Christ is risen! – Indeed, He has risen!


Scriptural Reflection – My comments in bold.


Wednesday April 29, 2020


John 5:17-24

 

17 His answer to them was, ‘My Father still goes on working, and I am at work, too.’ 18 But that only made the Jews even more intent on killing him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he spoke of God as his own Father and so made himself God’s equal. 19 To this Jesus replied: In all truth I tell you, by himself the Son can do nothing; he can do only what he sees the Father doing: and whatever the Father does the Son does too. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he himself does, and he will show him even greater things than these, works that will astonish you. 21 Thus, as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so the Son gives life to anyone he chooses; 22 for the Father judges no one; he has entrusted all judgement to the Son, 23 so that all may honour the Son as they honour the Father. Whoever refuses honour to the Son refuses honour to the Father who sent him. 24 In all truth I tell you, whoever listens to my words, and believes in the one who sent me, has eternal life; without being brought to judgement such a person has passed from death to life.

 

John 5:19-21

 


19 To this Jesus replied: In all truth I tell you, by himself the Son can do nothing; he can do only what he sees the Father doing: and whatever the Father does the Son does too. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he himself does, and he will show him even greater things than these, works that will astonish you. 21 Thus, as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so the Son gives life to anyone he chooses; 22 for the Father judges no one; he has entrusted all judgement to the Son, Jesus has just healed a man on the Sabbath day. The Jewish religious leaders are not happy about this event. Once again, a miracle becomes an additional reason to get rid of Jesus. Beginning with verse 19, we hear Jesus continuing to dialogue with the religious leaders and the people who had gathered.


In today’s Gospel reading, I really want to stress and focus in on Jesus’ Divinity. I want us to clearly see that Jesus, although He is fully a human being as we are, He is also fully God in His divinity. Jesus is the God Man, one with God the Father. Jesus is not lesser / lower than the Father.


Jesus explains to the religious leaders, that He the Son, can do nothing by Himself unless the Father (God) also does it. In other words, Jesus is telling them, He and God are the same. Or we can say it another way, Jesus and the Father are of the same essence. Blessed Theophylact tells us, “Because He (Jesus) has the same essence as the Father, He has the same power, and imparts energy to the same things. In short, He does everything that the Father does. His power is neither lesser nor greater than the Father’s, for the Father and the Son share one essence, one power, and one energy.” (Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, Blessed Theophylact).


Why is this so important? There have been many “Christian” heretics and sects (Arius in the past) throughout the centuries who have taught and believed that Jesus was created by God the Father, just as the animals, plants and so on were created. If this is true, it would mean that Jesus is not one with God the Father, rather Jesus is less than God the Father. Or we can say it this way, Jesus is lower than God the Father. This is referred to as Subordinationism.


In the Orthodox church, we do not believe in Subordinationism, we see clearly in the very first chapter of the Gospel of John, that Jesus was with God the Father from the very beginning, before anything was created. Jesus is the Son of God and the word of God, and is God. Jesus is the one who said in Genesis, “Let there be light”, and so on (read the creation of all things in Genesis). This is the Gospel reading on Easter Sunday at Divine Liturgy:
John 1:1-17

 

1 In the beginning was the Word: * the Word was with God and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things came into being, not one thing came into being except through him. 4 What has come into being in him was life, life that was the light of men; 5 and light shines in darkness, and darkness could not overpower it. 6 A man came, sent by God. His name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness to the light, so that everyone might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, he was to bear witness to the light. 9 The Word was the real light that gives light to everyone; he was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world that had come into being through him, and the world did not recognise him. 11 He came to his own and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believed in his name 13 who were * born not from human stock or human desire or human will but from God himself. 14 The Word became flesh, he lived among us, and we saw his glory, the glory that he has from the Father as only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 John witnesses to him. He proclaims: ‘This is the one of whom I said: He who comes after me has passed ahead of me because he existed before me.’ 16 Indeed, from his fullness we have, all of us, received—one gift replacing another, 17 for the Law was given through Moses, grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ.


Today, in our modern world there are religious groups who still teach and believe that Jesus is lower / lesser than God. The doctrine of Subordinationism can be found in specific Christian sects. This teaching of Subordinationism also includes and applies to the Holy Spirit. He, the Holy Spirit, (He IS NOT REFERED TO AS “IT”) is also God. So, we have God the Father, God the Son (Jesus) and God the Holy Spirit. Three separate persons and yet one, the Holy Trinity. One in essence and undivided as the Creed tells us. The Holy Spirit is not mentioned in today’s Gospel reading. Jesus will talk about Him, the Holy Spirit, when nearing the completion of His mission on earth. John 5:19 19 To this Jesus replied: In all truth I tell you, by himself the Son can do nothing; he can do only what he sees the Father doing: and whatever the Father does the Son does too.


John 5:22-23 22 "for the Father judges no one; he has entrusted all judgement to the Son, Blessed Theophylact explains to us in his commentary on the Gospel of John, “This means that the Father begat the Son as Judge. Likewise, the words “so hath the Father given to the Son to have life in Himself (verse 26)” mean that the Father begat the Son as an eternally living being.” Jesus has always been with the Father. Jesus has not been created, Jesus is God, and the Son of God, one of the persons of the Holy Trinity. This is why Jesus could then tell the Jewish religious leaders, in verse 24, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”


Blessed Theophylact explains it to us as follows, “The Lord (Jesus) reassures them that by hearkening to His words they would show their faith in God. Thus, He did not say, “and believeth in Me,” but instead, and beliveth in Him that sent Me. The man who believes in God shall not come into condemnation, but into everlasting life.”
Why did Jesus say this? Because Jesus and God the Father are one. John 5:19 “Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.”


Jesus therefore, is not lower or lesser than God the Father or God the Holy Spirit. All three are of one essence “for the Father and the Son share one essence, one power, and one energy.” (Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, Blessed Theophylact) – and add to this, so too the Holy Spirit (not mentioned here because Jesus had not yet finished His mission on earth).


It is difficult to explain God the Father and Jesus as being one, also difficult to explain the mystery of the Holy Trinity, and yet it is the truth. In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus explained His unity with the Father by using very gentle, simplistic language. He did not want to enrage the religious leaders or the other people who were present. Jesus wanted to expand their understanding and tell them He and His Father were one. This Jesus did, for them, at that time and for us, now in the present.

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