If you weren’t following along when these were being released as sermon podcasts – or with the YouTube videos of the services – or for that matter, have just completely forgotten since I haven’t been in the Gospel of John since the end of August – then maybe you might want to go back and listen to those, but be warned, even though we’re only in Chapter 5, I’ve been preaching in this book since last October and there are already 18 sermons in this series.
But for those who don’t want to listen to 13 and a half hours of sermons to catch up, let me give you a quick review of where we’re at – because we’re about to jump into the middle of a section that really does need context.
The first thing you need to remember is that the Apostle John’s intention when writing this gospel was to paint a portrait of who Jesus is by using stories, symbolism, contrasts, and reflections that are like a sort of appendix or supplement to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. It was written 30+ years later and a lot of people had already read those three, but were still either confused about or misrepresenting what they said about Jesus – and so John wrote his gospel to make sure everyone knew exactly who Jesus is.
And he did it in a really intricate way. He uses a whole bunch of 7s – 7 titles for Jesus, seven miracles (or signs) that teach something about Jesus, seven “I am” statements where Jesus just flat out tells people something about Himself using the Divine Name that God gave to Moses – YHWH, or “I Am”.
Also, while using all these sevens, John uses stories where Jesus interacts with different groups of people, and different size groups. At first it’s just John the Baptist and a couple of his followers, but then we go a bit bigger to a Jewish wedding, then a bit bigger to Jewish people and the leaders at the Temple, then the picture shifts to a one-on-one with a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin (the leaders of all the Jewish people), then John contrasts that interaction by making the next story Jesus’ one-on-one interaction with a socially rejected, sinful, superstitious, non-Jewish woman in a foreign land. Then Jesus comes back and interacts with yet another people group – the Romans.
John’s whole mission is to introduce Jesus by not only hearing what Jesus says about Himself, but through His interactions with all manner of people – seeing how they respond to Him and He responds to them.
But, by John 5, Jesus has had interactions with pretty much everyone, and it was time to shift the story again. The whole first part of the story John told was how popular Jesus was, how His ministry and influence grew, and how His infamy grew too – but in John 5:18, the verse before the one we’re studying today, — right after Jesus declares His equality with God – we see a shift. It says, “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.”
And then, for the rest of the chapter Jesus explains, in no uncertain terms, exactly what he meant:
Let’s read John 5:19–29:
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. 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. (ESV)
You see now why we needed some context. In verse 1 we see that this event is happening right in the city of Jerusalem, on the Temple grounds, during an important Jewish Feast. That means the place is absolutely packed. Jesus has just healed a man on the Sabbath, the Sanhedrin flipped out, and Jesus looks right at them, the rest of the Jewish people, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, Temple guards, and anyone else within earshot – and says, “I am equal to God the Father. What God does, I do. What God knows, I know. The powers that God has, I have too. The authority that God has over death and life, I have too. The worship and honour due to the Father, is due to me too. And it is up to me, because I’m God, to declare the words that lead to eternal life. And if you believe me, and me alone, you will be saved from eternal death. In the end, when you die and you stand before the judgment seat of God, do you know who will be sitting there? Me. I will judge whether you are worthy for heaven or not. So stop fighting me, stop arguing with me, stop telling me I’m wrong – just shut up, listen, and obey. Because I AM GOD.
That’s what this section is saying. Jesus declares equality with God in person, power, authority, and glory. And He says in effect, with absolute clarity – no parables or metaphors – who He really is.
That phrase in verse 24, “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.” is so key!
I talked a little bit on the Thursday podcast about Hell, and perhaps the most important question for a human to ask themselves or anyone else is, “How do I avoid going to hell?” Jesus gives the answer.
He begins, “Truly, truly”. Whenever you see something doubled in scripture, it’s time to perk your ears up. It’s a way to emphasize how suuuuuper important what He’s about to say is.
