Jesus Is Authority and Judge
2 Timothy 4:1–5
After participating in this lesson, each student will be able to:
1. Describe the authority that Jesus has.
2. Discuss how Jesus expects us to live in this world in anticipation of eternity.
3. Write a plan to honor Jesus’ authority in one specific way.
How to Say It
Ezekiel. Ee-ZEEK-ee-ul or Ee-ZEEK-yul.
Daily Bible Readings
Monday, Jan. 8—Jesus Heals a Lame Man (John 5:1–9)
Tuesday, Jan. 9—Whom God Has Sent (John 3:31–36)
Wednesday, Jan. 10—I Am the Christ (John 4:19–26)
Thursday, Jan. 11—Jesus Taught with Authority (Matthew 7:24–29)
Friday, Jan. 12—Christ Will Judge (2 Timothy 4:1–5)
Saturday, Jan. 13—Honor the Son (John 5:19–23)
Sunday, Jan. 14—Jesus Speaks of Judgment (John 5:24–30)
“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”
Why Teach this Lesson?
“Question authority!” The 1960s introduced a revolution that did just that. And, unfortunately, some in authority gave every reason for their authority to be questioned. From the riots and rebellions of the 1960s to the tolerance and terrorism of the first decade of the twenty-first century, authority has been questioned and, at times, abhorred.
Many of your students just don’t like rules! The authority of God’s Word has not escaped this questioning. But what God has said authoritatively and what the Son of God has done through the authority given him by his Father always results in good, never in evil. Today’s lesson reveals the ultimate authority of Father God and Jesus, his Son. It is by living under this benevolent authority that the followers of Christ find the true meaning and significance of life.
A. Like Father, Like Son
People who know my father often say that I bear a very strong resemblance to him. We look very much alike, and people can match us up as parent and child in a crowd.
I also resemble my father in other very notable ways that have nothing to do with our appearance. For example, I inherited my father’s energy and work ethic, and people are often surprised at how much I will take on. I also share some of his tastes and interests: we both like auto racing, and both of us eat way too much candy.
In many respects a person who knows me well will also come to know many things about my father, as his traits are reflected in my life. We often say that someone is a “chip off the old block” when a child is very much like a parent. In such cases we can learn a lot about someone just by looking at his or her children. This fact is evident to teachers and youth workers, who often see kids do and say things that they could have learned only at home.
Jesus frequently appeals to this principle in the Gospel of John to discuss his “sonship”—his unique identity as God’s only-begotten Son. While we often think of Jesus’ “sonship” in terms of his virginal conception, etc., Jesus usually mentions the sonship issue to highlight his complete unity with, and obedience to, the Father. As such we learn what God is like by looking at Jesus.
B. Lesson Background
Our text today follows the story of the healing at Bethesda (John 5:1–9). While in Jerusalem for a feast (v. 1), Jesus visited a pool where many sick people gathered for medical care. There he met a man who had been lame for 38 years. To the great surprise of the crowd—and especially to the surprise of the man himself—Jesus commanded him to rise, take his cot, and walk.
The miracle generated controversy, however, because it took place on the Sabbath. That was the weekly day of rest (v. 9). Some Jewish authorities who believed that carrying cots and healing were works prohibited on the Sabbath confronted the man and learned what Jesus had done.
When those authorities challenged Jesus, he justified his actions by noting God’s power at work (v. 17). If God chooses to work on the Sabbath, who can object? The Jews considered this blasphemous. So they conspired to kill Jesus for “making himself equal with God” (v. 18). Jesus’ comments in our printed text are a response to this persecution.
I. Father and Son (John 5:19–23)
A. Unity (vv. 19–21)
19. Jesus gave them this answer: “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.
Jesus begins his defense by noting that he and the Father work together in complete harmony. Verse 19 describes something that Jesus does to reveal this unity, while verse 20 (below) highlights something that God does. While Jesus is equal to the Father in nature, he is completely obedient to him in service. An implication of this fact is that any complaint about Jesus’ words or actions is ultimately a complaint against God the Father.
