John – “But Who Do You Say That I Am?” John 5:16-29

Who is Jesus Christ? A teacher? A good “example” for us to follow? If you answered anything else but God, then you clearly don’t know who Jesus is! But don’t feel bad because ever since He came to this earth, people have been mistaking who He actually was. Throughout the Gospels, we find examples of the misidentity of Jesus. Some said He was John the Baptist. Others said He was a prophet like Elijah or Jeremiah. Many of His own people saw Him as Israel’s deliverer from the Romans and tried to seize Him to make Him a king. All of these assumptions were wrong. Even Jesus’s own family didn’t know who Jesus was at first. Remember what they said?…”He’s out of His mind!” Even today, so-called “experts” are featured on TV programs (usually around Christmas and Easter) with some “new bombshell information” explaining who Jesus was.

John makes it perfectly clear though who Jesus was and is…He is God. He is God who stepped out of heaven and came to earth in the form of a man. The only proper answer to the question, “Who is Jesus Christ?”, is that He is God in human flesh and until you come to that realization, you are not a true believer of Him and you are not saved! The central theme of the 879 verses that make up John’s Gospel, is believe. He wants you, the reader, to believe that Jesus is God and this is also the reason why I have titled this study “But who do you say that I am?”, even though this question does not appear in John’s Gospel, because we will all have to answer this question eventually and we better have the right answer!

A lot of people say, “Jesus never claimed to be God!”. These people have never read The Bible or didn’t understand what they were reading because throughout the Gospels, especially John’s, Jesus makes this claim throughout and in this passage that we will be looking at in this post, is Jesus’s first claim of who He is! A lot of ground to cover again so let’s get started.  As always, the text link for the chapter and the audio are included so you can follow along. Before we get started though, let’s pray…

Heavenly Father,

Thank You for Your Word. Father, bless this time in Your Word, make it fruitful by opening up our hearts to what You want to reveal to us through it. Father, we put aside all distractions and our hearts and minds are open to hear what You have to say to us. Speak Lord for Your servants are listening! In the saving name of Jesus Christ we pray…Amen!

John 5

Let’s look at the passage that we will be studying in this post…

(16) For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath. (17) But Jesus answered them, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” (18) Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God. (19) Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. (20) For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel. (21) For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will. (22) For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, (23) that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. (24) “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. (25) Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, 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 to have life in Himself, (27) and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. (28) Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice (29) and come forth— those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. … John 5:16-29 NKJV

For context, we pick this up back in verse 16. Jesus had just healed a man by the pool of Bethesda and the day that Jesus performed this healing just happened to be on the Sabbath. Instead of being happy that a man who had suffered for many years, 38 John tells us, was miraculously healed, the Jews were more concerned that Jesus had broken one of their precious laws regarding the Sabbath. This discourse by Jesus takes place presumably almost right after Jesus heals the man or about a day or so afterwards and it is presumably when Jesus is brought before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish council, to explain His actions. What follows here in this passage is another reason why the Jews wanted Jesus dead…His claim to be equal with God. Besides being God’s plan all along, there were two main reasons why Jesus was crucified…His violation of the Sabbath and His claim to be God. This is Jesus’s first lengthy discourse on His claim of deity that John records in his Gospel. John points out here, through Christ’s own words, seven ways how He is equal with God….

1) He is equal in working (v 19)

2) He is equal in knowing (v 20)

3) He is equal in resurrecting (v 21 also with vv 28 & 29)

4) He is equal in judging (v 22 also with v 27)

5) Equal in honor (v 23)

6) Equal in regenerating (vv 24-25)

7) Equal in self existence (v 26)

Again for those who claim that Jesus never claimed Himself to be God, this should put this argument to rest because these are the words out of Jesus’s own mouth. Let’s take a look at these qualities more closely now. For the context purposes of this post, I’ve included vv 28-29 but we will examine these verses in the next post a bit closer with a different focal point. Let’s take a look at the passage and examine these qualities more closely.

vv 16-18 – (16) For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath. (17) But Jesus answered them, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” (18) Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.

