flowers on the glass prism

John 5:19 – 21

[New to our exegesis of John’s Gospel? Try starting at The Beginning — see top menu for John 1:1-2].

19 So Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he is doing. In fact, the Father will show him how to do even greater works than healing this man. Then you will truly be astonished. 21 For just as the Father gives life to those he raises from the dead, so the Son gives life to anyone he wants. 

19 Ἀπεκρίνατο οὖν ὁ Ἰησοῦς καὶ ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς· Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, οὐ δύναται ὁ υἱὸς ποιεῖν ἀφ’ ἑαυτοῦ οὐδὲν ἐὰν μή τι βλέπῃ τὸν πατέρα ποιοῦντα· ἃ γὰρ ἂν ἐκεῖνος ποιῇ, ταῦτα καὶ ὁ υἱὸς ὁμοίως ποιεῖ. 20 ὁ γὰρ πατὴρ φιλεῖ τὸν υἱὸν καὶ πάντα δείκνυσιν αὐτῷ ἃ αὐτὸς ποιεῖ, καὶ μείζονα τούτων δείξει αὐτῷ ἔργα, ἵνα ὑμεῖς θαυμάζητε. 21 ὥσπερ γὰρ ὁ πατὴρ ἐγείρει τοὺς νεκροὺς καὶ ζῳοποιεῖ, οὕτως καὶ ὁ υἱὸς οὓς θέλει ζῳοποιεῖ

The Love Triangle!

The narrative shifts here from an exchange with the Religious Authorities to something more like a monologue as Jesus explains who he is in relation to the Father. This pericope begins with Ἀπεκρίνατο for emphasis — Jesus is explaining or making clear how he is also God!

So, how does the pre-existent Logos in John 1 relate to Almighty God? What human illustration can make sense of this? Jesus deploys a simple metaphor. The way a son (heir) learned a family trade was by imitating the father. He doesn’t do anything on his own that he hasn’t learned from his father, and so the trade is passed on generation to generation. Jesus uses this familiar illustration to describe that he is not a rebellious son, as they accused him in the prior passage, but a loyal son who is an imitation of his Father.

The Father, in fact, shows the Son everything he does and will show him how to do astonishing things yet to come (e.g. the resurrection). This fun word δείκνυσι (to show, to bring to light) indicates a kind of revelation: the Father reveals to the Son all that the Father is doing, a perichoretic love and sharing; a movement of sharing and doing together that gives rise to centuries of discussion among theologians about how the Trinity functions.

And the key here is in verse 20 — it is founded in love (φιλεῖ). Paul, writing well before John, concludes his wonderful chapter on the gifts of the Body of Christ by saying in 1 Cor. 12:31: I will show you (δείκνυσιν) a more excellent way i.e. of being Body of Christ, and that is love. It should be noted that, for John, philos and agape, both Greek words for love, are interchangeable words to describe divine love.

The basis for the Trinity is love; the basis for the relationship of the Father to the Son is love; the actions of the Father and Son (and later we can say the Spirit) are motivated, founded in, and acted out in love. The culture and ethos of the relationship of the Trinity is love. AND the evidence for the presence of the Spirit of Jesus among the Christians — the Church — is love!

So, we can talk about doctrines like Atonement, or efficiencies such as having enough money to build the tower (Luke 14:28), but it isn’t fundamentally about a cold transaction, or strategic plans — it’s about LOVE.

Can’t go wrong if you start and end there!