Jesus portrays himself, in a way, as God’s apprentice. In Jesus’ day sons normally follow the family trade. Such trades include farming, fishing, and carpentry. Often a boy is apprenticed to his father, who teaches him the skills of the job. Jesus, as the faithful Son, follows his Father’s every step. The result is that Jesus perfectly implements the Father’s will. “I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me” (John 8:28).
From the Same Timber
“He’s cut from the same timber” is a familiar old saying. A variation is “He’s cut from the same piece of cloth.” These are usually said of blood relatives who have the same characteristics. It could be two brothers or a father and son. The mannerisms, virtues, and qualities of one individual show up equally as well in the other.
My wife and I have two daughters. In many ways the older daughter resembles me (fortunately she’s prettier than I am!); the younger daughter resembles my wife. It is sometimes uncanny how my older daughter has many of the same characteristics that I do. Obviously there are some things that she has copied from my own behavior. But some things have gone beyond mere copied behavior. I remember how amazed I was when she was a preschooler, and I saw her do some things that I know she had never seen me do. Some things have simply been genetically programmed into her that she probably has little control over.
If such things are true between an earthly father and his children, we should not be surprised that Jesus says that the same is true between himself and God the Father. The divine Son of God does the same things as his Father. John relays to us that whatever the Father does, these are the same things the Son does. “Like father, like son” is just as true in the spiritual sense as it is in the human world. Thus when we obey the Son, we also obey the Father. —J. B. N.
20. “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.
Jesus shows his unity with the Father through faithful service, and the Father shows that unity by revealing all he does to Jesus. If Jesus is, in a sense, the apprentice, then God is the caring mentor who teaches Jesus everything he knows (compare Luke 2:52).
The word for at the beginning of this verse has the sense of “because” as an explanation of what Jesus has just said in verse 19: he is able to do the Father’s works because God loves him and shows him everything. In the immediate context this would refer to the healing of the man at Bethesda (John 5:1–9); the greater things than these would then refer to the surpassing miracles yet to come. These include the raising of Lazarus (John 11:39–44) and, ultimately, Jesus’ own resurrection. The greater works must also include the granting of eternal life, as we see in verse 21, next.
As I write in early 2005, the television show The Apprentice is all the rage. The formula is unique and clever; there has never been a television show quite like it.
A handful of contestants compete with one another for the sole privilege of becoming Donald Trump’s apprentice. The competition also involves cooperation since the participants must work in teams. Their tasks include everything from selling lemonade to designing lines of clothing to fixing up old motels—whatever the writers of the show can dream up.
The team that loses each week must then present itself before Trump in the dreaded “boardroom.” It is a dark and somber place. It is the place where the losing team must answer for its failure. It is a place where one person each week will hear Trump say the words that no one wants to hear: You’re fired!
Trump picks his apprentice through a process of elimination. In effect his apprentice is the one who has failed the least. How different it is with Jesus! He never failed at a single task; he proved himself to be God through his own resurrection. Jesus, as the Father’s “apprentice” (if it’s appropriate to use that term for him), has the Father’s complete confidence. That’s where our confidence should be as well. —R. L. N.
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.
The ability to raise the dead belongs to God alone. It is he who controls the final destiny of every human being (compare 2 Kings 5:7).
Jesus obviously is claiming this divine power for himself. Yet the exact meaning of the phrase the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it needs to be examined. In a physical sense the phrase could refer to the upcoming resurrection of Lazarus. Some suggest that Jesus is referring to the healing power that he has just demonstrated at Bethesda—although the man who was lame was not physically dead, his life was restored to wholeness in a remarkable way.
In view of the discussion to follow, it seems that Jesus is most likely claiming that he even shares God’s power to grant eternal life, not just physical healing. This being the case, it is hardly relevant to accuse him of breaking the Sabbath (John 5:16). If he has ultimate authority over eternal judgment, he certainly can heal someone whenever he wants!
Visual for Lesson 7
Use this visual to ask students to list things that “expire.”
Then ask how life in Christ is different.
B. Trust (v. 22)
22. “Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son,
The Jewish authorities have taken it upon themselves to judge Jesus a sinner and a blasphemer. They reach this judgment because he does not meet their expectations. But God has not called them to judge the world; rather, God has given the power of judgment to the Son.
