I’ve heard that saying used many times. Have you? “Like father, like son.” Most of the time the person saying it was pointing out a character trait or fault that a son demonstrated, indicating that he must have inherited it from his father. A similar saying is, “You’re just like your father!” In my own case, it was my mother who was usually the one saying it to me. I almost always took it as a compliment because I wanted to be like my dad. He was a character at times, playing pranks on my mother! And, of course, I was always ready to be of service to him if he could use my help!
I’ve also heard the phrase “Like mother, like daughter”, and it was usually said as a compliment. Those sayings, or something equivalent to them, go back many centuries in history. My favorite one is “A chip off the old block”. I guess it’s all part of the “family resemblance” that sets us apart from other families. Like it or not, know it or not, family members have a tendency to “rub off” on one another, and people who have been around us for a while notice those resemblances, and they are often much more than just “skin-deep”,
In John 5:17, the Lord Jesus made the statement: “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” The Jews correctly assumed that Jesus was claiming to be God. Throughout the rest of the chapter (verses 19-47), the Lord Jesus goes into much greater detail to explain and add further proof of His deity. Jesus claims equality with God in seven areas and we are going to look at two of them in this study.
I. EQUAL IN WORKING (verse 19)
In the midst of their angry words and threats, the Lord Jesus begins His explanation of His relationship to God the Father by swearing an oath to them. “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, those things the Son also does in like manner.” By using the Greek and Hebrew words “amein, amein” (or amen, amen), Jesus is saying that what He is about to tell them is first-hand information. He is claiming that He knows these things directly, by personal experience, and therefore they are true.
The Bible is full of examples of God’s power and might. Those examples are often called miracles. Dynamis is the Greek word for power, might, or strength. The word is found 118 times in the New Testament, usually in conjunction with the performance of miracles by Jesus. How many times do you think the word “dynamis” is found in the Gospel of John? If you guessed “zero”, you would be correct. In the whole Gospel of John, all 21 chapters, there is not even one mention of that word. Instead, we find the repeated use of the Greek word “dynatai” which means “powerless”. That is a new insight for me personally. I did not know that previously.
Do you ever feel powerless to please God, powerless to serve God? If not, you should, because you are! As human beings, we are all powerless to do God’s will and God’s work by our own enabling. To disagree with that statement would be to consider oneself as being better and greater than the Lord Jesus Christ. He was a perfect, sinless Man, but He was still a man. In His case He had both a human and a divine nature. In the literal Greek text, Jesus is saying, “Cannot the Son do for Himself anything except what He sees the Father doing.” The word “cannot” is the Greek word “dynatai” (powerless). In other words, Jesus is watching as the Father does the miracle through Him. By saying those words to his accusers, He is telling them that they are actually blaming the Father for doing those miracles on the Sabbath day. Jesus is just doing the will of the Father by the power of the Father. This information is going beyond the capability of our human understanding to comprehend completely. The following true illustration will give us another person’s perspective.
Daniel Webster, the 19th century statesman, once dined in Boston with some influential people. Soon the conversation turned to Christianity. Webster, a convinced Christian, confessed his belief in Jesus Christ and His atoning work. A Unitarian minister asked, “Mr. Webster, can you comprehend how Jesus Christ could be both God and man?”
“No sir, I cannot understand it:, replied Webster, “and I would be ashamed to acknowledge Christ as my Savior if I could understand it. He could be no greater than myself.”
In my Bible, verse 19 ends with the words “in like manner”. In verse 17, when Jesus said “My Father is working until now, and I am working”, the Jews thought that Jesus was saying that He was working independently of the Father, when actually the reverse was true. Jesus was equal to the Father in nature as God, but dependent upon the Father in His human nature as a man. Jesus’ equality with God was also demonstrated by His working together with the Father in perfect harmony. This is one of the great mysteries of the Bible – how Jesus Christ can be fully God and fully man, and be able to function in both capacities without compromising either of them. Are you still with me? That was a difficult sentence to formulate! I hope it helps you realize the need for Jesus’ total dependence upon the Father in order to do the works of God.
In Psalm 40:7-8, king David says, “Behold, I come; In the scroll of the book it is written of me; I delight to do Thy will, O my God; Thy Law is within my heart.” I believe that David is speaking prophetically in those verses because the author of Hebrews twice quotes those words almost exactly when referring to Jesus. Hebrews 10:7 says, “Behold, I have come (In the scroll of the book it is written of me) to do Thy will, O God.” Then again, in verse 9, “Behold, I have come to do Thy will.” And Jesus did just that. In His prayer to the Father in John 17, Jesus said in verse 4, “I glorified Thee on earth, having accomplished the work which Thou hast given Me to do.”
