The Ministry of Messiah 2:1-12:50

3. Jesus the giver of life, 5:1-47

ii] The Divine Son


We now come to the first part of the discourse on the authority of Jesus prompted by the healing of the sick man beside the Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem. The discourse focuses on Jesus' messianic authority, an authority not claimed by Jesus, given that he is nothing in himself, although the authority is his as one who is in union with the Father.


Jesus is equal with God the Father only in the sense of his oneness with the Father, functionally subordinate to him and utterly dependent upon him.


i] Context: See 5:1-18.


ii] Structure: Discourse, Part I - The Divine Son:

Jesus has divine authority, v19-24:

to bless = the gift of grace / life;

to curse = the exercise of divine judgment.

The day is at hand when Jesus will exercise this authority, v25-30.


iii] Interpretation:

In the dialogue between Jesus and the Jewish authorities in v9b-18, prompted by his healing of a sick man on the Sabbath, Jesus defends his actions by stating that as God's representative / Messiah / Son, God is always at work and so is he, v17. By running this argument, Jesus seemingly claims equal status with God, v18. Only a rebellious son makes himself equal with his father, so Jesus now argues that he is by no means a rebel, but rather, he is an obedient son.

As an obedient son, Jesus does only what he sees the Father doing - he is God's revelation to mankind, v19. Out of love, the Father has revealed to Jesus what to say and do and will reveal through him even greater things, v20 - both the blessing of eternal life, v21, and the curse of condemnation, v22. God's purpose in all this is so that Jesus may receive the same honor / devotion / allegiance as God the Father receives, v23. Those who give their allegiance to Jesus, to both his words and deeds, have already passed from judgment to life eternal, v24.

Jesus goes on to explain that the time when he will exercise his divine authority is already at hand. The spiritually dead are even now responding to the gospel and discovering the gift of eternal life, v25, a gift which the Father has authorized the Son to give, v26. At the same time, Jesus as the Messiah / Son of Man, under the authority of the Father, is condemning the unrepentant, v27. All this is but a foretaste of the final day when the repentant rise to glory and the unrepentant sinner faces eternal condemnation, v28-29. In all this Jesus, as God's obedient Son, fulfills the will of the Father, v30.

So, what we have here is an argument which establishes that Jesus' work, as Messiah / Son of God / Son of Man, "is equivalent to the Father's because the Father has delegated to him his own prerogatives of giving life and judging the dead at the end of the age. The healing of the paralyzed man is a token of this function, doing for one man now what is applicable to all men at all times and to the end of the world", Lindars. Jesus does not claim equality with God the Father, but rather he claims that he is in union with God the Father, serving him as an obedient Son. In the second part of the discourse, v31-47, Jesus will call on three major witnesses to support the claim of his integral union with God the Father.


Jesus is "equal with God": The argument in this discourse hangs on the assumption of the Jewish authorities that Jesus was claiming equality with God the Father. For them, such a claim is blasphemous; as Isaiah puts it, "'To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal', says the Holy One", Isa.40:18. Even Philo writes "The mind is self-centered and godless when it deems itself to be equal to God." Those who make themselves like God stand condemned, Isa.14:14, .... Jesus does not claim equality with God as if he is another God, thus like Judaism, Christianity is monothiestic - we believe in only one God. What Jesus claims is that he is in union with God the Heavenly Father, and that this relationship entails "the functional subordination of the Son to the Father, and the utter dependence of the Son upon the Father", Carson. Yes indeed, Jesus' argument contains an implicit claim to deity, taking upon himself divine rights, v17, even divine titles (cf., 8:58), yet he is not equal to God in the sense of being another God, he is God in union with the Father.

