Like Father, Like Son
Sermon on John 5:19-24
Text: Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.
“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”
The old saying is “Like father, like son.” Its meaning is quite clear. Usually speaking, the son has the same likes or dislikes as the father. If the father likes a sports team, the son will like that team. If the father is particular about the brand of vehicle he drives, the son will likely follow in his footsteps. This morning, as Jesus speaks to a group of Pharisees, he shows that he is exactly like his heavenly Father. We see that in Jesus’ case, it is truly LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON. They are 1. Alike In The Work That They Do. 2. They Are Alike In The Honor That They Share. 3. They Are Alike In The Word They Speak.
The reason for this conversation with the Pharisees is a healing that Jesus preformed. Jesus had healed a man who had been lame for thirty-eight years. He told him to pick up his mat and go home. The problem that the Pharisees had with Jesus’ act of compassion is that Jesus did it on the Sabbath, a day when no work was to be done. It says that they persecuted Jesus for his actions. In his defense, Jesus said, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” Jesus was putting himself on the same level as God the Father. This enraged the Pharisees and, it says, “The Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” Our text is Jesus’ defense of himself.
He said, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” This verse reminds us that there is perfect unity within the Trinity. The Son of God does not and cannot do even one thing on his own. He only does what he sees the Father doing. The Trinity is of one mind, will and purpose. Jesus uses human terminology to give us a glimpse into the mystery of the Trinity. He describes himself as watching the Father and then doing what he sees the Father doing. This is also true of Jesus according to his human nature. The very things that Jesus knew by his human nature were shown to him by the Father. It says, “The Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.” The Father loved the Son so much that he did not withhold anything from him as he prepared for the work of salvation.
This is what Jesus was referring to when he said, “Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these.” In other words, Jesus told them that if they thought the miracle of healing this invalid was something, they would see something even more amazing. Jesus continues, “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.” The Jews recognized that the Father had authority to give life. Jesus said that he has the same authority. This is because he and the Father are on the same level. They are alike in what they do.
When we hear the picture of raising the dead and giving life, our minds might think of those times when Jesus raised people from the dead, such as Lazarus or the daughter of Jairus. We might also think of the Last Day, when the dead will be raised and stand before the Lord. This is an appropriate idea, for Jesus later speaks of judging, “The Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son.” However, there is a raising to life that occurs prior to the Last Day. That is the day that a person is brought to faith. All people are born spiritually dead. Scriptures are clear on this point, as we read in Ephesians 2:1, “You were dead in your transgressions and sins.” You and I were also born in this condition. While we were physically alive, we were spiritually dead. We could not, on our own, make the first step to God. We would have been lost forever in hell because of our sin, both with our natural spiritual condition and the subsequent sins that we have committed. However, the Father and the Son wanted us to be with them in heaven. So, they worked to have it be so. The Father and the Son are alike in their work of salvation. The Father sent his Son to rescue us. Everything that Jesus did was completely in line with his Father’s will. In the next chapter, Jesus said, “I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.” What was that will? “My Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life.” A part of the Father’s will, which the Son willingly carried out, was to sacrifice himself on the cross. It was the Father’s will to punish his Son, so that your sins and my sins would be paid for. Jesus willingly did this, as he said in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Your will be done.” The Father raised his Son from the dead on Easter, showing that he had accepted Jesus’ payment for our sins. When you and I are brought to faith, we are raised from our spiritual death to spiritual life. The Father and the Son are alike in the work that they have done for our salvation.
Jesus continues in showing that he is on the same level as the Father by saying, “The Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.” God the Father granted the responsibility of judging to the Son in order that people might honor the Son just as they honor the Father. This is another indication that the Son is equal to the Father. Remember that the Pharisees wanted to kill Jesus for saying that God was his Father and that he was equal with him. They are alike in the honor that each is to receive. Jesus told them that he deserved equal honor. Obviously, this was something that they were not willing to give. Jesus reminds them that those who do not honor him do not honor the Father either. You cannot be selective in your honor for the Trinity.
This warning is also in place in our world today. There are some who do not believe that Jesus is God. They will look at him as a great teacher, a great example, but that is about it. There are others who accuse those who honor and worship Jesus as God as worshiping many gods. After all, they reason, there is only one God. They point to various passages such as, “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one.” They do not believe in the doctrine of the Trinity in that there is one God, but that there are three Persons in that Godhead. Some of the church bodies that do not believe that Jesus is God are those of the Jewish faith and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. In reality, they are worshiping a false god.
There is also a reminder for us when we think of Jesus. We have grown up seeing Jesus from the Gospels. We celebrate his birth at Christmas. We see him walk the roads of Palestine. We see his care and concern for the poor and the sick. Sometimes, there is the temptation to bring Jesus down to our level. While it is true that Jesus was a human being and he did all those things that are normal for human being to do, he is also true God and, as such, is deserving of all honor and praise. As Paul wrote in Philippians 2:10,11, “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” For all that Jesus has done for us and, in light of the fact that he is true God, we rightly owe him our worship. As Paul reminded us, when we worship Jesus, we are also giving glory to the Father. Jesus and the Father are alike in that they deserve the same honor.
Jesus points to one more way in which he and the Father are alike. He says, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” They both speak the same Word, that is to say, they both speak of the same way to salvation. It is not as if the Father were speaking the law in the Old Testament and then Jesus came speaking the gospel in the New Testament. Jesus also spoke words of law. We think of the many times he pointed out sin to the Jewish leaders. He spoke law to the woman at the well in Samaria. In all of the cases where the law was spoken, it was done with the intent that we should see that we cannot live up to the perfect standard that God had established. The Father also spoke words of gospel. For example, as soon as the first sin was committed, the Father came with the promise of the son of the woman who would crush the devil. Throughout the Scriptures, the word that both speak has remained constant. There is but one way to be saved. As Jesus said, “Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned.” We also note that this life-giving word has already done its job. Jesus said, “He has crossed over from death to life.” Note that Jesus did not say, ‘will cross over from death to life,’ but “has crossed over from death to life.” This is already something that is ours when we are brought to faith. We have crossed from spiritual death to life. It will be true at the end of time, if the Lord should call us home before then. We will cross over from physical death to physical life and we will enjoy eternal life. This is the word that both the Father and the Son have spoken and continue to speak to us today.
“Like father, like son” usually only lasts for so long. Eventually, the son grows up and forms his own opinions that are not always what his father held. He will not always do things the way that he saw his father do them. That is just a part of growing up. It is not the case, however, for God the Father and God the Son. They have been and they always will think and do things in harmony. This is a part of the mystery of the Trinity. Rather than trying to understand it, we praise God that it is this way. We do not have to wonder if our salvation is sure. God does not change. When the Father and the Son worked together for our salvation, it was completed once and for all. The message does not change. May we give honor and glory to the one who sent his Son into the world for our salvation. May we give honor to the Son who gave up everything that we would be with him forever. Amen.