John 5 – The Father and the Son are one

Erkki Koskenniemi
Emilia Mansikka

Jesus heals also on the Sabbath 5:1-18

The pool of Bethesda (original name might be Bethzatha) was swarming with people with all kinds of sicknesses and disabilities. In the time of Jesus, these kinds of people were faced with constantly growing misery, if their family couldn’t take care of them.

The healing miracle is told briefly and plainly. Even though John doesn’t refer to it this time, every miraculous healing of a lame men is connected to the Isaiah 35:6: "then shall the lame man leap like a deer". God had promised that the time of salvation would once come. And then, the blind will see, the deaf will hear and the lame will jump around in jubilance. When a man who has suffered from illness for 38 years is walking around carrying his bed, it ment that great promises of God were coming true.

However, by doing this Jesus had insulted the most sacred thing the Pharisees knew. The day of healing was the Sabbath and according to the law it was absolutely forbidden to carry whatever belongings on that day. Unlike in the synoptic stories, here Jesus didn’t even tell the man to go home, but to only walk around carrying his bed. It seems like Jesus acted against the prevalent teaching on purpose, and this provoked fury.

The way Jesus justified his action made the anger escalate. God works continuously, day by day and the Son of God does exactly the same in the world. The Sabbath order thus binds Jesus as little as it binds God. After this teaching, it is the first time in the Gospel of John that we see a glimpse of the Jews’ will to kill Jesus.

The Father and the Son are one 5:19-23

In a typical fashion for the Gospel of John, the chapter continues with Jesus’ long monologue and not with an actual conversation between him and the Jews. The first words of the speech are an explanation of the words which made the Jews furious; that is, Jesus being equal to God. The base for Jesus’ action is that he is the Son of God, and that the Father has given him all authority. The Son observes the actions of his Father and he himself does the same. He is not under the judgement of people but, on the contrary, the Father has given all judicial power to the Son. The will of God is that the Son is honored like the Father. Who honors the Son, honors the Father. The Gospel of John now declares a clear and robust Christian message. In a way it explains what is stated in the Great Commission shortly and explicitly:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me…”
(Matthew 28:18)

The basis of the authorization of the Son is the authority to judge 5:24-29

God hasn’t given authority to his Son for the sake of formality. Everything has a clear purpose, which Jesus has already summarized in John 3:16. The goal of the authority given by God is to transfer people under judgement and death to freedom and life.

It is typical for the Gospel of John that the judgement happens in two ways. It happens at the end of times, but it is also happening already, when we hear the words of Jesus. John talks just a few words about the final judgement, but it is self-evident in this Gospel just like in others. There will be a time when everyone in the grave will hear the voice of the Great Judge and come to judgement. Those who have done good will be judged to eternal joy and those who have done iniquity will be judged to eternal condemnation.

The background for this is the great vision of Daniel (Daniel 7:13, 12:1-3), in which the judge is “like a son of man”, thus, like a man. It was because of these words that people expected a “Son of Man” to come and judge. Jesus proclaims that he, Son of God, is the predicted "Son of Man" and the judge of mankind.

Another feature, and typical for the Gospel of John in particular, is that the judgement doesn’t only happen at the end of times. Father has given the authority to his Son. That is why we don’t have to wait for the judgement or redemption until the Final Judgement, but the time when the dead hear the voice of the Son of God and get to live is already here. Our eternal destiny is decided already here and now, according to our relationship with Christ. If we are with Christ, there is no death but only life for us. If we are not with Christ, there is no life but mere death.

What proves that Jesus is telling the truth? 5:30-45

Jesus’ words are obviously astonishing for the Jews to hear. How could they know that he was speaking the truth? There were many witnesses and proof of this:

  • John the Baptist testified about Jesus, as is told in the first and third chapter
  • Jesus’ miracles indicate that he was sent by God. We need to consider Isaiah 35, for example, as the background.
  • God himself testifies about him in his Word - in the Old Testament, as we would say.

These three witnesses would be a heavy enough reason to acknowledge Jesus’ authorization and to believe in him. However, the Jews did not do so, and that is why they could not receive the life.

All three witnesses have very interesting aspects related to them.
 John the Baptist has a special mission which can be seen in all of the gospels.
 The wonders Jesus conducted meant a lot more than healing single individuals or the feeling of fascination from the spectators. They stand for a credential which indicated that Jesus is who he says he is.
 The third witness is the most important one. God is testifying of Jesus and in particular in the Old Testament. This is exactly how Jesus and the apostles read the Old Testament. Aware that Jews couldn’t find him in for example in the books of Moses (from Genesis to Deuteronomy), the early church used Christ as the key to the whole Bible.

Perhaps at the same time we should point out an issue of which Jesus, the Jews and the early church actually agreed on, but which is nowadays often forgotten. On the verses 37-40, the Father’s testimony and the word of the Bible (the Old Testament) are equated. Our church acknowledges that the Holy Spirit has spoken through the apostles and prophets and this is how the whole Bible is considered to be the word of God. Whoever denies this has walked away from the truth.