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The Lord Jesus, the Son of Man

In the aftermath of Jesus’ Sabbath-day healing of the lame man in John 5, he is pursued and persecuted by the religious authorities for his “transgressions,” which include his violation of their Sabbath traditions and his audacious declaration that his works are the Father’s work (thus declaring himself equal with God). In the face of this wrongful persecution, John records Jesus’ defense against or justification of his “transgressions.” Interestingly, he begins by doubling down on his co-equality with the Father, which likely made the religious authorities even angrier with him. Then, he moves on to a second defense that points his accusers to the works that he has already performed.

In the course of defending his authority on the basis of his present works, which highlight the reversal of the curse (just think about the healing of the lame man, the driving out of the fever, and the turning of water into wine), Jesus points his accusers to future blessings. In vv25-26, Jesus appeals to the essential vitality of the Father, who has granted to his Son this same life in himself. This life, which is too great to be contained, the Son will share with believers so that, even though they lie dead in their graves, they will come to life when they hear his voice on the last day. Not only his present but also his future works demonstrate his authority.

Then, Jesus alludes to two Old Testament concepts in vv27-29 to put a point on his authority to call us to faith in him, to raise the dead, and to judge the living and the dead. First, he identifies himself with the Son of Man of Daniel 7. Then, he declares that the general resurrection and judgment of Daniel 12 will be conducted by himself. Now, these allusions to Daniel put an edge on his demonstration of his authority. While the vast majority of texts that address matters of the end times and resurrection focus on the positive, Daniel 12 includes the idea of a resurrection of judgment as well. This resurrection of judgment is the necessary balance to the resurrection of life since without justice there is no meaningful way to understand the love of God or the goodness of the life that the Father has in himself. Thus, Jesus includes in this demonstration of his authority his work of both blessing and curse.

Now, Jesus’ appeal to Daniel necessarily casts this “proof” of his authority into the future. After all, when the Son of Man in Daniel 7 comes to judge the whole world, that is the end of all things, and when the resurrection happens in Daniel 12, there is no further history of this world. Nevertheless, there is a “now” aspect of his fulfillment of Daniel 7 and 12. And, just as we can talk about the proleptic blessings of Jesus’ ministry in turning water into wine, turning the Samaritan woman from the path of destruction, and turning illness on its heels, so also we can talk about the proleptic curses of Jesus’ ministry in pronouncing woes upon Jerusalem and the religious authorities, for example. Things, of course, are not symmetrical, because the curses are provisional (and fewer) in this season of God’s grace, this end times jubilee that Jesus inaugurated with his ministry.

Pulling these ideas together, the edginess of Jesus’ identification as the Son of Man, the prospect of future judgment, and the proleptic experience of these final blessings and curses today all highlight the point that resisting the gospel message or putting off the call of Christ to repent of your sins and turn to him is quite a dangerous game. Even now, he is demonstrating his authority to judge the living and the dead through the blessings he bestows (mostly spiritual at the moment) on his sheep and the curses he casts (mostly spiritual I believe) against his enemies.

If you or a loved one is acting like you’re playing the game of life with monopoly money, my prayer is that Jesus’ strong words about his universal authority and final judgment might stir you to awaken to the insanity of such an attitude. The stakes are high; the game is real; the offer, however, always stands while you have breath to find blessing and not curse by hearing the voice of the Good Shepherd and believing in him.

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