This blog continues a translation of John’s Gospel with commentary.
JOHN 5: 25-
Jesus said, “Amen, amen, I tell you, an hour is coming and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of God’s son, and these hearers will live. For just as the father has life in himself so he has also given life in himself to the son. And he has given him power to make judgement, because he is the Humane Ruler. Do not be astonished at this for the hour is coming when all who are in the graves will hear his voice; and they will come out, doers of good to the resurrection of life, wrongdoers to the resurrection of judgement.”
“I can do nothing on my own. I judge by listening and my judgement is just because I do not aim to please myself but to please the one who sent me. If I testify on my own behalf my testimony is not true. But there is another who testifies about me, and I know that the evidence he gives about me is true. You sent to John and he has testified to the truth. I have no need of human witness, but I mention these things so that God may rescue you. He, John, was a burning and shining light and you were willing for a time to be pleased if he noticed you. But I have greater testimony than John’s, for the works that the father has given me to complete, the works I am doing, are the evidence that the father has sent me. And the father who sent me has himself testified about me, but you have never heard his voice nor seen his appearance. And you do not have his word dwelling in you, for you do not put your trust in the one he has sent.”
The heart of Jesus’ argument is the reference to what he is doing, his “works” which he identifies as God’s works, that is, as part of the creative action of God, which remains incomplete without Jesus’ contribution. He is, as the prologue to the gospel has claimed, the logos or creative wisdom of God made flesh.
In the forthcoming crisis which will inaugurate the New World, Jesus, as Humane Ruler will decide who is granted the life of the New World, and who is put to judgement. In fact, as the reader knows, people judge themselves by their response to Jesus: those who trust him choose light while those who reject him choose darkness. This means that the processes of the end time of the world have already started in the ministry of Jesus. That’s what is meant by the “hour that is coming and is now here.”
The author of the gospel gives these words to Jesus, to make clear what he believes: that the ultimate future of every human being depends on his/ her response to rhe earthly ministry of Jesus, as portrayed by the Assembly of believers. He is saying that people ought to be able to identify Jesus as God’s son from the story of his “signs” and his teachings. As readers of this gospel, do we find this cliam convincing? What it gives us are a few dubious incidents, wine at a village wedding, violence at a religious festival, acts of healing on the Sabbath, riddling converstaion with a Samaritan woman. Do these really identify Jesus as Go’s unique agent? In fact, the author seems to rely more on his own theological convictions, often put into the mouth of Jesus and other characters in the story, to point us in the right direction.
Given that the author himself focuses on the issue of “testimony” to Jesus’ true nature, and singles out the “works that the father has given me to complete” we may guess that he knows what he is doing, and that we should not judge the effectiveness of his strategy until the end of the gospel. But already we can see that his treatment of “the evidence in favour of Jesus,” is profoundly ironical; the weaker it is, the more he insists it is convincing.
All the gospel writers are masters of storytelling; each with unique methods of presenting the reader with the challenge of Jesus. We are meant to read and respond honestly rather than piously, as the authors are using these responses to reveal the truth of Jesus. This is especially true of John’s Gospel.