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Life of Christ (1996-1998)

Father and Son

John 5

The most enduring mystery in Christianity is the Trinity (and we shall see some great attempts at solving it today). This lesson looks at the relationship between Jesus and God the Father. Here is the text, in John’s words:

(John 5 NIV) Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. {2} Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. {3} Here a great number of disabled people used to lie--the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. {4} {5} One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. {6} When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to get well?" {7} "Sir," the invalid replied, "I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me." {8} Then Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk." {9} At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, {10} and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, "It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat." {11} But he replied, "The man who made me well said to me, 'Pick up your mat and walk.'" {12} So they asked him, "Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?" {13} The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. {14} Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, "See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you." {15} The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. {16} So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. {17} Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working." {18} For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. {19} Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. {20} For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. {21} For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. {22} Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, {23} that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. {24} "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. {25} I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come 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 to have life in himself. {27} And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. {28} "Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice {29} and come out--those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. {30} By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me. {31} "If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid. {32} There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is valid. {33} "You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. {34} Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. {35} John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light. {36} "I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me. {37} And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, {38} nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. {39} You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, {40} yet you refuse to come to me to have life. {41} "I do not accept praise from men, {42} but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. {43} I have come in my Father's name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. {44} How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God ? {45} "But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. {46} If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. {47} But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?"

One of the most enduring aspects of fatherhood for me has been how I learned from my father. He had a magnificent roar to his lectures. Like most children, I quickly learned how to appear to be listening and then go on with life. His example, however, stayed with me for life. Most of my good fortune in raising children can be directly attributed to his example (which I followed).

This is the first principle in the relationship between Jesus and the Father[1]. "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does” It is this complete imitation of the Father which defines the relationship.

The Old Testament defined this long ago as applying to the Messiah (remember, Christ = Messiah = Anointed One):

(Psa 2 NIV) Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? {2} The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One. {3} "Let us break their chains," they say, "and throw off their fetters." {4} The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. {5} Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, {6} "I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill." {7} I will proclaim the decree of the LORD: He said to me, "You are my Son ; today I have become your Father. {8} Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. {9} You will rule them with an iron scepter ; you will dash them to pieces like pottery." {10} Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. {11} Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling. {12} Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

This passage is important in the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah because:

·         it shows that the Messiah will be identified as God’s son.

·         it clearly prophesies His rule over the nation.

We need to distinguish the two advents, of course, and to understand that this is poetry, of course, and neither stress nor exclude some of the hyperbole. Verse 7, for instance, tends to Arianism.

What do we really know, then, about the details of this relationship between Father and Son? There are a few points about which we can speak securely, understanding that to speak of God the Father is to speak about the one whom we cannot see or touch.

All authority in heaven and earth is given to the Son.

Authority, as we saw last week, proceeds from the Father. In the Great Commission[2]. Jesus tells it to his disciples this way:

(Mat 11:27 NIV) "All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Interpreting the Scriptures must be done carefully. There are at least two things which are not given to the Son, at least during his earthly ministry:

·         The hour of his return to earth is not known to him, nor is it set by him.[3]

·         The right to sit at his right hand or left hand is not given to him.[4]

The reason that such authority is given is fairly clear: the Son has come to do the will of the Father, hence the Father has given him the power and authority to do that will:

(John 6:38-40 NIV) For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. {39} And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. {40} For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."

Note, particularly, the last phrase; we shall see more of it later.

Explanations

One scholar put it simply: “ the Trinity is confessedly a great mystery.” No single explanation has yet satisfied all, and here I can but point out the approaches that appeal to me personally (there are many others):

The mystic approach. In this approach, reason is ignored for the most part, and the facts stated. John’s Gospel provides us the classic form:

(John 1:1-4 NIV) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. {2} He was with God in the beginning. {3} Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. {4} In him was life, and that life was the light of men.

This approach tells us everything, but explains nothing. Such is the way of the Scripture.

