The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on John 5:17-30

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 5, 2016

Joh 5:17 But Jesus answered them: My Father worketh until now; and I work.

17. The Evangelist enumerates, without expressing it, that the Jews came to our Lord, after being informed by the sick man, that it was He who worked the cure, and charged Him with a violation of the Sabbath. Hence, in reply, He defends His conduct. On other occasions, He defends His action, in like cases, on human grounds, and adduces reasons from human examples, among the rest that of David (Matthew 12:3, 4). Here, He defends His action on higher grounds, viz., on the ground of His Divinity, of His equality and identity in nature with the Eternal Father. He says, “my Father,” not our Father, since the paternity of which He speaks no one else had in common with Him. They are the adopted sons, He, the natural Son of God. “Worketh until now.” As if He said: you charge Me with violating the Sabbath, which was instituted in commemoration and celebration of God’s rest on the seventh day, after having, on the six preceding days, perfected the works of creation. Now, My Father did not rest on the seventh day, save as regards the creation of new species. But, He always continues to work, “and works until now,” even on the Sabbath, in preserving, holding together, conserving creation, in governing the world, in moving the heavens, in nourishing and feeding every creature—a work by no means servile, but truly benevolent. Were He to withdraw His protecting hand, all creation would crumble. Hence, His work did not cease, on the seventh day. On His conserving Power, every creature depends.

And I work.” “And,” in like manner; I, who am His eternal consubstantial Son, work jointly with Him. As well, then, might you accuse the Eternal Father of violating the Sabbath, as accuse Me. As the Father is exempt from the Sabbatical law; so, am I, His Eternal Son.

Joh 5:18 Hereupon therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he did not only break the sabbath but also said God was his Father, making himself equal to God.

18. “Hereupon, therefore, the Jews sought the more to kill Him.” The Jews were anxious to put our Lord to death, on the pretext of having violated the Sabbath. But now they were stimulated the more to kill Him; “but also said God was His Father,” making Himself not only God’s adopted Son, like the saints and just; but, His natural Son, “my Father.”

Making Himself equal to God,” as His natural, consubstantial Son, who works not only after His example, but conjointly with Him. “And I work,” “and” meaning, I work conjointly with Him. Hence, according to them, He was guilty of the shocking crime of blasphemy, which the Law punished with death (Leviticus 24:16).

Joh 5:19 Then Jesus answered and said to them: Amen, amen, I say unto you, the Son cannot do any thing of himself, but what he seeth the Father doing: for what things soever he doth, these the Son also doth in like manner.

19. Far from repudiating the conclusion arrived at by the Jews, viz., that He made Himself equal with God, He rather confirms it.

The words, “Amen, amen,” show the solemn importance of the statement to which they are prefixed.

The Son cannot do any thing of Himself, but what He sees the Father doing.” In this our Lord proves that in curing on the Sabbath day—a work of mercy—He did not violate the Sabbath any more than the Father, who still works, violated it: nor can the Son do anything contrary to what the Father does. From this follows unity and identity of operation in the Father and the Son. Both work together. What one does, the other does. The Son does nothing of Himself; because, owing to unity of operation, the Son does nothing without the Father, nor does the Father act without the Son. Hence, the words imply no imbecility in the Son, any more than in the Father; because, both operate conjointly and inseparably.

Our Lord speaks of His Divine nature. For, as man, even as man God, He does some things which the Father doth not (v. g.), pray, walk on the waters, etc.

The words, “sees the Father doing,” imply no dependence or imperfection. They only indicate the relation of Divine origin in the eternal generation of the Son from the Father, as His eternally begotten Word. “Vide do enim natus est et nascendo videt.”—“Videre est accipere Divinam Cognitionem.”—St. Augustine.

For whatever things He doth,” etc. The Jews preferred a twofold charge against Him, viz.: the violation of the Sabbath, and making Himself equal to God. The former charge He refutes in the preceding words; far from denying the latter, He proves it by declaring in the most general, unexceptionable terms, that every thing done by the Father is done by the Son “in like manner.”

Joh 5:20 For the Father loveth the Son and sheweth him all things which himself doth: and greater works than these will he shew him, that you may wonder.

20. “For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth Him all things,” etc., and communicates to Him all knowledge of doing what He does. In this verse, is assigned a reason why the Son does all the Father doth. It arises from the identity of nature in both. In begetting His son by an eternal generation, the Father singularly loves Him, and communicates to Him, with the fulness of the Divine nature, a knowledge of all He does and conceives in the Divine mind. The word, “sees,” in reference to the Son (v. 19), and “shows,” in reference to the Father, are correlative terms, indicating the communication of the Divine nature from the Father to the Son, and the eternal generation of the Son, in which He receives all things, To “show,” on the part of the Father, refers to the generation of the Son, “to see,” on the part of the Son, denotes his generation from the Father.—St. Augustine.

