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Gospel Reflections » International

The Son Gives Life To Whom He Chooses

March 13, 2013

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The cure of the cripple by the Sheep Pool is the occasion for a violent argument between the Jews and Jesus. Ostensibly this argument is because Jesus contravened the Jewish Law about the Sabbath “rest”. In reality, the dispute was about who Jesus really was – was he God’s Son, as he claimed, and therefore “working” as his Father had missioned him to do ? Or was his claim blasphemous, as the Jews thought it was? The Jews were strictly monotheistic, and the claim by Jesus that he too was God, was presumptuous and unacceptable.


John presents his reflections on this very sensitive issue. In doing that, he introduces us to an understanding of the Trinity and the relationship between Son and Father.


Jesus says, “the Son can do nothing by himself;  he does only what he sees his Father doing: what the Father does, the Son does.”


First, a point of  language. The term “son of…”  is the Hebrew way of saying “of the same nature as…”. So “Son of David” doesn’t literally mean David’s offspring, but rather of royal lineage, as David was.  It is a title. In the same way, “Son of God”  means “of God’s divine nature”,  equal to God. It does not imply paternity as it’s humanly understood. What Jesus is saying, in other words, was that he was God in every sense and his Jewish opponents correctly understood it as blasphemy.


Next, Jesus points to an absolute harmony of  activity between Father and Son. This means that both Father and Son are of the same nature, divine. The Son – who is both God and Man – is in the world to do the work of the Father, that is, to dispense to humankind the life that is the Father’s gift through his Son. Anyone who accepts Jesus and places his trust in him receives this life of grace, eternal life. As Jesus puts it, he has passed from death to life. Anyone who sees Jesus and rejects him has judgment passed upon him.


In many ways John’s Gospel presents a different point of view of Jesus from, say, the Gospel of Mark. Mark speaks of Jesus hiding his identity as Messiah for fear of being misconstrued. John presents Jesus as challenging both his disciples and the Jews to accept him as God himself, the “Son of the Father”. It’s a public challenge which, ultimately, led to Jesus’s death.

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