This is another picture of the ruins of the pools at Bethsaida in Jerusalem.
19 Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father* does, the Son does likewise. 20The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished. 21Indeed, just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomsoever he wishes. 22The Father judges no one but has given all judgement to the Son, 23so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 24Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgement, but has passed from death to life.
25 ‘Very truly, I tell you, the 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. 26For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself; 27and he has given him authority to execute judgement, because he is the Son of Man. 28Do not be astonished at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29and will come out—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.
Jesus continues the discussion – “Jesus said to them” – to those who were a part of this confrontation, whom John calls “the Jews”, as well as to teach his own disciples. Jesus has said that God, his Father, is still working, and he also is still working. He expands that idea, saying he, the Son, does not act on his own, but in the will of God – because he loves the Father and the Father loves him, he knows God’s will and does what God does. In fact, he tells them, they are going to be astonished at what he will do!
And then Jesus makes what must have seemed a truly audacious claim – he shares in two activities that belong only to God: the giving of life and the judgment; and, furthermore, he should be honored just as they honor the Father. Think of how hard this would have been for his hearers to accept – and perhaps for the believers in John’s community to whom he is telling the story – here are the Jews, with their adherence to monotheism, their ONE GOD, pressured on all sides in the midst of cultures that are polytheistic – the Greeks and the Romans had many gods; and now, Jesus says he is God’s Son? And he is to be honored and worshiped? Even today this is the stumbling block for both Jews and Muslims.
In verses 25 to 29, Jesus continues, making his claim that life and death have been given him. When we read of the Kingdom of God in the synoptic gospels, we understand it as both the ultimate coming of Christ, and the present action of Christ – the living into God’s will through him. In the next few verses, that is essentially what this text is saying. Jesus has been given the authority the Father has over life – and death. In the end times, the dead who hear his voice will rise to eternal life. But this passage also speaks to those who are not yet physically dead but are spiritually dead – in Jesus, the Son, we all find life and hope in the present life, not just the one to come. The Son has life in himself, and through grace, he gives life to us, in this life. We must learn to hear his voice.