13: Like Father Like Son

Studies in the Gospel of John

Lesson 13: “Like Father, Like Son”

John 5:16-47


What do you picture when you think of Jesus Christ on earth? Some people think of His miracles, other people see Him teaching the multitudes or walking with the disciples. Obviously, we all think of the cross, and all that led up to it. But one of the things that we don’t think of as often, but that was just as much a part of His life was the constant, ongoing debate with the Jewish leaders, the Pharisees and the Sadducees. And that is the focus of the passage to which we now come in our study of the gospel of John.

By way of review, remember the overview of chapter 5: First we see “The display of Divine Power “in the healing of the lame man at the pool of Bethsaida in verses 1 through 5. In our last study we looked at that display of divine power, so in this study we will look at “the discussion of divine principles” that came out of it.


“The cause of the discussion is stated in verse 16.


For this reason, the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him because He had done these things on the Sabbath.


It is possible that the healing of this man might never have come to the attention of the Jewish leaders if Jesus had not told him to pick up his bed and walk on the Sabbath day (notice the dramatic way in which John gives this detail: as if to say, (“oh, and by the way that day was the Sabbath.”)


But as he was walking through the streets with his little pallet rolled up under his arm, one of the Jews stopped him and told him he was breaking the law in verse 10. Now remember, this was not the law of God he was breaking, it was the religious law of man.


The ten commandments and the 400+ or so other laws that amplify them in the books of Exodus to Deuteronomy simply list the basic principles which relate to loving God with one’s whole being and loving your neighbor as yourself. However, over the years the Jewish rabbis had added thousands of little rules about how to apply these principles. And one of the major points that Jesus wanted to get across was the fact that, helpful or not, they were not a part of Scripture. For example, the law of the Sabbath is stated in Exodus 20:8 through 11:


Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. (9) six days you shall labor and do all your work (10) but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work; you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates (11) for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore, the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.


As you can see, this law said that no man, nor his animals, nor his family members may work on the Sabbath. But the rabbis in all of their wisdom had solemnly agreed that if a man carried a pebble in his pocket, or a woman wore a bracelet on her wrist they had violated this law. So you can imagine their fury when they encountered this man openly carrying a pallet! The man’s explanation in verse 11 was that the person that had healed him of a 38-year disease had told him to do this. (and wouldn’t you?) Later he told them in verse 15 that the name of the healer was Jesus.  And that brings us to verse 16, and “the course of the discussion” as it unfolds in the rest of the chapter, verses 14 through 47. First,” Jesus’ answer” to the Jews is in verse 17.


But Jesus answered them, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.


This is an amazing statement, but one that is easy to overlook. In fact, the rest of the chapter is actually an explanation of that one statement! It may be easier to understand the deep meaning of the verse if we consider some words and phrases separately. First, notice the phrase “My Father has been working . . . .” (leave out the phrase “until now” for a moment). In effect Jesus is saying “because my Father works, I work also. He meant that since God the Father works, God the Son cannot be idle. This statement reveals the depth of the oneness of the Godhead – they work together as one. (because they are) Therefore the work of Jesus in healing the man on the Sabbath was the work of God, and therefore beyond any criticism. But then go back and notice the phrase we left out. “until now” in the middle of the verse. God created the earth in six days, then “He rested” from that creation on the seventh day, In Genesis 2:1 through 3 But after the creation He continued to work on other things. Colossians 1:17 says that He holds all things together.” Isaiah 40:26 says that He keeps the stars in place. But above all, God has been working on the redemption and restoration since the day sin entered the human race. (and He is still doing it today.) Now notice carefully – this doesn’t mean that Jesus was ignoring the Sabbath, or that the principle of the Sabbath has been nullified.


The Sabbath didn’t begin with the law of Moses – the Old Testament – but with creation, then it was included in the law. And the principle that it establishes is that man should work no more than six days without taking a day to specifically rest and remember the blessings of God. Jesus was totally obedient to that and every other law – Matthew 5:17 through 20 says that He “fulfilled” the law. He ignored the human additions to it, as in this passage. But He scrupulously honored the law itself.


Since this is a principle that goes all the way back to creation, not just the Old Testament law, Christians would do well to honor at least the  principle of taking one day out of seven to rest and worship the Lord. And the day that Christians have observed for this purpose since the time of the resurrection has been Sunday. But whether you take Sunday or not, you should take one day for “Sabbath” rest.”


So that is “Jesus’ answer to the Jews’ objection to His healing on the Sabbath. And as a result, “the Jews’ anger” in verse 18.”


Therefore, the Jews sought all the more to kill him because He not only broke the Sabbath, but said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.