As we have already covered previously, verse 16 explains one of the reasons why the Jews wanted to kill Jesus but now Jesus is going to give them another reason by what He says in verse 17…My Father has been working until now, and I have been working. What exactly did Jesus mean when He said this? We all know that the earth was created in six days and on the seventh day, God rested. By the way that term rested didn’t mean a literal rest. God didn’t say, “Boy am I tired! I’ve had such a hard week! I think I’ll take some time off!” What it means when we say that God rested means He was done with His work. It was done…complete. However when sin entered the world, thanks to Adam and Eve, God’s rest was disturbed. Now He began working tirelessly to try to bring back man into communion with Him. Jesus was part of God’s plan to do this. Jesus was God’s plan of man’s redemption and now Jesus had come to spread that message, the Gospel message, to them. He was showing them that God’s love, mercy, and grace wasn’t just confined to six days a week but all seven of them! God never rests. He is always working. In Psalm 121, in verse 4, we read…

Behold, He who keeps Israel Shall neither slumber nor sleep. … Psalms 121:4 NKJV

Jesus was working with His Father to prove this and He infuriated the Jews by telling them so. Verse 18 is one of the strongest verses in The Bible to make the case of Jesus’s claim to deity. You can say all you want that Jesus never claimed to be God but verse 18 proves that not to be true because even His enemies made the connection! When Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, He didn’t mean like it does today where God is everybody’s father and we are all children of God. When we are born, we have the human nature of our parents. We begin to take that on the moment we are conceived. This is what Jesus is saying that He has the divine nature of God therefore making Himself equal with God.  His enemies knew exactly what He meant because they wanted kill Him even more! What now follows is the ways Jesus claims equality with God. He continues His discourse on how He is equal with God in working. Look at verse 19…

v 19 –  (19) Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.

Jesus was so linked with God that He couldn’t act independently. He didn’t mean that He didn’t have the power to act on His own but that He was so connected and united with God that He could only do the things that He saw His Father doing. Kind of a poor example but this will kind of give you an idea what Jesus is saying here. If you’re a dad and you have a son have you ever noticed that your son will try to imitate you? Even try to dress like you? Mothers who have daughters I’m sure you’ve noticed the same thing with your daughters. The same thing, more or less, applies here. Jesus “imitates” God’s love, mercy, and grace by not only by the healing of this man at the pool but throughout all of the Gospels as well by the miracles that He performed. Just as the Father does, so the Son does. The reason why is because God communicates with Jesus so He is equal in knowing what the Father wants Him to do as we move on to verse 20. 

v 20 – (20) For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel.

The word loves (or loveth in the old King Jimmie version) is the Greek word  phileō (pronounced fil-eh’-o). It is a term of affection or endearment like a parent loves a child and as the parent who loves their child will show them how to conduct themselves, so God shows Jesus, His Son how to act in kind. Jesus shows God’s love, grace, and mercy throughout the Gospels. He had just healed a man who had been lame for 38 years and He promised greater works than these, that you may marvel. Soon, Jesus would be resurrecting the dead, verse 21, feeding thousands, making the blind see, the deaf hear, and the demon possessed well again. However, Jesus would ultimately demonstrate God’s love by going to the cross and dying for all of our sins. Jesus now claims equality with God by resurrecting looking at verse 21…

v 21 – (21) For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will.

There are two meanings to this verse. One is literal. Jesus would literally raise people from the dead. He would raise Lazarus in John 11, a daughter of a religious leader in Mark  5:22-43, the son of a widow in Luke 7:11-14 and He Himself will be resurrected as we all will be one day after we die. The second meaning is spiritual. Take a look at this verse from John 14 which is one of the most well known but controversial verses in The Bible…

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. … John 14:6 NKJV

We will take a look at this verse much closer when we get to Chapter 14 but in a nutshell besides claiming absolute exclusivity, Jesus is also enforcing this verse in Chapter 5. Let me explain. Giving our lives to Jesus Christ can only be accomplished by not only our will to come to Him but His will also. In 1 Peter it says…

