him was life

Back in our passage. This a very technical idea, but I take it that Jesus is eternally existent and eternally God. And in the relationship within the Trinity, Jesus is eternally the Son of God.

Throughout John, we see the closeness of relationship between the Father and the Son. We see a very giving relationship between the two. We see them both honoring each other.

Again, I realize it’s a very complicated idea. But it’s worth exploring because it’s in God’s Word. And there is another very important point that verse 26 makes and that is that the Son has life in himself, and the fact that Jesus has life in himself speaks to his divinity.

That’s not something I can say. That’s not something you can say. We’re finite and frail.

I think of all of the measures that are being taken against coronavirus. There’s a lot of fear in our society. Human life is fragile. It can be over in an instant. Everyday, all over the world, healthy people wake up and it’s their last day in this life. It’s just the reality. We never know when our time is over.

But with Jesus? He has life in himself.

And it is because he has life in himself that he can give eternal life. It’s because he has life in himself that we can have the confidence in his promises.

Verse 27: And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.

That is reminiscent of something which Jesus has already said. From our passage last week, and quoted at the beginning this morning. 5:22 says: the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son

Jesus is the one who judges.

2 Corinthians 5:10:
we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. 

Romans 2:16:
on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. 

Jesus is the one who will judge all men. He is the one to whom we will give an account.

The reason why God has given Jesus authority to judge is because Jesus is the Son of Man. This is a reference to the Book of Daniel.

Daniel 7:13-14 talks of a divine figure called the “Son of Man”

      and behold, with the clouds of heaven 

there came one like a son of man, 

      and he came to the Ancient of Days 

      and was presented before him.

But then verse 14 begins to talk about the power of this “Son of Man.”

      And to him was given dominion 

      and glory and a kingdom, 

      that all peoples, nations, and languages 

      should serve him; 

      his dominion is an everlasting dominion, 

      which shall not pass away, 

      and his kingdom one 

      that shall not be destroyed. 

Son of Man is the title which Jesus most often uses when referring to himself in the gospels.The Son of Man has these qualities which speak to his divinity but the title used here for Jesus “son of man” can also refer to a person.

So you have in the Old Testament, qualities of this divine and human figure who has dominion and glory of an eternal kingdom.

And what John is saying is that Jesus is this person, and that is why he is able to judge.

Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice

Jesus is the judge of the world. There are certainly many scriptures which talk of God also being a judge, and certainly any adjudication would be perfectly agreed upon between the persons of the Trinity.

Once again, this goes against any sort of idea that it doesn’t really matter what you believe, or that all religions believe the same thing.

Other leading religious figures do not personally claim to raise everyone to life. But that’s exactly what Jesus states in this verse.

Again, this gospel confronts you.

That’s either true or it’s not.

Not all religions believe that the Lord Jesus is both Lord and judge.

Think of all of the billions of people who have come and gone before us. Every single one of them will one day stand in the presence of Christ. And that same is true for all of us and all who will follow until Christ returns.

Everyone will be raised by Christ, either to everlasting life in glory of everlasting judgment. Hitler will be raised and so will Martin Luther. Gengis Kahn will be raised and so will Billy Graham. Ted Bundy will be raised and so will C.S. Lewis. Napoleon will be raised and so will the Apostle John.

And so will I. And so will you.

Jesus is the judge. He is the standard by which people are either reconciled to the Father or condemned to eternal torment in their sins.

Verse 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. 

Verse 29, once again, might give us pause.

Wait a minute. Isn’t this all about faith and believing in Jesus. How is it that those who have done good are brought to resurrection life and those who have done evil are brought to a resurrection of judgment?

Good works in John ultimately culminate in believing in Jesus.

John 1:12 says: to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God

And again in John 3:21: whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” 

And then the result of that true faith in Jesus is a life that is transformed and bears fruit. So it is not saying that we are judged based on works based righteousness.

Jesus judges based on our response to him. He is the one who has life in himself and has the power to give life. He is the judge who judges righteously.The faith must be genuine. The belief in Jesus must be real. He is the one who knows and who judges.

What do you believe?

Is he the eternal Lord who came into a sinful world and died to give everlasting life? Than our only response is to believe in the judge who came into the world and took our penalty for us on the cross.

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