[Oct 20]--Father and Son

John 5:16-23

            After his encounter with the former paralytic, Jesus’ clash with the religious leaders stepped up a notch. They couldn't have cared less about the healing. If you look again at yesterday’s passage, you might even notice a hint of their priorities in their questioning of the man by the pool: They didn’t ask him “Who healed you?” but “Who's this fellow who told you to pick up your mat and walk?"

            So they confronted Jesus and “persecuted him” in some way. This is just the first of many such disputes between our Lord and the alleged spiritual guardians of the people. We spent several days looking at what was wrong with the Pharisees last month (here if you missed it), so we won’t go into too much detail on that subject here. Instead, I’d like to focus a bit more on the relationship between Jesus and the Father. This passage offers a lot of insight into the subject.

            First off, hopefully this can help dispense with the silly notion which some people insist on advancing, namely that Jesus didn’t claim to be the Son of God in a unique way. There’s a sense in which all of us are “children of God” in the broadest possible meaning: He gives us life, he created us, he sustains us and provides for our needs. This is what Paul was referring to in his sermon in Athens when he affirmed that “we are his offspring.” And there’s another sense in which all people who have been redeemed by Christ’s blood are God’s children in a much more meaningful way. He's given us spiritual birth, and he's claimed us as his heirs.

            But this is not even close to what Jesus was talking about when he claimed to be God’s Son. How do we know this? Because of how his enemies took it, and how John took it. He called God his Father, not in the first sense and certainly not in the second sense. Neither of these meanings equate the “child” with God the Father himself. When Jesus called himself God’s Son, he meant that he was equal to God in every way. His enemies took him at his word, and tried to kill him for it. Jesus never questioned their interpretation of his claims, and John’s commentary makes it clear that they didn’t misunderstand his meaning.

            Second, this passage reveals a very interesting aspect of the Father’s and Son’s relationship with each other: Jesus only did what he saw his Father doing. As C. S. Lewis pointed out in Miracles, his miracles tended to be in miniature what the Father does everyday. Jesus multiplied fish and loaves; the Father does that every harvest season and spawning season. Jesus turned water into wine, while the Father does that on a large scale (and a much slower one) all the time. All healing ultimately comes from God, but most of the time he works through the natural processes which he wove into the cellular structure of our bodies. Jesus healed on a much smaller scale numerically, but was just doing what his Father does everyday, albeit in a faster and much more dramatic way (and of course healing people who could never have experienced it through natural means).

            Then he moves onto even more shocking claims. Jews who believed their Bible also believed that God would one day judge all mankind, past present and future, at the last Day. But here Jesus was proclaiming that the Father had handed all judgment over to himself.

            So what’s the point of all this? What was Jesus trying to say? What difference does this make to us? Among other things, it means that we need to take him at his word. He claimed to be God’s Son (and thus his equal), the Giver of life, and the One who will one day judge all humanity. He’s not Dear Abby. He’s the Lord Jesus Christ. Do you take his word seriously? Do I?

Lord Jesus, you are all these things and more. I take your word so lightly, so flippantly at times. Help me to trust and obey, please.

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