The Jews demonstrate here that they understood exactly what he was saying. In fact, this is specifically the reason they set out to kill Him, the verse says. This was not a matter of Jesus’ followers later claiming that He was God when He Himself had never claimed it, as the liberals say, Even these enemies understood exactly what He was saying. So in verses 19 through 47 we find “Jesus’ analysis” of the Jews’ anger, and it is in several parts. First of all, in verses 19 and 20, He spells out clearly “the relationship between the Father and the Son:


Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the son can do nothing of Himself but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner (20) For the Father loves the Son, and shows him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel.


When He says that “the son can do noting of Himself” in verse 19, He doesn’t mean that He “could not,” so much as that He “would not” do anything in His own apart from the Father. Jesus, as a human being, had the richest personality ever possessed by man. Mentally, emotionally and volitionally He had the ability to succeed at anything that He put His hand to – even to creating a kingdom for Himself (the focus of the third temptation by Satan in Matthew 4:8 and 9). But Philippians 2:6 says that He chose make Himself of no reputation to be obedient to the Father even to the point of death.


This is the polar opposite of the fallen human race as expressed in the famous poem heard so often at graduation ceremonies:


“I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul. . .”


Think carefully about this: Is your aim in life to express your personality and fulfill your desires; to make a name for yourself in this world (or even in Christian circles)? Or is your aim to do nothing of ourselves, but to think His thoughts and draw upon His power for carrying out His will for us? On the other hand, Jesus also says in the last part of verse 19, whatever He (the Father) does the Son also does in like manner.


The love of the Son of God for the Father not only prevented Him from acting on His own initiative, it also caused Him to be active in doing everything that the Father wanted Him to do. The reason Jesus chose not to do His own will was that His mind, desires, and will were all taken up at every moment with doing whatever the Father wanted Him to do. This was the source of His peace, security, and assurance in during His earthly life. And the same thing can be true of us as God’s children if we choose to have His attitude. We need to ask ourselves, am I reading the Bible as often as I ought to, asking the Lord to show me His plan for my work for Him?” Am I watching to see where He is working, asking what part He might have me to play in it?” Do I remember that He will use difficult circumstances in my life (such as the opposition of the Pharisees in Jesus’ life) to give new insight into His ways and new maturity as a result?


Jesus continues describing “the relationship between the Father and the Son in verse 20:


For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does, and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel.”


First there is a relationship of love” – the Father loves the Son


The particular word translated “love” here is one that expresses the emotion of tenderness and the action of “cherishing” – the intimacy of their relationship. And through Christ this special intimacy is also extended to the children whom He has brought into the family.  – you and me. Then, it is a relationship of complete mutual knowledge – and shows Him all things that He Himself does . . . “  And third, it is a relationship of continuing power – and will show Him greater things than these that you may marvel” The work of healing which Jesus accomplished in the first part of this chapter was a sign of His authority as God. And yet this verse says that even greater works are going to be accomplished. He may have had in mind the raising of Lazarus which was still to come, or His own resurrection and ascension. Or even the miracle of the indwelling Holy Spirit and his reworking of sinful human lives.


Now Jesus has been talking about the relationship between the Father and the Son. But in addition to that relationship, in verses 21 through 47 He is going to talk about “the reciprocation between the Father and the son.” First He gives a summary of that in verses 21 through 23, and then elaborate on it in verses 21 through 47. The first thing they share is “in giving life.” in verse 21.


 For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will.


Then they share in executing judgment in verse 22:


For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgement to the Son.  And third they share the honor that is given to God in verse 23:


“That all should honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.”


Now the specifics of those things in which they share are given in the remaining verses of the chapter.  – and we will look at them in our next study. But as we wrap up this study, remember that in this passage we have a description of the beautiful relationship that exists between the Father and the Son. But the amazing thing is that He also offers that same kind of relationship to those of us who have become His children! Are you enjoying that relationship? Its one of those things that can be ours without our knowing it, or we may not even use it. But Jesus Himself invites us to enter into this very kind of relationship: In John 15:9 He said,


As the Father has loved me, even so have I loved you; abide in my love, (10) If you keep my commandments you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love.”


Or think about what He said in John 16:27:


For the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved me, and have believed that I came forth from God.


The more we seek to stay in fellowship with Him and to know what He is doing and get in line with it, the more we will be conscious of that loving relationship. And the more we are conscious of that relationship the more we have the joy of being a “co-laborer” with Him. And what He is doing in our world.







The purpose of these studies is to help people come to know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. Romans 3:23 says that “All of us have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” “And Romans 6:23 says that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.” And John 3:16 says that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life. If you have never sincerely asked Him to forgive your sins and give you eternal life He will readily do so. Having trusted Him as your savior it is my hope that the lessons will help you grow in grace and bring others to know Him as well. If you would like more information you may contact me at “janicetemple@yahoo.com



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