Following verse 21 the judgment in question clearly refers to the final judgment at the Last Day. That is when God will assign eternal rewards and punishments. For this reason Christians treat Jesus’ teachings as the ultimate authority.
At first glance this verse would seem to conflict with John 3:17. There Jesus says that he did not come to judge the world, but rather to save the world. The tension is resolved easily when we note the difference between Jesus’ purpose and his role. In terms of purpose, John 3:16 tells us that Jesus came to earth to proclaim and provide salvation. Two verses later, however, John clarifies that “whoever does not believe stands condemned already” (3:18). This means that those who do not accept Jesus’ teaching have no other hope of salvation.
Consistent with this emphasis John 5:22 stresses Jesus’ role as judge. Although Jesus wants everyone to be saved—so much so that he died for the world—he eventually will sit in judgment to condemn those who reject him.
What Do You Think?
Think about the lesson’s comparison between John 3:17 and John 5:22. How does this comparison help you approach texts that seem to conflict?
C. Honor (v. 23)
23. “… that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.”
This verse is a warning to those who deny Jesus’ claims or who criticize his actions. Common sense tells us that only a fool would show disrespect to a judge who is about to pass sentence. The opponents of Jesus should therefore carefully consider what they are saying about him.
Any disrespect these opponents show to Jesus automatically dishonors God. This is so because Jesus is God’s designated agent who speaks on the Father’s behalf. Ironically the Jews have been trying to protect God’s honor by persecuting Jesus. In fact that very persecution shows disrespect for God’s authority.
II. Death and Life (John 5:24–29)
A. Importance of Belief (vv. 24, 25)
24. “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.
Eternal life is something that begins in this world. When we accept Jesus according to the biblical plan of salvation, we pass from death to life. The word death as used here refers to separation from God, while life refers to the relationship with God that comes through Christ. “I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death” (John 8:51; compare Colossians 1:13).
Physical death will not change this relationship, although it will finalize our decision. Those who accept Christ have everlasting life that begins now. They begin to enjoy the benefits of salvation and will continue to enjoy God’s love eternally in the age to come.
What Do You Think?
How does recognizing that eternal life begins in this world make a practical difference in your life right now?
25. “I tell you the truth, 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.
Following the teaching of the Pharisees, most ancient Jews believe that God will one day judge the world. When he does he will resurrect all good Jews for eternal life in a renewed world (compare Acts 23:6–8). Jesus affirms this belief but revises the doctrine at key points. The hour of judgment, when the dead will hear God’s voice, is now. Those who are spiritually dead but choose to listen to Jesus’ words are granted eternal life. Those who are (or were) spiritually dead include people like the Jews and the man at Bethesda. It also includes all other, later readers of John’s gospel (us!) who must make a decision about Jesus.
What Do You Think?
How should recognizing that judgment occurs now make a practical difference in your life?
The Pharisees naturally attribute the power of resurrection to God alone. Yet Jesus establishes his own role and authority in the judgment. It is the Son who proclaims the arrival of the time of judgment and salvation. What a crucial point this is!
Hearing and Living
A couple of years ago, there was a series of television commercials featuring cell phones and phone service. In numerous variations a man talking on a cell phone would move to different locations and ask, “Can you hear me now?”
The commercials thus depicted the technician trying to discover locations where the cell-phone transmission wouldn’t reach. The point of the commercials was that that particular phone service was superior to that provided by other companies having inadequate technology or equipment. That Can you hear me now? phrase became a cultural staple for a brief time.
“To hear,” however, means more than merely listening. When a parent is laying down the law to a child, the parent may say, “Do you hear what I’m saying?” This is not a question of just hearing. It means, “Do you recognize the significance of what I am saying, and is it going to change your behavior?”
The old message from the herald, “Hear ye, hear ye,” meant more than just mere listening. The herald was providing information that should result in action. The U.S. Army uses the phrase HUA (pronounced who-ah). This stands for Heard, Understood, Acknowledged. “To hear” properly leads to obedience.