Text - 5:19

The discourse on the authority of Messiah, v19-47: i] Jesus has divine authority, both to bless and curse, v19-24. There is a sense where Jesus' words and actions make him equal with the Father, but this requires clarification. So, Jesus immediately makes the point that he is not equal with the Father in the sense that he acts independently of the Father - the initiative remains with the Father. The Son is always dependent on the Father and acts in accord with him. The argument is progressed with two amhn amhn sayings, one at the beginning, v19, and one at the end, v24. The first establishes that Jesus is an obedient son, and the second that those who believe in him gain eternal life; they cross over from condemnation to life.

oun "-" - therefore. Probably transitional and so left untranslated, but possibly inferential, establishing a logical connection,"so ...."

autoiV dat. pro. "-" - [jesus answered and was saying] to them. Dative of indirect object.

uJmin dat. pro. "[very truly I tell] you" - [truly, truly i say] to you. Dative of indirect object. These amhn amhn sayings often introduce an important statement from Jesus; cf., v24.

poien (poiew) pres. inf. "[the Son can] do [nothing]" - [the son is not able] to do [nothing]. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the negated verb "to be able."

af (apo) + gen. "by [himself]" - from [himself]. Here expressing agency, as NIV, a rare usage. The sense is "the Son cannot do anything on his own initiative", Barclay

ean mh + subj. "only" - except [what he sees the father]. Introducing an exceptive clause establishing a contrast by designating an exception. This contrast is best expressed with a contrastive "but"; "the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing", ESV.

poiounta (poiew) pres. part. "doing" - The participle serves as the accusative complement of the direct object "Father", standing in a double accusative construction.

gar "because" - More reason than cause, explaining what is meant by Jesus only doing what he sees the Father doing; "[That is], what the Son does is always modeled on what the Father does", Phillips.

a} ... an "whatever" - what if = whatever [that one (the Father) may do, and = also these things the son likewise is doing]. This construction introduces an indefinite relative clause which is equative (an adjunctive kai, "also" + the adverb oJmoiwV, "likewise"); "whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise."


Jesus' dependance on the Father is shaped by the Father's love and the full disclosure of the Father's creative and sustaining work.

gar "for" - Here more reason than cause, again explaining what is meant by Jesus only doing what he sees the Father doing; "You see, the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he is doing himself and so this is why the Son only does what he sees the father doing."

autw/ dat. pro. "[shows] him" - [the father loves the son and he shows all things] to him. Dative of indirect object. Note that the verb filew is used for "love" rather than agapaw. John doesn't seem to draw a distinction between these two verbs, although see 21:15-17.

toutwn gen. pro. "[greater works] than these" - [and he will show, disclose, reveal greater] these [works to him]. The genitive is ablative, of comparison, so "greater than these"; "He will reveal even greater things than these works." Some translations have "deeds", but the "works" are surely the whole package of signs, wonders and words.

iJna + subj. "so that [you will be amazed]" - Adverbial, here probably introducing a consecutive clause expressing result, so Harris, Novakovic; "and as a consequence / with the result that, you will be amazed." "And you haven't seen the half of it", Peterson. Brown suggests that uJmeiV, "you", could be derogatory; "people like you."


Jesus acts in accord with the Father, both in life giving, v21, and judging, v22.

gar "for" - Again more reason than cause, explaining the point made in v19-20, namely that the Son acts in accord with the Father / does what the Father does, so Carson; "eg."; "So for example, just as the Father raises the dead ........"

wJsper ..... ouJtwV "just as [........ even] so" - just as [the father raises the dead and makes alive] so [and = also the son makes alive]. Comparative construction; "Just as the Father raises the dead, giving them life, so the Son gives life", Cassirer.

qelei (qelw) "[to whom] he is pleased to give it" - [to whom] he wills. Again this verb prompts translations which can move in the direction of "chooses", so Harris. As Lindars notes, it sounds arbitrary and so prompted the Syriac version "those who believe on him." Lindars focuses on the present context and argues that the divine will is being applied to "selected examples of what is to be universal at the end of the age." When it's all said and done, the word here probably implies nothing more than that the giving of life (and the taking of it, v22) is a divine prerogative, one which Jesus shares in. "The Son gives life to anyone he wants to", CEV.


gar "moreover" - for. More reason than cause; the explanation continues; "Again, ......", Cassirer.

oude ...... alla " ...... but" - and not [the father judges no one = anyone] but. Counterpoint construction, "not ..... but ....."; "The Father does not judge anyone, but has given full jurisdiction to the Son", REB.

tw/ uiJw/ (oV)dat. "to the Son" - [he has given all judgment] to the son. Dative of indirect object. That pasan, "all", judgment is in the hands of Jesus "implies there are no exceptions and no appeal to some higher court", Harris.


