The Honor of the Son
Series: The Gospel of John
Everyone honors Jesus in some way, but should we really honor Him the same way we’d honor God? Yes.
Today is the first day of 2022, but it seems like no matter what year anymore, one of the hot topics is who will run for President. Will Trump run again? Will he win the Republican nomination? What will that mean for the national election? But do you know what we never really talk about? Who will run for Vice President? It’s just not very interesting, right? Because we all know that the Vice President doesn’t receive the same honor as the President. And of course, if we’re Christians, we profess that no one should receive the honor unique to God. There is one God and only one God. But when we left off in the Gospel of John last year, we left off with this stunning claim that Jesus was equal with God. How could that be? Sure, He’s the Son of God, but is He God the Son? Is He really equal with God? Or is He more like a Vice President, while God the Father is President? In this passage we’ll see He is not. Equal means equal. The Son is truly equal with the Father. Therefore, Honor the Son as you honor the Father, because He does all the Father does and the Father bears witness about Him.
He does all the Father does
Our passage begins with Jesus’ statement that the Son can do nothing of His own accord, but only what He sees the Father doing. Remember that He had just made Himself equal with God, but here He’s clarifying: Equality with the Father does not mean independence from the Father. It’s not like one of them is the house and the other is the senate and though equal in power, they check one another’s power. Rather, the Son only does what He sees the Father doing. Now in this section of Scripture Jesus is calling us into the deep end of theology, so bear with me, but when He talks about the Son “seeing” what the Father does, He’s talking about the Son’s eternal begottenness from the Father. So as the Father is projecting His image, it’s as though the Son is “seeing” that image. Therefore the Son is not something essentially different or independent from the Father. There is an essential unity between all the Son does and all the Father does, for the Son only does what He sees the Father doing. And then the flipside of that in verse 19 is that whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.
So here’s another wrong image: The Father is the Son’s boss, and so the Son only does what the Father tells Him to do, and when the Father chooses not to include the Son, He doesn’t. Your boss at work tells you to work on project x, but when she goes to the board meeting, she doesn’t bring you. That’s not the case here: All that the Father does, the Son does. So the relationship between the Father and the Son is neither one of separate but equal powers, nor one of the Son’s subordination to the Father. Rather, in the work of God outside of Himself, they work inseparably. The Son never acts apart from the Father, and the Father does nothing without the Son also doing it. If you recall from last year, in theology we call this the doctrine of “inseparable operations,” the idea that the works of God outside of Himself are inseparable among the persons of the Trinity. There is plenty of mystery in it, but it is an awesome mystery that should lead us to honor the Son. No created being can claim that whatever the Father does, that he does likewise.
Then Jesus gives the reason: The Father loves the Son and shows Him all that He is doing, and greater works than these will He show Him, so that you may marvel. Right now the work in question is Jesus’ healing of a man with a word who had been an invalid for 38 years. Jesus told him to arise, and he did. In explaining that work, Jesus said it was both the Father and the Son doing it, and now Jesus says there is still greater things the Father and the Son will do together as one God. Not only will the Son heal the sick, but verse 21: He will raise the dead. That’s one of the unique prerogatives of God throughout the Bible: He gives life to whom He will. For all our medical and scientific advances, we cannot raise the dead. There is a story in the Bible about another prophet, Elijah, raising a dead man, but even there he does it by invoking God’s power. Here we read that the Son gives life “to whom He will.” Later in verse 26 we read that as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself. The Son has the power in Himself, as true God, to give life to whom He will, even to the dead.
Then Jesus goes further: He says the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son. On judgment day, it will be the Son before whom we appear, by the Father’s own ordination, and here’s the reason, verse 23: That all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. God wants the Son to receive the same honor He receives. What’s the honor the Father receives? He receives the honor of being worshiped as the only true God. Now here we read that’s the honor the Father wants the Son to have. So the Father has given the work of judgment especially to Him, so that He’s the one with whom we all ultimately have to deal. And that means, verse 24, that whoever hears His word and believes Him who sent Him has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. If you’re good with the Son, you’re good with the Father, because the Father has given all judgment to the Son.