And greater works then these will He show Him, that you may wonder.” This showing on the part of the Father, was communicated from eternity, in the eternal generation of the Son. The power then given Him was displayed in past times, and lately exhibited in the cure of the paralytic; and it shall be exhibited in future, in works and effects still more brilliant than the cure of the paralytic, such as raising the dead and the exercise of judiciary power over all men. These will be calculated to excite your wonder and astonishment, though they may fail in their intended effect of generating in you the divine virtue of faith.

Will show Him,” is used in the future, in accommodation to human ideas, there being question of a future event; but as regards God, with whom every thing is present, it is not future. As regards Him, it is eternal, though the result be future in regard to man.

Joh 5:21 For as the Father raiseth up the dead and giveth life: so the Son also giveth life to whom he will.

21. This is one of the greater works, He will show and communicate to His Son, viz., the power of raising up the dead and restoring them to life. “As the Father raiseth,” etc. The present tense, “raiseth,” denotes perpetuity.

So, the Son giveth life,” etc. This indicates equality of Divine power. Unlike the Prophets of old, He raises them by His own innate power. To God is it peculiarly attributed, that He alone can restore life to the dead (1 Kings 2). “Dominus mortificat et vivificat.” “Ego, Dominus occidam et ego vivere faciam.” He adds, “to whom He wills,” to show full liberty and independence of power, equal, with the Father, without subjection to Him. The Father always wills to vivify those whom the Son wills to restore to life, there being but one will in the Godhead. The Son raised Lazarus to life, and also the only son of the widow of Naim, etc. He will resuscitate all men in the day of judgment, and He will restore to spiritual life sinners who are spiritually dead. He exercises, just as He wills, His spiritual power in their regard.

Joh 5:22 For neither does the Father judge any man: but hath given all judgment to the Son.

22. “For neither doth the Father judge any one,” etc. This is interpreted by some as expressing another instance of greater works, and in proof of v. 20. Although the Father and the Holy Ghost judge equally with the Son, since they cannot abdicate their power; they do not, however, judge visibly Hence, the Father from eternity communicated to His Son the power of judging all mankind, to be exercised by Him alone visibly. This, too, proves the Divine nature of the Son; since, to God alone does it belong to judge the world in equity. The Father, who ceases not to be judge, will not display the majesty of judge visibly. This He leaves to the Son to be exercised, in time, in the visible nature He was to assume.

Many Commentators of note understand resurrection, or resuscitation to life referred to, of the spiritual life of grace. It is likely, however, that, in this entire passage, as far as v. 30, our Lord speaks principally, in a literal sense, of the resurrection of the body, as an instance of the greater works referred to, and incidentally, in a mystical or spiritual sense, of the spiritual life of grace, which although a no less stupendous exercise of power, is still less perceptible—to encourage us to gain that life, which is a necessary means of securing the glorious life, in the resurrection. For, resurrection to punishment can hardly be called life.

Joh 5:23 That all men may honour the Son, as they honour the Father. He who honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father who hath sent him.

23. “That all may honour the Son, as they honour the Father.” In conferring this supreme judiciary power on His Son, which was communicated from eternity, to be exercised by Him visibly, as man God, after His Incarnation, the Father had in view that all men would honour the Son with the same Divine worship which was due to the Father. The Jews, who here refused to honour the Son of God, or acknowledge Him as such, will, on the day of judgment, on seeing the majesty of the man God, the Sovereign Judge, be reluctantly forced to honour Him. “As they honour,” etc. “As,” denotes equality, since it has reference to subjects, who have the same common or Divine nature.

He who honoureth not the Son,” etc. The dishonour shown the Son is also shown the Father, the nature and majesty of both being the same, and their claims to Divine honour being, therefore, equal.

Who sent Him,” not as His servant or inferior; but, as His equal, to be honoured, as such, by men. If he who dishonours the legate, dishonours Him whose legate He is, how much more is this the case when both, as here, are equal. In this, He would seem to censure the Jews, who pretended that they meant to honour God the Father, while withholding due honour from His Son, who, as consubstantial with the Father, is entitled to the same undivided supreme worship and honour due to God alone.

Joh 5:24 Amen, amen, I say unto you that he who heareth my word and believeth him that sent me hath life everlasting: and cometh not into judgment, but is passed from death to life.

24. “Amen, amen.” This repetition of the word shows the great importance of the statement about to be made, “that he who heareth,” with a docile heart, in other words, obeysMy word,” My commandments, both in regard to subjects of faith and morals, “and believeth Him that sent Me,” in which is contained belief in our Lord Himself. For, the Father sent His Son to teach the world. Their word is the same, and in this, is also implied the Mystery of the Trinity. For, the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and the Son. He who believes in this fundamental truth, and all other truths revealed by God, “hath life everlasting,” in an inchoate state here, through grace; and he has a right to eternal life, should he finally persevere in grace and faith.

And cometh not,” will not come—the present is used for the future—“into judgment,” shall not be condemned.

But is passed from death to life.” “Is passed,” has already, by anticipation, before the time of judgment, passed from the death of the soul, and consequent liability to eternal death induced by sin, to spiritual life by grace, which is the prelude to life everlasting.