The argument now comes to its conclusion. When it comes to equality with God the Father, Jesus does not claim it, rather he serves as an obedient son who fulfills the will of the Father. Yet, at the Father's behest, Jesus possesses the divine prerogatives of creating, sustaining and judging (acquitting and condemning), and so rightly deserves equal honor with the Father. If we dishonor the Son, we dishonor the Father who sent him.

iJna + subj. "that" - that [all men may honor the son]. Introducing a final clause expressing purpose, "in order that ....", so Carson, Kostenberger, ..., although Harris suggests that it is consecutive, expressing result. Possibly just modifying v22, but as Brown notes, the role of judging / cursing implies also the role of enlivening / blessing, and this "so that all may honor the Son."

kaqwV "just as" - as [they honor the father]. Serving to introduce a comparative clause; "so that all humanity may honor the Son equally with the Father", Phillips. Note how Phillips draws out the equative nature of the Father and the Son. John's theology here is not unique, eg., "He who receives me receives the one who sent me", Matt.10:40, cf., 18:5, Lk.10:16.

oJ mh timwn (timaw) pres. part, "whoever does not honor" - the one not honoring, revering, reverencing [the son]. The participle serves as a substantive.

to pemyanta (pempw) aor. part. "who sent [him]" - [does not honor the father], the one having sent [him]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "Father".


Saying: Application / implication of v19-23 - the person who believes in Jesus is not judged, but has eternal life; they have crossed from death to life ("the essential Johannine kerygma / gospel", Schnackenburg). So, a person's fate can be determined in advance by their response to Jesus now, cf., Rom.8:1. As Dodd argues, each sign / discourse package presents the gospel in its own right, but it is probably true to say that within each discourse it is also possible to identify separate gospel presentations, as here in v19-24.

amhn amhn legw uJmin "Very truly I tell you" - truly, truly I say to you. The dative pronoun uJmin, "you", is a dative of indirect object. The expression "I tell you in all truth", Rieu, is used some 25 times in the gospel of John. It is also found in the synoptic gospels, but amhn is not repeated. The expression introduces an important statement from Jesus. As already noted, in these discourses it remains unclear how much John is either channeling the mind of Jesus, or repeating the words of Jesus (a debate of little purpose because either way it is the word of God to us). Yet, when it comes to the amhn amhn sayings, they do often present as independent sayings of Jesus carefully placed in the discourses for maximum effect. The placement is usually at the beginning and/or end of a dialogue or discourse argument, ie., the beginning or end of a paragraph. The present saying is typical of the use of such sayings, the key words from the discourse, zwhn, "life", and krisin, "judgment", are found in the saying. The saying may not logically apply to v19-23, but to the eye of a first century believer it technically applies and so serves as an appendix to v19-23. So, these amhn amhn sayings seem to present as a direct word from Jesus on the subject at hand. "Hear and pay heed", Harris.

oJti -" - that [the one having the word of me and believing]. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what Jesus says.

oJ .... akouwn kai pisteuwn pres. part. "whoever hears [my word] and believes" - the one hearing and believing. These participles serves as substantives, nominative subject of the verb "to come." An example of Granville Sharp's Rule - the single article associates the two coordinate participles. For John, "hearing" is "believing", ie., a Hendiadys; "Anyone here who believes what I am saying right now", Peterson. Jesus' words are words of life eternal; to hear / believe them is to possess life.

tw/ pemyanti (pempw) dat. aor. part. "him who sent [me]" - the one having sent [me has eternal life]. The participle serves as a substantive, dative of direct object after the verb "to believe in." "The theme of this discourse is the coordinate activity of the Father and the Son, and the complete dependence of Jesus upon the Father. Consequently faith is said to be directed through Jesus to him that sent him", Barrett.

ouk .... alla "[will] not [be judged] but" - [and he does] not [come into judgment] but. Counterpoint construction, "not .... but ...." Harris suggests that the negated verb "to come" is gnomic (ie., a generally applicable truth), so it is both present and future, "does not at present come under (condemnatory) judgment"; "he is no longer on the way to judgment", Barclay.

