The Jews now sought the more to kill the Savior for He had not only, in their judgment, broken the Sabbath, but He had also called God His Father, thereby making Himself equal with God (John 5:18). It is important to observe that, to them, Sonship was equality. An objection of those who deny our Lord’s eternal Sonship is that this would put Him in eternal subjection to the Father. Not so for the Jews, who rightly saw Sonship as implying equality.
As has already been noted, this miracle now gives rise to a lengthy discourse of the Lord Jesus, and it is interesting that in the shadow of the five porches of the Pool of Bethesda, this discourse goes on to present a five-fold equality of the Father and the Son.
Equal in Deity (v18)
This angered the Jews that He should say that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God. But the essential Deity, the Godhood, of our Lord Jesus is fundamental and is clearly taught in Scripture for those with open eyes and willing hearts to see and understand. As early as Genesis 1:1 there is an intimation of the great Triunity of Divine Persons for the great Name “God” in that verse is the Hebrew Elohim which is plural, and yet the verb “created” is singular. A plural name with a singular verb! How? Why? Here is a Triunity indeed, a holy unity and equality of three Persons in one Godhead, to be revealed later as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They act in oneness, hence a singular verb. To this day, of course, it is a stumbling block to the Jews (and to many others too), that Jesus should be called the Son of God.
Equal in Purpose (v19)
Divine Persons work in perfect harmony. Neither will, nor can, act independently. How clearly the Son declares this when He says, “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 likewise.” When our Lord came into the world He said, “Lo, I come … I delight to do Thy will O My God” (Psa 40:7-8). He did that will; it cost Him much but He did it perfectly, and He delighted to do it. In purpose, Divine Persons are essentially one.
Equal in Power (v21)
In that greatest of powers, the raising of the dead, Father and Son are equal: “For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom He will.” Compare the well-known cases of the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7), the daughter of Jairus (Luke 8), and the raising of Lazarus in John 11. See how the Savior “lifted up His eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard Me. And I knew that Thou hearest Me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that Thou hast sent Me’” (John 11:41-42). Father and Son were working together and men should have known. And as it was then physically, so it is today spiritually for “you hath He quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1).
Equal in Honor (v23)
So the Savior says, and what a claim it is, “All men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He that honoreth not the Son honoreth not the Father which hath sent Him.” How careful then must we be to ascribe equal honors to Father and Son. And so we sing, in the words of another
All the Father’s counsels claiming
Equal honors to the Son;
All the Son’s effulgence beaming
Makes the Father’s glory known
-J. N. Darby
Equal in Essence (v26)
“For as the Father hath life in Himself; so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself.” Note the importance of “life in Himself,” that is to say, the life of God is not derived from any other being or source. It is His essentially. And as it is with the Father so it is with the Son; He hath life in Himself. In this essential life again there is equality. This is why our God is called “the living God.” The gods of the nations were lifeless, they were dead gods who could neither hear nor speak, and those who had turned away from them on believing the gospel, like the Thessalonians, had “turned to serve the living and true God and to wait for His Son from heaven”(1Thes 1:9-10).
This is indeed a lengthy discourse and doubtless careful students will discover more five-fold testimonies to the Lord Jesus throughout its length, as, for instance, a five-fold witness to His greatness (vv31-39). There is, too, a five-fold gospel appeal and assurance in the five clauses which follow the “verily verily” in verse 24.
Those who study Bible numerals are slightly divided as to the significance of the number five. Some say that it always indicates man’s weakness. Others say that it indicates God’s grace. But is there much difference after all? Is not God’s grace shown where man is weak? And is not man’s weakness an occasion for God to display His grace? Perhaps the impotent man of Bethesda would concur with both of these. He lay in weakness until One came in grace to help him. He would certainly never forget the Blessed Man Who met him at that House of Mercy and gave him back his health and strength.