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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Title:Jesus wants you to understand who he is in relation to the Father
Text:John 5:19-24 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God The Son

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 47

Psalm 81:7-9 (after the law)

Psalm 25:1-3

Hymn 68:1-4

Hymn 68:5-8

Scripture reading: 1 Samuel 2:1-10

Text: John 5:19-24

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of Christ,

Over the years, I’ve had online conversations with unbelievers about various topics.   In one of these recent conversations we were discussing same-sex marriage and a man wrote, “If Jesus knew all the things that were being said in his name, he would be disgusted.”  This person seemed to be quite confident that he knew what Jesus would think about same-sex marriage.  He just knew Jesus would be supportive of homosexuals getting married.  I asked him, “How did you reach the conclusion that Jesus would be disgusted with the Christians arguing against this?”  Unfortunately, as often happens in these online discussions, I didn’t get an answer.

You see, there are people who think they know Jesus, who he is, and what he stands for.  They think Jesus was simply a prophet for love and tolerance.  He was like a Jewish Gandhi or Martin Luther King.  Jesus was just about affirming everybody and making everyone feel good about themselves.  According to that view, if Jesus were alive today, he would be a pro-homosexual activist.  Let’s call this what it is:  wishful thinking. 

Rather than wishing a certain type of Jesus into existence, we’re to listen to how he is revealed in the Bible.  Because what’s in the Bible is reality.  If we’re paying attention, Jesus reveals himself in the Bible for who he really is.  If we’re taking the Bible seriously as inspired revelation, we discover who Jesus is and how he regards all kinds of matters, including marriage.  We learn who Jesus is and what he stands for by digging into the Scriptures, not through wishful thinking.

Today we’re going to dig into the Scriptures again.  In our text this morning, the issue at stake is the identity of Jesus.  Specifically, Christ is addressing the question of who he is in relation to the Father.  Here in John 5, Jesus wants you to understand who he is in relation to the Father.  That’s our theme.  We’ll see that he is the Son and as such he:

  1. Reveals the Father
  2. Raises the dead
  3. Receives the call to judge
  4. Is to be respected just as the Father

Earlier in chapter 5, there was the disabled man at the pool of Bethesda.  Christ healed that man on the Sabbath and that got the attention of the Jewish religious leaders.  They believed that he had broken the Sabbath.  But Christ replied to them and said that his Father worked on the Sabbath, and so he did too.  When he said that, he was clearly implying that he was God’s Son.  He was implying that he was equal with God.  He was claiming divinity for himself.  That stoked the fires of hatred in the Jewish religious leadership even more.  In their view, Jesus would have to be put to death for making these kinds of claims.  They considered these kinds of claims to be blasphemous.  No human being should claim to be God.  Those religious leaders didn’t understand who Jesus was, nor did they want to. 

Now in verse 19, Christ continues his response to those religious leaders who don’t get who he is.  He opens with the solemn affirmation, “Truly, truly…”  He said that when he spoke with Nicodemus back in chapter 3, too.  Literally, he says, “Amen, amen…”  It means, “Take me seriously here.  I’m not mucking around.”  Then he launches into an explanation of who he is in relation to the Father.

He is the Son.  As the Son, he cannot and does not act on his own initiative.  The Son of God is not a lone ranger, the one who goes it alone.  Instead, he takes his cue from what he sees the Father doing.  That means the Son has access to what the Father does.  He knows things about the Father that no one else does.  He has an intimate relationship with his Father which allows him intimate access to the Father’s ways.  Verse 20 says that the basis of this intimate relationship is the constant love that the Father has for his Son.  It’s a perfect unending love and therefore there’s complete openness and complete understanding.  Jesus completely understands his Father and what he does and wants to do as he does.  As a result, whatever the Father does, the Son does too.  The Son imitates the Father.  Thus, when you watch what the Son is doing, you’re seeing a revelation of what the Father does.  You’re seeing a revelation of who the Father is. 

So when you see Christ healing a disabled man at the pool of Bethesda and you see his mercy for the helpless, you’re seeing the heart of the Father.  You’re seeing his compassion for the broken.  When Christ healed the official’s son at the end of chapter 4, that deed reflected the Father’s power and willingness to heal.  When Christ went to Samaria earlier in chapter 4 and brought the gospel to those people, that revealed the Father’s concern for the salvation of more than just the Jews.  The Father is concerned for Samaritans too.  Anytime you see Jesus doing anything, anywhere in the Scriptures, in some way he is also revealing the Father as well.  If you want to know what God is like, then look at Jesus in the Scriptures, who he is, and what he does.  There’s no need to dream up your own ideas of what God is like – just go to the Bible and study Jesus.  The Son reveals the Father.    

