Advent Devotional Day 25: John 5.22-29
The Life-Giving Son
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. 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. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he 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. (John 5.22-29)
This text is a repository of immense, mysterious truth. In it we see themes of authority, judgement, and resurrection power. On the surface, it may seem that the Lord Jesus is simply promising that one day He will judge the world in righteousness and grant eternal life to those who are His. This is certainly a truth that the Lord proclaims in this passage, but if we look deeper, we see deep and rich themes of incarnation within Jesus’ words.
Judgement is a theme here, but what is the reason behind Jesus’ authority to judge every person who has ever lived? Verse 22 says that the Father has given this authority to His (incarnate) Son so that all may see the Son and honor Him “just as they honor the Father.” Then Jesus goes further and says “whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.” If we only do a cursory reading of this passage of John’s gospel the significance of that statement may be lost on us. But who is there who can really say that He ought to be honored “just as the Father” is honored. Who is worthy of the same exact type and amount of honor as the Father Himself? Who shares such dignity, value, and identity with the Father that if one does not honor Him that He is not honoring the Father either? Surely this is no ordinary Man, no common prophet, no mere teacher.
This passage also identifies the Lord Jesus as the One who will call out to all in the tombs, and the dead will be raised to life. He has the power over judgement and death, and he also has the power to bring the dead to life again. But what is the reason that Jesus has this power of life? Verse 26 says “For as the Father has life in Himself, so also He has granted the Son to have life in Himself.” What is this “life” that the Father gives to His Son? Is it merely the power and authority to raise the dead on the last day? Is this just referring to something that the Son does in His humanity? I do not believe so, because the pattern that our Lord sets in this passage shows that what the Son does is a product of who He is. Just as the judgement that the Son executes is given to Him by the Father, and this is because the Son is One who shares such identity with the Father that He deserves to be honored along with Him, so also the Son executes the task of raising the dead to life on the last day because He is the One whom the Father shares the very attribute of “life” with from eternity!
In this text the Lord Jesus pulls back the veil and ushers our minds into a Divine mystery, that mystery is formally called eternal generation by theologians. It is simply the doctrine that the Son is eternally the Son of the Father. The Father eternally (has no beginning) begets His Son, sharing His very essence with the One whom He begets, or generates. In this eternal relationship there is no separation and no dilution of the essence between the Father and the Son. The Father and the Son both bear the fullness of the Divine Essence in their own Persons, along with the Holy Spirit.
This is the reality that the Lord Jesus pierces into in this text. The Father demands that we honor the Son and goes so far as to say that if we honor not the Son, we do not honor the Father either. Why? Because He is eternally the Son of the Father, bearing the exact same Essence of Deity that His Father does without division. He possesses the Father’s nature in the full, therefore He has authority to judge in His Divine nature, and this execution of judgement is conferred upon His human nature in His Gospel-work. He has authority to give life, because He Himself possesses the fullness of life eternal along with His Father! The incarnate Son is given the authority to raise the dead and judge them because in His Divine nature this is something that He has from His Father eternally! This is a jaw-dropping, mind bending mystery that we will never fully comprehend. We must simply worship the Lord Jesus for it. He is mighty God. That is His point in this text. He is using His sharing in the Father’s work in order to prove to us that He is who He is!
Why does this matter at Christmas? Why this particular text on Christmas day? Because the most important reality, the most beautiful reality ever uttered, is that God became a man. The Christ-Child is “the Infinite become an Infant.” (Spurgeon) I want us to be totally and completely mystified at His Person. I want us to be astounded at His condescension. I want us to stand in awe of the One with the power to raise to life and execute judgement, because He is the Almighty who became weak. The wiggling baby in a manger in Bethlehem was, at the exact same moment in time, the One who holds all things together by the Word of His power. Worship the Lord Jesus Christ, born of Mary.