John 5:19 Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, 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, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. 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. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.
John 5:24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. 25 Very truly I tell you, 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 also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
Previously we have noted that John’s gospel often has a ‘sign’ or ‘miraculous event,’ resulting in some controversy and extended dialogue; all of which serve to reveal Jesus as God’s unique Son and Messiah. And so here, the healing of the paralysed man results in a sabbath controversy which now serves to further unveil Jesus’ true nature and mission. In particular, this section describes Jesus’ relationship with God the Father.
Jesus is uniquely God’s Son in a way that all mankind who are made in God’s image are not (Gen 1:26-27, ref Gen 5:1-3). Jesus acts only in dependance on his Father. He sees the Father’s work, shares in it, and displays this work to the world in his own actions (v19). This Father-Son relationship is founded on love. In verse 20 we read, “The Father φιλεῖ the Son…” Here is an example where God’s love is not described as agape but philo. That is to say that the Father’s love for his Son has a filial quality to it; an affection that is shared and among equals. No doubt Scripture frequently affirms that God expresses agape love that is selfless and holy, but here God’s love for his Son also has a filial quality to it.
Flowing from this love, the Father entrusts his own prerogatives to his Son. Just as the Father raises the dead to life, so his Son also has this authority. Just as the Father has the right to judge his creation, so also this authority is entrusted to his Son.
In verses 24-27 the result of hearing and receiving Jesus’ testimony is kingdom life such that the believer has crossed over from death to life. That phrase ‘has crossed over’ is in the perfect tense, referring to a singular event in time that has enduring consequences. The Rubicon has been crossed. There is no turning back. The reversal is complete: life not death!
Notice here that Jesus defines “eternal life” in terms of escape from death. Eternal life is a reality that directly opposes and defeats the very real condition we know as death. As such, eternal life is not merely some ethereal or spiritualised notion of ‘niceness’. It is dynamic and vibrant, potent and transformative: death is swallowed up in life.
Lord Jesus Christ, I praise you because you are the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. I marvel that all things were created in you: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through you and for you. You are before all things, and in you all things hold together. Amen. (See Col 1:15-20)