Realizing that makes us see that you can’t drive a wedge between the Son and the Father.  They’re distinct persons, but not separate persons.  They are intimately related.  Whatever the Son does reflects who the Father is.  Whatever the Father says or does is what the Son would say and do.  That has practical implications.  One would be a warning against pitting the teachings of the Old Testament against the New Testament.  There are those who argue that the God of the Old Testament was cranky and overly strict, wrathful and judgmental.  He gave all these laws that were heavy-handed and unreasonable.  Then Jesus comes and he’s completely different.  He’s loving and kind, he’s tolerant, and he more or less replaces the Old Testament God.  This is completely wrong.  God does not change.  He is immutable.  Immutable means he does not change.  Who he was 4000 years ago is who he still is today.   Jesus reveals the Father, but he does not change anything about the previous revelation from the Father.  So, for instance, God’s moral standards reflect his holy nature and character.  By moral standards, we’re referring to the norms established by God at creation – we’re not referring to the ceremonial or civil laws given to Israel.  The moral standards revealed in the Old Testament regarding marriage and sexuality, for instance, they don’t change.  When Jesus comes, he doesn’t change them.  Instead, he reveals the Father as the unchanging God by reaffirming those moral standards.  For example, in Matthew 19, he reaffirms marriage as a lifelong relationship between a man and a woman based on creation.  In his teaching there, he was revealing the Father’s unchanging holy character.  So, loved ones, don’t ever fall for the idea that Jesus contradicts or overturns the moral teachings of God’s Word.  Because he is the Son, he will consistently reveal the unchanging Father.        

At the end of verse 20, Christ speaks about greater works that are coming.  These are works that will leave people in amazement.  What are these greater works?  The answer comes in verse 21:  it has to do with the raising of the dead and with the giving of life. 

The Jews believed that resurrection was something only God could do.  They believed that on the basis of what was revealed in the Old Testament.  It was in passages like the one we read from 1 Samuel 2.  Hannah spoke truth when she said in verse 6, “The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up.”  That’s what God does.  He has the power to raise the dead.  That claim was generally uncontroversial within Judaism.  It’s true the Sadducees denied a coming resurrection, but their view was considered to be unorthodox by many, and especially by the Pharisees. 

What Jesus went on to say in verse 21 would have been just as unacceptable.  He said that the Son is also going to raise the dead and give life.  In a limited way, this is pointing ahead to what’s going to happen later in John’s gospel when Christ raises Lazarus from the dead.  But in a fuller way, this is pointing ahead to what happens at the end of the age.  At the end of the age, when Christ returns, the dead will hear his voice and come back to life.  Every dead body ever lowered into a grave will be miraculously reconstituted and reunited with the soul to which it belongs.  Even the dead bodies that were never able to be buried will be reconstituted.   You can think of people who died on ships that sunk, or people who were vaporized in exploding plane crashes.  All their bodies too will be reconstituted, brought back into existence as whole human beings.  The Son is the one who does this.  He does this with whomever he wills.  God has given him the right to do this.  The Son is able to do what the Father does. 

In saying these things, Christ was again implying that he was not only the Son of God, but as the Son of God, he was God himself come in the flesh.  That would not have escaped the notice of the Jewish religious leaders.  They would have picked up on that right away.  When Jesus said this, he knew that full well.  He knew that saying this was not only putting the truth out there, but also putting truth out there that would get him killed.   Jesus could have left these things alone -- could have said nothing.  Or he could have lied, or he could have made things more ambiguous.  But he shot straight and left no misconceptions.  You have to ask yourself why.  The answer is he did it for our salvation.  He did it to reveal God’s love for us.  Jesus knew that in saying these things he was preparing his own way to the cross.  But he didn’t hold back.  He didn’t hold back and in that he shows his love for us, his willingness to suffer and die for us, but he also reveals the love of the Father for us.  The Father sent his Son to do these things.  So brothers and sisters, we can be encouraged by Christ’s boldness here, not only because it reveals his love for us, but also because it reveals the Father’s love for us. 

