Sermon on John 5:19-29 — “Greater Works”

September 1, 2019 at First Presbyterian Church of Unionville, NY (BPC)

Sermon Text:

[Jhn 5:19-29 ESV] 19 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. 22 For the Father judges no one, but has given 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 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. 25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, 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 execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

INTRODUCTION

Recall last week that our sermon text was on Jesus’ healing of an invalid at the pool of Bethesda. And there Jesus got into some trouble with the religious leaders, for when he healed the man and told him to pick up his mat and walk it was the Sabbath day. But Jesus, as we saw last week, is Lord of the Sabbath, and so he can override the Old Testament law about not bearing a burden on the Sabbath. Jesus in fact is God. He answered the Jews saying “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” Thus the text tells us “This is why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.”

Now, we continue on to the next passage which the ESV Bible has conveniently labeled “The Authority of the Son.” That is indeed the theme of this section – Jesus’s authority over all things. But I’ve titled this sermon “Greater Works” because it is Jesus’s promise that there will be seen greater works—works even greater than healing an invalid. And these greater works will display his authority.

And so now we have the beginning of a monologue that Jesus gives to the Jews explaining his own relationship with the Father and telling of his own authority as the Son of God to execute judgment.

The best way that I’ve found to break down this passage to make it more easily digestible is to consider it in three parts, each of which begins with that phrase “Truly, truly, I say to you.”

This is quite a beautiful phrase in my mind. Quite a powerful phrase. The King James Version says “Verily, verily I say unto you.” Our ESV Pew Bible reads “Truly, truly I say to you.”

Each time this phrase is spoken it is a strong claim to truth, and notifies the listener to pay attention. Truly, truly, I say to you. There should be no doubt regarding these things. These are things which Jesus himself is telling you and He, the very Word of God, is the source of all truth.

So we have 3 of these “truly, trulies.” Truly, we do.

I. – “Like Father, Like Son”

II. – The Resurrection of the Soul

III. – The Resurrection of the Body

[REPEAT]

I. Truly, Truly #1 – Like father, like son (vs. 19 – 23)

19 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.

Continuing from the previous section Jesus here explains that he has power over all things, including that he is Lord of the Sabbath.

And why does have that authority?

It has been given to him from the Father. God has given Jesus authority.

The Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing.

Like father, like son.

For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.

Like father, like son.

So this is the first point of Jesus’s “truly, trulies.”

But we must keep in mind the purpose of Jesus’s whole monologue: it is to proclaim his authority. So that all will marvel at Jesus and his authority, and so honor Him as they honor the Father, Jesus promises that GREATER WORKS will be seen.

Now, what is greater than the healing of the invalid at the pool?

The rest of this passage explains two greater works. [REPEAT: two greater works] There is the spiritual resurrection and the physical resurrection. Or, the being made a believer by the work of the Holy Spirit and the raising of all physical flesh from the grave on the last day.

It is great thing to one time heal a man; the spiritual resurrection is a great thing; it makes one a child of God for all time. And then physical resurrection is another greater thing, for it reunites the soul and with body for all eternity. The eternal is greater than the temporal.

We can see this easily with some examples:

What is greater than a slice of pizza? Answer: An endless pizza bar.

What is greater than a taco? Answer: An endless taco bar.

What is greater than a salad? Answer: Just about anything? Well, ok, an endless salad bar.

The unlimited is greater than the limited.

While a one time healing is a great miracle, those things which result in eternal life are called “greater works.”

The resurrection to life (spiritual life) and the resurrection of life (physical life) are the greater works that will be seen.

Remember all the way back in chapter 1 of John’s Gospel, Jesus said to Nathanael, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” (John 1:50)

And following this promise to Nathanael, Jesus—just like in our current passage—said “Truly, truly, I say to you.” “Truly, truly, I say to, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Whenever the Bible has the English words “truly, truly” or “verily, verily,” it is a translation of the Greek words “Amen, Amen.” All, of course, are familiar with this Greek word, Amen. We say it often at the end of prayers. What does it mean? The end? No. It means “firm” or “truth.” So when Jesus says “Amen, Amen” he means “here is a firm truth I am going to tell you.” Truly, truly, I say to you.

So that was our first of the three truly, trulies: Like father, like Son. Jesus has the authority of God.

Now, with the second and third “truly, trulies” we have Jesus giving details on those “greater things” he has promised will be seen. First there is the resurrection of the soul, and then the resurrection of the body.

II. Truly, Truly #2 – The Resurrection of the Soul (or eternal life through faith) (vs. 24)

From verse 24:

24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

Here we have the resurrection of the soul. This comes with faith. All who believe in Jesus Christ are born again—their soul’s resurrected to new life. This is the promise of Jesus. And soon after this promise was given, the Christian church would begin a rapid expansion. Thousands would come to believe in Christ.

