The Son Gives Life

A sermon preached at Covenant Presbyterian Church of Fort Smith, Arkansas on December 27, 2020.

If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father (John 15:19–24).[1]

In his Gospel account, the Apostle John tells us that Jesus “came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:11). This is not to say that there were not some who received him, but John’s statement is one of Israel collectively. The Jews who awaited their Messiah did not receive him upon arrival. As typical of the human heart, they had preconceived notions about the Messiah, what he would look like, how he would arrive, what he would do, and how he would do it.  Jesus did not fit the mold of their imaginations.

Of course, they could not deny his miraculous works. Jesus healed the sick, fed the hungry, and opened eyes to see, for all the world to see, but seeing is not believing. No, the Jews could not deny his miracles, but they could question his motives. If he was from God, why did he heal on the Sabbath, working when he should be resting? And, if he served God, why was he not more careful with his words, careful to avoid equating himself with God?

In the context of our passage, in their eyes he was a law breaker and a blasphemer. Because he was healing the sick and lame on the Jewish Sabbath, he was breaking the fourth commandment, according to their interpretation. And because he was “even calling God his own Father,” which they interpreted as “making himself equal with God” (John 5:18), he was blaspheming the one true God.

Both accusations were valid in the eyes of the accusers and would be used against Jesus later in trial. The problem was, as prophesied through Isaiah, they kept on hearing but did not hear; they kept on seeing but did not see (Isa. 6:9). What they could not hear was the Word of God. What they could not see was that in the humble form of Mary’s son was the Son of God, indeed God incarnate, Life Divine.

Life Divine

Either hearing their accusations or knowing their thoughts, Jesus responds to the Jews in a monologue of incarnate revelation. Beginning and ending with a double amen, translated “Truly, truly,” Jesus sets the tone of his disclosure: This is important! Characteristically referring to himself in third-person, he describes a divine union in which “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.” In this, Jesus not only embraces the accusation of equating himself with God but also describes a loving, uninterrupted communion between God the Father and himself, God the Son. Within the unity of God, the Son is unequivocally doing the will of his Father, not merely desiring to do it but always doing it. He literally does “whatever the Father does.”

While this is certainly an intra-Trinitarian mystery to us, Jesus provides a helpful metaphor: vision. The Son sees what the Father shows.  Some interpret Jesus’ metaphor as if his earthly ministry consisted of constant perception and response, watching carefully what his Father was doing so that he might respond by going and doing likewise. Some even propose this as a model for Christian ministry: Be like Jesus by seeing what God is doing and then get involved. But such an interpretation and application miss the metaphor and misunderstand the uninterrupted communion of the Father and the Son. Jesus was not seeking or even invited to get involved in what his Father was doing; he was already doing it, because the Father and the Son are one (John 10:30). As Augustine explains, the Father does “every work whatsoever by the Son; so that not any works are done by the Father without the Son, or by the Son without the Father.”[2] What is seen and shown is not perception and response but direct revelation between the Father to the Son.

Therefore, the Son need not imitate the Father, as if to parody the divine. The Father and the Son enjoy an uninterrupted communion of life and love with the Spirit in the being of God. And while thinking about this may be difficult to comprehend, it is not without application in our lives. Consider what Jesus prayed for his immediate disciples and us: “may [they] all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:20-23). The communion between the Father and the Son reveals the communion that is enjoyed in the church. We are a reflection, so to speak, of the eternal unity of God.

Consider that God has given us his direct revelation in Christ and his Word, and he keeps us and guards us by his Spirit (John 17:12). Though we do not enjoy uninterrupted communion like the Father and the Son, we do enjoy the revelation of God in his Word and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. As God the Father has ordained, God the Son has accomplished, and God the Spirit gives us life and sanctifies us, giving us joy and revealing God’s glory to the world through his church. We enjoy a blessed union to the glory of God, and it is a union we enjoy through the life he gives.

Life Given

Leading up to this moment in John’s Gospel, Jesus has revealed his glory in part through working miracles.He has healed the lame, fed a multitude, and given sight to the blind, but it is the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead that stuns the crowds and troubles Israel’s leaders. Who gives life but God?

