19 Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, 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. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. 21 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. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.
24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. 25 Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
28 “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. 30 By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.
You like having control. You like having control because control makes every situation feel better. When you have control over your finances, an emergency trip to the hospital, paying for college or paying your mortgage all seem easier. When you have control over your kids, they do their chores, go to school and give you respect, making your life easier. You like having control because when you don’t have control life isn’t easy. One day when Jesus was in Jerusalem, he came across a man who had very little control over his life and life wasn’t easy. Jesus learned that the man had been an invalid for 38 years and wanted to lie in the pool of Bethesda, which was believed to have healing powers, to get relief from his suffering. Seeing the man’s need, Jesus asked him,
“Do you want to get well?”
7 “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
The man had no control over his situation. He was disabled, suffering, frustrated, alone and unable to get relief.
8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
In an instant, Jesus spoke and the man was healed. The miracle revealed Jesus’ control over the broken man’s body to make it strong and healthy again. Jesus had given the man a new lease on life, and one day, Jesus will show that man and all people his control over their eternal life. Today in our gospel lesson from John 5, we have the good news that Jesus gives life on Judgment Day.
The man Jesus cured was glad Jesus took control over his situation, but others where not. Jesus had healed the man on the Sabbath Day and the Jewish leaders were furious. When they saw the man carrying his mat on the Sabbath, they told him that he was breaking the Sabbath law, as they saw it, to rest from any work, even carrying around a mat.
11 But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’”
And when they found out
Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him.
The Jewish leaders were losing control. For centuries, they had been the ones who told people what they could and couldn’t do regarding the Sabbath and any other laws given by God, but Jesus didn’t recognize their control. Instead, when the Jewish leaders questioned him and persecuted him for defying their control,
17 In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.”
With these words, Jesus infuriated the Jewish leaders because he claimed to be the one doing God’s work and, even more, Jesus called
God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
The Jewish leaders wanted to stop Jesus. They hated him for acting like he was the judge of what is right and wrong, which meant they hated him for exactly who he was, as Jesus said in our gospel lesson from John 5, just after he healed the invalid man.
22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.
The Jewish leaders had no faith to begin with, which meant they didn’t honor the Son of God and his work to bring life to this world that is dead in sin. Nor did the Jewish leaders honor the Father who sent his Son who meant for his law to strike fear of judgment into their hearts for not keeping it. Instead, the Jewish leaders looked at the law with the eyes of unbelief and pride, believing they had control over their actions to live according to God’s law. The Jewish leaders were heading for judgment because they dishonored Jesus, their only hope for life on judgment day.
Death is the final judgment for those who dishonor Jesus by not recognizing him as the Son of God. Death affects those who dishonor Jesus in three ways. One, because they don’t believe in Jesus, everything they do in life is sinful coming from a dead, faithless heart. Two, they will physically die. And, three, they will be condemned to eternal death in hell on Judgment Day. Death waits in three ways for those who dishonor, but will only affect believers in two ways; we will struggle against our sinful nature that wants us to act as if we were still faithless, dead hearts and we will physically die.
Those whom God has called to faith do not have to fear eternal death in hell, but the devil and our sinful nature will try to rob us of our faith. Even as believers, we still struggle with control in our lives. We want to be able to decide simple things like what to have for breakfast or what boots to wear all the way up to big things like who to marry, what career path to follow and how many kids to have. When the ability to decide things in our lives is taken from us, it makes life hard and begins to stretch our faith to its limits. All of us have an idea for what we want our future to look like and we make plans to get us there, but when our job or family or health stand in our way of getting there it reminds us that we don’t have control. And that lack of control scares and frustrates us. The lack of control we have over our lives also can make us doubt that God has our best interests in mind, especially when we experience hardships and frustrations because God should stop those bad things from happening. In those moments when our fear and frustration threaten our faith, God calls us to remember that sin is the cause of all our troubles and hardships, but Jesus is the one who has delivered us from this sinful world.
At the end of time, on Judgment Day, when Jesus comes to the earth a second time, he will finally free us from death. When he comes to judge all people, we will be eternally separated from sin, death, the devil and all the havoc they wreak in our lives. The Old Testament lesson from Malachi 4, describes what Judgment Day will be like,
1 “Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. 2 But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves.
For many Judgment Day will be a horrible day when they are condemned to eternal death in hell for their unbelief, but for those who honor the Son there will be life, healing and joy like a young calf running through green pastures.
Jesus went on to explain how those who honor the Son do not have to fear Judgment Day.
28 “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.
On Judgment Day, Jesus will call all people from all time together and announce his judgment for every individual. He makes it clear that his judgment will separate between those who do good and evil. At first glance, it seems as though we need to do good in order to live, but the original Greek text and context reveal what Jesus means.
In the original Greek, the word for “done” in the phrase,
“done what is good,”
is ποιήσαντες, which simply means “do” or “make.” Those who “do” or “make” good are those described in just a few verses earlier by Jesus as
24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.
Those who are good then, are those who believe. On the other hand, the Greek word in the phrase,
“done what is evil,”
is πράξαντες, which has a connotation of practicing or working at something. In other words, those who “do evil” work at it, want it and become better at it until they are lost in their unbelief unto their condemnation. Those who do evil can also be described as those who dishonor the Son and do not believe.
In the end, we all face death, but
24…whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.
With faith in Jesus, we look forward to Judgment Day because we will be welcomed into heaven to enjoy eternal life. Hearing Jesus’ promise of eternal life is like seeing one of those commercials that flash the word, “Attention,” in big red letters and follow with a lot of small print explaining that a big court case settlement was won against companies that allowed their workers to work with asbestos, which causes the disease mesothelioma. If you see that commercial after working at a job that has left you with mesothelioma, you want to call that number. You want to get some of the settlement money, so that you can use it to have a better life by paying doctors’ bills and by easing your suffering. In a much greater way, we all suffer from sin and need a cure to live. Jesus’ words in the Bible are the big bold announcement that he is the free source of life.
Jesus’ words of life assure us that we are delivered from judgment because he faced judgment for us. In our second lesson from Hebrews 9, we are told that when Jesus went to the cross, he
appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
All of us will die and face judgment, but because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we will face that judgment confident of our forgiveness and life.
We are confident in Jesus because he has the same power as God the Father. Jesus explained that
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…21 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.
It was God’s will that Jesus be put to death for our sins, so that we would be raised to life. Jesus’ will was the same as his Father’s will to give us life, even though it meant sacrificing himself. He gave up control of his life to sinful human beings to put him to death, so that you and I would be free from sin. And because Jesus kept his Father’s will perfectly,
27 he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
You like having control. You like having control because you believe having control makes every situation better, but when it comes to Judgment Day, we can be glad that Jesus is in control. The invalid man who wanted to find healing in the pool had no idea who Jesus was when he talked with him, but Jesus’ words had the power to cure him. Left on our own, we would not recognize Jesus either, but it was his desire for us to hear his word and believe. Jesus’ words give us peace, even in the face of death. We have peace through Jesus because
a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.
When you lack control over things in your life, remember that this world will pass away, but your eternal home will remain forever. Jesus has the final say for your life and because of his love and willingness to give his life for you, when you face Judgment Day it will be with excitement and peace because on that day Jesus will tell you to “Rise up, and live!” Amen.