We see this resurrection of the soul described as “passing from death to life.” It is not a situation where you are sick or ill and need a little help from Jesus to add to your own efforts. Rather, the Biblical picture is that we are dead. And Jesus then comes and he doesn’t just make us feel better, he raises us to new life.

Now, this idea of your rebirth, or coming to faith, being called a “resurrection of the soul” is not the most commonly used phrase, but it is a biblical one. “A resurrection of the soul.”

In the book of Revelation, another of John’s writings, he refers to the soul’s rebirth as “the first resurrection.” So it is proper that we call this “A resurrection of the soul.”

So then, that was our second “Truly, truly.” The resurrection of the Soul. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

Now we come to the third and final “truly truly” of this passage. It is another of the “greater things” that will be seen. It is the resurrection of the body.

III. Truly, Truly #3 – The Resurrection of the Body (vs. 25-29)

I’ve been saying for some years, and will continue to say for some more years ahead, that I am not yet prepared to preach through the book of Revelation. I had a professor in seminary—85 years young in fact—who taught on the subject of eschatology, the study of the end times. And HE would not tell us what position he took on those debated questions. There is debate in the Christian world even among solidly orthodox Christian commentators when it comes to the Biblical teachings about the end of the world. Having read a number of these writers from the various positions I’ve realized that there are many difficulties in the subject. That has forced me to hold off from teaching on the book of Revelation until such time that I can more deeply study the book. But, alas, here I am in another of John’s books—not his Apocalypse, but his Gospel—and there is recorded from Jesus’ very words some important teachings about the physical resurrection at the end of the world. So we have found a good opportunity to delve into these teachings.

This third “truly, truly” initially continues on the theme of the previous words. Jesus says “an hour is coming, AND IS NOW HERE, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.” Because Jesus says “AND IS NOW HERE” we know he is referring to the resurrection of the soul which was already occurring in his midst, and not the resurrection of the body which does not occur until the end of the world. It is referring to salvation by faith in the words of Jesus Christ; by believing what He has said, by believing the Gospel of the Lord IN THIS VERY TIME, FOR THE TIME IS NOW HERE. Those who hear, those who believe, will live.

As we continue on this third “truly, truly” the subject shifts from the resurrection of the soul, to the resurrection of the body. [REPEAT: he subject shifts from the resurrection of the soul, to the resurrection of the body] While the resurrection of soul is said to be “NOW HERE,” the resurrection of the body is still future. Jesus says “an hour is coming.” And this time He doesn’t add the phrase “and is now here.” That phrase was applied to the resurrection of the soul, of which the Holy Spirit can work in man at any time especially from the time of Christ onwards. But the resurrection of the body is still yet to come.

Now, about this resurrection of the body, there are two points I want to emphasize today from our text. [REPEAT: two points about the resurrection of the body]

1. There will be a single resurrection.

2. The good are resurrected to life, the evil resurrection to judgment.

First,

1. There will be a single resurrection.

This is called the general resurrection. All will be resurrected, both the elect to salvation and the reprobate who through their sins will find judgment. The resurrection of both the just and the unjust occurs at the same time, some time in the future.

Jesus says in our text, “for AN HOUR is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.”

In the same hour, at the same time, both the good and the evil will be resurrected. All people.

Paul teaches the same as John. In Acts 24:15 Paul speaks of “A resurrection of BOTH the just and the unjust.” Note that important article – “A”. There will be “A resurrection” both of of the just and the unjust. Not two resurrections, but one.

But while there will be a single resurrection, there will then be two directions people go.

2. The good are resurrected to life, the evil resurrection to judgment.

The book of Revelation speaks of “the first resurrection,” which we’ve identified with the resurrection of the soul. Only Christian believers experience this resurrection. Then there is the resurrection of the body; the general resurrection. ALL people experience this resurrection.

But then, in regards to this second resurrection, “those who have done good (come out) to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.”

We who have experienced the first resurrection, that of our soul, are promised that we “do not come into judgment.” God sees in us only the good things that His Holy Spirit works in us. All of our sins are covered; they are atoned for by Jesus Christ.

But for the rest, who have done evil, they shall be judged.

Now, why is it that God judges some?

Paul explains in Romans 9:

“What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory.”

In the judgment of those who have done evil God shows his power, and He makes us to known how truly blessed we are in His forgiving our sins and giving us eternal life.

All who believe in Jesus shall indeed see these greater things. First there is the resurrection of the soul when you come to faith in Christ. Then there is the resurrection of the body and life everlasting in God’s glory.

The healing of an invalid is a great thing. The turning of water into wine is a great thing. The healing of an officials son is a great thing. But you will see greater things!

What a great joy it is in your life when a family member or friend comes to faith in Jesus Christ. We see this happen in our own day.

And what a great joy it will be when in the end our bodies are resurrected and reunited with our souls to everlasting life.

These are the greater things.

Conclusion

Let us then have hope in Jesus Christ who has the authority, who has the power, to raise us to life eternal and in whom is the promise for all who believe. Amen, Amen.

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