READ : John 5:22-23
The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.
John 5:22-23 rsv
Do you know how it feels to be a preacher of God’s Word? Probably not, if you’ve never preached yourself or talked seriously to someone who has. Let me tell you a little bit of how it feels to me. It’s a feeling of awe that I should have this weighty responsibility. It’s a feeling of immense privilege that I should be allowed to convey such a message. It’s a feeling of excitement, too, about what can happen as I preach. And it’s a sense of joy and fulfillment that I am doing the thing I am meant to do.
All of that is fresh with me right now as I think about the words of Jesus on which I’ll speak today. A wise student of the Scriptures has called this brief passage “one of the deepest things in the Bible.” J. B. Phillips in his refreshing translation gives it this subheading, “Jesus Makes His Tremendous Claim.” I have the awareness as I talk about it that I’m dealing with measureless depth. I hope by God’s help I can communicate something of that to you now. The passage is in the Gospel according to John, chapter 5, beginning at verse 19. Listen:
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 he 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, 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. The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.
Jesus is talking here about the relatedness, the unity, that exists between God the Father and Himself, whom He calls the Son. As I listen to Him speaking these words, I hear Him telling of what the Son does and of what the Father does. I hear Him opening up to us the Father’s purpose in all this and what our response is to be.
WHAT THE SON DOES
Let’s ponder these words of Jesus. Let’s try to hear them together with our inner ears. First, according to Jesus, what does the Son do, the Son of God? He can do nothing, Jesus says, “of his own accord.” Literally, He can do nothing “from Himself.” In other words, the Son never acts independently of the Father. None of His actions originate with Him. No teaching that He gives, such as the Sermon on the Mount, is a product of His creative genius. It’s not an idea that occurred to Him through the process of His own reflection. The Son doesn’t work that way. When He healed lepers or cast out demons or stilled a storm, this was never a whim on His part. He didn’t perform these mighty works because it seemed to Him at the moment like a good idea. He never planned His days and His ways without consulting the Father. Jesus’ claim is that He not only didn’t do this but that He couldn’t. It was simply not possible for the Son, being who He was, to do anything “on His own.”
Instead, Jesus says that He only does what He sees the Father doing. Think about that. Jesus presents Himself here as the Son who is always looking in the Father’s direction. He is always contemplating the Father. He is observing what the Father is concerned about and involved in. Those things, and only those things, the Son proceeds to do.
Helmut Thielicke has an interesting passage in one of his books where he talks about why Jesus prefaced some of the things He said with the words verily, verily, (literally, “Amen, Amen”). “Why,” asks Thielicke, “did Jesus customarily say that word twice?” His answer about that has intrigued me. It’s as though Jesus is first listening to what the Father says. After the Father has spoken, Jesus says, “Amen,” (truly, so be it.) He next turns to His hearers in this world and says to them, “Amen” (that is, “truly, verily”). Then comes the teaching that He has first heard from the Father. He speaks what He hears the Father speaking. He feels what He senses the Father is feeling. He does what is in the Father’s heart to do. And it’s not simply by imitation, as though the same thing happened twice. It’s that the Father and the Son are in such perfect harmony, such unclouded fellowship, that they are always speaking and acting in concert. Whatever the Father does, Jesus says, the Son does likewise.
WHAT THE FATHER DOES
Well, what is it according to Jesus that the Father is doing? “The Father,” He says, “raises the dead and gives them life.” All Jesus’ hearers would have nodded their heads at this. Only God can raise the dead. Only the Creator can recreate. All our hopes for a blessed existence beyond the grave lie with the life-giving God.
The next statement, however, must have come as something of a shock. “The Father judges no one,” says Jesus, “but has given all judgment to the Son.” Everyone would have expected Jesus to say that God is judge. The Bible is full of that theme. “God is judge. He puts down one and sets up another” (Ps. 75:7). God is “the judge of all the earth” who will surely “do right” (Gen. 18:25), says Abraham. All will appear before God’s judgment seat. He is the One to whom we are ultimately accountable.
Jesus doesn’t deny for a moment that this judging is God’s prerogative, that it belongs to Him, the holy Lord of all. But He says that God has chosen to delegate this task, this right. He has given it over, all of it, to the Son. How must that announcement have affected Jesus’ hearers? He claims that He is the One before whom every human being will ultimately stand and give account. In His hand is the destiny of all.
