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"No Waiting: Eternal Life starts TODAY!"

May 17, 2015 Jn.5:19-30


Power and authority are big items. In a secular naturalistic worldview, where chance and matter are the key operatives, getting power and exercising authority over others are things highly sought after when an absolute basis for ethics goes out the window. Might overtakes right. "Big fish eat little fish"; the prize becomes getting to the top of the hill, nobody wants to be an underdog.

Much in the world today might cause us to wonder if people are fit to be entrusted with power or authority over others. Much damage can result when power is abused. Lust for power can put a person in a very negative position when improperly handled because of the huge responsibility. Thomas Jefferson, one of the U.S.founding fathers, who must have thought about such dynamics considerably in breaking from England and establishing a new nation, admitted: "I have never been able to conceive how any rational being could propose happiness to himself from the exercise of power over others."

We see instances of grief caused by sloppy or downright malevolent use of power. On Wednesday an Amtrak train carrying 243 people travelling from Washington DC to New York derailed on a curve near Philadelphia, killing 8 people and injuring over 200. It was travelling 106 mph when it entered a curve with a speed limit of 50 mph. Power is lethal when not kept within limits.

On Monday, the United Nations Human Rights Council expressed widespread concern over excessive use of force by American law-enforcement officials against minorities - the "police brutality" stories we've been hearing about. VOANews reports, "One person presented testimony on the sidelines of the meeting about the suffering he said he and his family endured following the fatal police shooting of his sister.An off-duty Chicago police officer fatally shot Martinez Sutton's sister, Rekia Boyd, on March 21, 2012, while she was in a park with friends.The police officer who shot Boyd was acquitted three weeks ago in what civil rights lawyers call a flawed trial.Sutton told VOA he does not expect that anything will change following the uproar over Michael Brown or Freddie Gray...'I do not expect them to do anything because - I mean: Let us be real, it has been going on for years and what has been done? As I stated before, they say the guilty should be punished.I want them to show us instead of tell us,' said Sutton."

In the H2O: A Journey of Faith video series, Kyle Idleman tells of a time he turned off the expressway to get gas. Coming off the exit ramp, he was halted at a stoplight for an unreasonably long time. It was late at night and there was no other traffic around. Eventually he crossed the intersection and was immediately pulled over by police. A nearby gas station attendant later confirmed to Kyle that it was very deliberate, the officers having nothing more exciting to do than set the stoplight for 5 minutes precisely in order to trap folks like Idleman! Such an abuse of authority rankles.

But then, we're not always very good ourselves at managing authority. In our everyday relationships we may find ourselves pressuring, manipulating, coercing (even ever so subtly!) to get our own way. Admit it - you know how to "push the buttons" of others in your family pretty well! In the schoolyard, bullying is common. Part of my "initiation" as a Grade 9 at Mitchell District High School was being given a 'wedgie' by two Grade 10 lads. More recently, a girl standing in line at a nearby school had another girl butt into line in front of her. She protested, but even the teacher, who saw what happened, did not take action. That becomes negligent abuse of authority on another level.

In today's reading, we discover how Jesus has authority conferred upon Him by His Heavenly Father; how He uses that power well to benefit believers; and how He restrains that ultimate authority, keeping it in check so it doesn't become abusive.


We pick up John's account just after 5:18, where we're told the Jews were trying to kill Jesus, not just because he broke the Sabbath by healing people and telling them to carry their mats, but also because He made Himself equal with God by calling God His own Father. Now you or I might have backed off at this point - they're trying to KILL you! - but Jesus seems to go even further in saying things that would be shocking to first-century Jews...How the Father was downloading even MORE power and authority to Him.

Verses 20-23 suggest five ways God the Father was authorizing and elevating Jesus: love, looks, life, lock-up, and lift-up. V20 "For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these."

One way Jesus' Father/Abba poured into Him was LOVE: "the Father loves the Son..." The Greek verb here is phileo, affectionate / "liking" / emotionally attracted love, as in the very best and closest of friendships. At Jesus' baptism, "a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."" (Mt 3:17) There was a real bond of deep, intimate love within the Trinity even before creation came into being, a bond of love between Father and Son within the Godhead.

