Jesus’ Ultimate Authority
“Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” 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 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. And 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. 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.”
John 5:14-24 ESV
Authority over All Creation
Last week we took a brief look at the story of Jesus healing this lame man at the Pool of Bethesda (or house of mercy). We noticed how Jesus sought out this man and performed an amazing miracle of healing his crippled body. Jesus simply spoke and the man was able to get up, take his mat and walk. John’s point in these stories is obvious, or at least it ought to be. He is demonstrating over and over Jesus’ authority over the physical creation. He wants us to recognize that THIS man, Jesus, is no ordinary man.
But John also wants us to recognize that Jesus’ authority over creation is a reminder that we won’t face any physical challenge or obstacle that our Lord is incapable of conquering. However, we also see in these stories how Jesus doesn’t remove every challenge or obstacle from our paths…
“”Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Matthew 5:4-12 ESV
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”
2 Corinthians 4:7-11 ESV
“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 12:7-10 ESV
Epicurus (Greek philosopher from the 3rd century BC) proposed this idea:
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?
However, Epicurus left out one aspect of understanding evil in his argument. His understanding of evil, and usually ours, assumes divine or ultimate wisdom and comprehension. In other words, Epicurus assumed he understood evil and the resulting problem well enough to pronounce judgment upon God. That is a huge assumption and one we make every day. However, Jesus’ actions and words indicate there is a deeper issue in our struggles than just what we perceive on the surface. (Teaching a child to walk)
So, Jesus isn’t standing there looking at your needs and struggles and scratching his head wondering what can be done or what went wrong. Not only is he capable, he is infinitely knowledgeable about your struggles and hurts. If he doesn’t remove a struggle or obstacle it is because he has a purpose in and through it.
Authority over the Law (or you’re not the boss of me)
Now that John has established Jesus’ obvious authority over creation by healing this man’s physical condition, he turns his attention to the issue of authority over religious beliefs and actions. John tells us that Jesus performed this miracle on a Sabbath and indicates this is the cause of the Pharisees’ hatred and persecution of him. Jesus counters by challenging their understanding of the Sabbath and their restrictive Sabbath laws.
As we’ve discussed before, the religious authorities, and the Pharisees specifically, had taken the fourth commandment regarding the Sabbath day and its holiness and turned it into a burden. God simply said they should not work on that day and that it should be holy, or dedicated to him and his purposes. Instead of leaving a simple definition and global understanding of work alone, they generated over 600 specific rules regarding this one simple command. While today, Sunday, is not technically the Sabbath we do generally observe and apply this command to this day. I can assure you, each of you have broken and are currently breaking the Pharisaical traditions and laws governing the Sabbath.
So, what’s the point of John bringing up this issue? Well, he states why… “because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” The issue John is addressing is not necessarily the nitpicking of the Pharisees over observance of the Sabbath law, but Jesus’ claim of equality with God and, thus, authority over the law but ultimately over their very lives. And that’s the very issue that John wants us to confront and reconcile.
Authority to Judge
If Jesus has authority over creation, over the law, and is equal with God then he has FULL authority over us and our choices, actions, attitudes and, ultimately, over every aspect of our lives. The Jews weren’t just upset over how Jesus treated the Sabbath and ignored their traditions, but that he said his actions were the very actions of God… “whatever the father does the son does.” So, whatever we see Jesus doing or saying are the very things the Father is doing and saying.
But then John shifts gears and says, the father doesn’t judge but has given that authority over to the son. It appears that is purposeful and intentional based on Jesus’ humanity and triumph over temptation. Jesus has not only “walked in our shoes” but has blazed the trail of victory over those temptations.
“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV
Jesus can judge us because he has been one of us. He gives grace and mercy not only because of his boundless love, but also because of his understanding and participation in our humanity, our struggles, temptations, relationships, and cultural challenges. It is this same authority over creation, over the law, and over sin and judgment that gives Jesus every ability to act as righteous judge over man. We can, and do, hide our true intentions from others and sometimes we even deceive ourselves. But, we cannot hide ourselves from the one who made us and know our hearts and minds, our intentions and thoughts.
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
Hebrews 4:12-13 ESV
I want to end today simply leaving this for you to consider, to meditate on this week… “Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” This will be our focus for next week.