Verse 16: When Jesus miraculously healed and encouraged the man to walk with his mat on the Sabbath got the Jewish authorities all in a tizzy. This is the main reason why they began persecuting or harassing him.
Verses 17: We have no record of the Jews asking Jesus an opposing question but the text says “he answered them, ‘My Father is working now, and I am working.” What is Jesus saying here? As we look under the surface we see Jesus is making a huge claim of equality with God.
A question the Jews had at one time was... Does God work on the Sabbath? If he does then is he breaking his own law? If He does rest then who keeps the universe in tact? Wouldn’t the world cease to exist once a week?
A simple answer to this question is God rested on the 7th day but He didn’t cease being active. The rabbi’s collectively agreed that God and only God was/is exempt from keeping the Sabbath. Jesus says, “My Father is working now, and I am working.” According to D.A. Carson, “In corporate worship Jews sometimes referred to God as ‘our Father’ but the individual way Jesus spoke of God as his own father displayed the unique Father-Son relationship Jesus claimed.” The conclusion the leaders make from his statement is, in addition to claiming God to be His unique Father, that Jesus also works on the Sabbath and says He is working because the Father is working. How could Jesus rest on the Sabbath when His own Father doesn’t rest? If God is exempt from the Sabbath then certainly Jesus is because Jesus says a few verses later, “I only do what the Father is doing.” Jesus is claiming equality to God. This was considered blasphemy.
Verse 18: For the Jews this was all the more reason to have Jesus killed (Exodus 31:14: Everyone who profanes (the Sabbath) shall be put to death). They had two legitimate reasons (according to the law) to have him killed.
- He broke the law by healing on the Sabbath (bearing a burden) and then telling the man it is ok to carry his mat.
- He was claiming equality to God the Father.
Verse 19: This next passage is difficult to understand and interpret. I am still hashing this out in my own personal study but I will try as best I can to bring to light what I believe Jesus is saying.
The Son can do nothing independent of the Father. Jesus only does what the Father does. Some will use this passage as a way to show that Jesus and God are not one but it does just the opposite. Believers hold to the view that Jesus and God are one in the same but are distinctive in what they do. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one in attributes but distinct in jobs they do. As we will see in some sense the Father and Son are the same and in other senses (like this first statement they are different). “I do what the Father does” shows that Jesus is the one whom he is obedient and subordinate to God. This does not make him less than God He says that He in a sense copies God (does what He does). Nobody can do what the Father does unless they are one with the Father. The things reserved for the Father can only be done by one who is as great as the Father or as Divine as the Father.
Verse 20: This Father (being God) knows all (Omniscient) and because of his great love for the Son He reveals everything that He is doing to him. According to Jesus at this point in his ministry there are still some great works to be revealed that will cause people to wonder and marvel at the greatness of God. We see from our perspective some of those greater works include raising the dead, feeding the multitudes, redeeming humanity through Jesus' death and resurrection. Plus there are still some great works that we still have yet to witness in the future that will cause every knee to bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord of all.
So far we see some of the distinctions of the Father and Son...
- The Father is at work and because of His great love for the Son reveals what He is doing.
- The Son loves the Father and is one with the Father so everything He does i because the Father does them. He is obedient to the Father.
Verse 21: The Father raises the dead and gives life, so the Son gives life as well. Although Jesus doesn’t say he raises the dead we know he does because he raises Lazarus from the dead and we can assume that when he says he gives life that would include raising the dead. To the Jews only God is able to give life (birth) and resurrect the dead so when Jesus says he gives life he is again is claiming equality with God. Not only does he give life but he gives life to whomever he pleases, wills or determines.
Verse 22 - 23: The Father has determined that his task will not be judgment. This distinction is reserved for Jesus. This again does not mean that Jesus judges independent of the Father. The Son does everything in obedience to the Father so He does judge according to the will of God (cf. verse 30).
God has given all authority to Jesus to judge so that all may honor the Son in the same way they honor the Father. Failure to give the Son honor is the same as failing to give the Father honor.
Verse 24: Whoever hears the words of Jesus and believes will have eternal life. God’s Word and Jesus’ Word is the same thing. “The Son only says what the Father gives him to say.” The one who hears and believes (obedience and trust) receives life and will not be condemned EVER! There is no judgment because they have crossed over from death to life. To the one who believes he is justified or declared righteous before the Father.
Verses 25: “An hour is coming” – this is not a literal 60 minute period but means an undisclosed time is coming and according to Jesus it has already arrived. The dead will hear his voice and will live. This can refer to the physically dead and it will happen in Jesus’ public ministry (Lazarus); or it could refer to the spiritually dead. This would apply to the unbeliever, who hears the Gospel of Jesus Christ and repents, responds and is made alive. I think both interpretations can be used.
Verse 26: God grants life in himself and the same through Jesus. They are both in the beginning (cf. John 1:1) and they are both the source of life.
Verse 27-29: A time is coming (and is ever drawing near) when the dead will hear the powerful voice of Jesus (a voice that heals, resurrects, and gives eternal life). Those who respond (the spiritually dead) to the voice will have eternal life and those who ignore it and continue in their sins will be resurrected to judgment.
Christians firmly believe the Father (God), the Son (Jesus Christ) and the Holy Spirit are one in the same. They are one essence (One God) but have three distinct persons. God is what we call a Tri-Unity or Trinity. To tackle a doctrine like the Trinity would (and some day may) be a series in and of itself. I am not going to spend time today trying to prove through Scripture the Trinity. However we do see that Jesus (the Son) does claim equality to God (the Father). It is important for us to know and to believe because this is the primary reason Jesus was crucified. I think the most important thing for us to take home with us today is to heed the words of Jesus in this passage. “Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.”
 Carson, D.A. (1991) The Gospel According to John p. 249 Grand Rapids, MI: William B Eerdman’s Publishing Co.
 Carson, D.A. (1991) The Gospel According to John p. 251Grand Rapids, MI: William B Eerdman’s Publishing Co.