Does John 5:19 teach that the Lord Jesus was limited and therefore call in question His deity? “The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do; for what things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son in like manner.”
Just the opposite. Look at the context. “My Father worketh hitherto and I work” (v17). The healing on the Sabbath evoked the anger and criticism of the leaders. They claimed that God was “resting” since it was Sabbath. The Lord Jesus affirmed that God was active in the work of removing the effects of sin.
Look at what the Lord Jesus is declaring. There are many things which we can do, and perhaps unfortunately do, which the Father is not doing. For the Lord Jesus, doing anything which the Father was not doing was an impossibility. The Lord Jesus stated that He has perfect knowledge of all that the Father is doing in our world. Who else could claim that?
He then declares that whatever the Father is doing, He is doing also. No work of God is omitted. Is that a statement that any other man could make?
But then He adds another aspect to that claim: that whatever the Father is doing, He is not only doing, but doing in exactly the same manner. Did any servant prior to Him ever make that claim?
Rather than a refutation of His deity, it is an affirmation of the strongest kind. The impossibility – “The Son can do nothing of Himself” – is a moral impossibility. Such is the fellowship and unity of Father and Son, that there is nothing that the Son does which is not what the Farther is doing. What man, be he prophet or priest, could ever have made or make those assertions?
A. J. Higgins