The Gospel of John, Jesus' sixth sign, part 8
Dec 19, 2019
A good shepherd takes responsibility for his sheep and is even willing to lay down his life for them. In John 10:16 Jesus included “other sheep which are not of this fold” among those for whom He was willing to die, because He died for “the sin of the world” (John 1:29), not merely for the sin of Israel or Judah. Jesus says in John 10:17, 18,
17 For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. 18 No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.
On what grounds does the Father love the Son? It is because the Son reflects the perfect image of the Father. They are alike, and they share the same love-nature. Furthermore, there is no man on earth that could take His life on his own initiative. We must view His death on the cross in that light. He died voluntarily by His own decision, regardless of what the religious leaders believed about their own power to condemn Him and crucify Him.
This point is important as John’s narrative shifts toward the cross in the seventh sign. Neither the sovereignty of God nor the authority of the Son suffered harm from the will of men. His death was foreordained, proving the love of God. In the same manner also, His resurrection was foreordained. Authority had been given to the Son both to die and to be raised to life.
The Role of the Spirit
So did Jesus raise Himself from the dead? If so, what part of Him was alive to issue this command? Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:6 that “the Spirit gives life.” He says again in Romans 8:11,
11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
Paul seems to treat “the Spirit” as being separate from Jesus, essentially telling us that it is the Spirit of the Father. No doubt this is a reference to the Holy Spirit. While Paul makes no attempt to enlarge upon the peculiar characteristics of this Spirit, he does tell us that the Spirit of the Father “raised Jesus from the dead” and that this same “Spirit, who dwells in you” will give life to us as well.
So when Jesus claims that His Father gave Him the authority to be raised from the dead, it does not mean that Jesus actually raised Himself from the dead. Instead, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Father, did this work as Christ’s Agent. We might say that Christ was the Agent of the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which proceeded from the Father, was the Agent of the Son. In other words, the Father gave this authority to the Son, who then exercised that authority by instructing the Holy Spirit to raise Him from the dead at the appropriate time.
In that sense, Christ could say that He had the authority to raise Himself from the dead, even though it was technically the Holy Spirit that did the work as His Agent.
These technical issues, of course, speak into the great controversies of the church as they developed in the fourth century. These teachings of Jesus, as recorded by John, and later the writings of Paul hardly support the common Trinitarian view of the “Godhead.” Yet with the Son deriving authority from His Father, we can hardly argue for the Unitarian position either. Authority, after all, is authorized by a higher power, and it seems redundant and unreasonable to say that the Father authorized Himself to do anything.
Instead, Paul always maintains the distinction between the sovereign Father and the Son who has been given authority over all things (1 Corinthians 15:27, 28). Further, Paul identifies the Holy Spirit as being the Spirit of the Father. While this distinguishes the Holy Spirit from Jesus Himself, it seems to make the Spirit a part of the Father.
The metaphor is of a man who sends someone to do something or with a message. The one sent acts as the agent of the one who sent him. The one sending the agent is then given credit for doing what the agent actually did in person. The agent remains distinct, but if the agent is of one mind with the one sending him, it can be said that they are “one,” i.e., in unity. This is brought out later in John 10:30, as we will see.
The People’s Reaction
Jesus’ claim to have authority to lay down His life and to take it back again was met with much skepticism and incredulity. John 10:19-21 says,
19 A division occurred again among the Jews because of these words. 20 Many of them were saying, “He has a demon and is insane. Why do you listen to Him?” 21 Others were saying, “These are not the sayings of one demon-possessed. A demon cannot open the eyes of the blind, can he?”
Wherever Jesus taught, He was controversial. Some believed, others did not. The entire context of this controversy, however, comes within the context of healing the man born blind. The main lesson in this “sign” was to show that Jesus has the authority to heal blindness or to leave men in their state of blindness (until a later time, of course). That authority came from the same Source as did His authority to raise Himself from the dead.
We cannot forget that the sixth sign manifested the solution to the problem in Exodus 4:11 and Deuteronomy 29:4, where God took credit for men’s blindness. The sixth sign shows that Jesus is the solution to that problem, that He has been given the sole authority to heal blindness, so that men might see the light of truth that He was teaching.
Obviously, with some believing and others disbelieving, Christ was opening the eyes of the few at that time, while leaving others in their blindness until a later time. So Revelation 1:7 says,
7 Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.
While most have interpreted this in terms of seeing Him with their physical eyes, it is really a prophecy of Christ reversing the blindness. Hence, when they “see” Him, they will repent. This prophecy stands in contrast to His first appearance, where the people all saw Him physically, and yet their eyes remained blind. In their blindness, they did not repent, or “mourn over Him.” Something more is needed than just seeing Him with their physical eyes. They need revelation.
Zechariah’s Jerusalem Prophecy
Revelation 1:7 is actually a quotation from Zechariah 12:10, where we see clearly that God was to initiate this revelation:
10 I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced, and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.
In other words, it is only when God takes the initiative and pours out “the Spirit of grace and supplication” that the people’s blindness will be removed so that they may “look” upon Him and “mourn for Him.” This prophecy was not fulfilled during Jesus’ first appearance, except for a few that were represented by the blind man that Jesus healed in this sixth sign. There is yet a greater fulfillment to come at His second coming. And even then, blindness will not be healed in everyone until much later.
In my view, as men’s blindness is healed by “the Spirit of grace,” their citizenship will be transferred from the earthly Jerusalem to the heavenly city. Ierushalayim literally means “two Jerusalems,” for the ayim ending is a Hebrew dual. As long as men remain citizens of the earthly Jerusalem, they are children of the flesh, or children of “Hagar” (Galatians 4:25, 29). As such, they cannot be inheritors, for they are not yet the "children of promise” (Galatians 4:28). One must have Sarah (the New Covenant) as one’s mother in order to be as Isaac.
The Old Testament prophets never distinguish between the two Jerusalems. They merely prophesy about Jerusalem, leaving it to us to discern how to apply their prophecies. It can be quite difficult to know the truth. Most people, however, seem unaware that there are two Jerusalems, although this is clear from the writings of Paul and John. So when they see the word Jerusalem, they assume it is the earthly city, thereby misunderstanding many passages.
As a general rule, when the prophets condemn Jerusalem, they are condemning the earthly city. When they speak of the glory coming to Jerusalem, they are speaking of the heavenly city. Some prophets—Zechariah in particular—blend both cities in their prophecies with no explanation, and this makes it particularly difficult to understand his writings. It is only when we interpret Jerusalem as John did in Revelation 21, applying the Old Testament prophecies to the heavenly city, that we can make sense of this.
This too is part of the blindness that has darkened the eyes of most people, not only Jews but also Christians and others. The revelation of the two cities and how they represent the two covenants gives evidence that we who were born blind are being healed through Christ.
This is part 8 of a series titled "Jesus' Sixth Sign" To view all parts, click the link below.