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
WHY THE OPPOSITION?
Have you ever wondered why it was that Jesus of Nazareth aroused such intense opposition among His countrymen, such murderous hatred? Has it seemed surprising to you that the religious leaders of His nation were so furiously determined to put Him to death? This Jesus, remember, was an extraordinarily attractive person to many. He spoke words of gracious invitation. He did works of healing mercy. He spent Himself to meet the needs of people. Still, He was bitterly resented by the very persons we might have thought would welcome Him. Why?
A number of possible reasons come to mind. For one, His transparent goodness seemed to expose the evil in everyone else. It’s not comfortable for us to be around someone who lives in perfect love, who embodies in His character everything we are not. We shrink from such a searching light and, in our worst moments, want to put it out.
Then, too, Jesus made a habit of associating with those of doubtful reputation. He became known as the friend of the tax collectors whom the Jews detested and the sinners whom they despised. He made many uncomfortable by associating with and caring about the “wrong people.”
There was also a fear that the popular movement centering around Him would bring further cruel repressions from the Roman overlords. Jesus was a threat as a disturber of the status quo, a de-stabilizing factor in the politics of His nation.
Then there was the way He dealt with religious tradition. He did not always observe the customary washings and fasts. Sometimes He dared to touch lepers or heal afflicted ones on the Sabbath day. That infuriated some.
THE DEEPER REASON
All of these things explain in part the hostility directed toward Jesus, but there is more. According to the New Testament records, Jesus aroused antagonism among the religious leaders mainly by what He said and claimed about Himself. For example, when they were moved to persecute Him because He had healed a man on the Sabbath, Jesus answered them (this is from the Gospel according to John, chapter 5, verse 17): “My father is working still and I am working.” Then the Gospel writer comments, “This was why the Jews sought all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the Sabbath but also called God his Father, making himself equal with God.” These people recognized the radical nature of Jesus’ claim. They judged it to be that special form of blasphemy which it was their duty to punish by death. In the name of religion, in the name of God, they were convinced that this man had to die.
In the words that follow, Jesus develops further what He means about the relationship between the Father’s work and His. Listen: “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” (John 5:19-22). Now if what He had said earlier had scandalized His hearers, this must have made the reaction even more intense.
EXAMINING THE CLAIMS
Let’s look carefully at these claims Jesus is making. First, in answer to the charge that He was making Himself equal with God, Jesus spoke of Himself as acting rather as a true Son. In biblical thought, to be a true son is to reproduce the thoughts and actions of one’s father. This is precisely what Jesus does. He never acts independently, by His own will and power. He rather watches what the Father does and then embodies that in His life. And because the Father loves Jesus, the Son, and shows Him all that He does, even greater works are coming, at which all who behold will marvel. In Jesus, the well-beloved Son, people will see in even greater measure the works of Almighty God.
Now He makes a new claim. “As the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.” It was a settled conviction among the faithful in Israel that God and only God can be the giver of life. Only He can raise people from death at the last day. Now Jesus says that He, as one with the Father, has the same life-giving power. He is able whenever He chooses to quicken the dead to endless life. Here is something else to enrage His hearers. What they know that only God can do, Jesus assumes as His prerogative and power.
Next He comes to the matter of judgment. God is worshiped in Israel as the just Judge of all the earth, as the holy One and the Heart- Searcher. He alone is worthy and able to pass righteous judgment upon the children of men. Imagine what it meant for these people to hear from the lips of Jesus that “the Father judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son.” In other words, the One before whom every human being who has ever lived in the world will finally stand, the One who knows the secrets of each heart, the One who will decide the eternal destiny of every one of us, is none other than the man in His thirties standing before them. “The Father has given to him,” He says, “all judgment.” Everything, for everyone, depends on His final verdict. Has anyone else ever made a claim like that? Or at least made it and been taken seriously? In the case of Jesus, His hearers viewed this claim with the utmost seriousness. For them it was a life-and-death matter.
Now for the crowning claim. Jesus says that the Father has given all judgment to the Son so that “all may honor the Son even as they honor the Father.” The word to honor in Greek language comes from a root which means “value” or “price.” To honor others is to assign to them high value. To honor God is to attribute to Him supreme worth, to regard Him as uniquely and totally worthy. That’s what every human being owes to the Lord of heaven and earth, that we should know Him, reverence Him, stand in awe of Him, and give Him worship, which means literally “worthship.”
But according to Jesus (and here the full scope of what He claims for Himself becomes clear), it is the Father’s purpose that everyone should honor the Son, Jesus, even as they honor Him, the Father. That is, all the reverence, worship, devotion and obedience that we owe to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Lord of the universe, our Maker and Keeper and Savior, we owe in precisely the same way to Christ, His beloved Son, the One who has come among us to share our life in Jesus of Nazareth.
