“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.” John 5.19-23
Jesus says it as it is. There’s no arguing with this particular statement — “The Son can do nothing by himself.” Jesus has power, authority, and purpose because he imitates the Father. He and the Father are one. He does only what he sees his Father doing; and what his Father does not do, Jesus doesn’t do.
Jesus is the perfect imitation of God on earth and in the flesh. He is one hundred percent divine and one hundred percent human. His motivation for doing what the Father does is love — “For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.” Therefore, whatever the Father does, the Son does in return and out of love. But it’s God who initiates, it is God who reveals the plan. Jesus is the action of God’s activity. He is God’s spoken word of God made into flesh. They each (along with the Holy Spirit) have a distinct role to play.
Jesus also reveals the Father’s ability to raise the dead which has also been given to Jesus who will demonstrate this several times throughout his earthly ministry. In addition, God is not the judge, according to Jesus, but all judgement has been entrusted to the Son. (This is a new concept — I often thought as God the Father as the judge, but in this passage Jesus says otherwise.)
The relationship between God and Jesus is unified. The Spirit of God the Father and God the Son is the Holy Spirit who is one with the Father and Son forming the Godhead and Holy Trinity. Yet even those some of their activity overlaps, they also have distinct roles in the Kingdom of God. The role of Jesus is to imitate God and to call us to do the same while inviting us into a similar loving, fulfilling and beautiful relationship with the Father.
And lastly, Jesus tell us that “whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” This must have been potent and shocking news to the Jews who for the most part were not ready to accept the testimony about Jesus that he was Messiah.
Much can be learned about the Lord in this passage. Much more than a cursory interpretation of his Words and his Ways. But one thing I take with me is the unity between the Father and the Son and the oneness of their words, deeds, actions and shared activity in this world.
“O Lord God, to be one with you is my goal and my desire. To know you better, to read your word daily, to walk in your steps is my desire. For you are the creator of all things. You give me the very breath that I breathe. Thank you Lord for loving me even when I was lost in sin and desiring everything but you. Come now, Holy Spirit, infuse me with your love. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen