John 4:46-5:29 | Jesus’ Authority
by Lindsay Kennedy
In John 4:46, Jesus returns to Cana. The narrator reminds us that this is where Jesus turned water into wine. What’s more, the forthcoming story ends with a note that it is “the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee” (4:54). Both statements tie this following story to the sign Jesus performed at the wedding. Similar to the strange actions of Old Testament prophets, Jesus’ actions are deeply symbolic and tell us something profound about him.
But what does the healing of the official’s son tell us about Jesus? On the surface, the obvious conclusion is that Jesus has the supernatural power to heal. However, as one of the Gospel’s seven “signs,” what deeper reality about Jesus does this healing symbolize?
The Authority of the Son
One important theme in this section is authority. Note the following:
- The story regards an official’s son.
- Jesus healed the son from a distance.
- The man’s servants reported that the son was recovering.
- The official realized his son was healed at the very moment when Jesus told him he would be.
Each of these points emphasizes themes of authority, whether the official’s authority or Jesus’. This is confirmed by the next section in John 5.
Jesus and the Father
John 5 records Jesus’ healing of an invalid on the Sabbath. The Jews were offended by this; claiming that Jesus’ act of healing was him working on the Sabbath. Jesus’ response is that just as His father is working, He too is working. That is, Jesus has the same authority over the Sabbath as God.
This results in confusion, to which Jesus responds in John 5:19-29. This section has often caused confusion, but we must remember that Jesus is responding to the accusation that he is making himself equal with God.
Jesus carefully avoids two incorrect conclusions about himself and his relationship to the Father:
- Jesus is inferior to the Father. The idea that Jesus is equal with God offends Jesus’ hearers. But in this section, Jesus does nothing to reassure them. He says that “whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise” (John 5:19b) or that the Son has “life in himself” (John 5:26b). These are striking claims. The first means that Jesus can do whatever the Father (God) can do. The second means that Jesus has the power of life itself. Unlike every created being, Jesus does not depend on another being for His existence.
- Jesus is an independent deity. This is the second error that Jesus corrects in this section. His hearers are offended that he is setting Himself up to be an equal with God. They are right to be offended by this idea, as there is only one God that is worthy of worship. However, in John 5:19-29, Jesus explains that while he is equal with God, He is not a rival. In fact, “the Son can do nothing of his own accord” (John 5:19) or “as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself” (John 5:26). In saying this, Jesus affirms that he is one with the Father.
The doctrine of the Trinity arises because of statements such as these above. Jesus is equal with God, and yet distinct, though utterly unified with Him.