5: 25 “Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.

 26 For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself; 27 and he has given him authority to execute judgment*, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not be astonished at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and will come out–those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.

*nb Addendum on judgment afternoon of 29 May

One of the most difficult things about reading John’s account of Jesus’ teaching is that Jesus is frequently portrayed as speaking about himself in the third person. So, speaking of himself, Jesus is reported to have said:

the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God

God has granted the Son also to have life in himself

God has granted the Son also to have life in himself and God has given him authority

Why not have Jesus use the much more natural first person?

the dead will hear my voice

God has granted me to have life in myself

God has granted me also to have life in myself and has given me authority

These statements more directly represent what Jesus seems to be actually saying about himself than the awkward third person construction. Jesus was not talking about someone else.

As so often in reading any part of the bible, the context here is essential. Jesus is speaking to the religious hierarchy of his day. He is talking to people who know their theology and who are in the habit of being looked to by other people to provide answers.

What Jesus seems to be doing by using the third person in speaking about himself, is attempting to throw a question mark into the thinking of the religious experts.  Jesus wants them to ask themselves, “Who is he speaking about here?”

These Jewish religious teachers would have been familiar with the expression “Son of God”. It appears in a number of places in the Hebrew Scriptures – Psalm 2:7 and 12; 2 Samuel 7:12, 14, 16 and Isaiah 7:14 and 9:6. In these verses the expression is used to refer to King David and also to a mysterious messianic figure who the Jews of Jesus’ day were anticipating would come and restore justice to the world. So, when Jesus uses this expression, the teachers are immediately forced to ask themselves – “Is this teacher here referring to himself, or to King David, or to the coming Messiah for whom we all wait?”

The bargain Jesus strikes with these religious leaders is that, if they are willing to honour him, listen to his words and believe him, they will find in their hearts the answer to the question he is raising. Sadly, they are not willing to wrestle with the question. And so, they shut themselves out from life.

What am I unwilling to hear?