Second, LOOKS: "the Father SHOWS Him all He does.Yes, to your amazement He will show Him even greater things than these." Jesus did His miracles by constantly looking to see what God His Heavenly Abba was up to, then carrying out the actions accordingly. Jesus the Son had a sort of visual pipeline allowing Him to see what wonderful things the Father was up to. Jesus said in Mt 11:27, "All things have been committed to me by my Father." God was constantly showing Jesus the next step to carry out, put into operation.

Third, LIFE: v21 "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." In the Greek literally "make alive". The NIV Study Bible comments that the Jews "held that [the Father] did not give this privilege [ie ability to raise the dead] to anyone else.Jesus claimed a prerogative that, according to His opponents, belonged only to God." Also v26: "For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself." There are several examples of Jesus raising the dead: the son of the widow of Nain in Luke 7(11-17); Jairus' daughter in Matthew 9(18,22-26); and, most notably, Lazarus - after 3 days decomposing in the tomb - in John 11. Miracles of healing are one thing, but ability to raise the dead really grabbed people's attention - and drew the deadly jealousy of the religious authorities. So after Lazarus is raised, John 11:53 "So from that day on they plotted to take His [Jesus'] life." God the Father conferred on the Son power to make alive: but this put Him squarely in the cross-hairs of the powers-that-be.

Fourth, LOCK-UP. This is the authority to pronounce judgment, to acquit or to condemn. Vv22&27 "Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son...And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man." Jesus left heaven and took on human form, becoming as one of us but without sin, knowing our mortal hungers and weakness and limitations and temptations; hence He is one aptly suited to be our judge, for He's "been through" what we've been through. The beginning and end of the passage about "the sheep and the goats" illustrates this in Matthew 25(31-33,46): "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left...Then they [goats] will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

Are you ready to see Jesus like that? Many of us may have a mental picture of an amiable Jesus sitting with children around Him and on His knee, but do we also have a mental picture of the authoritative Jesus sitting on His throne, all glorious, separating the righteous and wicked, judging the nations? Are you ready to meet Him thus? Some of His last words to His disciples before He ascended were, Mt 28:18 "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." This is not someone to take lightly! Your destiny depends on Him; He is your Judge.

Fifth, LIFT UP - the Father exalts and honours the Son. V23 "that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father.He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him." To "honour" here means to value, revere, venerate; is Jesus your supreme treasure? Are there competing idols in your life that you cling to and protect and cherish more than Him who died for you? How do you demonstrate in public that you honour Him not just Sunday morning sitting in church? Notice how exclusive Jesus' claim is here, how He ups the stakes, saying that to dishonour Him is to dishonour very God.

Jesus' description in this section lines up well with Daniel's prophecy of the Son of Man, the Messiah to come, centuries earlier in Daniel 7:13f: "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven.He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed."


Yet Jesus is not some "black hole" of power and authority, sucking it all up and retaining it to Himself like some megalomaniac dictatorial divine despot. He puts His power to use serving others. As He emphasized to His disciples in Mark 10:42-45: "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.Not so with you.Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Remember Jesus washing His disciples' feet as an example of loving one another in John 13; or as He said in Luke 22:27, "For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves."

So we find in this passage five ways Jesus benefits those who put their trust in Him. He's "passing along" the power! V24 "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life."

First, we "hear His word..." Jesus doesn't keep us in the dark; He calls to His sheep, reveals the Good News to us. Paul talks about this in 2Corinthians 4; the enemy blinds us - 2Cor 4:4 "The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." But the Holy Spirit unveils Jesus to us. 2Cor 4:6 "For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ."

Second, by Christ's grace, v24 we "believe Him who sent Me." Faith is a gift from God (Eph 2:8f). As for Lydia in Acts 16:14, "The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message."