Do you see what that means? It means if you believe the word of Christ, you have eternal life. You don’t need to add anything to that faith to acquire it. It’s whoever hears my word and believes, not whoever hears my word, believes, and…There is no “and”. Believe in the Son today and whoever you are, He will grant you eternal life. He has it within Himself, and He has the authority to give it to whomever He will. If you believe in the Son today, you have it, because you have Him. You do not come into judgment; you have passed from death to life. You aren’t waiting to be given eternal life in the end. You have it now, and have already crossed from death to life. Jesus has put your judgment day in the past. You will still appear before the judgment seat of Christ, but the verdict is secure. You aren’t waiting to find out whether He’ll accept you or not. You don’t have to wait and see whether your good deeds outweighed your bad.
We’re fresh out of Christmas you know, and one of my Christmas traditions every year is I watch Home Alone, hopefully both 1 and 2, which are the only Home Alones worthy of the name by the way, but I watch at least one of them. In Home Alone 2, there’s the bird lady, and there’s one scene where she’s talking to Kevin, the main character, and he kinda realizes all the wrong he’s done. Here’s how she counsels him. She says, “Did you know that a good deed erases a bad deed?” He says, “It’s late. I don’t know if I’ll have enough time… …to do enough good deeds to erase all my bad ones.” She says, “It’s Christmas Eve. Good deeds count extra tonight…Think of an important thing you can do for others…and go do it.” Now maybe you chuckle at that a bit, but why? Because you probably realize she’s just making stuff up to give Kevin some hope within himself that he can be forgiven of his bad deeds. It may seem a bit silly, but that shows the silliness of all man-made religion: We make stuff up to reassure ourselves that our good deeds outweigh our bad deeds. We aren’t confident they will, so we make up the idea that on Christmas Eve our good deeds count extra, or we do what the medieval Roman Catholic church was guilty of: We make up sacraments like penance or indulgences so we can reassure ourselves that we’re ok.
That’s simply not the message Jesus proclaimed, and we know, because we have the message of Jesus written down for us here. When we don’t take Him at His Word, when we don’t simply hear His word and believe the one who sent Him, we miss the freedom and joy it should bring. As long as you’re still trying to reassure yourself by what you do, you will never be able to get away from Kevin’s question: “I don’t know if I’ll have enough time to do enough good deeds to erase all my bad deeds.” And the bird lady’s answer, as well intentioned as it may have been, thought it may even feel good for a time, won’t satisfy. The only way to really know you have eternal life is to hear the word of Christ and believe Him. Receive Jesus by faith, and you have all you need for eternal life.
And then an hour is coming, Jesus says in verse 25, and is even now here, when the dead will hear His voice and live. The hour is already here: The moment you believe, you have eternal life. But there is another hour coming, verse 28 says, where all who are in the tombs will hear the voice of the Son and come out. Not only is Jesus the one through whom we receive eternal spiritual life; He’s the one through whom we receive eternal bodily life. And on that final judgment day, all the dead will raise and live forever in one of two states: Those who have done good will live forever in what Jesus calls the “resurrection of life” and those who have done evil will live forever in what He calls the “resurrection of judgment.”
Notice here Jesus describes those who believe as those who have done good. They’re the ones who go into the resurrection of life in the end. This is no contradiction of what He said earlier either. The moment you believe, you have eternal life, without any addition of works. AND those who have eternal life will do good works. That’s what that life in you produces. So in the end, at the final judgment, those who go into the resurrection of life will be accurately described as “those who do good.” And those who persisted in unbelief will be accurately described as “those who have done evil.” Are you turning from evil and doing good? Do so, not to gain eternal life, but because you have it. Notice also that there is no annihilation of those who do good or those who do evil. This is the final judgment, and in the final judgment, both those who have done good and those who do evil will rise, to live forever, those who have done good to eternal conscious joy with God, those who have done evil to the eternal conscious torment of judgment from God. Shouldn’t that relativize for us a bit the incredible significance we tend to put on the present? Shouldn’t that relativize the attention, energy, and money even we put toward perfecting our lives in the here and now? An hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear the voice of the Son of God and from that day forward live in either the pleasure or the judgment of God. Are you prepared for that day? Is your neighbor? It may be cliché, but it’s true: In that day it won’t matter how much money you made or what people thought of you. It’s not those who have big houses or those who were cool who go to the resurrection of life. It’s those who believed the Son, who honored Him as they honored the Father, and who therefore did good. Use this life to prepare for that hour and to help others do likewise.