Out of love, he spoke the truth, even though he knew what it would cost him.  Let that sink in.  If we’re united to Christ, shouldn’t we reflect him in this?  If you are joined to Christ in faith and with his Holy Spirit, then he’s the vine, and we’re the branches.  We’re to bear the fruit that he bore.  He spoke the truth out of love with no thought to the cost.  We too will speak the truth in love, even when we know that it may cost us dearly.  In our current situation, we ought to be driven by the conviction that God’s standards are the best.  We ought to be convinced that to stand up for God’s standards is the most loving thing we can do for our neighbours.  Listen:  God’s standards are not only true and good for us, but for others too.  There may be a cost to standing up and speaking the truth in love, but again we look to our Saviour and we take courage from him, we find our strength in him, we follow his path, and pray for his blessing.

Our Lord Jesus adds further fuel to the fire in verse 22.  As with raising the dead, the Jews considered judgment to be something reserved for God.  On the basis of the Old Testament, they believed that God would be the judge of all human beings.  It’s the clear teaching of the prophets.  The prophets proclaimed God as the Judge, not only of his people, but also of the nations.  You could think of the prophet Jonah, sent to warn Nineveh in Assyria of God’s coming judgment on them.  Now Jesus says something shocking:  the Father actually judges no one himself, but has entrusted judgment to the Son.  That’s shocking because one of two things must be true:  either the Old Testament was wrong about God being the judge of all human beings, or Jesus is divine.  It has to be one or the other.  Is the Bible wrong or is Jesus God?  Since the Jews couldn’t accept the Bible being wrong, they would have to reject what Jesus says here about himself.  They couldn’t accept that he would be given the call to judge. 

As Christians we confess that Christ is returning to judge the living and the dead.  We confess that every Sunday with the Apostles’ Creed, just as the church has for centuries.  We affirm that Christ was speaking the truth here in John 5:22.  He will judge.  Jesus is God and, as such, he has the right and the ability to judge.  And so he will. 

We need to unpack that.  We need to look at that a little more because of these wrong ideas about Jesus that circulate today.  Ideas like, “Jesus would be disgusted at those arguing against homosexual marriage.”  Ideas like, “Jesus doesn’t judge, he accepts and tolerates everybody so long as there’s love.”  Seen in the light of the Bible these ideas are wrong.  Not just a little wrong, but big time wrong.

All judgment has been given to the Son.  There will be a public judgment at the end of the age, when Christ returns.  As we confess, Christ will return to judge the living and dead.  We don’t know when.  But when he does, the living are called before his judgment seat as they are.  The dead are raised first and then called to face his judgment.  So that takes care of the when and the who.  When:  at the end of the age.  Who:  all human beings who have ever lived.  All will be judged by the Son. 

Notice that he judges.  That means he makes a determination as to guilt or righteousness.  Some are going to be found guilty, and others will be determined to be righteous.   By its very nature, this judgment means that Jesus is not tolerating and accepting of everyone’s lifestyle choices.  There are many choices that will be publicly condemned and shown to be worthy of the harshest punishment imaginable.

One of the most important questions to ask about his judgment is the standard by which he will judge.  That standard is simply God’s moral law, as summarized in the Ten Commandments. Christ doesn’t judge according to an arbitrary or invented standard.  Jesus won’t judge based on something he’s made up on the spot, but on the basis of God’s law, God’s standards which reflect who he is in his very nature.  Because he is God, Christ knows the moral law intimately, and thus he will be able to judge justly.  Because he is God, Christ also knows every detail of every person who will be before him, and that means again he is qualified to judge justly.  Human judges can make mistakes in law.  They’re supposed to be experts in the law, but they’re still fallible.  Human judges may be missing certain details of the cases that are before them – human judges aren’t omniscient, or all-knowing.  But Jesus, because he is God, he is infallible in his knowledge of the law and all-knowing when it comes to those to be judged. 

Now this is Jesus the Son of God as revealed in the Scriptures.  This is not the Jesus of wishful thinking.  This is not Jesus the mythical rainbow warrior.  This is the true Jesus who stands in judgment at the end of the age over all rebellion and treason against God.  This is a Jesus who is rightly to be honoured and respected. 

