John 5:19–47: The Authority of Jesus
Although Jesus’ healing on the Sabbath brought about his persecution by the Jewish religious leaders (John 5:16), Jesus has nothing more to say about the Sabbath beyond the words he uttered in John 5:17: “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” In the discourse in John 5:19–47, then, Jesus’ primary intention is not to develop a theology of the Sabbath, but to explain what he meant by his Sabbath defense in John 5:17—that is, Jesus here reveals the nature of his relationship to God the Father. Healing on the Sabbath was important, but not ultimate. Instead, Jesus healed on the Sabbath to illustrate and to announce the “greater works” (John 5:20) that the Father has sent him to accomplish. In this discourse, Jesus builds upon his statement in John 5:17, defining, expanding upon, and defending the idea that he works with his Father as a Son. Through this discourse, Jesus declares that the incarnate Son builds his kingdom by his word.
1. Orthodox Christianity confesses that Jesus is fully divine and fully human. As the Son of God (that is, in the form of God), he is fully equal with the Father, but in his humanity (that is, in the form of a servant), he is obedient and submissive to his Father in heaven. How does this principle help us to understand what Jesus teaches about his relationship to the Father in this passage? Why is it so critical to avoid making God the Son, in his divinity, inferior to the Father? Why is it so critical to recognize the way that Jesus Christ, in his humanity, is inferior, subordinate, and submissive to the Father?
2. Explain the nature of Christ’s reign as king over his church through his word. What does that mean in regard to the authority of pastors and elders in the church? What does that tell us about church discipline?
3. How are the quickening of the spiritually dead connected to the resurrection of the physically dead? In light of the fact that our ultimate resurrection is still to come, what can we expect in the way of ongoing sin in our lives? What can we expect about our sin, our bodies, and our minds after we are resurrected?
4. When Jesus summons the witnesses who will give testimony about himself, what do we learn about the relationship between the Scriptures and Jesus? How does that inform the way that we read the Old Testament? How does this inform the way that we read the New Testament? Is it possible to make an idol out of the Bible? How do we ensure that the Bible directs us to Christ and does not become an end in itself?