The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 18

Resurrection and Life

16The Judeans began harassing Yeshua because He did these things on Shabbat. 17 But He answered them, “My Father has been working until now, and I too am working.” 18 This answer made the Judeans all the more intent on killing Him – not only was He breaking Shabbat but also, by saying that God was His own Father, He was claiming equality with God.

My Father has been working on Shabbat since the beginning of time, and therefore I too am working on Shabbat. Here is an attractive alternative understanding: in the larger scheme of things, there is a Shabbat yet to come (Messianic Jews 4:9–11), so that the present era of history can be thought of as weekdays. The Talmud too recognizes this by dividing history into six 1,000–year “days” (Psalm 90:4 and see 2 Kefa 3:3–9), after which comes the Messianic millennium, the seventh “day” (Sanhedrin 97b). Since it is now still a 1,000–year “weekday,” even the Torah “permits” the Father and Yeshua to work, and they will continue working until the “day” comes that is entirely Shabbat. (But in what sense they will cease working then is not evident.)

Yeshua’s Judean opposition immediately perceived that by saying God was His own Father, He was claiming equality with God. Some Jews would like to reclaim Yeshua for the Jewish people by regarding him as a great teacher, which He was, but only human, not divine. Yeshua’s claim here makes that option impossible.

Yeshua’s words produced the first reported effort to kill Him. If He had been blaspheming God, as the Judeans thought, it would have been proper to be intent on killing Him, since “Anyone who blasphemes the name of Adonai shall surely be put to death” (Leviticus 24:16. Yeshua’s healing and His claim to equality with Adonai occasioned His discourse in the rest of this chapter. [1]

19 Therefore, Yeshua said this to them: “Yes, indeed! I tell you that the Son cannot do anything on His own, but only what He sees the Father doing; whatever the Father does, the Son does too.”

The Son cannot do anything on His own. Those who find Yeshua’s claim to divinity unpalatable are quick to point out that with these words, Yeshua seems to describe Himself in a way inconsistent with being divine. They say it is essential to God’s nature that He does everything on His own and is answerable only to Himself. But they miss the point, for Yeshua here is teaching something important about the inner nature of God, about how the Son and the Father relate to each other within the eternal unity of Adonai. Yeshua teaches that He is humanly capable of disobeying God and having His own contrary will (compare Mt 26:39).

For this reason, the divine Son “learned obedience” (MJ 5:8). He became utterly submissive to the Father’s will through the power of the Ruach HaKodesh, who is with him “in unlimited measure” (3:34). Yeshua is not inferior to His Father: to submit and obey perfectly demonstrates one of God’s perfections; to will what is not God’s will is inferior to God.

What He sees the Father doing. Yeshua’s sight, whether spiritual only or physical, uniquely enables Him to perceive what His Father does and wants. Whatever the Father does, the Son does too. Yeshua is teaching that He has divine power. Specifically, He has the power to raise the dead (v. 21) and the authority to render divine judgment (v. 22).

20 For the Father loves the Son and shows Him everything He does, and He will show Him even greater things than these so that you will be amazed. 21 Just as the Father raises the dead and makes them alive, so too the Son makes alive anyone He wants. 22 The Father does not judge anyone but has entrusted all judgment to the Son,

The Father does not judge anyone; instead, He has given judgment over to His Son (v. 22 & 27). Yet the Tanakh tells us that God will one day judge all humanity, and if it is the Father who entrusts judgment to the Son, then the Father does, after all, have a role in judgment as to the delegator. All this follows that the Son is included in what is meant by “God.” This is one of the many ways Yochanan deals with the mystery and paradox of Yeshua’s simultaneous humanity and divinity.

23 so that all may honor the Son as they honor the Father. Whoever fails to honor the Son is not honoring the Father who sent him.

Whoever fails to honor the Son is not honoring the Father who sent him. Compare Mt 22:33–46, 1 Yochanan 2:23, which also teaches against the idea that one can honor, worship, and believe in God without believing in Yeshua the Messiah, the Son of God.

24 Yes, indeed! I tell you that whoever hears what I am saying and trusts the One who sent Me has eternal life – that is, he will not come up for judgment but has already crossed over from death to life! 25 Yes, indeed! I tell you that there is coming a time – in fact, it’s already here – when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who listen will come to life. 26 For just as the Father has life in Himself, so He has given the Son life to have in Himself. 27 Also He has given Him authority to execute judgment because He is the Son of Man. 28 Don’t be surprised at this; because the time is coming when all who are in the grave will hear His voice 29 and come out – those who have done good to a resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to a resurrection of judgment. ~ Yochanan 5:16-29

The resurrection of life … resurrection of judgment are two kinds of deaths and resurrections; this is taught in the Tanakh at Daniel 12:2 and by Sha’ul at Romans 2:5–8. One is for those God considers righteous because they have done good. In the light of Yochanan 6:28–29 and Ephesians 2:8–10, this means they have trusted in Yeshua’s execution as atonement for their sin, been immersed into His death, risen to eternal life (Romans 6:3–11, 23), and been granted a share in the “first resurrection” (Rev. 20:4–6). The other is for those who have done evil, who have not trusted in Yeshua; they are subject to the “second death” (Rev. 20:12–15) (Compare Acts 24:15).

Our next post will continue to examine the mounting opposition of the Jewish authorities when Yeshua Discusses His Authority.

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[1] David Stern’s Jewish New Testament Commentary.