The ProtégéRev. Philip Miller | November 22, 2020
Selected highlights from this sermon
Jesus was a force for disruption during His ministry. At Passover, He cleared the temple and sent livestock and moneychangers running, acting like He owned the place. He healed an invalid at pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath and the religious leaders said He couldn’t do that on the Sabbath.
They asked, “Who does he think he is!?”
In response, Jesus gives his first extended discourse in John 5:18–47. He tells the religious leaders—and us—just who He thinks He is.
Pastor Miller explores Jesus’ résumé in this message—His experiences, qualifications, and references that form that basis for the extravagant claims of deity that He made during His ministry. Is Jesus really the Messiah, the Son of God?
“Who does He think He is?” This is the question that the exasperated religious leaders had to be asking in their minds. Jesus had come along. He was so destructive, you know? You just think back to the things that He’s done here in the book of John so far.
At Passover, He had come in and cleared the temple. He sent the money-changers and the cattle running through the streets. He acted like He owned the place, threw the religious leaders off. Then He went on in the wilderness and started baptizing, just like John the Baptizer had been baptizing. This was a ritual that only the priests, the Levites, were allowed to perform, and Jesus, to their exasperation, was growing even more popular than John ever had been.
And then it seemed like they caught a break. Jesus left. He went through Samaria up into Galilee. He was off the radar for a little bit and they started to forget about Him. But then another feast came up and Jesus showed up again. And He healed this guy on the Sabbath, of all things, and challenged their interpretations of the Sabbath law. Remember what He said last week? He said, “My Father is working and so am I?” Who does He think He is? Who does Jesus think He is?
Now in response to all their perplexing thoughts here, Jesus is going to give us in John, chapter 5, His first extended discourse in the book of John. And He’s going to answer this question: Just who does He think He is? And Jesus will hold nothing back.
So grab your Bibles. Let’s open them up. John, chapter 5. We’re going to look at verses 18 to 47 today, and what’s very interesting about this passage is it kind of reads like Jesus’ résumé. His résumé is made up of, you know, His experience, His qualifications, and lastly His references. And so what we’re going to do is sort of have a sit-down interview, if you will, with Jesus today, and we’re going to learn about His experience, His qualifications, and His references, His résumé this morning. But before we do that, let’s bow our heads and let’s pray together.
Heavenly Father, we pray today that you would help us see Jesus, see Him in His glory, see Him for who He really is, that we might receive Him in the ways that He wants us to receive Him, that we might have life in His name. Enliven us. Change us. Transform us, we pray today in the name of Jesus, Amen. Amen.
So, John 5:18–47. Just to remember the context here, I want to read verse 18, which we read last week, but it’s just a reminder that Jesus has healed this man who, for 38 years, had been an invalid. He healed him on the Sabbath. The religious leaders had confronted Him, and He had said, “Listen, the Father has the prerogative of working on the Sabbath, and so do I,” and then verse 18 reads, “This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.”
So the baseline accusation here is: “How do you dare make yourself equal with God, Jesus? How dare you say this? Just who do you think you are? Why don’t you sit down and explain yourself to us, Jesus?”
Okay. So Jesus sits down and He says, “Well, let me give you my résumé here. Let’s start with my experience. The first thing that you need to know is that I’m an apprentice. I’m an apprentice.” Verse 19: “So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing.”
Now, we’re familiar with the phrase, “Like father, like son.” Right? Or, “He’s just a chip off the old block,” or “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” In other words, we know that sons have a tendency to resemble their fathers. And that’s certainly true here, but there’s another layer, a deeper layer, of what’s going on here, because in the first century, most sons, the majority of sons, were apprentices under their fathers. In other words, there weren’t schools and graduate schools and training, not in the way we have them today. And so most people grew up in trades and family businesses. And the skills of those businesses and trades were passed along through mentorship, through apprenticeship, father to son.
