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But Jesus answered them, "My Father is working until now". ESV.

Other questions on this site look at aspects of John 5:18 but here I would like to focus on "My Father" in John 5:17.

When Jesus said "My Father" in John 5:17 was Jesus calling God the Father by a name that other Jews could not use, or, could at that time any Jew call God "My Father", after all Isaiah 64:8 says "But now, O Lord, you are our Father".

John 5:18 "but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God".

Would Jesus calling God His Father by itself make him equal with God, or is that a reference to other considerations?

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The Jews did not object to the wording "My Father". It had precedents in the Hebrew Scripture:

2 Samuel 7:13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14I will be his father, and he will be my son.

Psalm 89:26 He will call out to me, 'You are my Father, my God, the Rock my Savior.'

The Jews objected the way Jesus applied the phrase "My Father" in a unique sense that God was literally His Father as a spiritual reality, not a metaphor, that He was literally the unique Son of God.

That's how the Jews understood the special term:

John 5:16 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. 17In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” 18For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

Why did they think that?

Four reasons were given in the same context in verses 21-23:

  1. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.
  2. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son
  3. that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father.
  4. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.

So, the Jews accused Jesus of making himself equal to God when He said "My Father". And rightly so.

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John offers a portrayal of Jesus, mid-ministry, and just before Matthew records the many parables. He is beginning to rile the Pharisees and Sadducees because He is working on the sabbath, a clear violation of temple policy.

First, it must be understood that Jesus is eternally begotten of the Father. In layman’s terms, Jesus is eternal. There has never been the Father without the Son and the Holy Spirit. In the Nicene Creed, it states in the second stanza:

“We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial of one Being with the Father.

With this, we acknowledge eternality, which simply means “to be,” just as the Father told Moses “I Am who Am.” There is no discrepancy in the meaning; either it is or it is not. Thus, eternality is the concept in which the Father is now and always has been at work creating life. Therefore, it follows that the eternally begotten Son is, too, always at work. Jesus’ incarnation places worldly duties upon Him, even as He is of the same hypostatic essence as the Father. As the Father heals, so does the Son; and, the Father never stops healing. Thus, as the Father continues that which he tasks himself with, Jesus must do the same. Since the Father does not stop on the sabbath, except in the rendering in Genesis, Jesus continues to do the Father’s bidding on the sabbath in violation of a man-made temple law. The pivotal point here begs the question, is divine healing actual work for Jesus, or simply a natural act of pity? I believe the latter holds the leverage.

In His offering, Jesus is not separating the Father from humanity. He is simply setting a good example that humanity must always persevere for good. Our work, too, is never done. Just because it is the sabbath, we still strive to save lives, rescue those in need and offer spiritual healing to all humanity.

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Jesus used the expression 'my Father' because he knew who had fathered him. As the virgin birth account describes - God fathered Jesus by His spirit. It's already been explained (by Tony) that 'Father' was not a new term.

What is interesting though is that Jesus, a man (as every NT verse describing Jesus depicts [A]) could do nothing except the Father gave him - words, life (twice), judgement, glory etc[B]

That the Jews didn't have a clue what was going on - what Jesus was doing or saying, or even who he was, is testament to the erroneous conclusion they drew from Jesus calling God his Father - that he was 'God' also! Or, somehow 'equal' by the same faulty reasoning.

A statement Jesus, or his disciples/apostles never made. (to think that Thomas is an exception, is to misunderstand his exclamation and to ignore the rest of scripture)

From our vantage of voluminous scripture, we can clearly see that the Jews were mistaken.

They desperately trumped up all manner of charges against him - ALL were false!

What does he mean by 'Father'? It is an affirmation of his 'righteous' state - being without sin or the propensity for sin because he was uncorrupted (not being born from Adam's line) As he had expressed, 'you are of your father, the devil...' Drawing a clear difference between who he was OF and who they were OF. (John 8:44)

Jesus having similar capacity in his roles with his God like judgement or raising the dead etc, does not of itself make Jesus equal with God - roles that the Father gave him. Being uncorrupted and without sin makes him equal in some respects but he is still mortal and about to die, he still has another will to the Father (John 6:38, Luke 22:42) These attributes make him NOT God and certainly not equal!

As an image of God (Col 1:15, 2 Cor 4:4), logic tells us that he isn't God, but a fine expression of who God is - love, grace, mercy, etc. In the terms expressed consistently through the bible as a mortal man of flesh he is certainly not equal to God. Calling God his Father is simply a fact of him being begotten as a son and the Jews despised him for it - as he exposed their wickedness!


[A] Acts 17:31 ‘God will judge the world through a man He has appointed

Rom 5:15 ‘the grace of one man Jesus’ ,

Acts 2:22 ‘a man approved of God’

1 Tim 2:5 ‘One God, one mediator, the man Jesus’

John 8:40 ‘a man who has told you the truth’

[B] John 5:26 ‘The Father gave the son to have life in himself’

John 17:7-8 ‘the words which God gave Jesus’

John 17:5 ‘Now, Father, glorify me together with yourself’

Acts 2:24 But God raised Him up again (this fact, that God or the Father raised Jesus, is repeated well over 30 times in NT)

John 12:49 ‘I have not spoken on My own, but the Father who sent Me has commanded Me what to say and how to say it’,

John 5:27 and He gave Him authority to execute judgment

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