And if that hour is coming, do you see what hope you have in Jesus as you look into your future? As you look at your future, you can tell yourself, “At least I have ______,” but unless you’re putting Jesus in that blank, it can be taken away from you. Then what hope will you have? If you have Jesus, you have all you need, for eternal life now, and for resurrection life for your mortal body then. Pastor Mark at our Manayunk congregation told me the story of a lady he knows who had decaying teeth, and eventually most of her teeth fell out. But she needed a certain kind of dentures that her insurance wouldn’t cover and neither she nor her family could afford. When Mark talked to her about it, she said somewhat matter of factly, “But it’s ok; I’ll have all my teeth in the resurrection.” That’s how you could respond when hardship comes into your life! I don’t want to imply that it’s easy, but real hope is there. You will hear the voice of the Son of God and live, body and all. He does all that the Father does. There is nothing you need from the Father that you can’t get through the Son. The only way to the Father is through the Son. And it’s not just the Son saying this. The Father also bears witness about Him.
The Father bears witness about Him
Jesus even says in verse 31 that if He alone bears witness about Himself, His testimony is not true. There is another who bears witness about Him, verse 32 says, and in verse 37 we find that it is ultimately the Father who bears witness about Him. If anyone comes to you and says, “God wants you to honor me like you honor Him,” you’d be right to say, “I’m gonna need some proof from God on that.” The first way the Father bore witness is He sent John, and Jesus says in verse 33 that he bore witness to the truth. The prophets of old had predicted that one would come before the Lord to prepare His way when He came, and Jesus is saying now to the Jewish people who received that prophecy: Look, that happened, and you even followed him for a time. He was acknowledged to be a real prophet, and he identified Jesus as the Christ.
But then Jesus says the Father has a better witness: The works Christ has done. Thus far in the Gospel of John we’ve now seen Him turn water into wine, we’ve seen Him healing a dying boy miles away by simply telling the boy’s father that he was healed, and we’ve seen Him heal an invalid of 38 years with a word. Who can do such things when He wills, without invoking the power of God, but possessing it Himself? These very works bear witness that the Father has sent Him. Think about this: If Jesus really did these things, and the best historical records we have from the time say that He did, might He be worth listening to? I mean it’s not like He was just doing magic tricks. He kept a sick kid from dying. He made an invalid man walk. The hour is now here where He is changing peoples’ lives. And the hour is coming when the dead will hear His voice and rise. These very works, works only God does, testify that He is God.
So Jesus goes on to say in verse 37 that the Father has borne witness about Him, but His voice they have never heard, nor His form have they seen, and they do not have His word abiding in them, because they do not believe the one whom He has sent. The problem of identifying Jesus, then, is not the lack of testimony on the Father’s part. The testimony is right there: When Jesus speaks, the Father speaks, if you see Jesus, you see the Father, but many still who saw Jesus and heard Him speak refused to believe. And in this case the people rejecting Jesus are the very people who search the Scriptures. They search the Scriptures for eternal life, but then they refuse to come to Jesus, that they may have life. Why? Verse 44: They receive glory from one another, rather than the glory that comes from God. They want to please people, rather than please God. They know if they come to Christ, their community is going to shun them, and in the end, what their community thinks of them matters more to them than what God thinks of them.
Notice, then, that there is no option where you reject the Son but remain on good terms with the Father, and that’s been there all throughout the passage, right? Verse 23: Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father. Verse 38: You do not have the Father’s word abiding in you, because you do not believe the one whom He has sent. Verse 42: But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. That’s another reason it’s so important that we honor the Son as we honor the Father: The Father has borne witness about Him and sent Him with this very purpose, so that if we do not honor the Son as we honor the Father, we are not honoring the Father, His word is not in us, His love is not in us. Almost everyone today honors the Son in some way. Neitzsche hated him and was open about it; he thought Jesus was weak, but most others honor the Son. Muslims honor the Son as a prophet, Jehovah’s witnesses honor the Son as the firstborn of God, Mormons even say Jesus is the Son of God, and today most of your neighbors probably honor the Son as a good moral teacher, but what they all have in common is this: They do not honor Him as they honor the Father, and therefore, they do not really honor the Son or the Father.
