Letters to the Prison - Week 50

Hello, everyone.  We miss you.  We’re continuing our study of the book of John.  If you want to follow along and need a Bible, ask for one!
Last week, in John 5:25, we saw a profound thing Jesus said about himself… and us.  Jesus said about himself that the dead would hear his voice… and live!  As for us, well… we are the dead… spiritually… until we hear Jesus and say “yes!  Jesus is who he says he is!”  How does a person hear Jesus today?  Through his Word  --the Bible.  So, let’s get to studying it!
Jesus has so much more to say about himself in the next few verses of John 5:
We see in John 5:26 that Jesus, like God, “has life in himself.”  This makes Jesus the very source of life.
In John 5:27, Jesus claims that God has given him the authority to “execute judgment.”  This goes along with what Jesus had already said in verse 22.  This is a jaw-dropping claim with profound implications.  Which is why Jesus says:
•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.-John 5:28-29
Here again, Jesus speaks of a time when the dead will hear his voice.  In this case, he clearly means those who are literally physically dead.  They are “in the tombs.”  He also clearly means a future time.  “The hour is coming.”  What Jesus says in verse 29 is profound in several ways.  For one thing, Jesus is claiming the power to resurrect the dead –all of them.  For another thing, Jesus is claiming the authority to judge them according to whether they have “done good” or “done evil…” and then he claims the authority to “execute” that judgment.  So here is Jesus, a man, claiming God’s ultimate power and authority over every human life and soul.  Crazy?  Or true?  Such a claim to this absolute authority is stunning, certainly.  
But what about this idea of all of us being judged according to what we have done?  Christians make much of the fact that people can’t save themselves by their works.  We go to great lengths, in fact, to teach that salvation is by faith alone through grace alone.  Yet here Jesus is saying quite clearly that what we do matters.  And, that what we do matters eternally… and we’re accountable for it after we die.  
So, which is it?  Are we saved by faith alone and not by works?  Does what we do matter?  The answer is “yes” and…  “yes!”
Back during Christmas and New Year’s, we touched briefly on the ideas of justification and sanctification.  Those two ideas are uniquely related.  You can’t have one without the other.  This is how Paul is able to say, “one is justified by faith apart from works” (Romans 3:27-28) while James says, “faith without works is dead” (James 2:14-26). Sanctification is properly motivated by justification.  That’s the short version of the short version right there.  Justification and sanctification are huge vital ideas to consider… worthy of much attention.  But we lack the space here.
But going back to what Jesus is saying in John 5:28-29, we can see that he has a very specific and vital work in mind when he talks about judging those who “have done good or evil.”  To see this, let’s take a preview of something Jesus says in John chapter 6:
•Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”       -John 6:28-29
Here we see the work Jesus has in mind:  To believe in him or not.
This, dear friends, is the work upon which our entire eternal destiny relies:  The answer to the question “is Jesus who he says he is?”  It is a “yes or no” question.  We choose to believe or not, and the choice has eternal consequences.  And we can see how this central, foundational work of believing in Jesus (or not) impacts every other work we do in our lives.  Because the answer to that central question impacts our answer to every other question.  We act upon our true beliefs --often even when we don’t intend to.
So, according to Jesus, the work of believing in him is the work God wants us to do and it is the work for which we will be eternally accountable for after we die.  That is a dire and powerful thing for Jesus to say about himself.  And it is an urgent reminder to us that we need to be about the business of answering that central question “Is Jesus who he says he is” and then living our lives according to our answer.  We hope this message finds you saying “Yes!”  Pray for us, dear friends, that we would truly live according to our answer!
Jesus has so much more to say about himself in John 5.  This is why we’re lingering over these verses.  We’ve read now that Jesus claims the power to resurrect the dead and the authority to judge them for eternity.  Yet look what Jesus says next:
•“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.  -John 5:30
Jesus claims absolute power and authority on one hand… and that his “judgment is just,” yet says “I can do nothing on my own.”  So, absolute power and yet Jesus absolutely depends on the will of “him who sent him…” and yet again, back in verses 22 and 27, that very “one” who sent Jesus –the “one” whose will he always does—has given Jesus the authority to judge!  How does that add up?
This, friends, is merely a glimpse of the profound and mind-blowing relationship Jesus claims to have (and indeed does have) with God the Father.  It is the relationship between two members of the Trinity  --God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  They are unique persons who act in perfect unity with one another.  Such things are marvelous to behold and well beyond our ability to fully comprehend or describe.
Such things inspire us to worship and obey the amazing God who made us and called us to an eternal loving relationship with him.  We hope you’re praising God today.  Until next week!

Dean A.

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