Jewish tradition held that God holds three undelegated keys: that of the weather, that of the womb, and that of raising the dead (Morris, 278). He, who was born of a virgin and calmed the storm with a word, now reveals that he is the “Author of Life” (Acts 3:15), saying, “For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.” No other man can make this claim. No other man can give life. Jesus is no other man. But as “He was in the beginning with God,” so “All things were made       through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:2-3).

Consider that in the beginning Adam did not exist until he was given “the breath of life” (Gen. 2:7). God gave life, as he is himself the source of life. Therefore, John could testify of Jesus, “In him was life” (John 1:4), as Lazarus witnessed first-hand. He who gave Adam the breath of life also cried out, “Lazarus, come forth!” (John 11:43 KJV). Life is indeed a gift from God.

There is, however, more to life, so to speak. Lazarus who was resurrected from the dead did eventually die, but through faith in Jesus he lives and will one day resurrect from the dead in a glorified body to live in the new heavens and earth forever. Such is the case for all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, for he declared, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26). We were created to exist eternally, body and soul, so the life Christ gives is life eternal, a life that begins through faith. For though our bodies are alive, we were dead in sin (Eph. 2:1). But through faith, we are born again, brought to life spiritually, for “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17). All who believe on the Son have life, present tense and eternally.

Within the life given in the Son is the story of new life. In the fifth chapter of Romans, Paul explains that in Christ what was lost in Adam’s sin is restored in Christ: “For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:17). In Christ, we are not merely restored to Adam-likeness but to Christlikeness! It is a life in which we are given Christ’s perfect righteousness, which can never be lost (Rom. 5:19).

Consider then that in Christ we have an imperishable seed (1 Peter 1:23) of life, which we have through faith today. Our glorified life in the new heavens and earth will not be the commencement of eternal life but the consummation. This distinction is important, because you and I are not living for eternal life to begin. Through faith in Christ, it has begun!

Life Eternal

As Jesus is the Author and Giver of life, so he stands in judgment over it. As God the Father has delegated judgment to God the Son, so God-glorifying honor is due him. Jesus explains that “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.” This was news to the Jews who considered God the judge but saw no correlation to the Christ,[3] and certainly not Jesus of Nazareth. But Jesus is not entrapped by their Messianic preconceived notions nor their denial of his divinity. In fact, Jesus says, “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand” (John 3:35), which of course includes judgment and eternal life.

Indeed, these are held exclusively by Christ. Eternal life is exclusively the prerogative of the Son, and it is only through faith in him that it may be secured. You cannot work for it or seek and find it, but it is given by the Son to whom he will. Likewise, judgment is his to dispense.

Therefore, he who has such authority is also due worship: “Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” Consider this statement in light of those who concede that there is a God but deny the deity of Christ. So integrally connected is the Father and the Son that to dishonor the Son is to dishonor the Father. Jesus was more than a prophet, more than a good teacher, more than a good man and example to follow. He is the Lord of glory: “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made; being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.”[4]

What we profess as Christians is more than an acknowledgement of his deity but faith in him as our Savior and Lord. Jesus said, “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.” Consider these words in light of the gospel message that we proclaim. Paul wrote, “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17), and in hearing “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (Romans 10:9-10). As Jesus describes, hearing and believing are the two essentials of knowing you have eternal life. This knowing is not presumption or arrogance but rather reveals that you have “passed from death to life” from the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit.

This is then both a hope for the future and a present reality and therefore directing us in our worship today. Consider that our very gathering on the Lord’s Day, the Christian Sabbath, the first day of the week, professes the reality of Christ’s resurrection from the dead and our resurrection with him eternally. Consider that we gather in worship in the Triune name of our God, rejoicing in what God the Father ordained, God the Son accomplished, and God the Spirit applies, even in this very moment as we worship God in Spirit and in truth, enjoying his presence in our assembled worship. With grateful hearts, in reverent praise, let us rejoice that Jesus said, “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.” Now, “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Rev. 1:6).

[1] Unless referenced otherwise, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2001).

[2] “Father and Son Together,” Ligonier Ministries, accessed December 23, 2020,

[3] Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, Revised (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), 279.

[4] “The Nicene Creed,” in Trinity Hymnal, Revised (Suwanee, GA: Great Commission Publications, 1990), 846.

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