May that be our goal in life: to accomplish the work that God has given each of us to do.
II. EQUAL IN KNOWING (verse 20)
Verse 20 reads: “For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing, and even greater works than these will He show Him, that you may marvel.” Jesus points out that His knowledge of the Father is by-far superior to theirs. It is a knowledge that only the Son of God could have. God had concealed many things from Jesus’ accusers. There are mysteries in the Bible that we don’t understand – things beyond our human comprehension. We are also given a limited knowledge of God’s working throughout history and the details of our future. But Jesus is saying that God the Father has withheld nothing from Him. Then Jesus continues by saying “greater works than these will He show Him, that you may marvel.” We’ll see what He means in the next verse of Scripture. A person’s knowledge gives him authority and earns him respect if that knowledge is used properly. I think that Jesus is communicating to them that, because He has the knowledge that belongs only to God, He should be acknowledged as God and worshipped as God as a result.
As we look at the Father’s motive for giving this knowledge to Jesus, you might agree with me that the first part of verse 20 may be an even stronger evidence that Jesus Christ is God. The verse begins with the words “For the Father loves the Son”. The Greek word for “loves” is “phileo”. It speaks of family-love, or love for an intimate friend. It is this special, Fatherly love that motivated God the Father to reveal all things to His Son. The more scholarly Jews, versed in the writings of the Law and the Prophets, should have realized the similarity of Jesus’ words to the prophecy written down by Isaiah in Isaiah 42:1. It reads: “Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put my spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations.” It’s a prophesy concerning the Messiah.
What does the Father say about His Son in the New Testament? At Jesus’ baptism, the Father spoke aloud from the heavens introducing the world to His Son by saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” (Mt. 3:17; Mk. 1:11; Lk. 3:22). The Father speaks one more time from the cloud on the mount of transfiguration, saying to Peter, James, and John, This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” (Mt. 17:5; Mk. 9:7; Lk. 9:35 ). The Lord Jesus was the Father’s delight and source of Fatherly admiration and pleasure. This has been true from all eternity. What a testimony to the deity of Christ, coming from His own Father!
Tying all those verses and their meanings together, I like the beautiful summary-statement that John Piper makes. “He is well-pleased with His Son. His soul delights in the Son. When He looks at His Son, He enjoys and admires and cherishes and prizes and relishes what He sees.”
Let’s see if we can gain a perspective on the Son’s helplessness as a Man to do the works of God, having to rely totally on the Father’s enabling for everything that He did; and the Loving heavenly Father working together with His Son to accomplish their work together. Have you ever wondered what that must have been like for Jesus to have been totally dependent upon His Father during His entire life on this earth? I’ve been looking for some basis of comparison here in the United States of America, and I think I may have found it. We live in the first generation that has electronic media at their fingertips 24/7. According to the Pew Research Center, 90% of Americans own a phone. 67% of cell owners find themselves checking their phone for messages, alerts, or calls – even when they don’t notice their phones ringing or vibrating. Studies have talked about all the things we choose to use our cell phones and smart phones to do for us: such as scheduling meetings, finding places to eat, things to do, checking scores of sporting events, surfing the web, talking, texting, gaming, social media, and the list goes on. Adding up all the ways these phones are being used, based on surveys, one internet trends report said that the average person checks their phone 150 times a day. Add to this the personal use of desktop computers, laptops, notebooks, blue-tooths, etc.
My purpose is not to be judgmental but to cause us to see how dependent many of us are upon our phones and computers. We’ve made choices in our use of them, and now many of us are so dependent on them that we don’t see how we can live without them.
When we look at what Jesus says about His total dependence on the Father, we realize that His words have been verified by the choices He has made throughout His own life. How did the Lord Jesus spent His time on this earth? We find in the Scriptures that Jesus spent much time in prayer and the study of the Scriptures. He also spent a lot of time teaching the apostles, witnessing to the lost, and serving the needs of people. He did all those things because that’s what the Father wanted Him to do and empowered him to do; and that’s what brought Him joy and personal satisfaction.
I hope that you believe that Jesus Christ is God. If so, I hope that you’ve responded by committing yourself to Him as your God, your Lord and Ruler, letting Him take charge of your life from moment-to-moment until you see Him face-to-face.
As Christians, we are dependents, and we will never outgrow that dependency during our lifetimes on this earth. We are part of His family and He has claimed us as his children. By His enabling, let’s do the will of Him who adopted us, lovingly depending upon Him to do what He wants to accomplish in our lives because of His great love for us.
May our lives and the use of our time reflect the priorities of Christ, and may our motives reflect the love of Christ.
CONSTRUCTION SITE COMPLETED
I’ll see you at the next construction site. The Lord Jesus has much more to tell us about His deity.