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. … 2 Peter 3:9 NKJV

Despite what people think, God is not some angry God waiting to pounce on us the first chance He gets! He wants all of us to come to Him through a relationship with His Son Jesus Christ. When we come to Jesus,  we are in a sense accomplishing not only our will, but His will as well. The opposite is true however. If you reject Jesus, you are also rejecting God and He will firm up your decision or as the Bible puts it, hardening your heart. This was never more evident than in the Book of Exodus and what happened to Pharaoh. God gave many chances for Pharaoh to repent but he refused or hardened his heart. He did this so many times that we begin to read that God hardened his heart. God didn’t purposely do this. He was just reinforcing Pharaoh’s decision. Just as Jesus was able to heal physically, He was, and still is, able to heal spiritually which is what we all really need! In Hebrews, it says…

(25) Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. … Hebrews 7:25 NKJV

As we move on, Jesus is equal with God because He is able to judge. Look at verse 22…

v 22 – (22) For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son,

We’ve all heard the saying, “No one can judge me but God!”. This is true. No one can judge us but God. God has absolute knowledge and perfect righteousness. Jesus has these qualities as well therefore, He must be God! Jesus is able to discern the thoughts of men and determine the motives in their hearts. The Jews believed that God would in the future raise the dead, punish those who disobeyed His laws and reward those who obeyed them and yet He was standing before them having all of the aforementioned qualities and they didn’t recognize Him! The New Testament teaches us that Jesus has the power of judgement of not only of man but of nations and the entire world!….

(17) because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” … Acts 17:31 NKJV

(10) But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. (11) For it is written: “AS I LIVE, SAYS THE LORD, EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME, AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL CONFESS TO GOD.” (12) So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. … Romans 14:10-12 NKJV

(15) And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, (16) and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! (17) For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” … Revelation 6:15-17 NKJV

These are just a few examples in Scripture to make this point. Moving on, Jesus is equal with God in honor looking at the next verse, verse 23…

v 23 – (23) that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.

This verse clearly dictates that Jesus Christ is God. God is given the authority to Jesus to raise the dead and judge the world so Jesus by saying this, in effect is saying…”I am God!”. This verse is one of the most important statements in The Bible of the proof of deity of Jesus Christ. In The Bible, we are taught to worship God, not several, just one…the only One! In Exodus 20:3, it says…

(3) “You shall have no other gods before Me. … Exodus 20:3 NKJV

This is one of the Ten Commandments probably the most important one. So if Jesus was another god, by what He is saying here in verse 23 of John 5, would make Him guilty of blasphemy! Problem was though Jesus by saying this was proving He was God and they didn’t recognize it then and people still don’t recognize it today! There are many people today, many of them Christians, who claim to worship God but refuse to recognize the deity of Jesus Christ! Most Christians today believe there are two gods…the one in The Old Testament and the one in The New Testament. The one in The Old Testament is the one filled with wrath and anger but the one in The New Testament is the one filled with love for everyone that is going to take everyone back to heaven with Him. That is the trash that is being fed to church goers these days and if that’s the way you feel, then I truly feel sorry for you because there is no difference between the god of The Old Testament and the god of The New Testament because they are one and the same! Jesus Himself said…

(17) “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. … Matthew 5:17 NKJV

I tell people constantly that if they really want to know where God’s heart is and why America is in so much trouble today to read the books of the prophets and what happens to a nation of His own people that turns against Him! If we as a nation are not honoring the Son then we are not honoring the Father and the same can be said of us personally as well! If you don’t honor God and Jesus then you really don’t honor either! Let’s move on. Jesus is equal with God in regeneration looking at verse 24…

vv 24-25 – (24) “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. (25) Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.