ek + gen. "from [death to life]" - [he has been transformed] from [death into life]. Here probably expressing source, "from" = "out of", or separation, "away from." The perfect passive verb "has been transformed" is also probably gnomic, so "has already been transferred out of the realm of death and into the realm of eternal life"; "He has already crossed the boundary between death and life", Barclay.


ii] The day is at hand when Jesus will exercise his authority, v25-30. The amhn amhn saying of v25 reveals the paradox of the now / not yet coming of the kingdom of God. From the perspective of the kingdom realized in the present, the spiritually dead hear the Word / gospel / voice of the Son of God, and having believed, they live, passing from death to life. From the perspective of the inaugurated kingdom, the time is coming when the dead in Christ will hear the summons to rise from the grave and inherit the promise of eternal life. By implication, condemnation awaits those who do not hear "the voice" = refuse to hear / believe. The discourse covering v26-30 examines the role of Christ in the business of enlivening and judging (condemnatory judgment), making the point that Christ's ability (v26) and authority (v30) to perform these roles is derived from God the Father.

uJmin dat. "[very truly I tell] you" - [truly, truly I say] to you. Dative of indirect object. It is very unusual to have two amhn amhn sayings next to each other as if they were serving as a doublet. Paragraph divisions are notoriously difficult to discern in this gospel, but given that a doublet is unlikely, the saying probably serves to indicate discourse transition / a step in the argument / a new paragraph. Cf., "Very truly I tell you", v24.

oJti "-" - that. Here serving to introduce an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what Jesus is saying.

kai "and [has now come]" - [an hour is coming] and [now is]. Harris suggests that kai is emphatic here; "in fact, is already here." The word wJra, "hour", is referring to the time of the consummation of God's purposes in Christ.

oJte "when [the dead will hear]" - when [the dead will hear]. Temporal conjunction serving to introduce a temporal clause.

thV fwnhV (h) gen. "the voice" - Genitive of direct object after the verb "to hear."

tou uiJou to qeou gen. "the Son of God" - The genitive "of God" is adjectival, relational, with the genitive "Son" as with "voice" above. The synoptic concept of Jesus as Son of God is primarily that of a messianic figure, rather than of a person in a filial relationship with the Father. John, on the other hand, reveals an essential identity between God the Father and Jesus such that Jesus reflects the Father's character, cf., 14:9. Jesus' incarnate possession of divinity is best expressed in the idea of his eternal union with God the Father. The statement that Jesus is equal with God comes close to describing his true nature, but is qualified by the fact that he is not independently equal with the Father; he is always obedient to the will of the Father, always acting on behalf of the Father, 5:19ff.

oiJ akousanteV (akouw) aor. part. "those who hear" - [and] the ones having heard [will live]. The participle serves as a substantive, nominative subject of the verb "to live."


"The life-giving power of the Son is a gift which he has received from the Father", Fenton. It is this creative and sustaining power which enables Jesus to serve as the agent of both creation and the new creation.

gar "for" - More reason (how) than cause (why); introducing an explanation of the amhn amhn saying; "Let me explain how it is that Jesus can give life to the dead; The explanation is simple, like God, he has life in himself."

wJsper .... ouJtwV "as ...... so ...." - just as [the father has life] so in like manner. Comparative construction.

tw/ uiJw/ (oV) dat. "the Son" - [and he gave = granted] to the son. Dative of indirect object.

kai "also" - and. Either ascensive, "so he even granted the Son to have life", or adjunctive "so also he granted the Son to have life."

exein (ecw) pres. inf. "to have" - to have [life]. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of cause expressing what the Father granted, namely the authority to dispense the eternal divine creative and sustaining life (we would have expected an articular infinitive here cf., Wallace 602, Jn.5:26). Is John saying that the Father also imparts life itself to the Son? It is clear that the living God is life himself, eternally so and that Jesus is "the living one", Rev.1:18. Jesus certainly did not receive this divine life at the incarnation since he, the Word, already possessed the creative and sustaining life of God at the time of creation; "in the beginning." The best we can say is that God the Father eternally imparts divine life to the Son and such grounds his authority to give life; Ref., systematic theology, "The eternal generation of the Son."

en + dat. "in [himself]" - Local, expressing space / metaphorical.


