By J.R. Miller
The people were angry at Jesus because He had healed the helpless invalid on the Sabbath. They claimed that He had done wrong by the working on the seventh day. The answer of Jesus was, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working." In the history of the creation, we read that God set the example of Sabbath-keeping. After six days of creating, He rested the seventh day. We are living now in God's Sabbath. But the words of Jesus here show us that there is a sense in which God keeps no Sabbath. He never ceases to be active. The worlds do not stop in their orbits to rest, when the Holy Day begins. The sun does not veil His face and cease His shining that day. The grass does not stop growing, the flowers do not cease to bloom, and the wheat does not pause in its ripening, when the day of rest comes. There is no Sabbath-keeping in God's providence. Nor does His care for His children pause, when the Sabbath dawns. It would be very sad for the world if it did.
The people had found fault with Jesus for healing a man on the Sabbath. They said He had been working, and working was forbidden by the law. This was His answer, "My Father is always at his work to this very day"--has never ceased to work, is evermore blessing and helping His creatures. Then He added, "And I, too, am working." This was in answer to the charge that He had broken the Sabbath in healing the man. For one thing, He put Himself alongside the Father in power and authority. It was an assertion that He was divine. We get here a suggestion of the kind of works that are right for us to do on the Lord's Day. There is not in these words a shadow of defense for ordinary secular work on the Lord's Day--but works of mercy, of religion, of obedience, we may do on the day of rest.
Jesus had claimed equality with His Father in the words, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working." For Him as well as for His Father, there was no need of a Sabbath of rest. Rest is necessary for man. His strength has its limitations. He cannot go on forever--but must stop to renew His strength. Human energy flags and is exhausted, its source is finite and it must be continually renewed. But Christ was not like other men in this. He fainted not, neither was weary. Then He had coupled Himself with the Father in the words, "My Father is always at his work to this very day," through all the ages, "And I, too, am working." He and His Father work together. All divine power was in Him and had always been in Him. He could not grow weary.
Then He added, "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does." From beginning to the end of Christ's life--we find the same oneness with the Father asserted. He did the Father's will, never deviating from it in the smallest particular. We hear Him say continually such words as these: "I seek not my own will--but the will of him who sent Me." "I do always those things that please him." For one thing, these words show us the perfect oneness of the Father and Son. He took all His directions from His Father's lips. He waited at every step for His Father's bidding. The question with Him never was: "What would be pleasant for Me to do? What would further My own interests? How can I do the most good in the world? How can I win the greatest number of friends?" The one question always was, "What is My Father's will for Me today?"
Jesus asserts the Father's love for Him and His complete trust in Him. "For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these." Here we have a glimpse of true fatherhood. Love hides nothing. The Father's love for the Son is so perfect, that He withholds nothing from Him, has no secrets which He does not reveal to Him. The words tell of the most perfect oneness and unity, life flowing into life, heart opening into heart. It is a oneness of love. There are none of the "sons of God" who are so glorious in their privileges as the "only begotten Son." Yet there is a verse in one of the Psalms (25:14) which says, "The secret of the Lord is with those who fear him; and he will show them His covenant." This would seem to mean that in proportion to our love for God and our trust in Him--He reveals His inner thoughts, the secrets of His love and favor to us. Then Jesus said to His disciples, "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you" (15:15). Thus Jesus reveals the secret things of His love--to those who trust Him.
The works which only the Father can do, Jesus says He also does. "For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life--even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it." To Nicodemus, Jesus spoke of becoming a Christian as being born again--beginning life as if one had never lived before. Here Jesus represents the natural world as a great cemetery in which all men sleep in graves of death. The beginning of Christian life is spiritual resurrection--those who believe on Christ burst their graves and come into life. The picture is very striking. The natural man is really dead to God and to the things of God. He hears not the voice of the Spirit. He knows nothing of what is going on about him in the spiritual realm. It is just as when Jesus stood before the grave of Lazarus and called the young man's name. The dead heard His voice--and came out and began to live. So the spiritually dead who hear the voice of Christ and believe on Him are quickened into a new life.
There is another strong assertion of divinity here, showing that Christ was conscious of being equal with the Father. To God alone belongs the prerogative of judgment. "Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son." If this power of judgment is given to Christ--He must be divine. It is a precious comfort to us, as we think of the judgment day, to know that the Judge on the throne will be Jesus--the same Jesus who died for us, who wears still and shall then wear our nature, and who therefore will understand us. We need not fear Him--who once died for love of us. If we are His friends now and here, confessing Him before all men, He will be our friend then, and will confess us before His Father and the angels. But we must not forget the other side of this truth. If we are ashamed of Him and do not confess Him here by love and obedience, we are assured that He will be ashamed of us and will deny us before His Father and the angels.
We must remember, too, that He who is to be our Judge makes common cause with the lowliest of His people, and will say to them, "For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you took care of Me; I was in prison and you visited Me." OR "I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in; I was naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not take care of Me" (Matthew 25:35-40). We are continually on trial, and the Judge Himself is continually before us. We need to watch how we treat the lowliest of our fellow men.
Hush! What if this friend should happen to be--God?
Jesus tells us here how to be saved. "He who hears my word, and believes on him who sent me, has everlasting life." There are but two steps from the darkness of eternal death--into the brightness and blessedness of eternal life. The first thing is to hear Christ's word. The Bible says a great deal about hearing. "Hear, and your soul shall live" (Is. 55:3). But mere hearing is not enough. One may hear the gospel over and over--and yet be lost. Therefore Jesus said, "Take heed how you hear." We must hear with a willing spirit, a spirit of obedience. The second step is believing, "he who hears my word, and believes on him who sent me." Hearing must be followed by believing. What is it to believe? It is not merely the assent of the mind to the truth. It is believing with the heart, trusting, committing oneself to God. The Revised Version takes out the "on" between "believes" and "him"--there is not to be even a little preposition between the soul and God.
These are the two steps from death's darkness into life's brightness--hearing, and believing. Then comes the blessing, "has eternal life." Each word burns with light. "Life"---not merely physical life--but life in its largest, fullest, richest, truest sense--the life of Christ in the soul. We are made partakers of the divine nature, and the new life which enters into us makes us children of God, changes us into the image of Christ. "Everlasting life"--not this world's life only--but life in heaven and forever. "Has everlasting life." I like the present tenses of the Bible. The good things of God's love and grace--are not pushed off into the future--but are present possessions. Eternal life begins the moment one hears and believes!