Then he says, “I say to you” – He makes it absolutely clear He’s not talking in platitudes or giving some kind of high-fallooting theological teaching. He’s not speaking theoretically, or giving an opinion. He’s looking at YOU… YOU YOU. Not some other YOU. YOU YOU. Not just the Jews, not just the Sanhedrin, not just the Apostles, not just old people, or religious people, or sick people, or lonely people, or weak people. He’s literally talking to YOU.
And He says, “Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.” What are the qualifications there? You have to hear Jesus words, believe not only the words, but believe in God and what God says through Jesus – because remember the first line of John – Jesus is literally the Word of God. So you need to hear the words, personalize them and believe them in your head and heart, and attach them not just to a concept or religion, but to the very person of God, the real, actual, person of God that you can talk to and listen to and connect with and experience – and if you do that… you will escape hell and live.
That’s the qualifications for Eternal life. Hear the Word of God, the gospel, the story of salvation, the declaration that you are a sinner, condemned by a righteous God to eternal torment in hell, and have one hope – that Jesus Christ would take your sin upon himself, die in your place, take your punishment, go to the grave for you, and then defeat death, destroy the effects of sin — and that God would accept what Jesus did on your behalf as payment for your sins. That’s the word you need to hear.
And then you need to believe it. Believe you aren’t just a good person that occasionally messes up, but that you are a sinner who loves sin and can’t stop sinning. Believe that the sins you commit have brought death your soul, and death to everything in your life, and will eventually lead you eternal death in hell. Believe that you are doomed. And then believe that Jesus offers the only way, the one and only way of salvation – not one of many, not because you deserve it, not because you’re so great, not because Jesus saves everyone, not because you earned it, not because of any other reason than God decided to show you your sin and invite you to be saved… and let that knowledge drive you to despair, and then raise you up to worship and thanksgiving to the one, true God, and His Son Jesus Christ.
Not theoretically, not religiously, not culturally, not a God of your own design, not picking and choosing the parts of Jesus you like and forgetting the parts you don’t, not chopping his word up into bits you prefer and others you want to forget, not thinking that Jesus doesn’t care what you do and just saves everyone because he’s so nice – but actually believing, speaking to, and connecting with the real, actual, historical, biblically revealed Trinity – God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit – and giving your whole heart, soul, mind and strength to Him – because He has shown you favour and saved you from eternal torment by his grace.
So what’s the application here today? Basically – to make sure you know who Jesus really is, are believing the right things about Him, and are actually saved. To check your heart to see if you are a religious hypocrite, a Christian pretender and play actor. To ask yourself if you have really, actually contended – really wrested with whether you believe that Jesus is God, that Jesus is the only way of salvation, and that Jesus is your one and only Lord and has the right to command you to do anything – and that you will respond “yes”, not only because He’s your Creator and the God of the universe, but because you want to say yes because he’s also your friend, your brother, your father, and lives not only with you but within you.
To ask yourself – Am I going to heaven and why?
To ask yourself – Am I living as someone who really believes what I say I believe? Or do I pretend my faith, and then put Jesus on the shelf most of the time, until I need him for something.
To ask yourself – Am I treating Jesus and His word like a trivia game, just amassing a bunch of knowledge for interests sake, but never letting the truth of it actually break your hard heart, utterly destroy your warped self-perception, and allow Him to completely rebuild who you are from his perspective?
You see, despite what the world might say, there are not “many ways to God.” There are not “many roads to heaven”. Not “all religions are equally valid”. Not “all truths are equally truthful.” Not “all opinions deserve to be heard.”
There is One God, Lord, one Saviour, one path, one truth, one mediator between God and man – and that’s Jesus Christ. And if you’re not on His page, believing what He says, and living with Him as a current reality, daily reality, moment-by-moment reality that affects every single part of your existence – then you need to change.
As verse 25 says, “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.”
If you hear me today, if you hear the voice of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, today – please listen, believe, and make that belief real – so you can hear and live.
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