The Athanasian Creed. In the late fifth century the church searched for a way to teach the truth of the Trinity to its followers, most of whom could memorize words, but could not read. Basing themselves upon the heroic defense of the faith by Athanasius, they created the Athanasian Creed. (Athanasius was a better writer than the committee of bishops; but he was never asked to put his thoughts into a creed. More the pity). I quote it in full so that you may see just how difficult this is:

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold

the catholic [apostolic/universal] faith, which except everyone shall

have kept whole and undefiled, without doubt he will perish eternally.

Now the catholic faith is this: We worship One God in Trinity and

Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the Persons nor dividing the

substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son,

another of the Holy Spirit. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son,

and of the Holy Spirit, is One, the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal.

Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit; the

Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated; the

father infinite, the Son infinite, and the Holy Spirit infinite; the

Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal. And yet

not three eternals but one eternal, as also not three infinites, nor

three uncreated, but one uncreated, and one infinite. So, likewise, the

Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty; and

yet not three almighties but one almighty.

So the Father is God, the Son God, and the Holy Spirit God; and yet not

three Gods but one God. So the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the

Holy Spirit Lord; and yet not three Lords but one Lord. For like as we

are compelled by Christian truth to acknowledge every Person by Himself

to be both God and Lord; so are we forbidden by the catholic religion to

say, there be three Gods or three Lords.

The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten. The Son is of

the Father alone, not made nor created but begotten. The Holy Spirit is

of the Father and the Son, not made nor created nor begotten but

proceeding. So there is one Father not three Fathers, one Son not three

Sons, and Holy Spirit not three Holy Spirits. And in this Trinity there

is nothing before or after, nothing greater or less, but the whole three

Persons are coeternal together and coequal.

So that in all things, as is aforesaid, the trinity in Unity and the

Unity in Trinity is to be worshipped. He therefore who wills to be in a

state of salvation, let him think thus of the Trinity.

But it is necessary to eternal salvation that he also believe faithfully

the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. The right faith therefore is

that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God,

is God and Man.

He is God of the substance of the Father begotten before the worlds, and

He is man of the substance of His mother born in the world; perfect God,

perfect man subsisting of a reasoning soul and human flesh; equal to the

Father as touching His Godhead, inferior to the Father as touching His

Manhood.

Who although He be God and Man yet He is not two but one Christ; one

however not by conversion of the Godhead in the flesh, but by taking of

the Manhood in God; one altogether not by confusion of substance but by

unity of Person. For as the reasoning soul and flesh is one man, so God

and Man is one Christ.

Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again from the

dead, ascended into heaven, sits at the right hand of the Father, from

whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. At whose coming

all men shall rise again with their bodies and shall give account for

their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life

eternal, and they who indeed have done evil into eternal fire.

This is the catholic faith, which except a man shall have believed

faithfully and firmly he cannot be in a state of salvation.

The Trinity of creativity (Dorothy Sayers). As often mentioned, it is possible to see a book in three ways: in the mind of the writer; as physical text; as response in the reader. These three correspond (in sequence) to Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Extension to the Saints

One key point must be made here: the relationship between son and father extends to us. We are called the adopted children of God, joint heirs of the kingdom with Jesus. As such, the relationship between Son and Father applies in some ways to us. Jesus darkly hints at this:

(John 10:31-39 NIV) Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, {32} but Jesus said to them, "I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?" {33} "We are not stoning you for any of these," replied the Jews, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God." {34} Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your Law, 'I have said you are gods'? {35} If he called them 'gods,' to whom the word of God came--and the Scripture cannot be broken-- {36} what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, 'I am God's Son'? {37} Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. {38} But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father." {39} Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.

The thrust of his argument is that God has already promised us that we shall be “gods” -- in some sense, the argument is poetic. The fulfillment of this is at the Resurrection, of which Christ is first fruits.