Third, believers "have eternal life", we have "crossed over from death to life". This is a spiritual dimension of life that starts right here and now - eternal life is NOT something you have to wait until you die to begin! Trusting in Jesus, you receive God's Holy Spirit inside you, you are regenerated or "born anew/from above", you realize you are now an actual son or daughter of God. The Spirit witnesses with your spirit that you are His child (Rom 8:16). 2Cor 5:17 "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" And John 1:12 "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right [Gk. exousia / power / authority] to become children of God..." Trusting is the channel by which Jesus downloads His power and authority, His "making alive", into you for a fresh start! If you're a believer, you have officially "stepped across" the threshold from death to life.

Fourth, you "will not be condemned" - not be damned, sentenced like the goats of Matthew 25 into eternal punishment. Because faith owns that Jesus paid for your sins at the cross. Hallelujah! You no longer have the sentence of "guilty sinner" hanging around your neck, but "forgiven saint": when God looks at you, He sees you clothed in Jesus' own righteousness. Isaiah 61:10 The Lord "has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness..."

And the fifth and final benefit to believers we find in this passage: we've talked about spiritual newness of life, after we die there's also physical newness of life in the resurrection. Vv28-29 "...a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out - those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned." Revelation 20&21 talk about the Great White Throne judgment: some get to inhabit the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, to dwell with God and be His people; while others whose names are NOT found written in the book of life are "thrown into the lake of fire". The contrast is abrupt in Rev 21:7f "He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars - their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur.This is the second death."

Again, this parallels Daniel's prophecy in Dan 12:2: "Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt." Jesus' grace makes it possible for us to be in the first group, enjoying everlasting life, not contempt and shame.


So, we've talked about how the Father authorizes the Son in an astounding way; and how the Son blesses those who believe in Him, enabling us to have new spiritual and physical (resurrected) life. Yet there's a piece at the start and end of this passage that hints how Jesus keeps all this power from going to His head or becoming proud and conceited, like Gentile rulers throwing their weight around. It's a good reminder to us in whatever areas of responsibility and authority WE may be entrusted with day-to-day.

Look carefully at vv19&30: "I tell you the truth, 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...By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me." See what's common in both verses? "The Son can do nothing by Himself...By myself I can do nothing..." Jesus consciously and constantly chooses to subject Himself to the Father's leading. He looks to the Father to take His cue from what He sees God about to do. He seeks NOT to please Himself - literally, NRSV "I seek to do not my own will but the will of Him who sent me." What was Jesus' prayer of submission in Gethsemane? Mk14:36 "Abba, Father, everything is possible for you...Not what I will, but what you will."

So, whatever authority or power we may be entrusted with - don't exercise authority like the rulers of this world, lording it over others, capitalizing on your privilege or taking advantage. "Not so with you!" Learn to serve, to be slave of all. The uber-authoritative Son of God / Son of Man gave His life to ransom you! So submit all your plans to God, subject your will to His will, find out what's pleasing to Him, what aligns with His saving purposes, His goodness, kindness, and love.


Jesus is really a copy-cat! How much does He do that's really original, that He hasn't seen from Someone else? Zilch! Vv19-20a again: "I tell you the truth, 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. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does." Christ is a copycat in the best sense, keeping God in view constantly, doing ONLY what He sees His Father doing.

Can we mimic that? Can we keep our eyes glued on God, our ears attuned to hear His Spirit's guiding whisper, our hearts treasuring Christ and seeking to please the Father above all else?

This is Victoria Day holiday weekend, although the actual day isn't until May 24. Queen Victoria lived from 1819 to 1901, and in 1857 wrote a letter to her son the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, exhorting him to imitate closely his father, her beloved Prince Albert: "None of you can ever be proud enough of being the child of SUCH a Father who has not his equal in this world - so great, so good, so faultless.Try, all of you, to follow in his footsteps and don't be discouraged, for to be really in everything like him none of you, I am sure, will ever be.Try, therefore, to be like him in some points, and you will have acquired a great deal."

So let us keep our eyes on and copy our Heavenly Father, that we by His grace may become "like Him in some points" - as Jesus showed us His goodness while exercising His authority for our benefit. Hebrews 1:3 "The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven." Let's pray.