This is, of course, what Jesus had done with Joseph. He was a carpenter, a contractor, a builder. Jesus’ [earthly] father, Joseph, had apprenticed Him in this trade, and Jesus is saying, “Not only have I been an apprentice of my earthly father, I am also an apprentice of my Heavenly Father as well.” And it works the same way, the same level. “Here I am. I’m following my Father’s lead, His example. I can only do what I’m seeing my Father doing.” In other words, “What He does I do. He sets the pattern. I follow it. And because my Father loves me, He shows me everything, all His trade secrets, all His little special techniques of mastery. He holds nothing back.” The picture here is of a father who is sharing all the intricate details and secrets of his craft with his son so that one day his son might successfully take over the family business. “And why not?” Jesus would say. “I’m His Son. He’s my Father. Of course He shows me everything. He loves me. I’m His apprentice.”
But not only am I His apprentice, the second thing here is that I am His emissary. I am the Father’s emissary. Verse 20b and 21: “[For] greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom He will.”
(Chuckles) He says, “Look you think the healing I just did was impressive? You know, healing this man who for 38 years had been infirm, with just a word from my voice? Listen, I’m just getting started. My ministry is just a few months old here. The Father is just beginning to teach me all that He knows. The Father has shown me the basics, but He’s about to give me the advance stuff, and you’re going to be blown away. You’re going to marvel. Listen, my Father raises the dead and gives them life, and so the Son gives life to whomever He wills. You think this little poolside healing’s got you flabbergasted, this thing? Wait till I raise the dead to life. That’ll impress you.”
And, of course, He’s tipping his hand, isn’t He? Because we know in John, chapter 11, Jesus will actually raise Lazarus from the dead. It’s coming. But what He’s saying here is, “Look, the Father has sent me into the world. I’m His emissary. I’m His ambassador. I’m His agent. I am here to do the work of my Father on Earth. Do you want to know why this infirm man is walking? It’s because I wanted to give him his life back. It was my choice. Listen, my Father raises the dead and gives life. And the Son can give life to whoever He wants. This is 100% at my discretion. I chose to give him life. That’s why he’s walking.”
“And not only am I the Father’s apprentice and emissary, I’m also His executor. I’m the Executor of the Father’s will.” Look at verse 22 to 24: “For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 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. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”
Jesus says, “Look, the Father has made me the executor of His will. He’s entrusted all judgment to the Son. All legal matters are under His authority, and the one person who ultimately matters, whose opinion ultimately counts in the universe, is Jesus Christ. He is the judge of all the earth.” And why has God entrusted all this judgment to the Son? He says, “In order that the Son may be honored, in order that people may honor the Son just as they honor the Father.”
Okay, now go back to the analogy of the apprenticeship and Jesus being the Son, taking over the family business. If the Father wants the Son to take over and run the family business, the Son is going to need the respect, the honor, the appreciation of all of the employees, the vendors, the customers—everybody. How will the Father ensure that the Son is honored as He has been? Well, the answer is He will give that Son authority. Right? Authority to hire and fire, and do real negotiations, and sign off on deals. And when people try to circumvent the Son and go to the Father directly, the Father says, “Listen, no, no, no. You talk to my Son. He’s running things now.”
And this is, friends, what the Father has done. He has given all judgment, all authority over to His Son. He says, “Listen, I want you to respect Him. I want you to listen to Him. I want you to honor Him.” And this is very interesting because in Isaiah 42, verse 8, this is what Isaiah writes: “I am the LORD (the LORD speaking); that is my name; my glory I give to no other.” In other words, God is very jealous of His glory. He doesn’t share it freely, and yet here He is liberally sharing His honor and His glory with His Son. He says, “Look, when you honor Him, you honor me.” This is very significant.
Now what does it mean to honor the Son? Verse 24 says to honor the Son means, number one, that we hear His Word. To hear Jesus’ Word is to receive His Word, is to trust in His Word, to take Jesus at His Word. And secondly, “to believe Him who sent me.” In other words, to believe that Jesus is, in fact, God’s own Son, sent into the world to be His emissary, to be the executor of His will, to be the representative of God.