Is passed,” may also have a future signification—will surely pass—as if He had already done so—from the death of the body, to the eternal life enjoyed by the saints in heaven.

Joh 5:25 Amen, amen, I say unto you, that the hour cometh, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.

25. Our Lord here refers to the exercise of His Divine power, in the resuscitation which He was soon to accomplish in three particular cases, viz., the son of the widow of Naim, the daughter of the ruler of the Synagogue, and Lazarus. “The hour cometh, and now is,” near at hand, before our Lord Himself departed out of life. Others, understand it of the general resurrection, which they say is to occur in “the last hour,” or during the religious dispensation, which “now is.” For, the period of the Christian religion is termed in Sacred Scripture, “the last hour.” But the words (v. 28,) referring to all who are in their graves, militates against this opinion; and the Lord refers to this latter event, as a subject of greater wonder. Some understand this of the power exercised in the spiritual resuscitation to a life of grace; because, He says restrictively, “they who shall hear shall live.” It may be, He refers to this too. The restrictive clause, “those who shall hear, shall live,” may, in the literal sense, also be interpreted, those who shall hear, or, to whom the power of His voice shall be addressed, shall be resuscitated and shall live.

Joh 5:26 For as the Father hath life in himself, so he hath given to the Son also to have life in himself.

26. “For, as the Father hath life in Himself,” being essentially life, the source of all life, which He communicates at will, preserves at will, in all creatures, or takes away at will.

So He hath given to the Son also,” in His eternal generation, “to have life in Himself,” to be Himself essential life, the source of all life, in every thing that exists, in every thing made by Him. Those therefore, who hear His voice and are called by Him, with a command to arise, will come forth to life.

Joh 5:27 And he hath given him power to do judgment, because he is the Son of man.

27. As God, He had, from his eternal generation from the Father, essential life, with the power of imparting it to others. As God man, appearing visibly in the flesh, in which He vouchsafed to redeem mankind, He received from His Father, who Himself judges no one (v. 22), the power which, as God, He had from eternity to judge mankind, to be exercised in time.

Because He is the Son of man.” It is on account of His having assumed human nature, that He is constituted judge of mankind; so that those who here below despised Him, may see their judge visibly in majesty. The wicked cannot see Him, in the form of God. The vision of God is withheld from them. Hence, they who maltreated Him (Apoc. 1:7) shall see Him, in the form of man, coming in great power and majesty (Matthew 26:64).

Joh 5:28 Wonder not at this: for the hour cometh wherein all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God.

28. “Wonder not at this,” viz., at My saying that the Father hath given Me the power of raising the dead at will, and of judging mankind. “For, the hour cometh,” is just at hand—(this shall occur at the close of the Gospel dispensation)—when this twofold power shall be exercised by Me. “All who are in their graves,” all the dead, whether their ashes are consigned to their graves, or scattered any where else, “shall hear the voice of the Son of God,” viz., the Archangel’s trumpet, to which the power of rousing the dead shall be imparted by our Lord; hence, called “The voice of an Archangel.” (1 Thess. 4:15, etc.) It is also called “the trumpet of God,” “the last trumpet” (1 Cor. 15:52, “trumpet and a great voice” (Matthew 24:30).

Joh 5:29 And they that have done good things shall come forth unto the resurrection of life: but they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment.

29. “Shall come forth”—from their graves—“unto the resurrection of life,” to enter on a life of eternal happiness. “Resurrection of judgment,” viz., condemnation to hell’s eternal torments, which is contrasted with the “life” of the just. That, which is but an eternal dying life, can hardly be called “life” on the part of the reprobate. “They that have done good.” It is by our works, we shall be rewarded or condemned. Hence, faith alone without good works, cannot save us. Oh! how the reprobate would wish for their annihilation? how they must curse the day they were born, “melius illi, si natus non fuisset.” What a dread subject for reflection is the last judgment, with all its horrors, which are so vividly depicted for us beforehand by a merciful Saviour, in order to save us from the eternal anguish of the damned.

Joh 5:30 I cannot of myself do any thing. As I hear, so I judge. And my judgment is just: because I seek not my own will. but the will of him that sent me.

30. Having said that He had all power of judging, “because He is the Son of man,” He now shows that all His judgments are righteous and just, whether, as Son of God, or Son of man. For, as God, He can do nothing of Himself alone (v. 19). Every thing He does, as God, is done by the Father also. Every thing He does, as man, is in accordance with what God wishes. He judges as He “hears” his Father judging. This, in reference to his Divinity, regards eternal generation. In reference to His humanity, He judges “as” inspired by the Father. “Hearing” is the same as “seeing” (v. 19).

My judgment is just,” as God’s judgment must ever be. “Because I seek not my own will.” My will, as God is identical with that of the Father, and My human will is ever conformable to the Divine will; hence, when judging, as man God, I judge in accordance with the Divine will, and, therefore, justly.

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