It is not sufficient to look at this and declare that we will someday be like him. It is true, but not exhaustive. We are to be like him today; indeed, we are to act in his power:

(John 14:12-14 NIV) I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. {13} And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. {14} You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

You see the point? We will do (the “we” is the church) even greater things than he did in his earthly ministry. The reason for that is his relationship to the Father, which is what ours should be: to bring glory to God. We are God’s adopted children; we have that same relationship.

Two key attributes: life and judgment

In this passage Jesus makes specific reference to two key attributes which the Father has vested in him: life and judgment.

Life in Himself. The phrase is somewhat related to God’s essence: I AM. Interestingly, the word in the Greek here is the word for biological life, not spiritual life. It is the same word which is used in Acts to describe God’s creating power:

(Acts 17:25 NIV) And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.

The implication for us is clear: In our relationship to Jesus Christ lies our hope of the Resurrection.

Judgment to the Son. There is a point of justice in which the Father confides judgment to the Son. We in America believe that we must be convicted by “a jury of our peers.” The phrase is originally from England and refers to social class, but there is a truth in it. Until you have suffered like I have, who are you to tell me what I should or should not have done? Think of all that happened to Christ; he became fit to judge through it.

Note that “judge” is used in the Scripture as we would use it in both the civil and criminal sense. To judge may also mean to reward, as an honest judge would give justice to that persistent widow.[5] It also means that the criminal judge is there, most notably proclaimed in the parable of the sheep and the goats.[6]

Interestingly, the Resurrection and the Judgment are tied together inseparably. Paul tells the Greeks at Mars Hill this:

(Acts 17:31 NIV) For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead."

You see his argument? The Resurrection means that all will be raised -- and then the judgment, by one who knows how.

The application to us is interesting: the power of judgment is extended to the saints! Did you know that we will be judges?

First, Christ makes it clear that the Apostles will have a special role in judgment of the tribes of Israel:

(Mat 19:28 NIV) Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Likewise we, the saints, will judge the world:

(1 Cor 6:2-3 NIV) Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? {3} Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!

Paul’s argument in the last passage is that we should be able to handle our own disputes without a court -- if we are truly fit to judge the world and angels!

Witnesses

In this passage we see a good deal about “witnesses.” It is well that we state the “principle of the witness”: You will see what you are seeking to see. This is not necessarily bad -- it may mean only that your eyes are open. In particular,

·         If you are looking for God, you will recognize Jesus.[7]

·         If you deny Jesus, you deny God.[8]

Jesus cites three witnesses; in each there is a lesson for us.

Witness #1: John the Baptist. Note that John did no miracles. For us today, this would correspond to the witness that other Christians bring to us. Jesus cites three witnesses -- two are required in the law -- and throws the first one away! Why? He accepts no human testimony about Himself, knowing what is in each of us. But he cites it to give his hearers a chance to believe.

Lesson: we need no one else’s testimony about Jesus -- yet He will use that testimony to help us to salvation and deeper relationship.

Witness #2: his works. The argument is fairly simple: no one could do the things Jesus does unless he came from God. The analogy for us today is the work that Christ has done in each of our lives. Unlike the lives of others, what Christ has done for us cannot be concealed by a mask (though it can be ignored).

Lesson: sometimes we need to count our blessings to strengthen our faith!

Witness #3: the Scripture. One of the strongest arguments for the truth of the faith is the prophetic nature of the Old Testament, and its fulfillment in the New Testament. If you are looking for God through the eyes of the Old Testament, you will see him in the Christ of the New Testament.

Lesson: Scripture reading is essential -- to find, you must seek!


[1] The most explicit claim of being the Son of God, God in the flesh, is found in Matt 26:63-64.

[2] Matthew 28:18-20

[3] Mark 24:36

[4] Matthew 20:23

[5] Isaiah 2:4 shows this as the Old Testament conception

[6] Matthew 25:31-46

[7] John 7:16-17

[8] 1 John 2:22-24

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