So here’s the deal: If deep down, what really matters to you, what would really make your life sing, is if they liked you, you won’t honor the Son as you honor the Father either. And we all feel that pull on some level; I want my neighbors and my family to like me. I want everyone to like me; who doesn’t? I’m already married so I’m not worried about getting someone to like me romantically, but when I was single I was, and many of you still are. But here’s the key question: Do you want the glory that comes from them more than the glory that comes from God? Don’t give in to that pull. Learn to recognize that pull, and kill it. When you sense an opportunity to speak about Jesus, but you shrink back from it, that’s the pull. When you sense that you want to agree with the people around you, though you also sense they’re saying something different from what Jesus says, that’s the pull. Maybe it’s weaker in some of you than in me, but if you say you don’t feel that pull at all, I’m worried for you. Because it may be pulling on you without you knowing it, and just taking you along.
And here’s why that’s such a big deal: Those people can make you feel great in this life by giving you glory. But they don’t have life in themselves. The Father hasn’t given all judgment to them. Believing their word will not give you eternal life. They will not be the voice you hear on judgment day when you rise from the dead, and they will not be the one who sentences you to either the resurrection of life or the resurrection of judgment. They may help you feel good about yourself for the rest of your life, but they probably won’t, and even if they did, it would be nothing, it would be a second, in comparison with eternity. Don’t seek the glory that comes from people. Seek the glory that comes from God, and it is right there in Jesus. We have His Word. Here it is. We know what He said; it’s been written down for us.
And that’s the final witness of the Father Jesus talks about. He says in verse 45, “Hey don’t take my word for it; I’m not going to accuse you to the Father. Moses will.” Moses wrote the first 5 books of the Bible, which was the part of the Scriptures on which the Jews of Jesus’ day especially focused, and Jesus says look, those very Scriptures are going to come and testify against you. Because if you had believed them, you would have believed me, for Moses wrote of me. In Genesis 1, in the very first chapter of the Bible, Moses wrote that God created by His Word. Jesus is the Word, who was with God, who was God, through whom all things were made. In Genesis 3, Moses wrote of a child who would come from a woman and do battle against Satan. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. In Genesis 12, Moses wrote of a promise made to Abraham, that in his offspring all the families of the earth would be blessed, and when Jesus is lifted up on the cross, He says He will draw all peoples to Himself. In Exodus 12, Moses wrote of God’s command to Israel to slaughter a lamb, and put the blood on their doorposts, so that when God came to execute judgment on Egypt, He would pass over them. Jesus is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. In Exodus 33, Moses wrote of how he saw the glory of God, but in Jesus those who saw Him saw the glory of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. In Leviticus, Moses wrote of the sacrificial system, through which the people could draw near to God despite their sins. Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice, who gave Himself on the cross so that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have eternal life. In Deuteronomy 18, Moses wrote of a prophet who would arise from the people of Israel, speak the word of God, and God would judge the people based on how they respond to that word. Now that prophet is here in Christ, and so whoever believes His word has eternal life.
Believe His Word today, and you will have eternal life. If you want to honor God, honor the Son of God as you honor the Father. Believe in the One He has sent. We have John the Baptist’s testimony, we have the record of Jesus’ works, we have the law of Moses written down, and we have written down for us in addition the greatest work of which the law of Moses spoke: The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Take care, then, how you hear. May it never be said of you that you searched the Scriptures, because you thought that in them you had eternal life, but you refused to come to Christ, that you may have life. By all means, do search the Scriptures: They’re the place where we have John the Baptist’s testimony, the record of Christ’s works, and Jesus Himself is telling us here that they are about Him. But do not assume that familiarity with the Scriptures or hearing them preached will save you. For that you must actually come to Christ, the one all those Scriptures are about. Believe in Him, and honor Him as you honor the Father. Never worry about thinking too highly of Jesus. We think too highly of this world and the things in it, but we never think too highly of Him. No honor would be too great for Him. Honor Him in your worship of Him. Honor Him with obedience to His commands. Honor Him by seeking to become like Him, and reflecting His image to the people around you. Honor Him by seeking the spread of His Word throughout the world, that all might honor Him.