By the way, whenever Jesus says Most assuredly or Verily, verily as it reads in the old King Jimmie version, He is saying, “Hey listen up! Check this out!”. It means, in other words, that we need to pay close attention to what He is saying and heed His words. Verse 24 is one of the most beloved and most clearest explanation of the way to salvation that is in The Bible. Very simple, cut and dried…I say to you (this is Jesus talking to each one of us in a personal way); he who hears My word (hearing His word means not only hearing it but also receiving it, believing it, and obeying it); and believes in Him who sent Me. Let’s stop right there for a moment. Is it enough to just to profess a belief in God? Many people claim to believe in God but have never been truly converted. What do I mean by that? Ask some people if they believe in God and you get an emphatic “Oh yes!”. Ask them how they feel about Jesus Christ though and they will dance around the issue. One has to believe not only in God but that He sent His Son Jesus Christ into this world to be our Savior. The way He is our Savior is the work He accomplished on the cross at Calvary which took away our sins and made us righteous before God but only if we accept it and believe it. Let’s move on. Has everlasting life. Again, let’s stop right there. Jesus doesn’t say “will have everlasting life” or “may have everlasting life”. No…He says HAS everlasting life. Has means you already have it! No worries. no questions, or thinking about it! Once you truly accept the Lord Jesus Christ into your life, it’s a done deal! It is not just a life that goes on forever but a better quality of life! And shall not come into judgement. My friends, those should be the most reassuring and comforting words if you are a true believer in Jesus Christ! This means your past is wiped clean! Whatever you did, or will do because let’s face it, we’re not perfect even after we come to Jesus though we should never intentionally sin, will never come into judgement. There is no double jeopardy to use a court term meaning you can’t be tried again for the same crime or crimes. We have already been found innocent by the work of Christ on the cross. Believers will be judged on a reward system but not on guilt or innocence. Paul makes this clear…

(11) For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (12) Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, (13) each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. (14) If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. (15) If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. … 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 NKJV

But has passed from death into life. If we have accepted, believed, and trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ, we have passed from spiritual death into spiritual life. Before this, we were spiritually dead because of our sins. We were dead to God and out of fellowship with Him. However, after we are converted, that all changes. We have total fellowship with Him now and become possessors of a divine life.

Verse 25 begins again with most assuredly, I say to you, the third time Jesus uses it in this chapter. Again, Jesus is saying something that we need to pay attention to. What is Jesus talking about here? Who are these dead that will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live? Jesus might have been talking about the people that He would literally raise from the dead like His friend Lazarus but the people that Jesus is talking about here is what we’ve been looking at in verse 24…those who respond to the Gospel. Those who respond to the Good News (which is what Gospel means by the way) of Jesus Christ and accept Him as their Savior are no longer dead in their sins and have been raised to a new life. Moving on to the last verse that we will take an in depth look on in this post, verse 26, and the last point of Jesus’s equality with God…self existence.

v 26 – (26) For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself,

Just as God the Father is the source and giver of physical life, so God the Son, Jesus Christ is the source and giver of spiritual life. God the Father has granted Jesus to have life in Himself. …

(45) And so it is written, “THE FIRST MAN ADAM BECAME A LIVING BEING.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. … 1 Corinthians 15:45 NKJV

(3) For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (4) When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. … Colossians 3:3-4 NKJV 

This statement that Jesus makes in verse 26 is another statement that makes Jesus’s equality with God quite evident. No man can make this claim that he has life in himself. I have said this before and I will say it again. There are too many Christians out there who believe that there are two Gods…one of the Old Testament and the one in the New Testament. This is a dangerous and foolish assumption to make, to put it politely. If you want to know what God looks like, what He feels, what He wants, you look at Jesus and vice versa.

Verse 27 just reinforces the statement made in verse 22 that God has granted all judgement to Jesus. In the next post, we’ll look at verses 28 and 29 more closely but suffice to say, Jesus makes the claim that everyone will be granted eternal life but it is up to us to decide where we will spend it! Know Jesus, know peace. No Jesus, no peace! Know Jesus, know life. No Jesus, no life! Let’s pray…

Father,

Thank You for these truths that come out of the mouth of Jesus Himself. Father strengthen us and help us to honor You and Your Son more and more each day by living honorable and pleasing lives that are honorable and pleasing to You. Help us to reach out to people who do not know Your Son Jesus Christ with these truths so they too may enjoy the peace and the life that we enjoy in Jesus’s name we pray…Amen!