Suppose someone had risen in the crowd to object, “With my forefathers in Israel, I will continue to honor God, but I will not hear of this blasphemous presumption. I will not honor You, Jesus,” he says. “I’ll continue to worship as I always have, but I will never worship You.” It’s as though Jesus speaks now to that very objection. He says plainly that such a “worship” of God, in which He Himself would be rejected, is impossible. Listen: “He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.”
Do you remember the parable of the wicked husbandman? In that story Jesus told of a ruler who went away to a far country, having appointed servants to care for his estate. After a time, he sent representatives to receive of the fruits. These were insulted, beaten, and sometimes murdered. The king, in amazing patience and forbearance, endured all these rejections and then sent his own son, saying, “Surely they will reverence my son!” But the wicked tenants killed him also and flung his body aside.
It was a strange, tragic tale. These men were supposed to be the servants of the king, his stewards, the defenders of his interests, but their true attitude toward him came out in the way they treated his servants, and especially in the way they treated his son. Could any of them claim with integrity to be devoted to the king when they had dealt thus with his heir? And, as Jesus says here, if people refused to receive God’s Son, how can they claim to be His worshipers? If they do not love His well-beloved, how can they be said to care for Him?
What happened in the coming of Jesus was that the God whom people had claimed to worship suddenly appeared in their midst. The way in which people treated Jesus revealed the true attitude of their hearts toward God. According to Jesus, there is no knowing of God, no receiving Him, no believing in Him, no honoring Him without so knowing, receiving, believing and honoring the Son. God has put everything in the hands of His Son so that everyone may give Him glory. That is the Father’s purpose. As someone has put it, “God loves to hear people speak well of His Son.”
It’s important to recognize that this is the central, distinctive claim of the Christian faith. Fyodor Dostoyevsky, in his novel The Possessed, has one of his characters say, “The most pressing question in the problem of faith is whether a man as a civilized being, as a European, can believe at all, believe, that is, in the divinity of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, for therein rests, strictly speaking, the whole faith.” Exactly. That is the whole faith. Did God actually come among us in the person of Jesus? Is He the everlasting Word made flesh? Is He worthy, as one with the Father, of the total worship of our lives?
Now whether we accept it or not, there can be no doubt that this is Jesus’ claim. The New Testament records make that perfectly plain. And there can be no doubt that His enemies understood Him to be giving precisely this testimony. There is no other explanation for their bitter protest that He was a blasphemer.
Still today, this claim of Jesus gives offense. Multitudes of people in the world are willing to recognize Jesus as a good man, as a great teacher, even as a revealer of God. Where they stumble is at the absoluteness of His claim. A great religious leader of India speaks for many when he says, “In my religion there is room for Krishna, for Buddha, for Christ, and for Mohammed.” Such people are willing to admit Jesus to the pantheon of their deities but not to accord to Him a solitary throne. Yet that is the issue.
Christians are sometimes accused of intolerance when they present this claim of Jesus, as though this were to condemn other religions and their founders. They are sometimes considered arrogant when they assert Jesus’ exclusive claim. And this would certainly be a just criticism if they were claiming unique significance for their own opinions, insisting that their views alone are right. Believers in Christ, however, see the situation differently. For them it’s not a matter of intolerance or arrogance. To preach Christ as one with the Father and the only Savior is rather a matter of simple faithfulness. Christians are not sent into the world to proclaim a message of their own, to present their personal opinions on religious matters, but rather to bear witness to the One who has sent them. And, according to Him, no one can honor the one true God without honoring Jesus. We cannot worship God in spirit and in truth except as we worship also Christ. We cannot come to God, reach the Father’s house and the Father’s heart except through the incarnate Son.
Now Christians do not personally guarantee the truth of that, as though their intensity of belief somehow made it so. I’m not asking you today to believe in Jesus because of my words or because any other believer expresses these views. I simply invite you to consider Jesus Christ and His claim. Is He or is He not the Christ, the Son of the blessed? If He is not, then His enemies were right: He’s a dangerous blasphemer. If He’s not, then it were folly to believe Him, madness to follow Him. But if He is, then He deserves our total worship, our life-long obedience. If He is, then to know Him is to know God and to enter life eternal.
I cannot make that decision for you, nor can anyone else. His searching question is addressed to you personally, “Who do you say that I am?” Decide for yourself. My heart’s prayer for you is that in believing and honoring this Jesus, you may truly honor God.