He says, “If anyone honors the Son in this way, he has (What is it?) eternal life, that whoever believes does not come into judgment and condemnation, but has passed from death to life.” This, friends, is the language of final judgment at the end of time. The Bible says that one day each one of us will stand before God and give an account of our lives. And Jesus is here saying, “What you do with me and my Word right here, right now, has bearing on how things will go for you in the end, in the final judgment on that day. In fact, if you believe in me now, trust in my Word now,” He says, “you have passed from death to life. You won’t come under condemnation, but you will be alive.” In other words, the verdict is already rendered in time. The verdict that belongs at the end of time is dragged back, and it is issued now based off of belief and faith in Jesus. Why? Because the Son gives life to whoever He wills. He’s the apprentice. He’s the emissary. He’s the executor.
Oh, you say, “Well, that’s very impressive, Jesus. In terms of experience you have quite a bit here, but what about your qualifications? What do you bring to the table here?” And Jesus says, “Well listen, there’s three main skill sets that I have to offer here. The first one is my resurrecting voice.” My resurrecting voice. Look at verse 25: “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.”
“Just like I said, ‘Get up,’ and the man who had been laying for 38 years, his deadened body sprang to life, just like I said, ‘Get up’ then, I will do it again one day cosmically and the dead will rise to life. An hour is coming, and actually it’s here now in my presence, in me. And you know it’s true because at a word I just turned water into wine, and with my Word I snatched a little boy from the brink of death, and at a Word, I have just reversed 38 years of infirmity in this man. And just as my Father’s Word spoke forth and brought life from the darkness, now my Word is speaking forth and bringing life from the darkness. And one day I will do it again on a cosmic scale, and the dead will rise because it’s rooted in the second skill I bring to the table, which is my inherent vitality, my inherent vitality.”
Verse 26: “As the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.” So friends, listen. It is true that we are alive and God is alive, but in very different ways. Humans are alive because God breathed into Adam the breath of life in the very beginning. Remember this? He animated Adam’s spirit with His own breath. The breath of life gave him the image of God. And this is passed down to us, this dual identity of who we are.
We are both physical and spiritual beings. We have physical bodies and we have the spirit of the breath of God in us. So animals only have the physical. Angels only have the spiritual. But as human beings, made in the image of God, we have both bodies and souls. We have physical and spiritual dimensions. We are amphibians, if you will, and we can crawl out from the water onto the land. We live in both spiritual and physical dimensions. We are amphibious like that. And in both physical and spiritual dimensions, we are contingent beings. We are dependent beings. We are derivative. In other words, we don’t have life in and of ourselves. We need to draw life from other sources. So on the physical side, we need food, we need water, we need air. Otherwise we die. And on the spiritual side, we need a loving life connection with God. He is our nourishment. He is our life, our strength, our everything.
In other words, our life is not a renewable resource. It’s always depleting, and it is fueled and sustained by things outside of us. But God’s life, friends, is very, very different. God has life in Himself. He is self-existent. He is self-sustaining. He is non-contingent. He is independent. He is an originator of life. God’s life is 100% self-generated. It is 100% renewable. He is the fountainhead of life. When Moses asked God for His name, what did He say? He said, “I AM that I AM.’ In other words, “I am the self-existent One.” See, Jesus says here, “The Father has life in Himself, and He has granted that the Son may have life in Himself as well.”
Just as the Father has renewable, non-contingent life in Himself, the Son also has renewable, non-contingent life in Himself. This is the reason, because of this fountain of life within Jesus, this is the reason for His resurrecting voice. It’s inherent in His vitality as the Son of God, which undergirds His third skill set that He brings to the table here, which is His judicial authority.
Verse 27; “And he (the Father) has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.”
He says God the Father has given Jesus, not only the authority to raise the dead, but the the authority to exercise final judgment over them, over humanity, because He is the Son of Man.
Now this phrase, “the Son of Man” is Jesus’ favorite title for Himself. He uses it all the time, and it speaks of one level of His humanity because He is truly man, but it also speaks of His divinity because He is truly God. His title actually comes from Daniel 7:13–14. Let me read them for us here.
“Behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”
Right before Jesus returned to heaven, He looked at His disciples, and He said, “Listen, all authority in heaven and in Earth has been given to me.” All authority. He is the Son of Man. Not only will He raise the dead, but He will preside in judgment, and He will render the verdict. And those who have done good will go to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil will go to the resurrection of judgment. And Jesus’ judgment, He says, will be completely just because He is impartial. He’s free of conflict of interest. His only concern is to uphold perfect justice according to the Father’s will.