Along with the authority to bless, Jesus has the authority to curse, to condemn the unrepentant sinner, and this "because he is the one who is foretold in the prophecy of Dan 7:13f.. where all authority, dominion and kingship are given to the one like unto a son of man", Richardson.

autw/ dat. pro. "[he has given] him" - [he gave authority] to him. Dative of indirect object.

poiein (poiew) pres. inf. "to [judge]" - to do, make [judgment]. The infinitive is epexegetic, specifying the authority which was given to Jesus, namely, to "do judgment" = "execute judgment", Barclay. The "judgment" is condemnatory judgment, not the act of passing judgment / determining either innocence or guilt.

oJti "because" - Serving to introduce a causal clause, as NIV.

uioV anqrwpou (oV) "The Son of Man" - [he is] son of man. Predicate nominative. The genitive "of Man" is adjectival, relational. The lack of an article for "Son" is unexpected, although a predicate nominative, placed before a copulative verb, is often anarthrous (without an article). Barrett suggests that in this context it is unnecessary given that Jesus' messianic status here is beyond question. There is the possibility of a direct reference to Daniel 7:13, the one who is like "a Son of Man." It is very unlikely that the sense "a son of man", as in "a human"", is intended. See 1:51.


The logic of the argument at this point is controlled by some tricky Greek. The most likely sense is that given that Jesus has received the authority to bless / give life and curse / condemn because he is the Son of Man, we should not be amazed at this (touto taken as cataphoric, referring forward), namely that (oJti taken as epexegetic) in the last day he is also "the voice that calls the dead to life ....... all who are in the graves and who on hearing it (the voice) will rise - those who have done good (put their faith in Christ???) to the resurrection of life and those who have done evil (rejected Christ???) to the resurrection of judgment", Ridderbos.

mh qaumazet (qaumazw) pres. imp. "do not be amazed at" - do not marvel, wonder, be amazed, surprised, astonished. The imperative is surely intended, so most translations, but Brown notes that it could be a negative question, "You are not surprised at this are you?" cf., BDF #427[2].

touto pro. "this" - [do not marvel at] this. Sometimes taken as anaphoric here, ie., referring back to v26 and 27, namely, Jesus' authority as the Son of Man to apply the blessing of life and the curse of condemnation. Yet, it is probably cataphoric, ie., referring forward, such that the amazing thing is Jesus' part in the resurrection of the dead in the last day - his summons to either life or condemnation.

oJti "for [a time is coming]" - because [an hour is coming]. The conjunction is often taken here to introduce a causal clause explaining why we should not be amazed, "because", yet it is probably epexegetic, specifying "this"; "don't be surprised at this namely that ..........." "You are not surprised, are you, / Don't be surprised that the dead and buried rise at the command of the Son of Man."

en + dat. "when" - in [which]. Temporal use of the preposition, as NIV; "a time is coming when all those who are dead and buried will hear his voice and out they will come", Phillips.

oiJ "[all] who are [in their graves]" - [all] the ones [in the grave]. The article serves as a nominalizer turning the prepositional phrase "in the graves" into substantive limited by the adjective panteV, "all".

thV fwnhV (h) gen. "[will hear his] voice" - [will hear] the voice [of him (v29) and come out]. Genitive of direct object after the verb "to hear." "All the dead will hear his voice and come out of their graves", TEV.


Jesus is speaking here of the general resurrection of all humanity, living and dead, in the last day - believers and unbelievers. Of course, this is a matter of contention; It is widely held that unbelievers do not rise from the dead.