So he will be, according to verse 23.  The Son will be honoured, just as the Father is honoured.  That will take place, for sure, at the last day when there’s judgment.  Scripture says in places like Philippians 2:13 that the day is coming when every knee shall bow to Jesus.  Those who have loved him and believed in him won’t have to be forced to their knees.  But the unbelievers will be on their knees too, they won’t have a choice.  His majesty will bring them to their knees in fear.  So loved ones, when you face the mockery of unbelievers today, take a look at their knees.  Just look at their knees and remind yourself that someday those knees are going to be hitting the ground before Jesus.  He will get honour, even from those mockers.  Every knee will bow.  That lies in the future.

The end part of verse 23 takes us back to the present.  At the present moment, as Jesus is speaking, he tells his listeners that if they don’t honour him, they don’t honour the Father.  Again, that’s directly connected to the fact that he was sent by the Father, and he reveals the Father.  If you slap Jesus in the face, you’re slapping the Father in the face.  If you refuse to listen to the Son, you’re refusing to listen to the Father who sent him.  The two are inseparable. 

Then the question:  how do you respect and honour the Son?  That’s laid out in verse 24.  Just as Jesus began this section with a solemn affirmation, so he also ends it with the solemn affirmation “Truly, truly,” or “Amen, amen.”  Take him seriously here.  If you listen to what Jesus has to say and believe in the one who sent him, you have eternal life.  In other words, if you believe the gospel message, you have the life that lasts forever.  You have eternal life as a present reality.  For the Christian, eternal life is not just something for the future, it’s now.  You’re already alive for eternity, alive spiritually speaking.  You will never experience spiritual death, never experience hell and damnation.  If you believe that Jesus is the one sent by the Father to be your substitute, to offer your obedience and make your payment, you are alive eternally right now.  Yes, unless Christ returns first, you’ll still have to face death, but your death is not a dead-end.  It’s also not a transition from misery in this world to more misery in the next.  Instead, your death as Christian is a doorway to even more blessedness, a closer relationship with God, a glorified existence with no sin.  The death of a Christian is the doorway to an eternity spent in sinless praise of God, living in loving, delightful communion with Christ.  Implied in Christ’s words here in verse 24 is the call to hear his words and believe in the Father who sent him.  The call is here for all of us again to believe the gospel message.  Believe that these things are true not just about other people, but for each of us personally.  Brothers and sisters, be sure that you are hearing the words of the Son and believing in the one who sent him.  If you do, you can be sure that you have eternal life.

If you honour the Son by doing what he says, by believing, then you won’t come into judgment.  What that means is that, at the last day, when Christ returns to judge the living and the dead, you will have nothing to fear.  When the sky cracks and the Son comes for judgment, your heart will leap for joy.  It’ll be the day you’ve prayed and waited for.  You know that the Son who is the Judge is your Redeemer, your friend, your brother.  You know that you’re a sinner and you’ve rebelled and transgressed in every way, but he took the penalty for you.  You know that Jesus offered up a life of perfect obedience and fulfilled the law in your place.  When your name gets read off at the last judgment, you have absolute 100% confidence that the public verdict is going to be, “Righteous – this one was judged righteous because of what I did in his or her place.”  You will not come into judgment!  In other words, you will not be judged adversely.  The judgment will be in your favour, because through Christ you have already passed from death to life.  Through him, you’ve been reconciled to God not just for a moment, but for all eternity.  That’s what the gospel promises.  That’s what you need to continue to cling to as your only hope in life and death. 

Sadly, the world in which we live wants a Jesus who can be molded to fit human agendas.  But they refuse to accept him as he is, to accept him as he’s revealed in the Scriptures.  But loved ones, we’re Christians and so we take the Bible at face value.  We believe it’s revelation from God and it includes who our Saviour is.  From that revelation, we get so much encouragement and comfort.  We get hope and direction.  By God’s grace, let’s continue to fix our eyes on Christ as he’s revealed in Scripture and let’s also hold him out to others who are still in desperate need of him.  AMEN. 


Our Lord and Saviour,

Thank you for not keeping us in the dark about your identity.  We hear your Words in our text, and we see you for who you are.  It encourages us to know how you reveal the Father to us.  In you, we see the love and compassion of the Father.  In you, we see the mercy and patience of the Father.  We worship you, Lord.  We also thank you that came to deliver us and bring us over from death to life.  Thank you that believing in you, we need not fear your judgment at the last day.  Please give us all your Holy Spirit so that we do place our trust in your work on our behalf.  Please help us in this dark world to represent you well.  There are so many false and misleading messages about you.  Please give us strength to correct those messages humbly.  Help us to stand fast on your Word and for your Word.


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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