Jesus is telling us, friends, that every person in world history will one day stand before Him for judgment, that no one will get away with their crimes, that people who shoot up schools and then take their own lives will answer one day for their choices, that the architects of genocide and holocausts and ethnic cleansings will finally be held accountable in perfect justice.
And at one level, that’s very reassuring, isn’t it? We need to know that justice will be meted out in the end, but at another level, it’s quite frightening. To think of standing before God, giving account for, as Jesus says in Matthew 12:36, every careless word we’ve ever spoken, to have everything exposed is frightening. How can anyone stand in that day, because we’re all marbled beings, aren’t we? We all have good and evil co-existing, intertwined in our souls. How will we survive that judgment day? Well, remember verse 24? Remember what Jesus said?
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”
Jesus is saying, “What you do with me and my Word today has direct bearing on how things will go for you in the final judgment. In fact, if you believe in me today, it means that you have passed from death to life, it is finished, that the future verdict rendered at the end of time is actually issued right here, right now, because the Son gives life to whomever He wills.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
Now, that’s quite a résumé, isn’t it? Apprentice, emissary, executor, resurrecting voice, inherent vitality, judicial authority. Wow. Jesus, this is impressive. Do You have anyone who can vouch for you, give you some references here?
Verse 31: “If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true.” Just pause for a moment. Jesus is saying, “Look, anybody can pad their résumé, and if I were the only one saying these are, you know, my skills, my experiences, that would be one thing. You could dismiss me out of hand. But it’s not true. I have some references here. I have five references I want you to see. Number one is John the Baptizer. My first reference is John the Baptizer.”
Verse 32: “There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.”
The first reference is John the Baptizer. Remember in chapter 1, verses 27 and 28? He said, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” And then the next day, in verse 29, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” And in conclusion and summary, back down in verse 34 of chapter 1, John says, “And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” And Jesus says, “Okay, that’s my first reference, John the Baptizer. He told you that I am the Son of God.”
The second reference is my authenticating works. Verse 36: “But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me.”
“Just look at all the works I am doing—all the signs I am doing. The Father has given these signs to me to exercise as proof of who I am. That’s why I turned the water into wine. That’s why I cleared the temple. It’s why I healed the boy with the fever. It’s why I just healed the man on the Sabbath who had 38 years of infirmity. These are all signs. They are all witnesses. They are all demonstrations of the power and authority that the Father has vested in me. It’s my second witness here. My second reference is the authenticating works that I am doing.”
And the third reference is God the Father Himself. God the Father Himself! Verse 37: “And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, and you do not have his Word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent.”
The Father has borne witness about Jesus, friends. In His birth, God sent angels and a star to announce the birth of His Son. At His baptism the Father spoke and announced, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him!” And in every miraculous sign, every exercise of power, the Father’s endorsement of His Son rings out. And so, in rejecting the Son, friends, they are rejecting the Father as well. He is the third reference.
The fourth reference is the Holy Scriptures. Look at verse 39: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”
The Scriptures point, at every turn, to the person and work of Jesus, friends. And here you have the religious leaders who are experts in the Bible. They understand it inside and out. They think eternal life is to be found in searching the Scriptures, and all these Scriptures are pointing inexorably to the person of Jesus, the Word of God pointing to the Word of God, Jesus, who is the fulfillment of it all. And He says, “I’m right here in front of you, but you won’t come to Me. I have life but you will not have it.” The Scriptures are the fourth reference.
Now there’s a little bit of an aside here in verses 41 to 44. Jesus looks at the religious leaders, and He can tell they’re not happy with Him. They’re very upset. In fact, John has already clued us in that they intend to kill Him, and so He has this little aside.
Verse 41: “I do not receive glory from people. But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?”