oiJ ... poihsanteV (poiew) aor. part. "those who have done [what is good]" - the ones having done [the good]. The participle, as with "the ones having practiced [evil]", serves as a substantive. What is "the good things / works"? Ridderbos suggests that "the good" is belief in Christ; so also Carson and Beasley-Murray, "the works of good and evil .... flow from the acceptance or rejection of the word of the Redeemer-Revealer". Most commentators steer clear of justification by works, but do tend to argue that works serve as "the test of the faith they profess", Morris, eg., Pfitzner: "the genuineness of faith will be assessed and verified by the kind of life one has led" (I'm gone!). Brown argues that, particularly in John's gospel, works and faith are "complementary" in determining reward and punishment (really!). The problem we face here is caused by importing a false antithesis between faith and works. Works are but the fruit of faith. A person who hears / believes the word, who come to the light, is enlightened, changed. Yet, the deeds reflected by that change are not counted because in themselves they remain filthy rages - they never pass the pub test; they are always compromised. The only deeds that are counted on the day of judgment are Christ's deeds. This is why, on that terrible Day when the Ancient of Days asks "Who are you", the only answer to give is "I'm with Him!" This seems to be the point made in 3:21 - the person who adheres to the truth in Christ willingly comes before the brilliance of God in order that their life may be seen, not on the basis of what they have done, but on the basis of what God has done in them and for them in Christ, as an act of divine grace. So, what is "the good"? "This is the work of God: to believe in the one who sent me", 6:29.

eiV + acc. "[will rise]" - into [a resurrection, rising]. Here the preposition expresses goal / end-view, "destined for; "those who do good are destined for a resurrection of life." The clause is somewhat cumbersome and can be treated verbally, given that the noun "resurrection" is verbal; "Everyone who has done good things will rise to life", CEV.

zwhV (h) gen. "to live" - of life. The genitive is adjectival, attributive / idiomatic, limiting the noun "resurrection, rising", "a resurrection which results in life." So also krisewV, "a resurrection which results in condemnatory judgment." The genitive here is often classified as adverbial, result, see BDF #166, possibly purpose - Kostenberger thinks both purpose and result is being expressed, cf., Wallace p101. "To participate in a resurrection that issues in life / that issues in condemnation", Harris.

krisewV (iV ewV) gen. "to be condemned" - [but the ones the evil things having practiced to a resurrection] of judgment. The genitive as for zwhV above. Barrett has a left-of-field take on the judging of the "good" and "evil" on the day of resurrection. He argues that judgment is indeed based on works, but given that believers don't face judgment, Jesus' words here do not apply to believers - I like Carson's comment here; "This will not do." There is some confusion here over the word krisewV, "judgment". As in English it is problematic because it can refer to the imposition of guilt and punishment, but also the judicial process of determining innocence or guilt. All humans face "judgment" (a day of judicial assessment) for either blessing or cursing, but believers avoid the cursing / "judgment" (condemnatory judgment) because they have a Get Out of Jail Free pass held on their behalf by Jesus. The NIV decides the use for us here by the choice of the word "condemned", ie., condemnatory judgment is intended.


Concluding the subject of Christ's role in blessing / bestowing life and justly cursing / condemning on the day ("hour") that is coming and now is, v25-29, we are pointed back to the proposition of the amhn amhn saying, v19, namely that Jesus' actions are in concord with the Father - "The Son is the reliable executor of God the Father's will", Harris. "I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me", ESV.

ap (apo) + gen. "by [myself]" - [i am not able to do anything] from [myself]. Expressing source / origin, but possibly standing in for uJpo to express agency (rare), as NIV.

poiein (poiew) pres. inf. "[I can] do [nothing]" - to do. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "to be able."

kaqwV "[I judge only] as [I hear, and my judgment is just]" - as [i hear i judge and the judgment of me is just]. Comparative, introducing a comparative clause; Jesus' "judgement" is in accord with what he hears from the Father. The immediate context implies the condemnatory judgment of "those who have done evil", but as NIV, the word krisiV, "judgment", may here be referring to the judicial declaration of innocence or guilt; "My verdict is just", Harris, so also Ridderbos, "acquittal and judgment (condemnation)." "As I hear from God, so I judge", Barclay.

oJti "for" - because. Serving to introduce a causal clause explaining why Jesus' "judgment" (see krisiV above) is just.

ou ...... alla "[I seek] not [........] but .." - [I do] not [seek the will of me] but [the will of the one having sent me]. Counterpoint construction; "not this but that."

tou pemyantoV (pempw) gen. aor. part. "him who sent [me]" - the one having sent. The participle serves as a substantive with the genitive being adjectival, possessive or subjective.


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