The Lord’s Offensive Claim (John 5:17-23)
By Andrew E. Courtis
When it comes to the identity of Jesus there has been much debate and controversy throughout history. At the time of His ministry there were many views and suggestions concerning who He was (cf. Matt. 16:13-16). Debates have raged throughout the centuries and even today people continue to hold to various understandings and views. Who is Jesus Christ? The Scriptures make plain that He is the eternal Son of God.
“In the beginning was the word, the word was with God and the word was God” (John 1:1) “Thomas answered Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’” (John 20:28) “Christ who is God over all” (Rom. 9:5) “our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13)
These are just a few references that provide this unmistakable truth. In John 5:17-23 we are going to see what Jesus had to say about Himself. In the remaining part of this chapter we will see The Lord’s Offensive Claim (John 5:17-23), The Lord’s Authoritative Command (John 5:24-29) and The Lord’s Identity Confirmed (John 5:30-47).
But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God (John 5:17-18).
Once the Jewish leaders made their conclusions of what Jesus was saying (“making Himself equal with God”), note that Jesus did not back down. In-fact, with clarity, command and conviction He provided an unmistakable claim to the fact that He is Divine. This claim was nothing more than offensive and blasphemous to ears of the religious leaders. This really leaves us with two conclusions concerning Jesus Christ. If He is not God, then He is a blasphemer. However, if He is God He is to be worshipped and obeyed. In this passage of Scripture we will hear from the very lips of the Lord Jesus Christ and hear the unmistakable evidence of His deity. This is His claim and for this reason this is authoritative and true.
Sermon Summary: In this message we will consider three points of evidence that confirm Christ’s claim to be equal with God.
1. EQUAL IN PURPOSE (John 5:19-20)
God has a Divine purpose. This purpose was formed in eternity past and nothing can get in the way of preventing it from coming to pass. The Lord Himself declares, “As I have planned, so shall it be,and as I have purposed, so shall it stand” (Isaiah 14:24) and “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose” (Isaiah 46:10). This purpose is actively carried out by the Lord’s doings. In verses 19-20, Jesus boldly declares that He shares in the carrying out of the Divine purpose because He and the Father are united. The first point of evidence Jesus provides to confirm His Deity is the reality that He is equal with the Father in purpose. That is to say, Jesus does not operate independently of the Father – what the Father does He does. Consider His response to the religious leaders, “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 the Father does, that the Son does likewise” (5:19). When it comes to the Divine purpose, the Father and Son are equal. The words, “the Son can do nothing of His own accord” are not intended to convey limited ability in Christ. But rather they reveal the unity the Son has with the Father. Jesus does not act independently or in competition with the Father. Why? He says at the end of the verse, “For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise”. This means that all His acts are Divine actions. Christ does all that the Father does and is therefore equal with the Father. This equality of purpose also occurs because of the Father’s love for the Son. He said, “For the Father loves the Son and shows Him all that He Himself is doing. And greater works than these will He show Him, so that you may marvel” (5:20). When we hear these words, let us be reminded that we are being exposed to the basis of why you and I can receive salvation from our sins. It is this love the Father has for the Son that makes salvation possible. Before the foundation of the world the Father has an eternal love for the Son. Resulting from this love was the provision of a gift to His Son. This gift is a chosen people that the Son was to redeem.
“Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24)
The fact that the Father loves the Son is very important for us. This is a very special love the Father has for the Son. Jesus is God because He is equal with the Father in purpose.
2. EQUAL IN POWER (John 5:21-22)
The second point of evidence Jesus provides to confirm His Deity is the reality that He is equal with the Father in power. This power is seen in His ability to raise the dead and to be the judge of all people. Power in Giving Life The illustration He uses here of the power of God is His ability to raise the dead. No human being has the ability to do this. This truly is a Divine act.
“See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me;I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand” (Deut. 32:39).
This text clearly states the exclusive nature of God’s Divine power and sovereignty. Though various individuals were used by God to raise the dead (1 Kings 17:17-24; 2 Kings 4:20-37; 2 Kings 13:21), it was God who granted this. When Jesus Christ raised the dead it was by means of His own power because He is God. The words, “so also the Son gives life to whom he will” could be understood to mean both physical and spiritual life. Power in being the Judge The Lord God is the “Judge of all the earth” (Gen. 18:25). So the fact that the Father “has given all judgment to the Son” reveals that Jesus is God. We are told of the coming day “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thess. 1:7b-8). The Lord Jesus Christ is equal with the Father in power.
3. EQUAL IN PROMINENCE (John 5:23)
The third point of evidence Jesus provides to confirm His Deity is the reality that He is equal with the Father in prominence.
“I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols” (Isaiah 42:8).
Let us be clear. Any religion or belief system that does not give the rightful prominence of worship, adoration and honour is nothing more than Satanic lies. CONCLUSION Because Jesus Christ is God, this means there are some important implications. Firstly, what He says He came to do is indeed true and necessary for us to embrace. Secondly, He is to be adored and worshipped because He is God. He is the Sovereign Saviour
“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21) “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10)
Jesus made it very clear when He said to His disciples, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). He is Worthy of Worship In the Scriptures, the concept of worship carries the idea of serving God by means of an attitude of fear and adoration. What is worship? Worship for the believer is the act of recognizing God’s worth and responding to that in service to Him. Worship is to be exclusively offered unto the Lord (Exodus 20:3; Deut. 5:7; 6:13; Matt. 4:10; Luke 4:8; Acts 10:26; 14:15; Col. 2:18; Rev. 19:10; 22:8). Concerning Jesus Christ we read,
“who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 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” (Phil. 2:6-11)