Basically what Jesus is saying here is, “Look, I know I’m not popular with you right now. I’m not receiving a whole bunch of praise and glory and honor from humans, from you people. But I see the depths of your heart. I know what’s inside of you, and you don’t love God, because if you loved God, you would love me. You would receive me. Here I am. I have come from the Father. I bear His name and everything, and you know, I’m here in the family business name (Right?), Yahweh and Son, bringing life since the foundation of the earth. Right? I carry the family business name. You won’t even receive me. The irony is that if a fake messiah showed up and started doing little magic tricks and whatever, and claimed to be Messiah in his own right and name, you probably would receive him. He’d be popular. He’d be a political hero. You’d be interested in all the fame and fortune and human glory he would bring your way. But here I am, right in front of you, the glory of God incarnate, in the face of Jesus Christ. Here I am, and you will not receive me. You’re not interested.”
The fifth and last reference here is the prophet Moses. Verse 45: “Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”
He says, “Look, you pride yourselves on being faithful to the Torah, to the writings of Moses, to the law of God. And I’m telling you, all of it points to me. Moses was writing about me. The Torah points to me, and if you believed him, you would believe me. And I’m telling you, on the last day, I’m not going to be the prosecuting attorney. Moses will, because he wrote about me, and you didn’t listen to him.”
It’s quite a résumé, isn’t it? Quite a list of references. What does it mean for us?
What does it mean for us? Two things quickly as we close. Number one, Jesus is the only one really able to help us. Jesus is the only one really able to help us. Friends, if the Bible is right, and it is by the way, our life is contingent. We are dependent beings. Our life is derivative. And just as we have to eat and drink and breathe in order to live physically, we need a life-connection with God in order to live spiritually. But each one of us, in our sin, when we sin, unplug from the only source of life in the universe that is there spiritually. And so we die on the inside. And no amount of good deeds, self-help, good intentions, or religious effort can make a dead person live again. It’s impossible, but Jesus can. With just a word, Jesus can make us alive. He could do it right now spiritually inside of us. And one day He will do it physically as well.
Only Jesus is able to help us really, friends, because He’s the only one who can resurrect us. See, if we were just lost, if that’s our biggest problem, we’re just lost, all we’d need is someone to give us directions. If we’re just sick, all we’d need is somebody who can heal us. If we’re just ignorant, all we need is a teacher. But if we’re dead, the only thing then that can help us is a resurrection, someone to resurrect us.
The religious leaders–“Who does He think He is?” Well, He told Martha as He’s about to go raise Lazarus from the dead in John 11:25 and 26. Here’s who He thinks He is. He says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
Now, how does He pull that off, friends? Well, this is the Gospel that Jesus died in our place and for our sake, that He took our condemnation, our debt, that we may have life in His name. He rose again to defeat death, and Satan, and sin to liberate and set us free. This is why He came.
And the second takeaway for us today is (listen) if Jesus is for us, we have so much to be thankful for. If Jesus is for us, friends, we have much to be thankful for.
Remember Jesus said, He calls out to us, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has (present tense) eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” And friends, today, if you have believed in Jesus’ Word, if you have received His teaching, if you have trusted that He is sent from the Father to be the Savior of the world, if you have received Jesus as your Lord and Savior, the good news is you will never have to face Him as your judge because you have embraced Him now as your Savior. And you are alive today because of Him. You have passed from death to life. No condemnation. The verdict from the end of time has been declared and issued right here on the basis of who Jesus is.
And friends, listen. Nothing can take that away from you. Nothing can take that away from you. Not even 2020 can take that away from you. In Jesus we have so much to be thankful for. You are alive today because of Him. Aren’t you glad? Aren’t you amazed at who this Jesus is? Who does He think He is? He is the resurrection and the life. Let’s worship Him together.
Father, we thank you for Jesus Christ who is our living hope, the One who speaks and the world changes. The dead rise and everything is made new through Him. He is the rescuer. He is the redeemer. He is the recreator. He is the resurrection and the life. There is no one like Jesus. His claims are out of this world, and we believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that He is Savior of the world, that He is life come for us. We trust ourselves, our fate, our future, our history, all that we are, into His nail-scarred hands, His resurrected life for us.
We believe. We hear His words, His voice, and believe He is the One sent from you. Help us to trust Him. Help us to throw all the weight of our souls and life upon Him. Help us to experience life in His name, through His power. We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.