Further, Jesus says, “as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom He will.” Jesus is the life giver, as His Father is. He is the dead raiser. It is by His sovereign choice that any human being ever finds true life.
Now here is the underlying reality that everyone needs to grasp. “The Father,” says Jesus, “loves the Son, and shows him all that he himself is doing; and greater works than these will he show him, that you may marvel.” All this is entrusted by the Father to the Son, because the Father loves the Son. The Son is always the object of the Father’s love. The Father does all that He does, apparently, out of this unspeakable love for Jesus, the Son.
Now what is the Father’s purpose in giving over this authority, in such an unreserved way, to the Son? Listen again. Jesus says, “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father.” It is the Father’s will that all, all those made in God’s image, every member of the human family, as well as everything else in creation, should honor the Son. God wants His Son to be held in reverence, to be highly esteemed, to be given the praise and tribute He richly deserves.
He has in mind here no ordinary honor. His purpose is that every one should honor the Son, Jesus, even as they honor the Father, God. Dwell on that for a moment. Do we take in the claim that Jesus is making here? He says God wants everyone in creation to honor Jesus with the honor that belongs to God alone. They are to give to Him, Jesus, wholehearted worship. They are to render to Him entire obedience. They are to find in Him their fulfillment and security. He is to be their heart’s treasure. In the Father’s eyes, all that human beings owe to Him, God, they owe also to Jesus Christ His Son.
Further, it’s not possible, Jesus says, for anyone to honor the one without the other. “He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.” How can we tell, then, if a person is truly worshiping God, truly devoted to God, truly trusting in God? How can we be sure that a person is giving glory to the Lord over all? In a very simple way. What is that person’s attitude to Jesus? Does he or she believe in Jesus as God’s Son? Does he or she worship Jesus as Lord over all? Does he or she seek in all of life to exalt God’s beloved Son? As Jesus presents it here, those people, and those only, are truly honoring the Creator and Sustainer of the universe.
Someone says, “I believe in God. I’m trying in my life to honor God, but to me that has nothing to do with Jesus Christ.” In the Father’s eyes, from God’s perspective, it has everything to do with Jesus Christ, because to God, no worship is genuine and acceptable as offered to Him if it is not offered in the same way to the Son of His love.
Now let’s think about the decision with which this confronts us all. Will we or will we not honor the Son?
Have you ever thought of what an extraordinary act of courage it was for Jesus to make this claim to the people who first heard Him speak? He was claiming to be the Son of God, the king of unimaginable glory. He left only two alternatives, really, for His listeners. They could accept Jesus as who He claimed to be in these amazing words or they could reject and hate Him as a blasphemer and seek to destroy Him. There’s hardly any passage comparable to this one in its presentation of Jesus appealing for people’s love and defying their hatred. He must have known that to speak in this way was to run the risk of bitter opposition, persecution and death. He knew, and yet He said these things plainly, fearlessly.
Jesus was speaking of God here, of relationships within God’s being. There was no possible way for anyone hearing Him, then or now, to prove these claims true or false. This is simply and only a question of Jesus’ credibility. Is He a faithful witness in the things that have to do with God and His purpose?
It’s unimaginable to me that followers of Jesus could have made up a claim like this. Jesus actually said things like this while He was here on earth. And what He said, friends, is either the truth of all truths or the most monstrous of falsehoods. In claims of this kind, no middle ground is left to us. Everyone who hears these words will respond either with faith in Jesus Christ or with unbelief. It will be love for Him and loyalty to Him or resistance and rejection. Either we will open the door of our hearts to this Jesus or we’ll bar it more tightly.
Was Jesus right? Did He speak the truth? Is He the unique Son of God? Has the Father entrusted everything to Him? Is it the will of God that we should honor Him in precisely the same way as we honor God? What will we say? True or false? More profoundly, yes or no. For our deepest life choices in this world and for our final destiny, literally everything depends on how we answer.
I began today by opening my heart to you about how it feels to preach God’s Word, how it affects me to pass on to you the words of Jesus Christ. I’m feeling right now that awe, that sense of privilege and excitement, that sense of doing what I’m meant to do. I feel all that because I believe that Jesus speaks the truth, that He is the truth. And more than I can describe to you, I long for you to believe that too, so that the Father’s purpose can be fulfilled in your life, that you from this day forward will honor the Son, Jesus, even as you honor God the Father.