That is the impact of what Jesus is saying: “They that hear shall live.” Merely listening is not sufficient. If we properly hear the words of Jesus, we will incorporate them into our thinking and modify our behavior accordingly. Those that hear appropriately shall then live because their actions will be in tune with God’s will.—J. B. N.
B. Son of Man (vv. 26, 27)
26, 27. “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
Some have suggested that the phrase Son of Man is used here in the general sense of “a human being.” That is the way that God uses this term to refer to the prophet Ezekiel numerous times (example: Ezekiel 2:1). This approach would suggest that Jesus is given power to judge human beings because he, as a man, can sympathize with our experiences and temptations (see Hebrews 4:15).
While this may be the case as far as it goes, it seems likely that John has a more specific idea in mind. Following Daniel 7:13, 14, many ancient Jews believe that God will send a special agent to judge the world at the end of time. This agent is to be called the Son of Man.
We see this title used in the Gospel of John to highlight Jesus’ divinity and authority (see John 1:51; 3:13, 14; 6:27, 53; 8:28; 13:31). By calling himself Son of Man in a unique sense, Jesus is claiming to be the one whom God has appointed to judge the world at the end of time.
What Do You Think?
How does John’s portrait of Jesus as judge provide encouragement to you?
C. His Voice (v. 28)
28. “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice
As noted earlier, eternal life is a present reality; it is something that those who accept Jesus can begin to experience in the here and now. Jesus clarifies, however, that his authority to grant life goes beyond this world and into eternity. Whereas “the dead” in verse 25 referred to those who are spiritually dead, Jesus now speaks of the situation of those who have physically died—those who are in their graves.
Even in the face of death, we can be confident in Christ’s power to save. We know that we will one day hear his voice and rise to eternal life (see the next verse). Jesus thus has authority over both our present and our future. Hallelujah—what a Savior!
D. Our Status (v. 29)
29.… and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.”
Those who respond positively to Jesus and his call in the current life will be glad to hear his call in the next world. “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life: and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40; compare 6:54).
The same hope does not belong to those who reject him. Their resurrection will be one of condemnation. Indeed they have been condemned already. “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).
We must stress that the phrase have done good is not referring to a system of salvation by works. In this context the phrase have done good is defined by verse 24: “Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.” See also Jesus’ declaration in John 6:29: “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
By contrast, those who challenge Jesus’ claims and refuse to accept him will suffer eternal judgment. Jesus regrets this situation, but it cannot be otherwise in view of God’s justice. The choice is ours.
What Do You Think?
How can we avoid making mistakes similar to those of Jesus’ opponents, who thought they were protecting God’s truth yet actually were violating it?
A good friend of ours is a police captain. I once asked him what we should do if a policeman came to our house or we were stopped for a traffic violation. He said, “In one word, ‘cooperate.’ You’re not going to argue with a cop, so don’t.” My wife very recently profited from this advice when she parked momentarily in a fire lane to pick up a large item in a store. A police officer came in looking for her, and she avoided an expensive fine by listening quietly and following his orders.
Jesus offers similar advice in our passage today. God is the boss, and he has given Jesus all authority to judge us. We’re not in a position to argue with him or to question what he says. If we want to stay out of trouble, our only hope is simply to follow his instructions. Make no mistake: there won’t be any arguing about the situation on Judgment Day!
But people foolishly try to argue with God, don’t they? Such arguments can take several forms. The most serious way we argue with God is through sin itself. God, the judge and lawgiver, has defined what sin is. He has commanded us to avoid it. When we go ahead and commit sin anyway, we are saying, in effect, “I know better than you do, God.” Thus our sin becomes our argument against him and his will.
Such sin is obvious when we break one of the “Thou shalt not” commandments. A less obvious way to argue with God is in resisting his will for us after we become Christians. Jonah knew God’s direction for his life but chose to do something different (Jonah 1:3). Is God calling you into a particular ministry or service? Don’t argue—go!
Thought to Remember
We experience the blessings of resurrection life in every moment that we honor Christ.
Lord, please help us to live lives that will honor Christ the way that Christ honored you. In times of temptation and stress, help us remember that eternal life is a gift we already have in this world. Keep us mindful at every moment that the things we do now have eternal consequences. In Jesus’ name, amen.